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thirty six

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A Day in the life of a Shambala Guest

The 2,5 hour drive to Shambala Private Game Reserve started off with a surprise breakfast pack prepared by the Saxon Hotel chef with fresh muffins, fruit, sandwiches and juice. Having been worried about how I would last until Vaalwater without some sustenance, this was a welcome treat before I settled into my book.  

Before long, we approached the impressive entrance to the game farm, splashing through the little stream that runs across the access road. Here we were welcomed by the Assistant Lodge Manager, David, and our Game Ranger for the trip, Dean. We then proceeded to the picturesque 30 minute drive through the Game Farm to Zulu Camp, which turned into a mini game drive with Dean pointing out animals and giving us a short lesson on how to know whether a rhino is agitated. (Tip: if a rhino levels its horn with the ground and stomps like a bull; you are in trouble!)

The rest of the Zulu Camp team, including the Lodge Manager Sabelo and Chef Danie, welcomed us at the lodge with warm towels and a welcome glass of chilled French champagne – who ever said one can’t have creature comforts in the bush! Danie then proceeded to talk us through the options in the buffet lunch that he prepared for us, which consisted of crispy fresh salad, perfectly cured springbok, a delicious salmon and amazingly tender lamb. This was naturally accompanied by an expertly mixed gin and tonic.

After lunch, and a quick freshen up, we departed on an afternoon game drive. What I found astonishing is the continuous stream of information from Dean – ranging from the medicinal uses of the leaves of a tree on the roadside to the reasons behind the distinctive colouring of certain animals – his love for the surroundings apparent. The excitement was raised even more when we arrived at the Douw Steyn Dam, which is a man-made dam named after the owner of the reserve, for a sundown cruise with some more gin, as well as hippos and crocodiles. Naturally all of this would lead to an impromptu photoshoot with the picture perfect sunset in the background to up our selfie game.

Just when I thought the day could not get any better, it was time for my guilty pleasure – a spa treatment. The spa is situated 5 minutes away from Zulu Camp and the isolated environment is really conducive to a relaxing break-away and pampering session. I could easily have spent a few more hours at the spa getting in touch with nature and myself as Zandile gave me what was no doubt one of the best facials I ever had.

For dinner we were treated to a bush-braai where I was pleasantly surprised to see a beautifully set table – not my usual experience when it comes to a braai! The spread of food would make any Afrikaans mother proud – there was more than enough to satisfy the hungriest diner, from a perfectly cooked lamb chop to an exemplary braaied chicken. All this was followed by malva pudding and homemade custard straight out of ouma’s kitchen.

After a few glasses of wine around the fire, sharing our experiences of the day, we finally got to bed. The chalets are beautifully appointed and would make any luxury hotel envious. I woke up well rested to the calls of the baboons in the vicinity; in time for a quick coffee before we departed on an early morning game drive.

This drive was easily the highlight of the trip to me. We got to go to the buffalo breeding camp and I must say it is a special feeling to be surrounded by these majestic animals. We then set off on a search for Max and Tyson, two of the lions on the reserve. These two brothers were eventually located near the dam, and when we stopped the vehicle right next to them I got a rush of adrenaline to be so close to them. While we were within spitting distance from them, Dean told us a bit about the history of the two and the reserve’s plans to grow the pride of lions in the near future. (Did you know that lions can’t roar – can you imagine what that would sound like though!)

Back at the camp we had a quick breakfast with freshly baked bread that still makes my mouth water. I really need to commend Chef Danie for the delicious treats he cooked up for us. Finally we headed back to the gate, with take away Don Pedros in hand courtesy to Abraham, to set off back to the grind of Johannesburg. It was such a relaxing 24hours in the idyllic African bush. My only regret was that we did not get to stay longer.

17 May 2016

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