The Bush at its Best

Words: Alexia Loubser

‘Maccha-Chaka-Rula’: Noun- Mocha, Chocolate and Amarula. Warm drink synonymous to the African bush.

Sitting on a rock overlooking an African plain watching the sun go down, while drinking a Maccha-Chaka-Rula and eating biltong is the one of the most peaceful and relaxing ways to end off a day. I turn around and watch in awe as a giraffe gallops past and a zebra tries to look inconspicuous. This is Africa in all its glory and often we forget that we have this on our doorstep. We decided to forget reality, turn off our cell phones and head to Umzolozolo Game lodge in Nambiti Hills. Found in Ladysmith, Nambiti Hills is one of the most gorgeous game reserves in Southern Africa. It is home to 11 different lodges and Umozolozolo is one of the 5 star, all inclusive game lodges on the reserve. From the moment we parked our car at the gate, met our game ranger, Raymond Simmons, and climbed on to the game viewing vehicle, we knew we had left reality behind. Raymond starts by making you feel as if your arrival and your stay at Umzolozolo are at the top of his agenda. He loads our bags and drives us to the most beautiful, hidden bush lodge, equipped with resident warthogs and kudu’s who reside around the main lodge. On arriving at the lodge, Robert, the man who is there for anything and everything, knows our names off by heart and offers us cold face towels (perfect for the 40 degree weather) and orange juice. Our bags disappear before we turn around and we are shown around the lodge.

An infinity pool disappears out into the plains as all you can see is bush and mountains. Ironic after spending the morning beating traffic, road works and taxi rage. We are shown around the dining area and the boma where we will be served breakfast, lunch and dinner (yes, they are all included) and the bar where Robert and his fellow barman are ready to serve up any cocktail or gin and tonic that your heart desires.  After Raymond had questioned us on the animals we were set on seeing, we were shown to our room. Each room has their own private balcony overlooking the river and the mountains. A four poster bed awaits us inside and makes me think that the 5am morning game drive is definitely going to be difficult to rise for. A walk-in closet to put my one at home to shame and a bath big enough to swim in, overlooks the bush and the impala outside with sliding windows all around the tub. An indoor shower for those cold, bush nights and two outdoor showers make up the second private balcony. In a nutshell, the room was a good contestant for the elephants we spotted from our balcony.

After marvelling at our room and wondering why we had only booked for 2 nights, we went to the dining deck for lunch. A buffet of chicken, salads, breads, cheeses, pizza, quiches and pasta, was waiting for us. Soon after lunch Raymond met us for our afternoon drive. We climbed into the game vehicle, equipped with jackets, beanies and blankets for the cold bush evenings and set off. Raymond was extremely knowledgeable on every single animal, bird and plant we saw. He managed to tell us facts that would have otherwise remained unbeknown to me. Facts such as hippopotamuses can’t actually swim and only walk under the surface of the water and that each zebra’s stripes are as unique as a human’s fingerprint, no two are the same. That afternoon we managed to see rhino, elephant, hippo, lion, warthog, Kudu, Impala, Buffalo (close enough to be on my lap), vultures, giraffe, zebra- you name it, Raymond found it. Except leopard, he eluded us. During the game drive we stopped for a drink break to watch the sun go down, we drank our Maccha-Chaka-Rulas and chatted about the irrelevance of life’s stresses when you have peace and tranquillity that can only be found in the bush.

To arrive back at the lodge on a cold night to a warm face towel from Robert, as we step off the vehicle and a glass of sherry was the cherry on top for me. The fire places inside kept the chill off and soon we were called for dinner where an a la carte menu awaits. From soup and warm rolls, prawn spring rolls to start, beef fillet with a chocolate jus on a bed of stir-fry vegetables for main and baked cheesecake for dessert, the food is definitely one of the many attractions of Umzolozolo.

Raymond comes to chat to us about our animal viewings and life in the bush over a cup of Amarula coffee before we head to bed. His passion for the animals and the South African bush is palpable. He sees us to our room that night (just in case the leopard decides to grace us with his presence) and promises to fetch us bright and early at 4:45 am for coffee and rusks before the morning drive.

After a hot soak in the bath, the day’s excitement starts to creep up on me and the bed’s soft sheets, the quiet of the bush and the excitement to find our leopard in the morning has me fast asleep before I could see the chocolate they had left on our side tables. To get away from reality and escape the stress of the everyday hustle and bustle, I would recommend a quick trip up to Umzolozolo in order to experience the African bush like you never have before and I promise you, it will exceed every expectation.

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