Monday, May 25, 2015

South African Safari Lodge Special - Nambiti Plains Game Lodge

WINTER SAFARI SPECIAL at Nambiti Plains Private Game Lodge
located in the Big 5 Nambiti Private Game Reserve, close to Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal.
Visit Far & Wild website to make your booking or
read more about Nambiti Plains Lodge, click here 

Friday, May 15, 2015

KwaZulu-Natal Game Lodge Special - Rhino River Lodge

Rhino River Lodge May Special
Rhino River Lodge located in the ‪Big 5‬ Zululand Rhino Reserve, Northern KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Visit our website to make your booking
Only R1400 per person per night sharing
until the 31st May 2015.

Fully inclusive of 3 meals per day and 2 game drives daily.
Ts&Cs apply. New bookings only. Limited availability & subject to availability.

 Make your booking

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Giants Castle – Drakensberg – by Jeremy Williamson

To celebrate Lana’s Birthday we took-off for a week-end at Giants Castle resort in the Drakensberg.
Giant’s Castle is a relatively large camp, sleeping 108 guests in a variety of self-catering Chalets, there are 2, 4 and 6 bed units. 

View from the deck of our chalet

One of the 6 bed units, is the more luxurious Giants Castle Rock Lodge with 3 bedrooms, each with bathroom en suite and this unit has the services of a caretaker / cook included in the tariff, some chalets have magnificent mountain views 

Same deck, different view
  with other units, slightly less costly, having an aspect  of the beautiful indigenous gardens. 

Despite the rooms each having a fully equipped kitchen, 

reservations may only be made on a bed and breakfast basis – the breakfast is “complimentary” in that should you prefer not to partake on this meal, there would be no discount.
The chalets are serviced daily, cleaning the fireplace and braai of residual ash etc, we had rushed off early to get to the hide and had left our dinner plates unwashed. On our return all was spick ‘n span, needless to say I left her a tip for her extra effort.

The Honeymoon suite
Lana and I enjoyed the included breakfast which consisted of fruit juices, yoghurt and fruit, coffee, cereal and then a choice of a cooked meal , eggs offered in a variety of ways, beautifully presented and delicious. The lunch and dinner options seemed delectable and reasonably priced.  We had opted to self-cater on this trip, so were not able to assess the lunches and dinners. I was pleased I had brought my own coffee machine though as the filter coffee at breakfast  was just that – filter coffee.
The chalets are well appointed brick under thatch, with large sliding glass doors, mostly onto a veranda where a braai (barbecue) stand, chairs and tables makes for al fresco dining. Twin and double beds,

 a mini four-poster in the Honeymoon suite, 

a comfortable couch, TV with limited DSTV channels and a screened fireplace make up the living area. 

2 Bed Chalet kitchens are all similar

The kitchen has all necessary basic cutlery, crockery and utensils, a microwave oven, electric hob, kettle, toaster and a fridge. Larger fridge in the 6 bed Chalets. Handy “breakfast counter” should dining outside be uncomfortable. The 4 bed and 6 bed Chalets have only one bathroom and separate toilet in the 6 bed units. For 4 people traveling together, an option to have each couple their own bathroom and yet be close to one another would be to take 2 X 2 bed inter-leading Garden View Chalets.

2 Bed inter-leading Chalets

6 bed Chalet kitchen

The rooms were scrupulously clean, a lovely, relatively new initiative is the provision of complimentary shower gel, conditioning shampoo and body lotion in the bathrooms, 

2 bed Chalet bathroom
 a bag of fire-wood at the fireplace and sachets of tea, coffee and sugar. These were not replaced on our two night stay, so consider bringing your own if on an extended sojourn.

Giant’s Castle reception is in a well stocked curio shop where basic food requirements are available. I had a look at the contents in the freezer, the meat packs looked rather edible and the frozen trout more so. Note, no 'check in' before 14h00 and they tend to stick to the rules.

 The Giants Castle Restaurant - Izimbali - (Giants Castle is themed on our flora, the restaurant is named after the Zulu word for 'flower' and each of the chalets is named after some plant) has an expansive deck where guests gather, can order snacks and drinks whilst taking in the magnificent mountain scenery which includes an escarpment shaped in such a way that the outline against the sky could be that of a reclining Giant, whilst far below the cascading of the Bushman’s River offers a rather peaceful background sound. 

Restaurant deck with reclining 'Giant' in the distance
Should there be inclement weather, there is a cosy lounge....

....which leads off to a bar and the main dining emporium. 

On chilly evenings the fireplaces are used to good effect, keeping diners cosy, Giants Castle is right in the elevated Drakensberg Mountains! Winter is a favorite time to visit the ‘Berg.

A very scenic part of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park – a World Heritage site, along with some antelope and baboons, Giant’s Castle Camp is known for its Vulture Restaurant Hide.   


This hide has been offering keen bird photographers outstanding photo opportunities of the endangered Bearded Vulture (Lammergeir) and Cape Vulture amongst others. 

Cape Vultures
Verreaux Eagle

A second hide has been built 

The new hide

The new hide

Photographing directly into the light

– this  one offers a less splendid photographic opportunity in that it faces due north which created shadow on the side of the bird facing the would be photographers, this eliminates a catch light in the eye and renders the images inferior. 

Bearded Vulture
Cape Vulture, best I could get against the light

This hide is good for those that want to be able to merely enjoy seeing this variety of birds though. The old hide is particularly popular and one needs book many months in advance.
The new hide is understandably not as popular and can be booked more readily. For the keen birder there is some excellent birding opportunities in and around the well wooded camp, it’s one of the few places where I have regularly seen Ground and Olive Woodpecker. 
Cape Robin-Chat
Olive thrush

Other than the odd antelope and baboon that venture into Giants Castle Camp, the forest and rocks have Rock Hyrax (Dassies) in abundance, some fairly photogenic too.

There are a variety of day walks in the hills and mountains around Giant’s Castle Camp with a visit to the diorama at a San Rock shelter of old, most interesting, the sandstone surfaces richly decorated by  Shamantic Bushman paintings – original artwork , some still in excellent condition.

This is a guided experience at Main Cave, access on the hour between 09h00 and 15h00 – check these times at reception.

Imagine sitting on one’s deck with the rich glow of the setting sun painting some distant cliff face, the Bushman’s River murmuring below, coals ignited and making ready for some lamb chops, sitting with a drink and marveling at the view, when on a distant crest of a hill, a herd of Eland silhouette themselves – what a treat.

A small herd of Eland on the summit

Zooming in a bit
It took Lana and I approximately 2,75 hours to drive from Durban to the Giants Castle Camp. All good, until we turned off at the town Mooi River, the roads through that little village were atrocious, as too,  a short section after some 20 kms towards the camp and then again from where the road from Eskort joins - from there to the Park gate, the road is particularly badly potholed. Easy to negotiate though, if you crawl through the rough sections as we did.  Don’t let that short section of bad road put you off, as the rewards of visiting Giants Castle are numerous. A really special place, in a delightful setting, well run and maintained. The Park authorities were finishing off  the last of the in camp and access road, from the Park gate upgrade, when we were there. A preferred destination of Far and Wild Safaris.

Photographs by Jeremy and Lana Williamson

Monday, May 11, 2015

WIN‬ a Safari Getaway to Nambiti Hills Game Lodge, South Africa

‪WIN‬ a Luxury Safari Getaway for two adults sharing at Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge,
Nambiti Private Game Reserve, B‪ig 5‬ Game Reserve near Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

LIKE Far and Wild Safaris cc Page to Enter!
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Winner will be selected by Lucky Draw on the 25th June 2015.
This prize includes Luxury Accommodation, all Meals and Guided Game Drives. Ts&Cs Apply.

Read more about Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge

Terms & Conditions
  • Winner will be selected by Lucky Draw on the 25th June 2015 and Announced on 26th June 2015.
  • Winners would have to travel before 30th September 2015.
  • The voucher will be redeemable outside of long weekends, public holidays and peak holiday periods.
  • Luxury Double or Twin Accommodation for 2 adults sharing.
  • All drinks from the bar and personal purchases for your own account.
  • Spa treatments and extra excursions such as the Kwa Cheetah Project for own account.
  • Guests would have to make their own arrangements getting to and from the Lodge.
  • Photographs of and or by the prize-winners and a report on their visit may be used by Far and Wild Safaris and Nambiti Hills for promotional purposes.

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. Any information you provide to Far & Wild Safaris cc and not to Facebook and will only be used for the administration of the promotion. All entrants agree to release Facebook from any liability arising from this promotion.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Safari Lodge Winter Special at Mavela Game Lodge, KZN South Africa

Mavela is found in the Big 5 Zululand Rhino Reserve located in KwaZulu-Natal.
Make your booking Now!

More information about Mavela, click here

R 1 600.00 per person per night sharing. 01 April 2015 to 30 September 2015.
A minimum stay of two nights is required to qualify for the special.
Bookings must be confirmed at least 72 hours in advance.

Rates are inclusive of:

  • 1 x En-suite tented accommodation
  • 2 x Daily guided game drives
  • Morning coffee with rusks & fresh fruit, full English breakfast, high tea & three-course gourmet dinner.
  • All day tea and coffee. Local beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mavela Game Lodge - Zululand Rhino Reserve - Jeremy Williamson

Is Mavela Game Lodge, the epitome of a tented Safari Camp in Africa? Well it is certainly a luxurious way of camping in the bushveld.

Lana and I took a leisurely four hour's drive from Durban to get to Mavela Game Lodge. Up the N2 to Mkuze village interchange and left into the 23,000ha Zululand Rhino Reserve, set amongst the scenic rolling hills of Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal , a Big Five Game Reserve, this relatively new Game Lodge has only been open to the public for 2 years and now offers really excellent accommodation, super meals, wonderful staff and a rather excellent wildlife experience.

The wildlife game viewing can only become more exciting in the Zululand Rhino Reserve, what with lion cubs due to be born fairly soon, mum heavily pregnant with another lioness presently engaged in a mating spree, which we were privileged to witness.

What is probably the most exciting news for the Zululand Rhino Reserve, a pack of wild dog have just been released into the reserve this past week-end, after having been acclimatised in a Boma there for a while. We just missed on their release but were fortunate to see them in the Boma.

Arrival time at Mavela Game Lodge is from 14h00.Check in at the security gate to the Zululand Rhino Reserve, and our private little game drive started, we managed to see some warthog,

a few blue wildebeest, aka brindled gnu,

a herd of impala or two

and anxious kudu, this...

...en route to our home for the next two nights. The gravel road was good for these 9km, we followed the signs to arrive at Mavela Game Lodge entrance, through the elephant proof, high electrified wire, surrounding the Mavela Lodge, and on to the rather impressive Porte Cochere reception.

The open game drive vehicle ready for the afternoon's action

We were greeted by our friendly hostess and Camp Manager, Chantelle Smith who introduced us to Mavela Game Lodge, a warm towelet to wipe away travel grime, then into the massive atrium,

where we signed the mandatory indemnity and were briefed on the Lodge protocol and given access to the bar – all drinks available are complimentary.

Help-ones-self Bar adjacent to another comfortable lounging area - with a view

We then parked our vehicle under a shady Acacia nearby and trundled our gear to our nearby tent with the assistance of the ever willing Chantelle, to settle in and relax until the afternoon light luncheon.  Had we wanted, the tea station in the main lodge and bar was open.

Mavela Game Lodge accommodation is in well appointed Meru styled Safari tents. These are large walk-in colonial styled tents which have additional shading and extended cover over the veranda and deck area.

This style of tent is really comfortable, gone are the zip up entrance doors, now a sturdy, mosquito netted double front door, into the spacious bedroom, furnished with a large double bed in our case, side tables, tea station, ceiling fan and screened windows,

Mavela Game Lodge twin bedded tent

Mavela Game Lodge tent with double bed

 through to a brick built bathroom with private shower, toilet and vanity.

we were then left to relax at our tent and take in some excellent birding.

Cape Glossy Starling
Pale morph Tawny Eagle
Southern Black Flycatcher

Golden-breasted Bunting
White-backed Vulture

Mavela Lodge is very birder friendly, for example each of the five tents have a bird bath at the correct distance from the deck, so one may quietly relax in the canvas campaign chairs and tick the numerous avian arrivals.

The bird-bath water topped up daily, there was a constant melody of calls from the bush. At Mavela’s main lodge there are bird feeders hanging from the trees with an Owl House firmly ensconced in a shady Accacia on the veranda there. We were not privy to its incumbent, next time?
 ‘High tea’ at 15h30 – a delicious chicken salad on the one day, a salmon salad on the next, along with a chocolate cake, teas and their rather delicious coffee,  after which it was departure in the open game viewing vehicles for an extended game drive in the Zululand Rhino Reserve. We met our Ranger, Andre Brenon and clambered aboard, cameras and binoculars at the ready. 

The owners of Mavela Lodge have taken great care with attention to detail, in all that they have done in the reconstruction of Mavela Lodge, for example they have chosen  petrol engined safari vehicles, which obviates the diesel clatter and smell, despite petrol costing a bit more.  Silently we slipped away from Mavela into the vastness and myriads of intertwining roads in the Zululand Rhino Reserve. The roads were well maintained, even making the normally rather harsh ride of the Toyota Land Cruiser quite comfortable – Land Rover owners, no comment!

These youngsters took down a Blue Wildebeest soon after this photo was taken

On this first game drive, Andre found 3 separate prides of lion,(4, 3 and 4)large herds of buffalo,

Part of the herd of Cape Buffalo at a water-hole onZululand Rhino Reserve

wildebeest and impala, along with warthog, kudu, common reedbuck, water buck, zebra, duiker, vervet monkey and numerous birds.

Andre is an accomplished twitcher and accurately identifies the avifauna even if it’s just a glimpse, such is his ability to recognise their jizz. We ticked a few specials! There is a vast diversity of habitats within the Zululand Rhino Reserve, some really scenic, wooded, forested, riparian, open plains areas that consequently support a wide diversity of species, with a bird tally in excess of 300 species. The subsequent game drives were all really interesting.

As the sun prepared for bed, we stopped to enjoy sundowners (drinks included in the tariff) and snacks in the bush, with a beautiful view and were fortunate to have a gorgeous sunset.

Sunset over the Zululand Rhino Reserve

Returning after dark, Andre managed to pick out some nocturnal species using his spotlight, genet and a number of Fiery-necked Nightjars, sitting tight  until the very last moment. Back to the Lodge and to the bar, we all then retired to the Boma area to sit around a fire, chatting and admiring the night sky,....

Mavela Game Lodge's convivial fire pit

....then to dinner. The chef had presented the dinner main course options to the guests before we departed on the afternoon game drive, so all was ready timeously – a delicious three course meal.
As the camp is not fenced, Andre escorted us all back to our tents, each given a radio and torch in case there was cause for concern, we retired to bed, as there was early rising in the morning. Departure at approximately 06h30 with the east aglow, and life in the bush awakening.  Another drive with exciting sightings, more lion too.

The mating pair

We came across a rather sluggish (because of the early morning low temperature) Mozambique Spitting Cobra, that slowly wended its way to safety.

Then it was a comfort stop with a beautiful outlook for an Amarula coffee or..

We had quite an extended game drive, then back to the Lodge for an enormous breakfast.
Along with the fruit juices, yoghurts cereal and fruit, a full cooked breakfast is presented, and that delicious coffee, then the day is at guest’s leisure until the afternoon meal. A tranquil haven with a delightful swimming swimming pool,

a well stocked library, whilst the bird activity kept Lana and I engaged until the high tea and preparation for the afternoon game drive.
To have a specialist birder guide, along with his many other skills in the bush, adds so much to one’s  enjoyment of a visit to a game lodge. On one of the game drives we entered rather dense riparian forest alongside the Msunduzi River and were enthralled with the diversity of bird species, ....

...some endemic to the area, such a Rudd’s Apalis, and Blue-Mantled Crested-Flycatcher then a host of LBJ’s so expertly brought to our binocularsssssss’s attention by Andre. Square-tailed Drongo with its rapacious call, the gorgeous, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, Pink-throated Twinspot, Burnt-necked Eremomela, seldom previously seen by Lana and I, and so the list grew, adding so much value to our and the other guest’s experience.
For the non birders out there, the game drives produced some rather excellent sightings, lion were in abundance whilst we were there. On one drive we had three separate sightings of different lion in prides of 4,3 and 4, not bad for a mornings game viewing, we had repeat sightings of most of them on subsequent drives to. This along with distant rhino, buffalo a plenty, loads of impala, wildebeest and then also zebra, giraffe,....

....kudu, in herds and some magnificent bachelors, one even relaxing in the shade in the river bed,

and the odd duiker, even a red duiker too. We had the silhouette of a Serval cat visible in another game drive vehicle’s headlights, one evening, having just missed on a sighting they had had of cheetah. I believe the cat sighting in the Zululand Rhino Reserve are pretty good.

The animals are fairly prolific in the Zululand Rhino Reserve despite an ongoing drought, which has certainly impacted on the carrying capacity of the Game Reserve. Zululand Rhino Reserve park management are very proactive in monitoring the biome’s health, having sold off some excess stock, in order to negate the impact of too many herbivores through this ensuing winter, for example. An ambitious water reticulation project is nearing completion. Water from the relatively nearby Jozini Dam is being piped to numerous dams, some newly built, in the reserve, ensuring that this network of water supply will keep the animal’s thirst slaked, without them needing to congregate at a limited water source, with the inevitable damaging impact on the adjacent vegetation.

April / May is when the Impala rams start to assimilate their harems - to hear the garrulous vocalisation of these rutting males for the first time, without seeing what it is that is making such a threatening sound, is enough for guest to believe that they were closing in on some dangerous animal – scary, but then its “just another Impala,” well Impala are amongst the most beautiful of animals and so lively and seemingly full of fun, especially the youngsters that bound about leaping in the air,

I love watching them, so often merely pointed out, when on a game drive, the guide then roaring off after something more exciting, such as? Well Andre shared his knowledge and time with us with the Impala, and the other herbivores, thank you Andre.

Were we particularly fortunate, as the game drives were rather good? I have visited the Zululand Rhino Reserve on a number of occasions since its inception, from when a number of the land owners decided to change from marginal cattle farming, with some plains game hunting, to jointly drop all fences and create this magnificent wildlife haven. So approximately 10 years later, the transformation is almost complete. The once prolific wildlife has been reintroduced, and this includes the return of all the high profile animals too. A genuine Big Five Game Reserve (Lion, Elephant, Black and White Rhino, Buffalo and the elusive Leopard - some of them being seen more frequently of late) and now hosting the Magnificent Seven - Cheetah and Wild Dog.

A venue easy to endorse, where guests should get a pretty good Lodge and wildlife experience, Mavela Game Lodge is excellent value for money.

Photographs by Jeremy and Lana Williamson and Stuart Parker for the tent pictures.