Waking up at the intrusive sound of my alarm, I yawn and switch on the bedside lamp. We are leaving Mabula Game Lodge today and will be transferred to the very much smaller and more intimate Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp.
Partly because of the need to pack, and partly to dodge the wind chill that we have endured during the previous days’ early mornings, we have decided not to go out at dawn and instead enjoy the luxury of a full breakfast at the lodge.
It’s actually really rather nice not to rush. By 7 am we have finished packing and, with the sun up and rising, we take a seat at one of the tables outside on the terrace. The breakfast buffet at Mabula is a feast and, selecting an assortment of fruit, cheese and pastries, we tuck in before our waiter arrives with a hot plate of eggs, mushrooms and grilled tomato.
The highlight of our last morning drive with Emile is an encounter with one of Africa’s Big Five’s most beleaguered animals: a white rhino mum with her large calf. Emile points out the mother’s horn, which is long but split at the very top end. “Trhinoceros”, Anne remarks rather wittily. “Indeed”, Emile agrees. “And from experience, I know that this one unpredictable lady”. He grins. “She is known to just turn and charge. For no apparent reason”.
Her calf, the size of a small car, is fidgeting beside his grazing mother in a bid to get underneath her massive body to suckle. As he does, there is an uttering of the sweetest high pitched sounds which I never would have imagined such a large baby animal could possibly make.
We leave the rhinos in the tall thatch grass to return to the lodge where, at 11.30, our new guide, Taylor Hunt, appears in the foyer to collect us and take us through to Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp.
Camouflaged by a stand of trees, the camp meets, and surpasses, our expectations completely. Yes, it is small and more rustic than Mabula Game Lodge, but the communal area is like the proverbial oasis.
There is a welcome drink and a moist towel at the entrance, provided by staff member Jerry Parrafin, while inside we are met by the camp manager, Tannah-Jade Pretorius; Taylor’s partner. The couple have only taken over management of the five-tented camp a month earlier, but they are so at ease that to us it seems like they have been here forever.
The view over the surrounding bush and plains is simply lovely. There is a delightful little swimming pool with deck chairs covered by blue and white striped towels, conveniently situated close to the bar, which stocks an impressive wine selection.
Our tent, the closest one the main area, has a wooden sign beside it saying “Leopard”. Anne pulls a face of mock sarcasm, as this is the one animal she has never before seen on safari and most eager to see.
Unfortunately, after a delicious lunch of stir-fry and strawberry ice cream prepared by chef Kevin Karanja, the afternoon safari doesn’t yield one either, although the very fleeting glimpse of an aardwolf dashing across the sandy road on our way back to camp very almost made up for it.
Mpho Moloisane, one of the camp’s waiters, greets us back at the camp with a small glass of sherry, which we think is a lovely touch, and when he notices us shivering slightly, Taylor advises us to make use of the electric blankets that span our beds inside the tent.
He escorts us and shows us how to switch them on, leaving us to get changed and charge our cameras. The mosquito netting has been taken down, adding to the charm of the Out of Africa resonant décor; a bath and hand towel have cleverly, and creatively, been folded into the shape of an elephant. There is also a small table in the corner with an ice bucket containing two bottles of water, glasses, a kettle, tea and coffee making facilities and cups. The en-suite bathroom allows us to refresh quickly before making our way back to the camp for dinner.
A crackling fire is ablaze and, warming up beside it holding a glass of white Sauvignon Blanc, we contently bathe in the fast darkening African night. Our table for two is ready and we are in for a surprise. The evening chef is Johannes Kganyago and we are simply blown away by the presentation, taste and creativity of our vegetarian food. The fried camembert starter, covered by a scattering of walnuts, is top notch. Our main consists of an aubergine steak, dressed in barbecue sauce and complimented by perfectly cooked broccoli and cauliflower florets with a baked potato side. And then there is dessert. The plated poached pear with macaroons looks too beautiful to think about impaling with a fork, but we do, somewhat reluctantly.
There is a full moon that night and our tent is shrouded in the loveliest of light. As we snuggle down beneath the comforts of the warm blankets, I am excited about waking up in this lovely little gem of a camp and the unravelling of the following day.
And with that, I drift off to sleep.