Last month saw us travel to Swaziland and The Makalali Conservancy to redesign sites for two of our clients. This month our destination was a short three hour drive north of Durban and into the heart of the Zululand Rhino Reserve.
Accompanied by Jono and Claire once more, we hit the road and made our way to Rhino River Lodge, a quaint safari lodge with log cabin styled double rooms, modern family chalets and outstanding game viewing!
Morning game drives begin at 6am with coffee, tea and cupcakes available from 5:30am. It was freezing driving around in an open game vehicle which warranted my four layers of clothing!
We got really lucky with our wildlife sightings seeing all the usual suspects; impala, nyala, giraffes and zebras, plus extraordinary sightings and close encounters with elephants and lions. Two lionesses with four cubs walked next to the game vehicle were I was sitting and our ellies encounter was just as close with a herd of them almost surrounding the vehicle!
Our ranger, Alex, was awesome! He grew up in Zambia, is in his late 20’s yet is super informative. Now, I know I’m a difficult person to impress, but flip, was I impressed by how knowledgeable he was about wildlife and the reserve. Even knowing the answers to all the random questions asked by guests and also able to identify all the birdlife too!
We returned to the lodge around 9am and were treated to a hearty breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, toast, yogurt, muesli and fruit. I ate so much! Thereafter we were free to do as we wanted - relax by the pool or enjoy a drink on our cabin porch.
This was also when we met with Dale and Shannon, the owners of the lodge, to present the kick-ass new site I designed as well as discuss plans for the luxurious new five star tented camp they’re in the process of building. They’re really lovely and generous, and were thrilled with the design.
I then rolled myself to the dining area where a three course lunch was served at 13:30, with our afternoon game drive at 3pm and returning at 6pm giving us time to freshen up before dinner at 19:30. On Tuesday night we had a floating island dessert - a delicate meringue in vanilla custard. It was the bomb! I could’ve eaten it for every meal and been happy!
The reserve has had it’s unfortunate share of rhino poaching too. On one of our early morning game drives, we spotted Lucky, a female rhino who was shot in the head by poachers last year. Although she’s lost the use of the left half of her face, she survived and still lives in the reserve. One way poaching is being deterred is by dehorning them. While most of them have been dehorned already, this isn’t a foolproof method as some poachers still kill dehorned rhinos to prevent falsely tracking them in the future. There really has to be a better way of putting a stop to poaching altogether.
The people, the wildlife, everything was simply amazing and I’m really looking forward to visiting again once the new luxury tented camp has been built. Safari getaways every few months? I can get used to this!