The Legend of the Sundowner

By Focus Online Team on March 10, 2023
Few traditions in the bush are as beloved as sundowners. In fact, this ritual has integrated itself into our modern lives and is synonymous with a relaxing drink at the end of the day.

At Tuningi, most days come to a close with an afternoon game drive, after which your guide will find a picturesque spot from which to enjoy the waning daylight hours, often accompanied by a beverage. This, dear friends, is a sundowner. Quite literally: A drink that says farewell to the day and hello to the evening.

The Best Tonic Water


The traditional drink of choice for sundowners is a gin and tonic. This dates back to colonial times when the best tonic water was the kind that kept mosquitos at bay.

Back in the 1850s, British troops stationed all over the empire, from India to Africa, quickly discovered that quinine was most effective in warding off mozzies and, by extension, avoiding malaria. Thus, they started to drink quinine at the end of the day, when the sun went down and the blood-thristy little insects came out from hiding.

Quinine, made from the bark of the Fever Tree, is bitter, nasty stuff. They began mixing it with lime and sugar water to make it more palatable.

Gin was given to British troops as part of their ration bundles and at some point, somebody must have thought: “Hey! This would pair well with tonic water.” And there you have it folks, the advent of G&T and its association with the tradition of sundowners.

The carbonated version of tonic water we know today was launched by Shweppes in 1870. Its popularity among colonials in India saw it branded as ‘Indian Tonic Water.’

G&T’s are still as popular today as they were back then, but their use is slightly less, um, medicinal…

According to Harvard University’s website, modern tonic water contains no more than 83 mg of quinine per litre, as opposed to the 500-1000 mg you would find in a quinine tablet. Thus, when travelling to malaria areas, tonic water alone isn’t quite going to cut it.

(That said, the Madikwe Game Reserve is not in a malaria zone, so you can enjoy your G&T’s for enjoyment’s sake.)

The Best Gin & Tonic


Carbonated tonic water is still the mixer of choice when it comes to how most of us enjoy our gin.

In South Africa, micro gin breweries have positively exploded countrywide, and there is now more choice than ever! There are exciting flavour infusions that are only to be found here, like Fynbos and indigenous Karoo herbs.

Here are a few local gins for you to try during your visit:

Every gin connoisseur has their opinion on what makes the best gin and tonic. Share your thoughts with our skilled bartenders and allow them to mix up something extra special for you.

But, when push comes to shove, we have to admit we’re a sucker for the original. Yes, there’s a world of choice out there, but few things touch a good old Gordon’s and Shweppes tonic.

Visit Tuningi Safari


For a safari experience like no other, visit Tuningi Safari Lodge in the heart of the Madikwe Game Reserve. We adhere to the traditions that make safaris so extraordinary, from impeccable service to uber-luxurious lodgings. The wildlife, untouched African bush and endless horizon is calling.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly reservations team directly at or click here to use our online booking system.

We look forward to sharing a sundowner with you!


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