Carmen and Sean’s Bush Adventures
In this month’s newsletter two of our recent guests agreed to share their Tuningi experience with us. We hope you enjoy their bush adventure.
Tuningi Safari Lodge – Madikwe
Early last year I won a competition through Indiri and Rock-jumper safaris for a three night stay for two at the 5 star ‘Tuningi Safari Lodge’ located in the Madikwe Game Reserve. The following is a brief trip report of all we experienced. Now sit back, relax and let us take you on a journey of a lifetime.
Up at 4:30am on Monday morning, either of us not able to contain our excitement we packed the car with one clothes bag and three camera bags and off we went! Madikwe is approximately 380km from Pretoria and allowed ourselves 5 hours for the drive up, thinking a few stops and slow drive to check in at 10am. We arrived at Zeerust at 8am, with only 94km or so to go we decided to have a hearty breakfast at the local Wimpy and a coffee to rejuvenate ourselves for the last stretch. Arriving at Wonderboom gate at Madikwe Game Reserve was not at all what was expected, with only a small face brick and thatch roof and a boom gate to enter I think I was expecting an extravagant entrance. None the less we filled in our details on the entrance permit and the excitement began to build once more as the guard radioed in to Tuningi lodge announcing our arrival.
As we drove down the gravel road to the front of the lodge, we arrived and parked right in front of the reception entrance lobby. With its beautiful large wooden doors and thatch roof we were met by Lorraine who have us a very warm and enthusiastic welcome. After introducing herself and serving us our welcoming drinks (a divine sweet mix of litchi water and something I cannot pronounce) we were shown the lobby/entrance hall and filled in our details and indemnity forms whilst chatting about the drive up and what game we had seen (which was only a few zebra and elephant, but animals none the less!).
Once all the formalities were over, we were advised that lunch would be served at 2pm and until then we could walk around exploring the lodge and our room and relaxing. We drove up to our room, which was number 8, situated right at the other end, on the edge of the lodge next to an exclusive private pool area (which we were asked to make full use of). Our bags were taken to the room and we were allowed to settle in.
We spent the next hour or so looking around the room, amazed at not only the size but also of all the ‘little touches’ that turned out to make our stay so memorable.One of the many small touches, two mini Amarula and a welcome note with all the information you may need for your stay. Once relaxed and unpacked we proceeded to walk down to the main lodge to have a look around and a refreshing drink.
By the time we had finished our drinks it was time for lunch and we went and sat at our ‘allocated personal’ table set up for the two of us. A few more cool drinks were in order as it was quite warm and sunny…
As soon as were seated, Franz, the bar man came to check if our drinks were still alright, already with what we had previously ordered in tray. First off we were introduced staff member by staff member as they each came to serve us their own item such as drinks, coffee, tea, place our napkins etc. We started lunch off with freshly baked bread with the usual accompaniments such as balsamic and olive oil.
This was followed by a vegetable sushi. As many people know, and vegetables are suspect to me and I usually try avoid them at the best of times but I thought after close inspection that I might as well try it. I do not know what the different sauces drizzled on the plate were but before I knew it I had finished all of it and wiped my plate clean!
As a mains for lunch we chose and were served fried calamari…and oh my how delicious it was. A light, thin, feathery batter covered the tender calamari strips with a tartar sauce drizzled over. I had my fill of greens for the day and decided to skip the side salad but was assured by Sean it was delicious. For dessert, which I skipped as well, was a fried plum in an almost caramelised sauce with mango sorbet. Sean had it down in almost one gulp!
With our tummies full and completely satisfied, we slowly made our way back to the room to go check out the private pool area, but before this, were told dinner would be served in the boma, and we needed to be back at the lodge at 4pm for the afternoon drive. Our sun-downer drinks were taken down and prepared for the stop later on. The private pool area was absolutely stunning, secluded and a picture perfect representation of luxury in the bush. We decided the water looked irresistible and decided to take a quick dip to cool down but WOW the water was cold!
Once cooled down and refreshed, we got ready for our afternoon drive. Being eager beavers we arrived at 3:30pm and were introduced to our ranger, Christo. We then introduced ourselves to the other guests joining us, a German couple, exceptionally friendly and funny with a young very well behaved toddler who had been at the lodge for a few days. We got our water and were off!
Game viewing was a little bit slow and the frustration was clear on Christo’s side but fantastic being in the bush and enjoying the serenity of it all.
Halfway through the drive and after a bit of serious bundu bashing, we stopped in a clearing just as the sun was setting. Here Christo laid out an amazing spread of snacks such as chilly bites (which Sean seemed to polish off every time hahaha), crackers with cream cheese topped with a sweet chilly dressing and a few other bits. After finishing our sundowners (Hunters Dry for me and Amstel for Sean) we were on our way again.
As we arrived back at the lodge, we were taken to the front area for our boma dinner. The boma deck is situated under a big tree, filled with lanterns, overlooking a watering hole.
Once settled, Franz, the barman from earlier, already had our drinks on ice and waiting. The staff always seem to know what you want 2 minutes before you even ask for it. We were welcomed back from our drive with some medium cream sherry to warm up a little bit and told about the food to be served. It was a boma buffet with the most amazing options to choose from.
Starters consisted of fresh bread, salads and the usuals and this incredibly mouth-watering, bowl licking butternut and coconut soup. For mains, the buffet consisted of true African dishes such as pap and sauce, mixed vegetables, gem squash with sweetcorn and cheese, basmati rice and oxtail potjie, chicken with a creamy wholegrain mustard sauce and lamb chops and mint sauce. We were so tired and ‘stuffed’ we forgot to take a photo of dessert….Malva pudding and vanilla custard!
As dessert was being brought out, some of the staff came down the walkway from the top of the lodge in sing and dance, adding to the African flair and ambiance of the bush. Before making our way back up to the room, we were bid good night and asked if we wanted the 5am wake up call for the morning drive and told tea and coffee would be served at 5:45am and the drive leaving at 6am.
As we got back, a personal message and some yummy chocolates were left on our bedside tables along with the lights turned down, curtains drawn, bed turned down and mozzie nets let loose. The bath was so ginormous I could sit sideways in it!
We got our 5:30am wakeup call and I got to snooze while I was given coffee in bed (which happened every morning! :)) We got all our cameras together, dressed warmly and made our way down for the drive.
Once again, halfway through the drive we stopped in a clearing where Christo offered us coffee, hot chocolate, muffins etc. We enjoyed a nice hot cup of mocha lattes whilst looking around and stretching our legs.
As we got back from our drive we were seated in our usual area and offered tea and coffee. The breakfast spread consisted of crackers and cheeses, fresh fruits, cereals and flapjacks. The hot menu had two options, either the breakfast special or a hot breakfast where you could choose fried/scrambled/poached eggs, bacon, pork sausage, beef sausage, mushrooms, fried tomato and toast.
We both could not resist the breakfast special which was French toast, crispy bacon, pork sausage mozzarella and wholegrain mustard 🙂 After filling up on breakfast we decided to relax at the pool again.
After waking up and a little sun burnt we made our way back to the lodge for lunch, where the menu was given to us after breakfast to decide what we wanted. For lunch starters it was avo with a caramelised onion and sundried tomatoes. Mains was venison pot pie, which was so tender it left our mouths watering and for dessert was fresh fruit pavlova and cream.
After lunch we heard the elephants drinking at the waterhole and decided to pay them a visit before heading back up to the room to relax before the afternoon drive.Once relaxed we made our way back to the lodge for the afternoon drive once again. We could not imagine what was waiting for us later…
Quite a slow drive in the beginning, then the radio went crazy and Christo was on it as fast as you can imagine. As we rounded the corner, a large pack of wild dogs was waiting at the dam wall. The alpha male had recently died due to a broken leg from a hunting accident and a new alpha had taken his place. The Parks Board had just collared the new alpha and we caught them just before they moved off.
At first the pack was lazy and just enjoying the break from hunting…
Then the one female that was coming into season started trotting around and the whole pack followed with tackling and flipping and biting and chasing, putting on a real show. After a good run around they went for a drink at the dam. Before making their way back into the bush for hunting they made one last appearance on the dam wall for a truly African photograph. A white rhino later joined on its way to the dam for a drink and a giraffe allowed for some interesting silhouettes.
I had arranged a private dinner to celebrate Sean and my two year anniversary. The entire staff was in on it and kept it a secret from Sean, and no need to say he was very very surprised. They had set up a table beautifully at the private pool with all the drinks we needed and a roaring fire going in the fire pit. A phone was placed there where we could call when we were done with starters and wanted mains or more drinks and so on.
Once Wilma left she was to be back in about 15 minutes with the starters. As Sean and I got our drinks, all hell broke loose. About 15 meters on the pitch black of the night growls and screams and squeals rocked our ears. I had no idea what it was and thought a lion or leopard had caught an antelope. By the sounds of it, it was one hell of a struggle, all the while Sean is leaning over the deck poles shining a torch to see what is going on, I am on the phone calling reception to tell them something is being killed near us. Lorraine answers calmly and asks how it is going, I answer in a frantic voice that there is something a few meters from us, we can’t see anything and it sounds like it’s being killed. She answers with…”you will be fine…is there anything I can bring you?” I ran back to Sean as we heard whatever it was that was squealing get away and thunder past just meters away….we know there is something very big and very scary lurking in the bushes right by us and I am using Sean as a shield hahaha. Just after Wilma arrives with our starters and I run to her to tell her what happened. She laughs and says it was Brown hyenas fighting! OMW how could sounds like that come out of an animal???? After a good chuckle we settled down for our starters. I cannot for the life of me remember what it was called but was salmon with a cream cheese type stuffing.
For mains I had the beef fillet with wedges and crispy vegetables and a peppercorn sauce and Sean has the Pork slithers with crispy vegetables. Unfortunately the camera battery died before we could get photos of the dessert which was a vanilla panacotta or something to that effect. After mains the elephant also paid us a visit to have a nice drink at the flow pool.
After a very eventful and memorable night we went to bed to be ready for our early morning drive. The next morning was quite chilly and we prepared ourselves for a great day out in the bush.
A good drive with various sightings of antelope, birds and elephants and once again a mid-drive stop in a clearing in the bush. While enjoying a good cup of hot chocolate and coffee an elephant decided to stop by and amber past us.
Once again there was a surprise waiting for us at another dam…two lionesses lying in the shade of some trees. The one had three cubs and they had not had a successful hunt for four days and so looked up with every sound, but in true lion fashion, slept.
When we got back to the lodge we were once again in for a feast. The normal spread of fresh fruits, cold meats, crackers, cheeses, cereals and pancakes. We again opted for the special breakfast which was an English muffin with scrambled egg, bacon and wholegrain sauce.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and unwinding getting our tummies ready for lunch which was a starter of a type of tuna pate, mains was chicken burgers (WOW) and dessert was a lemon tart which was similar to a lemon cheese cake.
Once lunch was done we placed our orders for dinner and relaxed in the room looking over our deck until the afternoon drive. Here we were surprised by some Little Bee-eaters, a white rhino having a good drink that was joined by an elephant. Our evening finished off with a spectacular sunset and a Giant Eagle Owl.
Every night after an evening drive we were welcomed back with a hot scented towel and medium cream sherry. For our last night meal we feasted on vegetable spring rolls for starters, lamb shank with a mint sauces and sundried tomato rice for mains and crème brulee for dessert.
With the beautiful skies at Madikwe we thought it only appropriate to try taking some star trails or some pics of the stars at least…Once finished with the star trails we got back to the room to an amazing surprise that the staff had organised for us…just another touch that made the trip so incredible.
On our last morning it was again an early wakeup call but it proved to be all well worth it. We arrived for coffee at 6am and went out right after we were finished. As we drove around we were greeted by the usual Madikwe animals…then after the last few days, all the hard work paid off and we located the four cheetah brothers.
After our last and final game drive where we were absolutely spoilt for choice it was time to say our farewells to our new found Tuningi family and only promise to come visit again soon…what a dream to be able to experience such beauty only found in the African bush.
Until next time…
You can see more pictures by visiting Carmen and Sean’s blog here >>>
We look forward to welcoming you on your own bush adventure soon.
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