Tuningi Newsletter January 2007

By gavintonkinson on January 1, 2007


Warm greetings to all of you once again!

We hope that you all had a wonderful long holiday and that you are now happily settled back into your normal daily routine.

We also hope that you will soon start dreaming about your next African Safari.
Before you decide on where you will be going, please read the letter below that we took off two of our guests’ web site. They stayed with us for five days in the last week of December 2006.

We would like to thank Matt and Vanessa for sharing this with all of us and we hope that it will inspire those of you who have been here before, to come back and those of you who are still thinking about it, to pick up the phone and make that booking!

Safari…in Madikwe Africa
December 29, 2006
11 PM

Going on safari has certainly been one of those amazing life experiences that we will remember for a long time. Observing the animals in a natural setting is extraordinary, but seeing them in their environment adds that extra dimension. Once outside the confines of the lodge or off the vehicles, our lives were at risk from any number of species – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, mambas, puff adders, cobras and scorpions to name a few. Without the professional guidance of our rangers, even the vehicles would not protect us from many of them if tell-tale warning signs were ignored or misunderstood. It is sobering and somewhat awe-inspiring to suddenly become one of the “lesser” species in a raw Darwinian environment.

In a similar vein to our Alaska trip last year, once inside the reserve there was little to link you to the modern world. There were no televisions, no radios and no cell phones – only the noises of the bush, the brilliant starry skies and a very thin wire surrounding the lodge separating us from “the wild”. There is a solitude and tranquility that develops almost immediately….so much so that after five days away we were a bit overwhelmed when we returned to the regular hustle and bustle of our hotel in Johannesburg.

Madikwe is a 75,000 hectare game reserve in the north-west of South Africa bordering Botswana. This park is particularly noteworthy in that it was designed specifically to provide opportunities in an underdeveloped area of the country while promoting animal conservation. It is a joint venture between the government, private industry and most importantly the local communities. To establish the park, degraded farming areas were cleared, a perimeter fence was erected and the largest game relocation in history was undertaken to transfer around 10,000 animals into the park. It is joint managed, and by all accounts appears to be a resounding success for both the local communities and of course the animals!

We were fortunate enough to see the “Big Five” (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo) as well as the very rare African Wild Dog which is one of the features of Madikwe. However, every day was like a lottery – and whilst seeing the big five was exhilarating, the gentle grazing of a giraffe, the frenzied jumping of bush babies and the laboring of a dung beetle could be just as rewarding.

Bush Transport
Our transit to Madikwe was also a “first” for us. Not only did we have a private plane to take just the two of us there, but it was also a private 6-seater plane. It was extraordinarily personal flying in something not much larger than an SUV . It’s difficult to describe the thrill of flying low over miles of bush that you know is teeming with big game. Landing was pure adrenalin as we banked sharply before skidding left and right along a short dirt strip cut out of the bush. The “arrival lounge” was a large tree under which a safari vehicle was parked.

Nkwe Tracking
The elusive leopard (“nkwe” in local Tswana language) was a major attraction and on one occasion, after much searching, we spotted a large male stealing off and blending into the bush. Gavin and Johann rapidly piled us all into one vehicle and we bounced off road trailing the graceful cat until it decided to lose us, somewhat oblivious to our attentions. It was thrilling being on the “hunt” (modern-day photography style) and when we lost the trail, we returned to a nearby tree to find two dead wildebeest calves carefully placed in a high branch for a future meal. Along with our lion and elephant encounters, the sight of the poor calves was a sharp reminder than we weren’t in a zoo.

The Safari Experience
Our lodge Tuningi was a very small and personal outfit with space for only 16 guests. Gavin, Quentin, Heidi, Benny and the team made us feel like part of an extended family, and we enjoyed the company of the other guests. Deep baths overlooking the bush, outside showers, delicious meals and friendly staff made each day a luxurious pleasure. However, comforts aside, the safari routine itself was unexpectedly tiring.

The morning starts at 5:15am so that you can depart at dawn for your first game drive of the day. Coffee is usually served somewhere spectacular in the park following by a huge breakfast sometime later in the morning back at the lodge. Between breakfast and high tea you basically sleep, read, swim or just laze around taking in the sights and sounds of the bush. The waterhole at the lodge is regularly frequented by wildlife so the safari continues even while resting. Late afternoon you depart for your second game drive which ends at nightfall, but is broken up by extremely civilized sundowner drinks somewhere within the park. Often dinner is served in the “Boma”, an enclosed and elevated area close to the waterhole under a huge fig tree after which the lodge is named. A roaring wood fire, paraffin lanterns and local folk songs sung by the staff make it a pretty magical experience, especially when a large herd of elephants wanders by to drink and play.

A wonderful experience and something we intend to repeat in the future.
Matt Tottenham and Vanessa Butler

We hope that you enjoyed their encounters at Tuningi! If you want to chat to them you can find them on

We wish you all highly successful 2007, and a year full of love and happiness!

Until we meet again
The T-team