Tuningi Newsletter October 2011

By gavintonkinson on October 1, 2011

Warmest greetings to you all once again!

The BEST news ever! It finally rained two days ago! Okay, we have to admit that it was not buckets full, but boy was it a relief. 23mm is MUCH better than nothing and at least the dust has disappeared for now and green grass is going to start pushing through the dead straw soon. Imagine how happy all the animals must feel with the prospect of fresh new sprigs of grass to eat in a few days time. This also means that the Impalas will be getting ready to drop their babies by the middle of November!

It is not only the bush that is changing color as we speak. Loads of normally grey and rather dull looking birds are all of a sudden strutting their breeding plumage. Especially the masked weavers! Everywhere you look, bright yellow flashes of color catches your eyes as the boys are frantically starting to weave their intricate nests for the females to come and inspect and hopefully approve.

Well, there we go again. So much to chat about, so little time.

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This month, we actually only wanted to say that we are sure that you all are getting a bit suspicious when it is only ever the Tuningi Team going on and on about the ‘greatness’ of our Lodge!

This is why we asked a guest if we could publish an article she wrote after her stay at Tuningi earlier in the month, for you to hear about our Lodge from an outsider’s point of view. Thank you so much Gillian!!

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Quiet times at Tuningi
Article By: Gillian McLaren

As we get back to the lodge, after an exhilarating game drive in the western side of Madikwe, I see a flash of movement – a tawny blur – and hear a scuffle.

“It’s a lioness”, declares Gavin, our ranger. “She has attempted a kill, but has failed”.
I am somewhat shocked, as this is less than twenty meters from the deck of Tuningi Safari Lodge, where we are about to dine.

A giant fig tree – Ficus Thonningii – reputed to be over five hundred years old, presides over the wooden deck, which looks magical tonight. There is a welcoming fire in the cement circle, and tables are set with white cloths and elegant wine glasses. Besides the stars and full moon, lanterns placed in the tree and on the tables illuminate the scene.

With her customary warmth and patience, Heidi, the lodge manager, greets us as we pour out stories from our game drive: “We saw a dozen lions, sitting on a termite mound, with a magnificent sunset behind them,” I declare.

Kind and attentive staff serve our meal, which is delicious South African fare, including game meat, and ending with a sticky malva pudding. The staff double as cabaret, and we are entertained with harmony and African dancing.

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I am so entranced with the deck and its proximity to the waterhole, I stay at Tuningi instead of going out on the morning drive. With my bird book, pen and excellent old Leitz binoculars I sit on a chair, waiting to see the passing parade. A feeding party of tiny birds flits in. There are twenty or more blue waxbills with their powder-blue faces and breasts; a few violet-eared waxbills; a green–winged pytilia (arguably the prettiest bird in Madikwe) and sparrows. I am in bird heaven as a horde of green wood-hoopoes arrives and they begin to groom one another. They are chattering and cackling in harsh tones, a contrast to the liquid notes of a black-headed oriole above me in the fig tree.

A proactive waiter brings me what he knows I like: a pot of strong rooibos tea. As I look up I see a massive bull elephant trundle towards the water hole. He is in musth and his temporal glands are secreting copious quantities of viscous fluid. I am fascinated by this close up spectacle, but harbor residual fear as the deck is a mere meter above the ground. I wonder if the lioness is still lingering in the bushes. The bull begins to give himself a mud bath and throws mud systematically all over his vast hide, till he is a red-brown colour and seems less irascible. With clever foreknowledge he moves to the pipe outlet where the water is fresh and he takes long slurps into his trunk, then squirts it into his upturned mouth, so close that I get a glimpse of his pink tongue.

As I walk to my suite, I see a cluster of female kudus with a majestic male. They are browsing next to the alfresco shower, where I bask in the sunshine and try out all the lotions and potions. There is also an inside-outside bath that could easily fit two people, and I muse on the fact that Tuningi is an ideal spot for honeymooners. The king-sized bed has a mosquito net romantically draped over the canopy. There are goodies that Heidi puts in the room, but I shall not spoil the surprises.

Heidi is passionate about having children as lodge guests. She has set up a creative and educational program to entertain them. They get to make animal print T-shirts, to identify tracks and spoor and make plaster casts of them.

A fun-filled book has just been developed which has fascinating facts about each animal, and questions to keep energetic minds busy. Heidi could charm a pickled soul, so even the shyest of children would take to her. Wisely, she keeps families and couples apart in the game vehicles, and also in the suites.

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When Heidi joins us on a game drive, we spot something unusual: hundreds of large feathers spread over a wide area. She leaps off the vehicle and begins to gather up a few of the feathers, “for the kids to see”, she says, “I will hide them in my treasure hunt”. Gavin explains that it looks like a leopard has killed a Kori Bustard. He finds tracks to confirm his theory.

On the drive back, a fragment of poetry creeps into my mind:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;

Wordsworth’s daffodils are a far cry from the dry savannah, but I echo his sentiments, and will treasure the time spent in Tuningi Safari Lodge, especially on the deck beneath the ancient fig tree. “

Well, what more can we say?????

Although we are pretty much booked up for the Christmas holidays, we think you should get hold of next year’s calendar and start planning you trip to Tuningi.

We promise that our incredible attention to detail will change your ordinary holiday plans into an extraordinary life experience! Don’t just dream it. Come and be enchanted…..

Until next month!
Kind regards
The Fabulous T-TEAM

P.S. Remember to befriend us on FACEBOOK for daily updates of sightings and special rates!

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