Tintswalo, Manyeleti Safari

Tintswalo, Manyeleti Safari

Our recent journey to South Africa opened our eyes and our hearts to a new world. In Cape Town we walked in the footsteps of former President Nelson Mandela and learned of his struggle for freedom and the true definition of leadership (click here for my previous posts on Cape Town). On safari in Sabi Sands we spotted the Big Five and the Magnificent Seven in all their four-legged glory. (Click here for my articles on Sabi Sabi).

The next leg of our adventure continues here… We flew north by bush plane to Manyeleti, another private game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park, which is located in the northeastern part of the country, bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe. We were met at the dirt airstrip by our guide, Alister, and tracker, Pardon, who whisked us off into the bush to our lodge, Tintswalo.

Wildebeast, Tintswalo, Manyeleti

Wildebeest exhibit the largest animal migration in the world

TIntswalo Lodge, Manyeleti

In a pride, all the lionesses are related

Tintswalo, Manyeleti

Leopards are nocturnal. During the day , they rest in thick brush or in trees.

Tintswalo, Manyeleti

During three days of game drives we caught sight of lions, buffalo, kudu, nyala, zebra, wildebeest, and fox and absorbed lessons in all manner of flora and fauna. The most important, but tragic animal fact we learned? That extreme poaching continues to run rampant in South Africa.

After dinner one evening in the lodge, Alister showed us a heart wrenching video that portrayed the devastating realities of this slaughter. Rhino poaching has escalated in recent years, primarily driven by the demand for its horn, specifically in Vietnam. Often associated with traditional Chinese Medicine, it has evolved into a status symbol displayed to mark success or wealth. Poachers are funded by international criminal organizations that provide sophisticated equipment and substantial bounties to track and kill rhinos. The animal is tranquilized and then the horn is brutally hacked off its snout – the animal left to die a slow and painful death, often in full view of its offspring.

Hoedspruit, South Africa

At the Hoedspruit Center for Endangered Species, orphaned rhinos are nurtured

One afternoon, we visited the nearby Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center to learn more. This unique facility focuses on the conservation and sustainability of rare, vulnerable and endangered species in South Africa. Through education of surrounding communities, tourism, breeding, rehabilitation and anti-poaching initiatives, HESC aims to make a difference in the long-term survival of the planet and its animal inhabitants. The rhino, second largest land mammal after the elephant, specifically has borne the brunt of poaching, which has led to near extinction.

Tintswalo Lodge Suite

Tintswalo Lodge – suite bathroom

In between our excursions and twice-daily game drives from Tintswalo, we relaxed in our two-bedroom Baines Suite, named for the nineteenth century English artist and explorer.  The suite includes a living room, kitchen, dining room, and chef.  Our boys were delighted when creatures great and small visited the suite’s backyard plunge pool. On occasion, the front desk rang our rooms to alert us that a herd of elephants had arrived for their daily drink at the watering hole located in full view of the restaurant terrace.

Tinstwalo Lodge, Manyeleti

Tintswalo’s suites, all named for 19th century explorers, feature exquisite colonial era decor

Tintswalo, Manyeleti

Tintswalo Lodge, Manyeleti

A Waterbuck visits our suite’s backyard plunge pool

On our last morning, we bid a sad farewell to Tintswalo as we joined the other guests for a “bushveld” breakfast. Our lovely al fresco buffet, laid out along a dry riverbed under the tallest of olive trees, was a symphony of sights and smells — the brewed coffee and roasted bacon mixing pleasingly with the aromas of the surrounding dried brush grasses.

Tintswalo Lodge, Manyeleti

Almost daily, this herd visits the lodge watering hole

Tintswalo Lodge, Mayeleti

The wooden boardwalk connects all of the lodge’s suites to the main lobby, restaurant, and library

Tintswalo Lodge, Manyeleti

A farewell breakfast in the bush

As we boarded our safari vehicle and headed back to the landing strip to await our flight to Johannesburg, we reflected on our safari experiences, pondered the interdependence of humans and wildlife, and recognized the impact this intertwined relationship has on the world’s survival.

Tintswalo Lodge, Manyeleti

Sundowners at Tintswalo — a highlight of our stay

Check out my son Harris’s video, below, of a herd of Cape Buffalo we encountered during one of our evening game drives. (You can watch all of his adventure and travel videos on his Vimeo Channel – The Suburban Sportsman)

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Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi

Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi

Half way through our South African safari, I knew this trip was unique when my two sons said: “this is THE best vacation!”  I knew exactly what they meant.  Knowing of their travel experience to 37 countries, people always ask: “what’s your favorite destination?”  They could not play favorite … until our recent trip to South Africa.  Combining history and culture, with stunning landscapes and wildlife encounters, this vacation checked all the adventure boxes.  While Cape Town and Johannesburg were a history lesson come alive, safari was nature in four dimensions: big sky, vast plains, majestic creatures, and a spiritual other-worldliness.

I dreamed of Africa… and still am.
Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi
After leaving Cape Town (read my recent articles here), we flew to Johannesburg and then hopped a bush plane to the landing strip in Sabi Sands, a private reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park. (For more details on this private reserve, read my article here).   We were met by our safari vehicle and whisked away on dirt roads to Little Bush Camp, a Sabi Sabi lodge comprised of six thatched-roof suites, each with private viewing deck all overlooking the banks of the Msuthlu River.Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi

Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi

Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi

Little Bush Camp Lodge

We were greeted warmly by our hosts and given instructions on safari schedules, dining, and excursions. My husband and I checked into one cottage, and my two sons next door in their own.   Our three days in the bush were a whirlwind of game drives and animal sightings. Awoken by our guide, Aniska, at 6am each morning, we joined our lodge mates by the fireplace in the main lodge for a much needed cup of hot tea and plates of fresh fruit, homemade muffins, and warm scones. At the end of the garden path, we boarded our Land Cruiser, which we shared with a lovely honeymoon couple from Australia.  Our visit was in July (winter in the southern hemisphere), so early mornings were brisk and required extra layers, including wool cap, gloves, and scarf.  Blankets and hot water bottles placed on our seats in the open-top vehicle came in VERY handy.
Little Bush Camp
Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi
Our morning drives lasted approximately three hours, after which we would return to the lodge to eat a hearty breakfast and then spend time relaxing and reading in our huts.  Intermittent Wi-Fi and sporadic cell service were a blessing, giving us a chance to really “power down” on this vacation.

Following our alfresco lunch there were activities available: a visit to one of the other Sabi Sabi lodges, an excursion to the local community to learn about their culture and history, or a bush walk on guided walking trails outside the lodge’s perimeter.  Upon our return, we would grab extra fleece jackets and vests (having shed them because the midday sun can be exceptionally strong even in winter) and embark on the evening drive.

Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi

In Sabi Sands, the guides can take you off-road into the bush

Sabi Sands, South Africa
Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi
The highlight of the evening drives was “Sundowners,” South Africa’s very civilized version of “Happy Hour.” As dusk arrived, our guide pulled over in an open grassland and set out a lovely spread of snacks and beverages on a fold-down shelf perched on the front of the vehicle. With hiking boots on the ground, we had the opportunity to see, hear, and feel the bush up close as we watched the setting sun.

At nightfall, we drove back to the lodge where we were greeted by a candlelit dinner. We joined our lodge mates and guides at a large family table for an intimate evening of conversation and safari story telling by moonlight. After our meal, exhausted, we retired to our thatched cottages escorted by a guide with a lantern to ward off wandering wildlife. (Leaving your accommodations on your own in the dark is discouraged — the lodge’s fencing only keeps out larger animals like elephants).
Sabi Sabi
Sabi Sabi
Sabi Sabi
Our guide/driver, Aniska, was a “bush baby” who grew up in the local area and was well versed in all creatures great and small. All the lodge guides work together as a team, seamlessly communicating their location and animal sightings by radio so multiple vehicles don’t overwhelm the wildlife.   My sons loved when Aniska went into full “Ferrari safari mode,” racing off to see a unique sighting — wild dogs pursusing a herd of impala or a cheetah devouring its kill — before it disappeared into the bush.

Seated at the very front of our vehicle was Voster, our tracker, who hails from the Shangaan village which abuts the game reserve. These experts are completely in tune with the many clues and hidden signs that animals leave behind, be it foot print or dung heap, and work hand in hand with the guides to track the game and provide you with the up-close wildlife encounters this area is famous for.

Sabi Sabi

Enjoying “Sundowners” with our tracker and guide

One evening, Aniska parked on an empty plain, turned off the vehicle lights, and in the pitch darkness, we gazed up at the pristine night sky — the lack of light pollution allowed for an endless blanket of stars.  With her laser pointer she highlighted the Southern Cross and Milky Way and we even caught a glimpse of the International Space Station silently making its way across the universe.  Wow, how very small we are.

It is hard to put into words all of the sights we saw, each more wondrous than the next. Viewing animals in their natural habitats, existing together (and yes, sometimes eating each other!) truly illustrates the “circle of life” no matter how cliche it sounds — queue the “Lion King” score.  Each night, at bedtime, we scrolled through the hundreds upon hundreds of photos we snapped and reflected on the day’s adventures, so very thankful that it was not just a dream.

Stay tuned for more photos of our animal sightings in Sabi Sands and articles on our second safari stop in Manyeleti Private Reserve plus tips on packing.
Little Bush Camp, Sabi Sabi
SHerricks Travel American ExpressUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box, and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express