On a smotheringly hot drive, I believe it was a brain liquefying 38°C, from Skukuza Airport to the Jock Safari Lodge in the south-western side of Kruger National Park, we spot the ever elusive leopard; a mother and her cub grabbing some sensible shade under a bush.
Talk about lucking out! Regular visitors to Kruger who have been going for years sometimes have yet to lay their peepers on these beautiful cats, explains our game drive guide extraordinaire and manager of the lodge Lazarus Mhkonto.
Lazarus is currently chauffeuring us through the hot and dusty plains via game drive vehicle to check into the newly revamped Jock Safari Lodge. Luckily for us, our first spot of a major game animal is just the start of some seriously amazing sightings over the next few days.
But first, check in at the main lodge and the opportunity to strip off jeans and closed shoes. As of 1 November 2018, Jock Safari has made some significant changes to the two sections of their lodge; the main camp area and the family-friendly Fitzpatrick Lodge.
The Jock Main camp now boasts an inviting ‘Arrival Tent’ with vintage-style furniture and leather travel trunks, a nod to old-school safaris and a perfect transitionary space to wipe the dust off bodies with cool clothes and to quench parched throats with fresh juices.
Other new additions include a remodelling of the upstairs and downstairs dining area, glass sliding doors with extended roofing have been redesigned to bring the outdoors in. The communal swimming pool has been heated and new stairs added, providing easy access to the river bed for the exclusive Riverbed Dining Experience offered during the warmer months.
The main camp offers 12 secluded thatched suites, each include a private deck, an outdoor Victorian bath and shower, as well as a plunge pool and an enclosed sala (day bed) for day or night time use. I mean can you get any closer to nature in such a luxurious setting? Taking a refreshing dip in the plunge pool, washing off beneath the outdoor shower and then settling down for amazing views and a siesta on the romantic day bed sounds like my ideal way to enjoy the bush. If the heat gets too much one can always retire to the air-conditioned calm of the suite.
I, however, stayed at the Fitzpatrick Lodge, a private villa a few km away from the main camp. Three bedrooms, a lounge area, a generous deck overlooking the riverbed, with a main pool, two plunge pools, and an outdoor dining area offers a perfect space for families or friends travelling together.
The décor and design were recently updated by Luxury Frontiers, who took inspiration from the surroundings.
Project manager Jean-Marie de Vos of Luxury Frontiers explains; "the natural surroundings of Fitzpatrick provided abundant inspiration for the lodge revamp in the form of the colour of the river sand, the fresh punch of bright green Jackalberry trees and the organic material and patterns discovered in the surrounding bush."
The lodge is situated at the confluence of the Mitomeni (Shangaan for ‘Jackalberry tree’) and Biyamiti (Shangaan for ‘Place of many trees’) rivers, in the south-western corner of the Kruger National Park.
How to get there:
Jock Safari Lodge is a five-hour drive (430km) from OR Tambo International in Johannesburg or a quick 20-minute drive from the Skukuza Airport if you fly via charter.
The food is excellent on the whole and you can expect a mix of Western and South African style dishes. The menu is varied with each meal offering a different experience; either a buffet outside by star and lantern light, in the boma area, the riverbed dining option or indoors at the main dining area. Lunch takes place inside with an a la carte menu or as a buffet braai with salads. Breakfast includes a continental offering plus hot options off the menu.
Stand out dishes for me included a cooked to perfection Impala loin with crispy wedges and seared salmon with crushed potatoes.
If you can squeeze it in, high tea is offered just before the 4pm game drive.
The game drives:
Jock Safari Lodge is a 6,000-hectare private area and about an hour’s drive from the main gates, which means that you are unlikely to see any public vehicles on your early morning or afternoon games drives. There is a high concentration of animals and we were fortunate to see not only the leopard and cub three times but also a cute family of wild dogs, many rhino, elephants enjoying mud baths, super up close lazing lions and elegant giraffes, plus many species of buck and birds.
The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the area and really make the game drive experience all the more enriching. Game drives take place twice a day from 5.30am or 4pm. Wilderness walks can also be arranged.
What makes it special:
Apart from the luxurious, secluded lodges and the great game viewing opportunities what makes Jock Safari Lodge special is their commitment to conservation. The lodge is owned and managed by non-profit conservation organisation, the Caleo Foundation, sister property to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo, and the general manager couple Louis and Belinda Strauss are visibly passionate and hands-on about conserving and showcasing the land and animals and are actively involved with numerous conservation and research projects of rare and endangered species, such as black and white rhino, lion, wild dog, marshall eagle, and the ground hornbill. The lodge has also beenbuilt to the “most stringent eco-management criteria in South Africa.”
Jock Safari Lodge is now offering a10% discount is offered on all new bookings for May and June 2019, plus a R250 on-site credit voucher per person per stay (valid for spa treatments, premium wines or gift boutique purchases).
Direct bookings only: Tel +27 (0) 13 010 0019 or . T&Cs apply.
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