Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Travel Fix

Tuningi Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve
By Gillian McLaren    
Photography: Ian Johnson and Gavin Tonkin 

Much as we all love the glitz and glam of the big city, we all have an Out of Africa moment now and then. At times like these, it’s best to jet off to Madikwe Game Reserve, where you have a good chance of spotting the much-vaunted Big Five. In fact, your game-viewing experience starts the moment you hit the runway, when herds of impala scatter and large groups of giraffe watch you through eyes fringed with enviably long eyelashes.

Named after the huge, ancient fig tree presiding over the wooden deck, Tuningi is a place of luxury and relaxation. With the attention to detail you find at Tuningi, you will surely feel spoiled and pampered. Your suite is large and spacious, with a King-size bed with canopy of muslin mosquito nets.  There is a special feature on your private deck: an outdoor shower with all the quality lotions and potions you could wish for. There are even some yellow rubber duckies in the bath sized for two, for the child in each of us. The windows open wide, so the bath has that delectable inside-outside feel. Fluffy, freshly laundered towels add to the sense of extravagance.

And what would a holiday be without delicious meals? At Tuningi, these served on the wooden deck next to a swimming pool, where you may spot many small birds flitting down for sips of water. The evening meal is served on the lower deck, thrillingly close to a waterhole. They light a fire and hang lanterns, which give it a magical effect. The perfect spot for a glass of good wine with a carefully prepared South African meal, including game for those who wish to try it.  We had seen a lioness right there that afternoon and wondered if she would try to catch something for her two cubs, as we watched. The sound of hyenas at night is evocative, and we also enjoyed the call of nightjars.

The team at Tuningi go out of their way to make your experience unforgettable. Heidi, the lodge manager, is a vivacious woman who is passionate about the bush and lodge life. She is hospitable and kind, and goes out of her way to ensure that guests have everything their hearts desire. Gavin is an excellent guide and found thirteen lions, casually sitting on a termite heap.  We had to drive some distance before he stopped to set out a table with pretty cloth and serve snacks and the quintessential African safari drink: gin and tonic. What better way to watch a sunset?

So don’t let life in the concrete jungle get you down! Simply get in touch with your inner Meryl Streep and head for the great outdoors. Now repeat after me, “I had a faaaaahm in Aaaafrikaaah…”



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Gillian Mclaren Travel and Science Writer