Nandi made me late for dinner- and I would happily have gone hungry. Having a spotted eagle owl, feet away and not in the least bit bothered by my presence, was pretty special. So was dinner- easily one of the best boma braais I’ve enjoyed- so in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t miss that.
I would happily revisit four star Shayamoya Tiger Fishing and Game Lodge, overlooking massive Jozini Dam and a couple of kilometres from the Swaziland border, for the excellent company of manager Lindy Blevin, close encounters with Nandi and lekker grub, comfy accommodation and great hospitality at reasonable rates.
The “great hospitality” is what makes this place special. Operated by the Blevin family, together with their really friendly staff, Shayamoya exudes a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere where you feel included in an extended family. As the name suggests the wind blows on this hilltop location- not gales, but cooling breezes thankfully, as this is one of South Africa’s hotspots. The spectacular views that hit you the moment you walk through the doors of the central lodge are of the Pongola River as it enters Jozini Dam, the Pongola Game Reserve and the Lebombo mountains.
That’s if you are not staying in the rustic self-catering, private bush camp in the valley below, which has a stunning setting under the big Tamboti and Weeping Boerbean trees- sunny in winter and shady in summer. A small watering hole encourages the animals to drink close by and buffalo may come cruising inquisitively by (there is an electric fence for guests’ protection). There are five two man tents on concrete platforms and solar and gas, so the ladies can have a hot shower and the beers stay cold.
Up at the open plan lodge there is a bar, lounge, Bundu Pot restaurant and a wide wooden deck which is pretty busy with lunchtime guests- travelers who have sussed out that Shayamoya is a great pitstop on the way to or from Kruger or Swaziland, or Joburg and the coast. Under the deck is the earthy wine cellar, ideal for romantic dinners.
Paths leads off in various directions, through spectacular indigenous gardens with over 60 species of aloes (Lindy’s pride and many people’s joy), to 10 chalets including one that is wheelchair friendly, a honeymoon unit (the only one with aircon) and a family unit. All are privately positioned with wonderful views from the balconies. Apart from the family unit, each is an en-suite two-sleeper with an enclosed outdoor shower.
Next to the lodge is reception with a little shop, across from the swimming pool, games room and boma area. For children of all ages there are trampolines, table tennis, archery and other games. Fishing, however, is the main drawcard, with Tiger Fish the main attraction as Jozini is the only place in South Africa where anglers can hook these famously ferocious fighters. Quite by chance, my cousin and his mates were there on a “dads and lads” weekend, with much propping up of the bar and fishing tales. They did rather better than we, though that was not our expert guide Maxwell Mdletshe’s fault. Perhaps we weren’t concentrating that hard on fishing, but instead enjoying a few cold ones while admiring the views, checking that the large crocs and hippos weren’t headed our way, watching the white rhinos, ellies and other game chill out on the water’s edge, surrounded by water birds.
You can arrange a game drive in the reserve, river safaris up the Pongola River or guided rhino walks. There are horse riding safaris in the ‘hood and Mkuze, Itala, Ndumu, Tembe, Hluhluwe/Umfolozi reserves are all within an hour’s drive if you want a Big Five experience. Shayamoya has game of its own and birds aplenty. They are your morning alarm clocks, alerting you that a delicious breakfast is on the go. All meals were scrumptious, with something for everyone. In-between eating and outings, soothing spa treatments are offered in Shayamoya’s reed walled, semi-open Sanctuary- or poolside if you prefer. We were already so chilled and simultaneously thrilled that we didn’t feel the need.
Call 034 4351110 or 083 4568423 and visit www.shayamoya.co.za