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Durban - The five-star Esiweni Lodge in the northern reaches of Nambiti Game Reserve is so exclusive it can take only 10 people.
Esiweni means “on the cliff” and the lodge is perched on and over a sheer, multi-hued rock face. The location alone made Esiweni one of my favourite game lodges – with views over a wide, game-flecked valley and hills, the Sundays River snaking directly below, and a distant waterfall.
The airy main lodge, designed by Gerhard le Roux (lead architect for Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium) is elegant colonial safari with a small dining room and large lounge, which includes a pub.
Smooth concrete floors are covered with Nguni cow hides and African weave rugs, while rustic exposed wooden beams, stone walls and a thatch roof add a homely, intimate feel.
Large stone hearths warm the lounge and dining areas on chilly nights, while the rim-flow pool on the main deck defines the concept, on the cliff edge.
The chalets follow the curve of the cliff and have large private decks. The honeymoon suite has a king-size bed and a bath on deck. Each offers under-floor heating or fans and all the amenities you could wish for. There is no TV set or background music and no cellphone signal, except on game drives.
The chalets have indoor and outdoor showers, there’s a large bath in the bedroom (a screen is available) and retracting doors open on to the decks.
The selection of Magda’s baked treats in my room was delightful. She provides comfort food with a twist and defers to young dynamo Damon Friis, who is always raising the food stakes.
Esiweni will host Chef Reza Mahammad on February 8 and 9 to run workshops for just eight guests. He will accompany them on a Big Five safari. Each guest will receive a special gift from him and there will be a lucky draw.
A chocolate workshop weekend is also planned for June, with more culinary delights in the pipeline.
Game viewing on the 10 000ha Nambiti reserve is a treat. Natie certainly commanded the respect of guides from other lodges on the reserve, relaying advice to all.
We had great sightings, including a lion kill as we entered the reserve. Only the elusive leopard was missing from the Big Five checklist.
But enduring impressions are of Natie pointing out the little things, treading across the veld to return with a tiny, delicate wildflower between his large fingers. - Sunday Tribune
* Rates from R2 450 per person per night sharing. Workshop rate R7 900 per person sharing for two nights. Call 036 636 9002/3 or visit www.esiweni.co.za.