Wilma de Bruin
Polokwane - Seemingly out of nowhere, one buffalo after the other appeared. Single file, without a sound. Within a few minutes, the line-up had grown to some 50, 60 majestic beasts, converging en masse around the water hole. Then, from the opposite direction, a big elephant herd also headed for the water, and the fun and games began!
Like two opposing teams, the groups immediately jockeyed for pole position at the water. A few boisterous elephant teens swinging their trunks and trumpeting menacingly led the charge, forcing the buffalo to beat the retreat and wait their turn under the nearby Mopani trees.
After an hour of drinking and frolicking, the elephants apparently had their fill and without further ado made way for the buffalo.
From the viewing decks and our bedroom balconies at Boulders Bush Lodge in the Kruger National Park, we indulged, for hours on end, in some of best animal actors Mother Nature has to offer, undoubtedly the highlight of our four-day visit to this unique and secluded private bush camp.
Be it in daylight or at night, the lodge’s private water hole lures a continuous ebb and flow of animals, particularly with the drought at its worst.
During our stay, besides large elephant and buffalo herds, we were treated to visits by hyena, zebra, wildebeest, wild dog, impala, kudu, baboon, families of sand-grouse, monkeys and cheeky warthogs. With the wide array of birds that came to indulge and replenish their reservoirs, the place was also paradise for the bird lovers among us.
Right on our doorstep, day after day, the show continued, with small troops of klipspringers ever so often merrily tap-dancing on the rocks or scavenging squirrels searching for a bite. For two consecutive nights, one of the area’s resident civets, much to our delight, ventured down from his treetop vantage point to savour the last drop of milk we had reserved for him.
Tucked away between the rocky outcrops and sturdy Mopani trees, about 19km from the Mopani Camp, the layout and setting of the stilted, thatched lodge - built and donated by the construction company Murray & Roberts to SANParks - perfectly complement the surrounding landscape.
The six private bedrooms on the one side - all bar one with their own balconies with unparalleled views of the watering hole - are linked to the main dining and communal area, on the opposite side, with a charming wooden board walk, ensuring the privacy of both sections. About midway between the accommodation and living areas, nestling between trees and rocks, is the cosy braai area where many a sumptuous meal was prepared and memory shared.
Deliberately choosing to avoid any tedious routine, our Boulders retreat allowed us to relax completely. For a few days, a feeling of utter peace and serenity enveloped us.
Between the 12 of us, some chose to take to the road at daybreak in the hope of seeing and savouring as much of the park’s wild life as possible, which, more often than not, was realised by sightings of leopard, cheetah and lion. Others preferred to leisurely unwind on their balconies or the viewing deck with a cup of coffee and a rusk, also never to be disappointed by the ongoing activity at the watering hole.
At about 11am, when everybody was back from their respective outings, brunch was prepared and served. Our very able and friendly butler, Johnson, made sure we were there to relax and not to worry about anything. Up at the crack of dawn to boil water for coffee, and available for the best part of the day, he looked after our every need.
In the afternoons we all did our own thing. Some chose to take a nap, others took to the road again, tucked into a book or updated their bird-watching lists. And before we knew it, it was time for sundowners on the viewing deck while basking in the warmth of a huge fire and watching the golden sun slowly set behind the the koppies.
All too soon our sojourn at Boulders was over, but memories of the wildlife feast, as well as the beautiful and surroundings, will linger for years. It was worth every second of the seven-hour trip from Gauteng.
Tips and hints
Boulders Bush Lodge must be reserved en bloc and can house up to 12 people.
Access is restricted to guests, ensuring complete privacy and a unique, highly personal experience.
Bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms with solar panels providing power for lights and fans.
The main sleeping unit has two bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom (one bath, one shower between the two). There are four additional separate bungalows, with one bath and one shower to each bathroom.
The kitchen is fitted with a gas stove-oven combination, refrigerator, freezer, cutlery and crockery, as well as braai facilities.
Managed from Mopani Camp, the lodge itself has no reception area, and guests are required to check in at Mopani. The major barrier facing a wheelchair user is that the camp is on stilts and hence a pair of strong arms is required to pull disabled people up the stairs.
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