Durban - Sending dragon-like plumes into the air, the Sundays River surges through the 11 000ha Nambiti Game Reserve to join the Tugela.
Fed by record rains (thankfully abated), it was exhilarating to witness and we scurried about the rocks like children with our cameras, trying to find the best vantage points.
This gave our guide, Geoffrey Mokgothu, a relative breather, as he had been over-achieving for days – and even years before that.
Whistling at the birds, snorting at wildebeest and coaxing other game in their own language, Geoffrey has been guiding fortunate guests at Nambiti Plains since it opened in 2008.
His self-assured, quiet manner and knowledge of flora and fauna are among things that keep folks coming back, as are Wally and Debbie Fry of Fry’s Foods fame.
These committed vegetarians have used considerable nous in establishing a luxury lodge with an eco-friendly slant.
Many lodges minimise their impact on nature, but Nambiti Plains is the only one I have been to with a vegetarian agenda.
Meat eaters need not fear – the springbok loin and kudu were excellent – but I recommend branching out a little. The recipe book in our room certainly found its way into my suitcase (with permission, of course).
Nambiti Game Reserve, on the way to Glencoe/Dundee, remains a bit of a secret.
Nambiti Plains then is a secret within a secret as it is so tucked away the only hint on approach were the lightning rods sticking above the trees. Perfect for a secluded break.
Manager Brent Scott greeted us with warm, scented face cloths (cold when it’s hot ) and a refreshing drink and we took time to admire our surroundings.
The lodge is refreshingly not “Out of Africa” – no dark woods and overstuffed leather – but light and airy under high thatch with beautiful, bleached, beatle-tunnelled pillars and carved wooden cacti, stone fireplaces reminiscent of kraal walls, and lights-cum-sculptures incorporating sliced termite mounds.
The lodge and five rooms have vistas through loads of glass – or from wide decks – over a plain and trees to distant hills and mountains snagging low cloud.
Unusually chilly weather prevented us from taking to the pool, so we repaired to our room to gather warm gear for an afternoon game drive.
What a room! Long, glass-fronted and open plan with a 2m-wide bed canopied with mosquito net, free-standing bath and two showers, inside and out, a large private deck and cushioned loungers.
No TV, no hi-fi, just birds in the trees and nyala munching.
It was tempting to stay put, but more than nyala was waiting.
We bundled into the vehicle, where we were to spend most of our waking hours. Three expeditions later, heads full of wonderful sightings and new-found knowledge, we knew we had barely scratched the surface.
Nambiti reserve has an incredible biodiversity. There are 80 species of trees in the whole of Europe and more than 700 at Nambiti. The game count was 4 500 last year, but there have since been many births.
Between the early departures and late returns of the game drives, and being fed like royals, napping was a fine option
You could, of course, go fishing with Geoffrey or take a trip to Elandslaagte battlefield.
There’s a nearby rehabilitation centre for servals, caracals, cheetahs and leopard.
Daytrippers are welcome. Accommodation from R2 250 a day. Call 071 680 4584 or visit www.nambitiplains.com - Sunday Tribune