Having made its debut in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve towards the end of 2018, RockFig Safari Lodge entices guests to immerse themselves into the ultimate snug and cozy safari feeling. With a history spanning more than two decades, owners Glen and Bruce Jenkins share their intrepid love for this piece of bushveld, paving the way for a most memorable homey experience.
A baby elephant is lying fast asleep on the sand while the rest of the herd of about a hundred elephants feed on the surrounding greenery. They are all around us, and we sit in quiet amazement, marveling at the sheer size of these pachyderms while hearing the occasional deep rumble from one of the matriarchs. Next to this little sleeping elephant, his herd mates are having a dust bath when all of a sudden, a bigger calf has had enough of his friend looking lifeless. He unceremoniously puts his foot on the snoozing baby, as if to say ‘come on chap, you’ve slept enough now – it’s playtime’. Begrudgingly, the dozing elephant opens his eyes, lifts up his trunk and staggers to his feet. He seems bashful, seeking the comfort of his mother and before long, they march off into the sunset.
My daughter and I arrive at RockFig Safari Lodge after a comfortable road transfer from Hoedspruit Airport by our field guide, Almero Klïngenberg. We are warmly welcomed by John and Lorraine Easingwood, executive chef and front of house anchor respectively. After a refreshing drink, we are shown to our fabulous accommodation for the next two nights, expertly constructed by lodge architect Tom Hattingh and skillfully furnished by Jacqui Hunter from Imagenius Interiors. With over fifteen years working in the creation and reimagining of safari lodges, Jacqui knew she wanted to craft a space that resonates with the DNA here, particularly one that has been created by a family, which she chose to respect and enhance, rather than change.
“I love working in the bush,” Jacqui tells me. “For RockFig Safari Lodge, I drew my inspiration from the surroundings and the environment of the lodge. The rockfaces of the Drakensberg mountains en route to the lodge, famed for their tenacious rockfig trees that grow on the face of the mountain, as well as the shades of the lichen on these rocks, formed the blueprint for my color choices. Along with the wonderful story of the Rockfig leopard, the birds and trees endemic to the lodge further spurred my creativity.”
With a great deal of care taken in the building of the lodge, originally created by the Jenkins family, Jacqui worked sensitively to enrich the interiors by fashioning a sense of luxury and spaces for different guest experiences – indoor and outdoor, private and communal. An imperative part for her was to build on the foundation they had laid by adding layering – texture, subtle colors and detailing in each area.
Special design elements were incorporated into the rooms to add to the sense of plushness. Jacqui explains: “The headboards are very generous and have lavish upholstery in silvery grey tones. The mosquito nets are connected to a canopy over the bed; they can be drawn right back to the wall opening the space, exposing the magnificent outside views from your bed. In each room, I commissioned artist Leigh Tuckniss to do watercolors of the birds and trees prevalent in the area, which is a beautiful detail on the wall above the headboard. The true hero of every room is the view and the glass-fronted bathrooms with their freestanding baths, adding to the sense of luxury at RockFig Safari Lodge.”
Lunch is served outside and we feast on an array of salads, chicken, the most delectable finger-licking ribs and watermelon for dessert. Almero rounds us up for our afternoon game drive and there are elephants in abundance; they are trying to cool off by throwing sand over themselves.
The sun is starting to set and tracker Isaac Mathonsï spots the River Pride of lions walking out into the clearing; two starts grooming each other while another walks around the vehicle and lies on the ground, attempting to nonchalantly look as though he doesn’t notice us. They are definitely on the lookout for something to eat and once it has become dark, we follow them until we reach a part where we aren’t allowed to drive anymore.
John has outdone himself with supper, which is beautifully set up on the pool deck. We dine on calamari starters, the most perfectly prepared fillet with mushroom sauce & crushed roasted potato and my favorite dessert – chocolate mousse.
A short stroll from the main lodge to our room and my daughter and I cannot wait to experience our luxurious accommodation. The shower is huge and so inviting, with the fragrant Healing Earth Lemon Verbena & Argan Oil products provided to bathe with. The beautiful white freestanding tub seems tempting, but perhaps I will capitulate tomorrow night, filling it with caressing bubbles.
On our morning game drive, various bird species are out in full force, and my daughter, a keen birder, ticks a few new ones of her birding list. In the distance, two giraffes are necking, vying for dominance. Almero seems to be harboring a secret; we soon find out what – we’re having breakfast in the bush! Lovingly prepared, we enjoy a choice of fruits, cereals, juices, coffee, and hot breakfast.
Back at the lodge, we take a dip in the pool and spend the afternoon at leisure before being fed some more delectable food – think koftas, green salads and chocolate brownies to conclude our meal. An interactive kitchen and dining area make meal-times enjoyable, with an open-plan counter and stove for fun breakfasts; a coffee station in the kitchen and a brand-new outside kitchen-pizza oven space.
While scouting for some exiting animal sightings during the remainder of our stay, Almero ensures that our leopard ‘wish’ is fulfilled, with not one, but two sightings. On our afternoon drive, we witness a young female having a catnap when she suddenly sits up. We patiently wait for her to do something, but she continues her siesta.
The sunset at Impala Dam is magnificent, with the sky painted in varying shades of orange. During our last morning drive, another young leopard is lying flat in the grass, keeping her eye on impalas that are close-by. She is leopard crawling towards them and only the white tip of her tail indicates to us that she is still there. She moves stealthily, and we are all surprised at the impalas to continue to feed, unaware of this lurking danger. Suddenly, one barks its alarm call. Her cover is blown. She reveals herself and they all scurry off in different directions. Not too impressed, she carries on searching for prey, patrolling her territory, pausing on a termite mound to view her surroundings. She eventually finds solace in the shade of a tree, saving her energy for hunting under the cover of darkness as most predators do.
Thank you to Kim Beyers and Natalie Sokolich from Kim Beyers Representation for arranging our stay and to the Jenkins family for hosting us.
*** Views expressed are the author’s own.
Airlink – How to Get There
Airlink: Airlink is a privately owned airline business, operating as a regional feeder Airline, connecting travelers to more than 55 routes within southern Africa and St Helena Island. Route Specific Information: Direct scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg to Hoedspruit. With an all Jet service, Airlink provides a Business Class service from Cape Town, styled in the manner of European intra-continental service.
Connectivity: Through our alliance with SAA, travelers can connect conveniently, effortlessly and seamlessly, with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Airlink is a member of the South African Airways Loyalty program – Voyager.
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