In the heart of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, idyllically located in a sheltered valley, Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge is best defined as the ideal bush home. With only four chalets, you will be assured of the best in exclusivity, luxury, and absolute privacy.
The lioness is unimpressed with the lion’s mating attempts.
“It is either an enormous turkey or a lion with its leg up in the air”, our ranger Dave quips in his native Scottish accent. Hysterical laughter fills the early morning air and as we drive towards the ‘turkey’, we notice it is, in actual fact a lioness, having none of the lion’s fervent attempts to mate with her, unceremoniously kicking up a fuss by pushing him away from her with her back paws. He disgruntledly lies down next to her and proceeds to fall asleep.
The crisp morning air has taken its toll and everyone is keen to get back to the lodge with the welcoming prospect of a hot drink and a warm fire. Our animal sightings have been astonishing – we saw a cheetah with an impala kill, plenty of zebra, blesbok, an elephant feeding and the most adorable baby giraffe, estimated to be about a week old with its very tall mother.
When owners Paul Lynch and Dave Hurr initially purchased the land as a farm and used the original lodge as a weekend getaway, they had a shared vision of turning it into something extraordinary. Dotted into the landscape with the most breathtaking views over the escarpment and the valley below, Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge came to fruition.
Inzolo isn’t just a ‘pretty face’ in the best sense of the word – the owners pride themselves on the two special conservation initiatives that are ongoing – the interactive buffalo breeding project and the protection of the endangered Cape mountain zebra. The day we arrive at Inzolo, lodge manager Christina invites us to observe an unusual procedure where veterinary students witness and assist, under the guidance of world-renowned wildlife veterinarian, Dr William Fowlds, the darting and gestation testing of a female buffalo. It’s confirmed – she’s going to be a mom! Buffalo ‘daddy’ is unaware of his pending fatherhood, munching away at some greenery in a feeding trough.
After this interesting viewing, we head back to the lodge to enjoy the most scrumptious high tea, consisting of deliciously prepared melt-in-your-mouth biltong & cheese sandwiches, tuna & cheese sandwiches, citrus tartlets, a variety of salads and Amarula cheesecake for dessert. Attentively served by hostesses Phumla and Yandiswa, as well as barman Themba, you couldn’t wish for more polite staff.
Dave meets us in front of the lodge for our game drive. With over 16,000 acres of bush, you might not find an animal around every corner, but you will be rewarded with some amazing sightings. Down at the watering hole, we spot the sweetest baby hippo, but they all quickly dissipate into the water. The male starts showing dominance by ‘yawning’ – showcasing his huge incisors to the rest of the pod.
A cheetah is on the prowl, looking for prey. Using the game drive vehicle as cover, he walks right past us and seems to be aiming for a meal that would be too large for him to bring down. Despite being the world’s fastest land mammal, cheetahs don’t make big kills as they, unlike leopards, are unable to hoist their meal up into a tree.
Driving back to the lodge, we encounter a ‘road block’ in the form of a very large bull elephant, not wanting to relinquish his yummy foliage to move out of the way. We patiently wait and eventually he saunters off to continue his feeding frenzy.
Tonight, we dine in the boma area and the atmosphere is electric. Chef Sebastian ensures that there is food aplenty – salads, soup and bread for starters and for main course, a variety of meat dishes – venison, chicken, sausage and malva pudding for dessert.
The interiors at Inzolo are the handiwork of Cape Town firm Artichoke, blending the perfect mix of earthy elements into the lush green surroundings. Our chalet is the ideal fusion of bush meets bespoke design, combining modern accents with east African influence. The pièce de résistance is the freestanding bath on our outside deck, which my husband willfully tries out. I opt for the inviting shower with the wonderfully fragrant Rain products.
The sound of droplets on the roof wakes me in the early morning and I radio Dave to let him know that we will rather forego the game drive excursion as the animals might not be out in full force. He notifies me later that the other guests have also decided to go out later and around 10am, we start our drive.
Little do we know that the timing is perfect – as we approach a corner in the road, we see him, the most majestic lion with a mane that can only be described as a mohawk gone wrong. He is fiercely protective of his kill he has stashed under the overhanging branches of a shrub. As we leave him in peace, he lets out a snarl, warning us that this is his meal and he is not sharing.
The rain has abated, but it seems as though game drives are hungry work, even as spectators. Apart from the homely atmosphere, we are excited to get back to the lodge to tuck into the delicious breakfast that will be waiting for us, expertly created by chef Sebastian.
What I look most forward to is sitting outside on the deck, cappuccino in hand, while my daughter sips on her hot chocolate and my husband unwinds with his morning coffee, looking out over the watering hole where an animal might stop by for a drink. Just another tough day in South Africa.
| Photography courtesy of Inzolo and by Heléne Ramackers
*** Thank you to Sara Needham and Gillian Gernetzky from Nicky Arthur PR for arranging our stay.
*** Views expressed are the author’s own.