With the introduction of Airlink’s direct route between Cape Town and Hoedspruit on the 98-seater Embraer 190 E-Jet from September 2018, travel between the city and bush has become so much simpler and seamless. On a Friday morning, my daughter and I are brimming with excitement as we will be taking flight from Cape Town International Airport in this extraordinary aircraft.
As the first South African airline to acquire Embraer E-Jets, Airlink has been instrumental in providing passengers with the best air travel options. Rodger Foster, CEO of Airlink says: “The unique performance characteristics of the E-Jet family enables Airlink to operate within a challenging environment, including short field and ‘hot and high’ operations, while managing capacity and providing for growth.”
After a two hour and 20-minute flight, we land safely at Hoedspruit Airport, where we are collected for our road transfer to Saseka Tented Camp. Our arrival is met by the friendly staff at Saseka and we are shown to our impressive tented suite adjacent to the main area.
Conceptualized and designed by Silvio Rech & Lesley Carstens Architecture and Design, the dream team was commissioned to bring to fruition an archetypal tent for each of the 2,153 sq ft tented suites, thus creating a juxtaposing of yesteryear with a modern twist. With 32 years’ experience in designing bush lodges, they set to work on nostalgia meets 21st-century design.
This is evident in the romantic black muslin mosquito-netted draped beds, the silkiest bedding I have ever felt, the beautifully patterned ceilings, an open-plan bathroom with old-world-style tub, modern inside and outside shower, vintage styled mirrors, contemporary light fittings, floor-to-ceiling glass windows, stackable doors, a private pool, and air conditioning. Never far from the sights and sounds of nature, relaxing on your private sundeck is encouraged, allowing guests a true safari experience.
Portraying the environs with a natural color palette, Silvio and Lesley looked at the indigenous landscape – the flora and fauna. “The camp is next to an actual watercourse, the surrounding vegetation is a typical riverine bush, featuring excellent examples of classic river trees like Jackalberry, Apple Leaf and Leadwood. Our imaginations were fueled by nature – hues of ivory, dark green, apple, sage and subtle flashes of pink echoing the characteristic tones of the flowers found in the bush,” says Lesley Carstens.
The strikingly soft off-white color of the recycled, environmentally friendly flooring of both the tented suites and the public spaces is smooth and cool underfoot. This muted tone allows other signature furniture pieces and design elements to make a bold statement, while intrinsically linking it to the white sand of the riverbed.
It is time for lunch and we are treated to the most delectable tapas-style food; we choose grilled calamari with smoked tomatoes, chicken lollipops, lip-smacking BBQ Ribs and French fries. For dessert, I order the tasty fruit pavlova, consisting of meringue, berries and vanilla ice cream, while my daughter simply opts for two scoops of the delicious home-made vanilla ice cream. Should we take a nap? The pool looks too good to resist and after spending at least an hour splashing about, before we know it, it’s time for High Tea, followed by our first game drive.
We are in the capable hands of field guide Kelwan Kaiser, simply known as Kel and tracker Moses Khoza. This afternoon, we veer off to the Western side of the reserve to see what we can find. Impalas are going about their business, while further afield, zebras are having a playful time. The sun has started setting and as Moses shines the spotlight, a scarred-face lion comes walking by.
Back at camp, pre-dinner drinks are enjoyed in the dry riverbed, with lanterns illuminating our way. Dinner is served on the main deck and the food is absolutely delicious! Think a choice of starters – corn & coconut soup with lime & corn salsa; potato gnocchi, chakalaka, crispy leeks, roasted red onion & goats cheese cream or quail & pork belly, grape & almond salsa, smoked raisin puree, mustard dressing. A palate cleanser of mango sorbet is followed by the main course – lamb loin & belly, yellow pepper puree, braised turnip & ashed brinjal; kabeljou, tomato puree, fennel, radish, quinoa & chive oil; roasted broccoli, asparagus, butternut, feta & tzatziki. Dessert is crème Brulee, orange biscotti, grapefruit & mocha milkshake, ice cream or a cheese platter.
Time for sleep as the day’s activities have taken their toll and all my daughter and I want to do is retire to bed. But not before a cleansing shower with the oversized and wonderfully fragrant Godding&Godding handcrafted pure silk and sandalwood body wash. Sleep comes easily as the soft silky bedding sends us straight to dreamland and I momentarily awake from the sound of a lion roaring in the distance.
The next morning, Kel is adamant to find the lions attached to the previous night’s roaring, but we only track them down the following morning. Today, we spot an African fish eagle perched above the dam, warming up in the sun’s first rays, a leopard tortoise, a giraffe feeding on some greenery and a young, skittish leopard lying at the base of a tree where he stashed his kill. The tree in which he hoisted the kill is so small, we are surprised when Moses puts his hand up to gesture Kel to stop the vehicle and go closer to see whose kill it is.
After a hearty breakfast, we spend our day in and around our plush tented suite, enjoying what the lodge and nature have to offer. With a very filling and scrumptious lunch out of the way, my daughter and I hope to see some nocturnal animals later tonight. As we turn the corner, a hyena is standing in the middle of the road. Not far from where he is lurking, we hear a loud snarl. A leopard! We grab our cameras, wondering what we are about to see.
He is lying right next to the road, disemboweling the wildebeest he must have just captured. Sightings like these are not for the squeamish as both leopard and hyena want to have their fill. Even though leopard made the effort to catch his meal, hyena will pounce at the opportunity for scrap or even steal the entire carcass. Leopard is having none of it, standing protectively over his dinner. Moses shines the spotlight on this beautiful creature, his rosetted coat gleaming in comparison to the dead wildebeest. He crouches down, takes a bite and looks us straight in the eye, sending cold shivers down our spines.
The following morning, we learn that he is no longer where he was the night before and there is nothing hanging from a tree. Sorry, Mr. Leopard, we hope you were able to eat enough before the hyenas made off with your prized possession. Better luck next time!
| Images courtesy of Saseka Tented camp and by Heléne Ramackers
**Views expressed are the author’s own.
**Thank you to The Thornybush Collection for making our arrangements at Saseka Tented Camp and for hosting us and to Marina Smithers-Carlaw from Marina Smithers PR for your kind assistance.
Airlink – How to Get There
- 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.
Discover more: www.flyairlink.com
Book Direct: https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-hoedspruit