Night gives way to dawn. My eyes adapt from sleep deep and blissful to sunrise, a scattered hue of rose and orange sky. This day at Seriti River Lodge, a family of warthog frisks about on the front lawn.
On Friday morning, I woke to find an elephant staring disinterestedly from behind protective fencing 20m away. It held my gaze for a minute or two, turned and lumbered down towards its herd at the Crocodile River.
I force myself from the comfort of my king-size bed with its glassfronted view, dress hurriedly and join Bheki Hlungwane – our premier ranger – for an early morning game drive. His breadth of knowledge is astonishing.
Guests return from game drives having learnt about the different trees, the different bird calls, and even the architecture of red termite mounds. His passion for leopard brought us to the site of one of the elusive animals, stalking by night, almost astride our Range Rover.
On Friday’s late-afternoon drive, we counted a pride of 21 lion at the Mjejajane Dam, probably more than most see on several different safaris. They looked very relaxed, almost as if they wouldn’t stir if you walked between them. The surrounds of flat khaki shrub – dry, flat and parched – offered no camouflage.
In October, sighting game is made easier by parched ground and skeletal trees, waiting for summer rain. The air is as dry as sawdust. In the rainy season, the lush, green grass provides cover for the animals. Located in South Africa’s Mjejane Game Reserve, Seriti River Lodge boasts an uninterrupted panoramic view on to a wide savanna of typical African bush as far as the eye can see, punctuated by 10km of the famed Crocodile River, visible from every vista.
Kim Jacobson, co-owner of this game lodge, describes it as her heaven on earth. She says she wanted to turn it into a place of serenity and joy for guests. Jacobson’s love of Africa is bred in the bone. She grew up on farms and favourite childhood memories involve visits to the Kruger National Park.
“I’ve always connected to nature and animals.” She’s labelled an animal whisperer by some. So, it happened. Travelling back home to Australia, she aimlessly leafed through the in-flight magazine tucked in front of her seat.
Astoundingly, the last patch of privately owned land in the Greater Kruger National Park was advertised for sale. Renowned for its abundant herds, sightings of the big five, and location on to 10km of Crocodile River, it was utter serendipity.
“My dream had come true. The final prize was a bridge built by a local community and developers into the Kruger Park,” she enthuses. Jacobson had barely disembarked in Australia when she approached co-owners, her son-in-law and daughter, Marc and Bronwyn Weininger, who share her passion for nature.
From the sophistication of Sydney, sight unseen the land was bought. Mother and daughter, both artists, returned to Mjejane, acquainted themselves with the locals and involved them in the process.
They built a five-star self-catering ecofriendly lodge that blends into the surrounds. They then headhunted Hlungwane, who they rate the finest ranger, and housekeeper Thembi Sambo. They involved artisans in the area, skilled in wood carving, weaving, sculpting, bead work, grass-woven baskets and wire furniture.
Bronwyn created a light fitting redolent of Africa and had it suspended from the ceiling as a centrepiece, it’s compelling attraction bringing lounge dining area and kitchen together. Three giant bedrooms are strategically spaced.
Like every view from this luxurious lodge, they look into African bush and river as far as the eye can see. The spacious bathrooms with indoor shower open to an extra outdoor shower in an atrium. The pool’s deck is the ideal place to lounge in the afternoons and I have lazily moved from the couch to plunge in crisp cool water every afternoon.
By night, hot and dusty from the game drive, I have enjoyed braais at the boma. Stars almost pierce the darkness.
On Friday night the roar that punctured the air was so loud we took a torch to the fence to see if a lion was watching us. The roar continued sight unseen, we took bets. Was it a hippo or a lion? In Sotho the word seriti is used to describe an object of wonder. To Seriti I shall return.
Regular flights to Mpumalanga International Airport, 45 min from lodge
By car from Gauteng on N4 highway 4 hours
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