Nothing can prepare you for your first sighting of a male lion in the wild.
It sends shivers up and down your spine. We get incredibly close, and believe me this guy is big. Almost as big as a small horse, with a beguiling attitude that’s second to none. Admittedly though, in this case, ‘wild’ is a relative term. While this handsome fellow is living a largely free-ranging existence and has to catch his own dinner, he’s available, by way of a tracking collar, to guests of the Kuzuko Lodge & Game Reserve, which offers South Africa luxury safaris in Eastern Cape on the edge of the vast Karoo (nine hours’ drive east of Cape Town).
Time-poor tourists are increasingly turning to private wildlife reserves like this one as a guarantee of seeing Southern Africa’s most elusive wildlife. Think superbly appointed private chalets, sweeping hilltop vistas, sumptuous cuisine and a ‘wilderness wellness centre’, all perfectly integrated into the sublime natural surrounds.
Head ranger Tammy Dennis agreed to give us an insider’s perspective on life at Kuzuko, and some top tips for visiting a South Africa game reserve.
Kuzuko is known as ‘Place of Glory’. Why is that?
Kuzuko means place of glory in Xhosa. Once you stand on the private deck of one of our beautiful chalets and gaze over the never-ending expanse of the Karoo, you’ll understand exactly why it’s called ‘Place of Glory’. It’s extraordinary.
What’s the ideal way to spend a day at a private lodge and game reserve like Kuzuko?
You absolutely have to start and end your day in the bush, with the birds singing their hellos and goodbyes. These are the times when the animals are most active, so there will be early morning and late evening game drives available. It will mean an early start, but after all, this is what you’ve come 10,000 kilometres to see! We provide snug blankets in our safari trucks, but rug up because it can be chilly.
Remember these are wild animals so persistence is the key. Drives generally take two to three hours. If you don’t see something on one game drive, head out again on the next. No two drives are ever the same!
The rest of the day very much depends on your personality and needs. Here at Kuzuko you can lounge by the infinity pool, be pampered in the wellness centre or explore the Khoisan Caves and their rock paintings with one of our expert rangers. The Karoo high tea is served in the afternoon.
After dinner the night sky puts on a show you’ll never forget. There’s very little light pollution so the stars are impossibly bright.
What’s your favourite spot in this reserve?
We have a view-point overlooking a river bed. It’s usually filled with game from mountain zebra to eland and sometimes even the lions. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a piping hot cup of coffee while the early morning sun warms your skin. You can’t help but smile with a deep appreciation for nature.
Tell us about the conservation work being undertaken at the lodge.
We are rehabilitating the last section of an overgrazed area of 15,000 hectares. It’s still not quite grown over yet. In total, another 5,000 hectares of Spekboom are being planted, to return the vegetation to its largely native state.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give guests coming to a private game reserve in South Africa?
When you’re in the bush, be patient, quiet and still. Allow the silence to bring into perspective your reason for being.
This post was provided by Kuzuko Lodge and edited by The Big Bus tour and travel guide.
Have you travelled to South Africa? We would love to hear your tips for visiting a South Africa game reserve. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Australia, Europe, Asia, North America, parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the Tour the World travel TV series on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.