After winning at Getaway’s first (hopefully annual) blogger awards earlier this year, my writing has been conspicuously absent from the blog. Well, to me it’s been conspicuously absent – you probably haven’t noticed. It’s been a busy year of beer-drinking and book-writing, but I’m back and thought I would begin with a write-up of the prize that I won (a trip for two to Tanda Tula) thanks to all you wonderful people who voted for me in the awards. (View the full list of winners at the 2012 Getaway Blog Awards).
Tanda Tula sits in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve on the edge of Kruger National Park and captures the essence of the safari camp, seeming – to me at least – to transport visitors back to an earlier age of wildlife vacations. The camp is small and the feel is intimate, with each staff member personally introducing themselves and joining you for meals, drinks or a game of Jenga in front of the fire. There are no TVs, neither in the tents nor the communal area – instead there’s a library of South African books, a big box of games and more importantly, a permanently-manned bar well-stocked with two of the most important ingredients for any safari break – gin and tonic.
And then there is the wildlife. There are now no fences between Timbavati and the Kruger so you stand a chance of seeing any one of the Big Five as well as plenty of other, equally interesting animals – and with the camp unfenced, it’s not unusual to see some of them wandering near your tent (hence the guides accompanying you between bar/restaurant and tent after dark). Naturally, animal sightings are always different, but our guide, Scotch, ensured that he would always have something to talk about, memorising the page numbers or every bird regularly sighted in the area to wow you with between glimpses of the mammals most people come to see. I have toured Africa literally from Cairo to Cape and been lucky enough to take in dozens of game drives en route, but it is no exaggeration to say that this was one of the most amazing animal adventures I’ve ever had.
We tracked wild dogs on a hunt, spent time with litter of hyena pups sniffing at our tyres, witnessed a leopard saving its kill from a marauding hyena and saw a two-month-old elephant attempting to see us off with a trumpet and an ear-flap that was more adorable than alarming. Scotch filled in the gaps with his birding knowledge and a spiel that I utterly enjoyed – telling us to listen out for elephant farts and stopping to see a couple of steenbok get it on. If only my camera hadn’t broken it would have been utterly perfect, though at least it forced me to watch the wildlife for real, rather than through a lens.
Tanda Tula is definitely more of a sunny destination – we didn’t get to breakfast in the bush and couldn’t use the pool with its water-hole views – but even with the drizzle that we carried from Cape Town to the Kruger (and back), this was a break that I was sad to see the end of.
Thanks again for voting – I hope you also get to experience Tanda Tula sometime soon.
Read about Sarah Duff’s experience of doing a walking safari at Tanda Tula in the Timbavati.