Jock Safari Lodge – bush at its best

‘So, have you ever seen this on a trip from an airport?’ asked head ranger Lazarus Mkhonto, stopping the vehicle in a dry riverbed. He pointed to a leopard sitting on a shady rock. Not just a leopard, we soon noticed – a leopard with a cub.

Lazarus added a herd of ellies mud-bathing and two rhinos before we pulled up outside Jock Safari Lodge. And this was just the midday transfer from Skukuza Airport.

What a pleasure it was to fly in from Cape Town, touching down directly on hallowed Kruger soil. Jock was the first private concession granted in the national park back in 1982.

Now under new ownership, the lodge underwent a major refurbishment by international design company Luxury Frontiers and reopened late last year. In the new ‘arrival tent’, iced cranberry juice awaited among safari-style vintage furniture and leather travel trunks. The main-deck swimming pool is now heated – but in the 38˚C heat, that didn’t make an impression.

Kruger National Park, Greater Kruger

The colours of nature around Fitzpatrick’s were the inspiration for the decor revamp with linen, velvet and leather touches. Image credit: Catherine Hofmeyr

What did blow me away were Main Lodge’s 12 suites, each with an extensive timber deck and plunge pool overlooking the riverbed – and so private you can have a romantic candlelit bath in the Victorian tub with nobody but a kudu bull smirking at you.

Best of all are the salas (net-enclosed day beds) on the deck. Just say the word and the staff will make one up as a tented bed for the night – a bush sleepover with bubbly and towelling robes to hand. Camping’s evolved somewhat since Sir Percy’s day.

The lodge is, of course, named after SA’s favourite dog, whose owner, Percy Fitzpatrick, penned the story of their travels back in the 1880s. The Staffie cross was, in fact, born under a tree not far from where the lodge stands. Situated at the confluence of the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers (mostly dry), Jock Safari Lodge has exclusive traversing rights over 6,000 hectares of prime Big Five country.

Kruger National Park, Greater Kruger

These wild dogs were a special sighting; so was seeing a leopard with a cub. Image credit: Catherine Hofmeyr

I was staying a short gameviewing walk down the river at the satellite camp, Fitzpatrick’s at Jock – and Percy and Jock were very much present in the books, photos, old wagon wheels, Sir Percy’s tin trunk and other memorabilia.

The revamp here has created a family friendly lodge (complete with TV lounge) for just six people. Two of the three suites are interleading, and open onto a deck with a plunge pool and views of elephants. And the game viewing? Phenomenal – whether on twice-daily drives, walks or from the outdoor shower.

In that respect, nothing’s changed since Jock and Percy lived off the land here.

Kruger National Park, Greater Kruger

The only thing I lacked at my private family suite at Fitzpatrick’s was my family. Image credit: Catherine Hofmeyr

Best feature The food is first-rate divine; do book for a Riverbed Dining Experience.
Cost R8,960 per person sharing, all inclusive (even the drinks).
Contact 013-010-0019, jocksafarilodge.com

 

Words and images: Catherine Hofmeyr

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