From the time we pulled up at Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park, I knew that it was going to be a bush experience of note and a luxurious one at that. Smiling staff came straight to the car and offered to carry all of our suitcases, backpacks and bags to our rooms. We were offered an ice cold glass of juice whilst checking in and even the general manger, Louis Strauss, came out to meet and introduce himself.
Our villa in the bush captivated me immediately. As we were shown around the room, I took in the splash pool built on a wooden deck, our shaded A-frame lounging area built with a spectacular view over the dry riverbed and our outdoor dining area where we could choose to have our meals.
Inside our vast bed with white bedding and pulled-back mosquito nets beckoned me to relax on it as we had been driving for over five hours and that was before I saw the bath with golden feet, reed dividers and candles beside it with a view looking out into the bush.
We had next to no time to grab something to eat at high tea before jumping into our safari vehicle for the next two days with our guide, Jan. Before setting off, he gave us the do’s and don’ts of game drives such as no protruding parts allowed and that the animals would see the Toyota cruiser as an object and not really a threat.
Before you knew it, we were careening off on the dusty path in our khaki neutrals to spot the first sighting of a cheetah with an impala she had caught. Jan charged with the hardcore vehicle through thick, sand of the riverbank and smaller riverbeds with big rocks, fallen trees and uneven ground levels.
Each game drive, whether in the early hours of the morning or in the dying hours of the day, the wild revealed some of its secrets and gave us a chance to glimpse into the daily lives of these majestic creatures.
Chatting over their walkies talkies in the language of Fanagolo (Swazi, Shangaan, Zulu) the game rangers shared the location of animals they had spotted. We saw a giraffe, zebra, elephant and rhino each with a really young baby.
We saw kingfishers, owls and eagles perched on the trees or soaring above us in the blue sky. One the afternoon the temperature in the Kruger Park reached about 45 degrees Celius. Surprisingly animals could still be seen out in the intense heat. Impala would huddle beneath the wide shade of the acacia trees, elephants would go down to the river in herds to wet themselves and quench their thirst. Lions stalked a warthog, hyenas attacked their competitors, wild dogs and giraffe crossed the road.
Dining at Jock was always a fine affair. Guests we had come to know from game drives would be seated around one table and retell their tales of animal sightings during the day. Because we were so busy with game drives, bush walks and group lunches, we decided to dine in one afternoon and evening and take time to really enjoy our villa.
During the day we lounged on the outdoor bed on our little thatched balcony and dipped our hot bodies in the refreshing pool.
We arrived back from a game drive to find a table laden for dinner with a candle inside a lantern and our settings ready to be served.
That night, Philemon, served us a little bit of all the meats on offer that evening including oxtail potjie, lamb chops and sausage with spinach, salad and potato. As the candlelight flickered, we enjoyed a romantic dinner to the sounds of evening insects and the bush.
After two days of service from attentive staff and drives with the Kruger’s coolest game ranger, we can truly say that our experience within the Kruger was unforgettable.
We can’t wait to return to Jock and the bush someday soon.
Photographs of Jock Safari Lodge by and © Vaughan McShane