ISSUE 12

SUSPENDED IN THE AFRICAN SKY

There is a bush lodge right here in South Africa that offers you that unique reprieve you have always dreamt of. A place where the sunsets are deafening, the bush is electric and where you can switch off the world and tune into only yourself.

A mere two hours from Johannesburg and found in an entirely malaria free region is the Tshukudu Bush Lodge. Formerly a hunter’s retreat, the lodge has been transformed into an exclusive camp with a handful of cottages on the sides of a rocky outcrop of the Pilanesberg Mountains in the Pilanesberg National Park.

This idyllic setting is the perfect romantic escape for the couple looking to enjoy only the company of the other, the individual looking for time away from the city bustle, or the person looking to hide away from the rest of the world even if it is only for a short time.

The area
Notably the Pilanesberg is one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets and is a treasure trove of biodiversity. Once an ancient volcano, the area now boasts lush plains, huge herds of antelope and other animals indigenous to the area as well as an abundance of birdlife, flora and it is also home to the Big Five. Here you will be able to view lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino to name a few.

The volcanic aspect of the park is rooted in ancient times where this once active volcano created a lush environ from which the bushveld thrives. Now extinct the volcanic remnants are marked by three concentric ridges or rings of hills, in what is known as an Alkaline Ring Complex. The rings are the result of a series of eruptions that occurred below the earth’s crust some 1,200 million years ago.

The Pilanesberg is one of the best examples of an Alkaline Ring Complex in the world and attracts geologists from far and wide as it is home to a number of rare rock types and formations as well as rare minerals.  The rich volcanic soil has also ensured a lush oasis for the wildlife in the area and is one of the few remaining natural biodiversity areas left in the world.

The Pilanesberg National Park covers an area of some 55 000 hectares, and, in addition to the Big Five, is home to over 360 species of birds, thousands of antelope, a myriad of cats, as well as a range of smaller animals indigenous to the area. The vegetation in the park is itself diverse, as it exists in what is a transition zone between the dry Kalahari and the wetter Lowveld vegetation. This has resulted in an overlap in mammals, birds and vegetation.

The lodge
Tshukudu means ‘place of the rhino’ in Sesotho and the area is one of the few places in South Africa where you will still see these animals brazenly amble passed your car on your way to the lodge. There is no access to the lodge by your own vehicle and you will have to check in at its sister lodge Bakubung, from where you will personally be escorted by bush vehicle to the lodge. Dependant on the weather this will be an open game viewing vehicle.

The lodge itself is, as previously mentioned, is set on the sides of a rocky outcrop and on arrival you will have to brave the some 132 steps to the top. The stairs are all carved in stone and provide you a first brush with the natural beauty that is the flora of the region including lavender bushes, red ivory, tambotie, wild olive, velvet bushes willow and red balloon trees.

When taking the climb up the stairs you may be privy to tales from staff about encounters with elephants and other animals who have decided to come and forage on the steps – keeping guests either in or away from their rooms until they decide to move on.

The main reception area of the lodge is made up of a sweeping deck that hangs over the edge of a cliff and affords views of the plains as well as the waterhole and the volcanic complex. The deck is a firm late afternoon favourite for guests who enjoy sundowners in its opulent lounge chairs, bring a pair of binoculars with them to see if they can view some game or do some bird spotting, or simply to chat to other guests or the friendly staff about the sightings of the day.

The Tshukudu team is made up of professional game rangers, locals who have worked there for more than a decade and top chefs. All of who are passionate about their guests, the lodge and the bush in which they live.

Relaxing and dining
Outside of the enormous deck and its ample seating area, there is also a fire pit that makes up part of the common areas. The fire pit is a much-loved area for visitors who like to take up residence around it when it is lit each night. Here drinks are served and tales are told, as you enjoy the crackle of the fire and the night time sounds of the bush – including the often not so distant roar of the resident lions.

A swimming pool that has been carved into the sides of the rock is also a welcome reprieve, especially for guests venturing to Tshukudu in the middle of summer when temperatures can reach an all time high. The pool has magnificent deck chairs and loungers where you can call upon the staff to serve you cocktails while working on your tan. The pool is not entirely free of visitors and you may have to share it with the ample birdlife, local squirrels and sunbathing lizards.

Meals can be served in your room, on the deck, at the fire pit, by the pool or for those looking for a unique experience there is the large dining hall. Here a magnificent wooden table that was once gifted to Legacy Chairman Bart Dorrestein from the former president of the then Bophuthatswana, Lucas Mangope, takes pride of place. In the dining room you can be assured of five star treatment while looking on a range of framed professional photographs of animals – all of which have been taken at Tshukudu and in the park.

Wine tasting sessions are also organised on request and are hosted in the common areas. Here guests can enjoy gorgeous South African wines presented by experts in their fields.

Rooms and chalets
Tshukudu not only screams exclusivity it yells it from the rooftops. With its only six separate luxury cottages you are assured of the privacy and the intimacy you were promised. The rooms are themselves situated alongside the rocky outcrop and offer breathtaking views of the Pilanesberg.

From the main common area you will amble along a wooden walkway that joins the cottages at different points. Each cottage has a private entrance with a small pause area with its own coffee station. The large peaked thatch roofs then play centre stage to a spacious room with a large inviting bed and couches. The room then opens onto your own private balcony where you can enjoy intimate meals or simply take pause when enjoying the views of the plains at the foot of the outcrop.

The interiors tastefully pay homage to the African bush and have been artfully created by well-known interior designer, Joan King from Artwood. Each cottage boasts modern fittings and amenities, plush fabrics, decadent colours and tones, all of which have a modern African theme.

The en suite bathrooms are a true treat. Here you can wash off the dust of a day in the bush in a glorious voluptuous sunken bath that itself has a window that looks out across the plains and offers a sneak peek of the waterhole far below. When in the bath you will literally feel as if you are suspended over the rock face and may be tempted to stay long enough that you will have to top up on hot water every so often.

Facilities in the area
Should you wish to break away from your intimate hide away and take in some of the local scenery, then the Tshukudu staff will gladly oblige with supervised bush walks and day and night game drives.

You can also make your way to one of the sister lodges, either the Bakubung Bush Lodge or Kwa Maritane, where you can enjoy the evening festivities, have drinks at the bar or take part in the scheduled activities at the lodge.

Nearby attractions include a number of entertainment destinations, hot air ballooning, golf, squash, bowls, water sports, horse riding, a crocodile farm and a predator world. There are also a number of cultural excursions in the area led by the local people that include a preview of the lifestyles of the indigenous tribes, their cultures and the way in which they view the land around them.

Tshukudu is truly something special. It offers its guests a unique opportunity to genuinely get away from it all while not compromising on service or luxury. Be warned though the lodge does not cater for children under 12; however both its sister lodges Bakubung and Tshukudu do.

You may not get Cellphone reception while visiting, you may be required to share only in your own company or that of your significant other, you may even be required to relax – but you will be assured that your every whim will be catered for and that you will be able to experience the African bush in a setting reserved for a very exclusive few.