Night gives way to dawn at Seriti River Lodge in Mpumalanga. My eyes adapt from sleep, deep and blissful, to sunrise, a scattered hue of rose and orange sky. A family of warthog frisk about on the front lawn.
The previous day I had awoken to find an elephant staring at me from behind protective fencing 20 metres away. It held my gaze for a minute, then turned and lumbered towards its herd at the Crocodile River.
I force myself from the comfort of my king-size bed with its glass fronted view, dress hurriedly and join Bheki Hlungwane our premier ranger for an early morning game drive.
His knowledge is astonishing. Guests learn about trees, bird calls, and even the architecture of red termite mounds. His passion for leopard manifested an elusive specimen stalking by night, almost astride our Range Rover. On the late afternoon drive we counted a pride of 21 lion at the Mjejajane Dam, looking relaxed, almost as if they wouldn’t stir if you walked among them.
The khaki shrub surrounds, flat and parched offered no camouflage. In October sighting game is made easier by skeletal trees waiting for summer rain. The air is dry as sawdust. In rainy season the lush grass provides cover for the animals. Located in South Africa’s Mjejajene Game Reserve Seriti River lodge boasts uninterrupted panoramic views onto a wide savanna of African bush, punctuated by 10km of the Crocodile River.
Kim Jacobson, co-owner of Seriti River Lodge, a place of serenity and joy, describes it as her ‘heaven on earth’. Kim grew up on farms and favourite childhood memories involve visits to the Kruger Park. “I’ve always connected to nature and animals.”
She’s known to be an animal whisperer by some. She was aimlessly leafing through the inflight magazine tucked in front of her seat while travelling back home to Australia when she saw the last patch of privately-owned land in the Greater Kruger National Park advertised for sale.
“It was serendipity. My dream had come true. The final prize was a bridge built by local community and developers into the Kruger Park,” she recalls. On disembarking in Australia Kim approached Marc and Bronwyn Weininger, her son in law and daughter, who share her passion for nature.
From Sydney, sight unseen, the land was bought. Mother and daughter, both artists, returned to Mjejana to acquaint themselves with local artisans skilled in wood carving, weaving, sculpting, bead work, and wire furniture for the building of the self-catering eco-friendly lodge that blends into surrounds. Then they headhunted Bheki as a ranger and Thembi Sambo as the head housekeeper.
Bronwyn created a light fitting redolent of Africa and suspended it from the ceiling, as a centre piece that brings the lounge dining area and kitchen together.
Three huge bedrooms all overlook the African bush and Crocodile river. The spacious bathrooms with indoor shower open to an extra outdoor shower in the atrium.
The pool with its deck is the ideal place to lounge and I lazily moved from couch to crisp cool water every afternoon.
By night hot and dusty from game drive I enjoyed braais – the lodge is self-catering – at the Boma where only stars pierced the darkness. On my last night, a roar punctured the air; so loud we took a torch to the fence. Hippo? Lion? Who knows? These were my last thoughts before I escaped into the atrium for a cool shower before slipping into crisp sheets.
In Sotho the word ‘Seriti’ describes an object of wonder. And to Seriti shall I return.