Few would argue that the Eastern Cape has become an unexpected tourism power player when it comes to top-end game reserves and lodges.
Those Nelson Mandela Bay residents who can afford such luxuries are extra-lucky, since there are several fantastic establishments practically on our doorstep.
And now there’s an impressive new one in the heart of the Eastern Cape bush that is also ready to share its attractions with the world.
Inzolo Exclusive Game Lodge opened quietly two months ago and already word is getting out that this boutique, five-star lodge has something special and different to offer.
Inzolo’s biggest plus – other than its pristine setting and the prospect of unbeatable Big Five game viewing, which we experienced first-hand – is the fact that it only accommodates a maximum of eight guests at a time.
This makes it ideal for a celebratory stay for a family or group of friends (though one may of course also just book individually or as a couple – think honeymoon!).
My husband, Salvelio, and I set off to Inzolo, a stone’s throw from Sidbury village in the Albany district, earlier this month and found it an easy hour’s drive from home (add an extra half-hour for the obligatory Nanaga pie stop).
We had no idea what to expect; this media visit followed one of those dilly weeks where there was scarcely time to brush teeth, let alone google a new lodge!
I have found that the best experiences frequently result when you go into them unburdened by expectation. This was the case with Inzolo – a truly soulful place perched high up on a ridge overlooking a secluded and practically untouched valley. Just 80km from PE and 30km from Grahamstown, it is nestled in 6500ha of bush.
We were met at reception and driven to the lodge by Dave Wilmington, an affable Scot whose extensive knowledge of the Eastern Cape bush quickly put these two locals to shame. He is known in the area as “Ranger Dave”, so as not to be confused with Inzolo’s one owner, David Hurr, known as “Farmer Dave”. “And then there’s still Cousin Dave down the road,” Ranger Dave quipped.
Hurr and Paul Lynch, businessmen from PE, bought the farm, Rockcliff, three years ago to breed game such as buffalo and Cape mountain zebra.
“We were well aware there was an existing lodge and four chalets when we bought the farm, but initially we were not going to reopen it as a commercial concern,” Lynch said.
“Once we’d spent some time on the farm, and more specifically down at the lodge, we realised what a beautiful setting we had.
“What makes Inzolo so special, besides the setting, is its exclusivity. When visiting Africa you do not want the crowds, you need peace and quiet to truly capture what a day in the African bush feels like.”
Top interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn, of Artichoke in Cape Town, was tasked with completely refurbishing the lodge and chalets – with admirable results. A new deck was also added, among numerous other significant changes.
Each spacious chalet has a four-poster, king-size bed with sinfully crisp linen and all the sophisticated touches you’d expect from a five-star establishment. Ours overlooked the waterhole in front of the lodge, which the hippos have been eyeing out, and our glass-fronted shower offered what must surely be one of the coolest view from a bathroom ever!
Game drives at Inzolo are memorable and fun, in no small part thanks to Ranger Dave’s knowledge, wit and skill behind the wheel. And we are convinced he’d radioed the animals ahead and told them to get into position, because they truly put on a spectacular show for us!
In the late afternoon we came upon a pair of teen male lions literally stuffing their faces on a young giraffe they had taken down. We went back early the next day and there they still were, little left of the carcass and the two boys seemingly having grown bigger overnight. It’s the sort of sight some squeamish foreigners might struggle with but for us, seeing nature at work as it should be, in all its guts and glory, was the experience of a lifetime.
Two separate herds of elephant, briefly coming together to make up one huge group before lazily moseying off in different directions, was another fine sighting.
Hurr, Lynch and their team are committed to the conservation and sustainability of the land; hunting is not permitted and the lodge has launched two conservation initiatives – a buffalo breeding project and the protection of the endangered Cape mountain zebra.
Encouragingly, opening of the lodge has created nine new jobs, with most of the staff coming from the surrounding area.
Everyone was caring and welcoming; chef Sebastian treated us to superb cuisine and the housekeeping staff made us chuckle with the adorable elephants they’d fashioned for us out of hand-towels at turn-down.
The setting, the smiles, the sights and sounds of Africa as it should be preserved for posterity: these are the impressions of Inzolo that we took home with us following an unforgettable weekend.
- For bookings and more information contact 064-625-7687, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.inzololodge.co.za