Down by the River Lodge
Arriving at Tengile, we were filled with excitement about being able to explore this new addition to AndBeyond’s portfolio. The entrance catches the eye immediately, as the raw wood and dark metal frames the staircase leading down toward the main area. The unique flooring, which was crafted from the old Selati railway line, and the open space created by the large glass sliding doors, allows you to see an almost endless view down the Sand River. Standing under an ancient leadwood tree, we could see a herd of elephants feeding and another herd coming down to drink. The magnificence of the lodge certainly attached immediately without letting go.
As we walked around the lodge we were able to see the open kitchen, which allows guests to interact with the chefs and see how the lodge’s world-class cuisine is prepared. The dining room, with its unique metal chandelier and amazing fire deck, would be the perfect place for a glass of wine after a successful safari.
The rooms were so immaculate and spacious, it felt like you would need at least a week to fully utilize the space. The finishes were well thought out and the view from the room down the river was simply breathtaking. Two other noteworthy elements were the mini bar (which certainly eliminated the “mini” as the beverage selection was immense) and the long swimming pool out front, from which you could watch the wild scenery whilst taking a dip. Luxurious would be a true understatement in describing the feeling that this lodge was emitting.
Of course, there are many places around the world that offer luxury, open space and great service. What separates a place like Tengile from these other places, however, is that you still have a safari to look forward to! We got ready for our afternoon drive and were greeted by our very professional guide, Gareth, and his skilled tracker, Bright, who were going to navigate us through the beauty of the reserve. The grass was lush, long and green and looked like it had been blessed with a great amount of rain in recent weeks. We stopped periodically to identify a bird or two and to chat about the beauty of the bush, but it wasn’t long before the radio crackled and brought Gareth to attention. He turned to us with a big smile on his face, pointed at the vehicle we could see on the other side of the river and said, “they just found a leopard.” He also explained that she had two 10-week old cubs that she was denning nearby. Excitement peaked, and we crossed the river with a wake of water pushing outwards. We came around the corner and there she was, a beautiful golden cat with black rosettes contrasting beautifully on her coat. She was in incredible condition and every step was emphasized by her shoulder blades pushing upward.
She was on a mission to scent-mark at every opportunity. She would stop at regular intervals, smell trees, bear her teeth in a grimace to open up her organ of Jacobson and analyze the scents left by leopards that may have gone before her. There was another female whose territory overlapped hers, and she was ensuring that she laid down a solid boundary to avoid any physical conflict in the future. We followed her for a while, and at one point she decided to walk right up to our vehicle and smell the running boards! What an incredible sighting and experience.
This cat was clearly comfortable with vehicles as a result of being habituated to the presence of people and vehicles since being a cub, in addition to the guides always giving her the space and respect she required to feel safe around the vehicles. As we were following her we were sidetracked by a herd of elephants playing in the riverbed. We left the leopard and sat with the elephants for a while as the young bulls pushed each other around, trying to gauge dominance and build strength for the future. The herd seemed incredibly content: they had sufficient food, plenty of water and cool weather overhead.
Once we were done watching the elephants we returned to the leopard in hopes of catching a glimpse of her with her cubs. She had slowed her scent-marking and was walking with more purpose now towards the suspected den site. At the same time the clouds were building into something more significant, and the more we followed the leopard, the more the sky seemed to anger. The first drop fell and was not paid much attention to, however within minutes the heavens opened. The leopard took a couple of fast strides and we lost her in the thickets. Leopards are incredibly stealthy and can lose anything in pursuit of them within seconds. We gave up the the search and headed back to camp, huddled underneath our warm ponchos.
At the lodge we were greeted by warm smiles and dry towels. We dried off and made our way down to the cozy bar to celebrate the amazing drive and yet another “tough” day in Africa. Dinner was flavourful, hearty and utterly delicious! The perfect way to end-off and incredible day out in the wild before heading back to the comfort of our beautiful suite.
Tengile, what a pleasure it was!
Richard and the Safari Architects Team.