Jock Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park
Had Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, author of the famous Jock of the Bushveld book, and his canine superstar been alive today, they would have highly approved of today’s Jock Safari Lodge.
It is authentic and steeped in history, built on part of the old wagon route used by Fitzpatrick and Jock in the late 1800s as they transported goods to and from the goldfields of Pilgrim’s Rest and down to the Mozambique coast.
I’m standing on the huge deck of my #5 suite at Jock Safari Lodge ( www.jocksafarilodge.com) in the south-west corner of the Kruger. The almost dry Biyamiti River stretches into the distance on either side, while opposite, a white rhino is slumbering in the winter noonday sun. As he breathes in and out, clouds of dust and sand hover round him, then settle, only to blow out again as another stentorian snore echoes along the riverbed.
A pair of highly endangered saddle-billed storks is poking about in the reed beds nearby, as a water monitor waddles up the bank.
All Garden of Eden stuff.
The actual site of today’s lodge is the original site of a camp once used by Irishman James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first warden of Kruger, when he was surveying and exploring the area of what is now one of the most famous and best game parks in the world. Fitzpatrick’s only surviving child, Cecily, erected all the ‘Jock’ stone markers you’ll see throughout the park, and in 1983 she donated the Jock of the Bushveld Safari Lodge (today’s Jock Safari Lodge) to the National Parks Board.
Although you’ll be spoiled with every comfort, from a private plunge pool to top rangers and superb food, the camp still retains its rustic feel: old wagons dot the shady pathways; a bronze statue of Jock’s famous fight with a sable antelope stands sentinel in the grounds; and old maps, photographs and paintings line the thick stone walls. Charles, the resident chef, tells me, 'We create memories; we’re in the memory game.'
And what memories ... hair-raising drives along the riverbed, and encounters with a breeding herd of elephants, when one young bull simply refuses to give way to our vehicle. Result? A stand-off of about 40 minutes until he finally moves slowly off, after insolently blowing sand from his trunk on to the bonnet of our open game vehicle.
I see wild dogs hunting just after first light (the lodge’s vehicles are allowed into the Kruger before and after regular visitors); stately kudus browsing; impala chomping the dry grass; lions hunting; a leopard crouching in the dry grass; and baboons and vervet monkeys grooming, playing and foraging.
Louis Strauss, the camp’s highly experienced general manager (who is also a highly qualified chef and game ranger), is justly proud of the camp’s conservation record. The lodge nearly always earns full marks in the bi-annual Kruger National Park environmental audit – tops in its field. The tiny tucked-away tented Explorer Camp has one of best two-day walking safaris in Kruger.
I’ll nail my colours to the mast. This is one of my very favourite South African safari lodges. Go there and discover why for yourself.