Welcome to the second installment of our October 2010 fam (familiarization) trip to Africa which sees us labouring through the searing heat (42 degrees centigrade in the shade!) in our mobile sewing machine of a car to start the wildlife safari part of our trip. The heat-haze hovers like fog over the densely populated Bushbuck ridge hinterland. The air conditioner is making very unwelcome noises as we crawl along the extended speed zones. As we reach the gate of the Manyleti wildlife safari reserve the air con gives a final cough & dies. Thankfully the luxury African safari lodge, Tintswalo, to which we are heading, is not far from the gate. The Manyleti wildlife safari reserve is located between the Timbavati on one side, the Sabi Sands on another and on the third the well-known Kruger National Park.
Since there are no fences between all these nature reserves, Manyleti should be an ideal location for a wildlife safari.
Tintswalo has come with very high recommendations, so we are anticipating a very comfortable couple of days. It appears that the manager of the lodge is on leave this week and so we are greeted by Latso (who, would you believe, is a visiting Czech ski instructor during the winter months!)
After signing the waiver of liability forms which are inevitably required by those involved in any wildlife safari, we are taken to our sumptuously appointed room accessible via a raised wooden walkway. Following the early demise of our air con, the plunge pool on our secluded deck looks particularly attractive so we shed our clothes and jump in – well John jumps in and as usual I creep in inch by inch for a cooling wallow!
Now that our bodies have been restored to something approaching normal temperature we return to the main reception areas for a light lunch on the deck which is constructed around an enormous tree and pump fed water hole. Being the tail end of the dry season, the constant supply of water almost guarantees a regular procession of different animals so guests can enjoy a wildlife safari without ever leaving their luxury African safari lodge! There are a few elephants refreshing themselves when we arrive so close that you could almost touch them. One canny elephant drinks directly from the source plugging the pipe with his trunk!
After our 5 am start, a post-prandial snooze is well deserved. Unfortunately neither the air conditioner nor the fan in our room are working – so we have only a short fitful doze until game drive time.
We are keen to see what Manyleti has to offer in terms of a wildlife safari. We would expect it to have abundant wildlife situated as it is between the two best private game reserves in South Africa – the Sabi Sands and thee Timbavati. Our enthusiasm is short-lived – replaced by surprised indignation at the proposal to cram eight guests into a nine-seater vehicle for the game drive! This is completely unacceptable to us. We would expect a maximum of six guests in all luxury African safari vehicles to allow each guest an outside seat as well as room to put camera equipment. Any more than six means the game drive will be compromised and the middle person will have little or no chance of seeing or photographing anything.
After an angry outburst another vehicle, guide and tracker are hauled into commission – which is all very well for us but we will need a solemn undertaking from this lodge that they will not crowd our clients into a packed vehicle before we add this alleged luxury African safari lodge to our recommended list!
A leaking sink and consequent flooded bathroom leads us to suspect that Tintswalo has moved from an opulent, no-expense-spared start in 2004 to the present penny-pinching day. However as we are impressed with the guide and tracker in terms of knowledge and affability and satisfied of the abundance of game in Manyleti, we will reserve judgement. One thing is for sure, Tintswalo has no chance of unseating the Sabi Sands based Savanna Private Game Reserve as our all time favourite luxury African safari lodge – which is our next destination in the wildlife safari component of this fam trip.