Buffalo Thorn Lodge – What a Treasure Debbie and David Greaves
Excitement was building as we started to pack for our stay at Buffalo Thorn Lodge. Food, check; snacks, check; Amarula check. All ready to go and GPS plugged in, we set off with great expectancy in our hearts. Before we knew it we were entering into the park gates, as it is only a short journey from JOYburg (AKA, Johannesburg or Jozi) to our destination.
On our way to the entrance of the Lodge we saw a number of giraffe and smaller antelope, and at the watering hole right outside the camp fence we saw a jackal… and so we thought we had a pretty successful drive in. I loved driving into the gates where the whole team of staff came out to greet us, helped to carry our luggage, and greeted us with a welcome drink. We were made to really feel special. After drinks we were all taken to our very comfy lodging. Beautiful big windows allow for lots of light and great viewing from the bedroom. We could see clearly into the bush if any animals walked close by. It boasts a full spacious bathroom and has an outdoor, as well as an indoor shower.
After settling in and unpacking, Ruaan our trusty and very capable game ranger/guide, whisked us off into the bush for our 3 hour game drive. How blessed we were, we saw the big 4, but it was the elusive leopard that kept us searching. We came across an impala that had been pulled up into one of the trees right next to the side of the road, but there was no sign of our beautiful big cat. I had never seen a kill in person before, despite going to many game parks in my life. Over the next few game drives, we kept going back to see if our lovely leopard would show any sign of being in the vicinity of the every increasingly smelly carcass up in the tree.
In-between all the safari action, we prepared food in the very well equipped kitchen. We ate, we laughed, we lay in the hot African sun like lazy lizards, and we swam in the jacuzzi and the pool. We also watched the storm clouds roll in and bless us with their substance, and roll out again on the distant sound of thunder. The bush began to spring to life with the gift of rain that it received… so beautiful to see. We all slept really well in our luxury accommodations… and we dreamed of seeing our lovely leopard. We went off one afternoon on our game drive and went past the kill in the tree. After sitting for a few minutes, we saw her, walking quickly over the road, in front of us, not in some tree 300 meters away, but right there. As we had such a good sighting I figured well, that’s it… we came, we saw, we leave in a couple of days! I was satisfied at this point.
However that evening while we were all sitting around our camp fire and braai, our guide Ruaan ran in and asked who wanted to go and see her in the tree, with the kill? This was not a difficult decision to make and we all jumped into the game vehicle. We went as quickly as was safe, to the kill sight, and we sat in the dark in awe of the beauty right before us. There was our lovely lady, right in the tree munching and crunching on the now very smelly impala. She tried to move the kill further up the tree as something started to spook her, something further in the bush. Unfortunately for her she dropped the impala and with a huge thud it hit the ground. And just like that she was gone. By this time the storm was wrapping its gusty arms around us and we decided to call it a night. The next day we drove through mountainous scenery into the Pilanesberg. It was a delight. We saw some beautiful lions, hippos and another leopard lying under a tree right next to the road. Despite her closeness she was so camouflaged we could only make out where she was by watching her breathing. Could one group of people be so blessed with such amazing sightings? The answer is a resounding yes! On our way back home we went past the kill sight again and saw the impala back up the tree, but only the head and neck was left. We think that whatever spooked her the night before had a snack on that smelly impala. Then my son looked a little deeper into the brush and there she was, our lazy leopard, snoozing on the ground without a care in the world. Clearly she had fed well. We enjoyed watching her for a while before driving back to the Lodge. We spent more time at the pool, ‘hydrating’, tanning, eating, laughing and enjoying the relaxed surrounds. We had time for two more game drives, which we enjoyed immensely, with beautiful sightings again… elephants, giraffes, antelope of various sizes, the majestic kudu, bird life galore, rhino, buffalo, zebra and so much more. Finally it was time to leave, we packed our things and said farewell. We felt like royalty as we waved our goodbyes. A very hearty thank you to the staff at Buffalo Thorn Lodge, who treated us all so kindly, especially our guide Ruaan who went the extra mile for us. You do what you do, well! We will be back. What a treasure this place is. It’s time to start planning the next trip back there! PS… we made the trip home, only to discover that we had left the whole toiletry bag in our bathroom! However, a day later, our little bag had been couriered to us with everything still intact. Thanks so much BTL.
Photographs by Debbie and David Greaves