Rockfig Safari Lodge - May Property of the Month

Rockfig Safari Lodge – May Property of the Month

About Rockfig Safari Lodge


Rockfig Safari Lodge is a new luxury lodge situated in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.  The famous nature reserve is made up of 30 000 acre of natural lowveld bushveld and is adjoined to the iconic Kruger National Park.  This exclusive and luxury South African safari lodge has only 6 private chalets anda relaxed ambience with indoor and outdoor guest spaces that segue into each other that enable both communal and private moments suffused with an authentic bush feel.

“We have only 4 guests per safari vehicle. This lets us provide a better interpretive experience, and greater comfort out on safari.” – Bruce Jenkins

The Suites

Only 6 suites makes the lodge ideal for exclusive-use bookings for families or groups of friends. each suite featuring both indoor and outdoor showers, a private verandah ideal for romantic candlelit dinners, a minibar and a bath.

  • aircon
  • fans
  • mosquito net
  • bath
  • indoor shower
  • outdoor shower
  • hairdryer
  • mini bar
  • wifi
  • in room safe
  • laundry


  • Morning and afternoon/evening game drives
  • Bush walks
  • Sundowners
  • Bush dining, including breakfasts, picnics and dinners
  • Private dining

The Location

Set in the heart of Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park, RockFig Safari Lodge is well situated for forays into the African wilds. Game drives let you cover some ground in the comfort of a vehicle, while walking safaris put you right on the ground, exploring the area under your own steam.

“the natural beauty of the timbavati bushveld is the true hero”



Boutique and individually tailored

The Lodge

  • children welcome
  • swimming pool
  • spa treatments
  • perimeter fence
  • electricity 220v
  • wifi

Spending time on foot on the details of the ecosystem can be immensely rewarding, and surprising. Learn how every living creature, no matter how small, has its part to play in this intricate, interlinked web of life

Tanzania bans single-use plastic bags as of 01 June 2019

On 10 April 2019, Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa declared a total ban on all single-use plastic carrier bags with effect from 01 June 2019. The ban includes the production, importation, sale and use of all single-use plastic carrier bags to help control pollution from non-biodegradable waste.

Tanzania joins about 13 countries in Africa that have either banned or introduced a levy on plastic bags to control and eventually stop its use. In East Africa, Rwanda banned all use of single-use plastic in 2008 and Kenya implemented their ban in 2017.

We urge you to please urgently communicate the new ban with all travelers to Tanzania (Rwanda and Kenya).

The below excerpt is take from the “Notice to Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” issued by the Tanzania Vice President’s Office.

“Visitors to Tanzania are advised to avoid carrying plastic carrier bags, or packing plastic carrier bags or items in plastic carrier bags in the suitcase or hand luggage before embarking on visiting Tanzania.”

Please note:

  • this ban does include bags used to carry duty free items.  Please advise clients to remove items from the duty free plastic bags and leave the bags on the plane.
  • this ban does not include “ziplock” or multi-use resealable plastic bags that are generally required to carry toiletries in international travel. We would however please ask that you recommend that your clients do not dispose of any multi-use plastic bags in country, but rather take them home with them.

“The Government does not intent for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the Government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from the plastic bags ban.”

Rovos Rail Celebrates 30 Years


Download the Rovos Rail Tribune

The below Milestones is in the Rovos Rail Tribune.

Since its first overnight journey with a seven-coach train to what was then the Eastern Transvaal, Rovos Rail has expanded exponentially and now offers eight trips around Southern Africa with more trains that can accommodate 72 passengers. Journeys range from 48 hours to 15 days with the newest route, Trail of Two Oceans, departing for its maiden voyage in July this year from Dar es Salaam to Lobito in Angola. It will be the first time in history that a passenger train will travel the east-to-west copper trail.

“Our new route coincides nicely with our 30th birthday. I’d like to say it was planned but I can’t take credit for the serendipitous timing,” says Rohan Vos, owner and CEO of Rovos Rail Tours.

Also in the Rovos fleet is the Shongololo Express that was purchased and renovated in 2016. Three journeys are on offer ranging from 12 to 15 days with the train travelling for over 300 days of the year. “That train just goes and goes with very few issues – mostly I think due to the relaxed itineraries. It’s quite amazing,” comments Vos.

Asked if he ever thought Rovos Rail would progress this far, Vos responds: “Not at all. We lost so much money in the early days and we knew nothing about hospitality. In my naivety I believed what we were offering was so unique that tickets would sell easily. Boy, was I mistaken.”

With his wife Anthea at his side, Vos travelled the world attending travel shows and calling on leading travel agents and tour operators. “It was both invigorating and exhausting,” says Anthea. “We were starting out at the same time as the Vartys from Londolozi and the late Liz McGrath as well as a few others. We all used to lose our voices from punting our offerings so vigorously!”

It took a decade for the company to break-even. “We managed to side-step bankruptcy more than once,” says Vos. “I was inexperienced and had no idea just how expensive trains would be to operate.”

An auspicious moment arrived in 1993 when Vos formed a relationship with Phillip Morrell from Jules Verne in the United Kingdom. Together they plotted a route from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. “We had no money at the time for any advertising but we placed an ad in the Sunday Telegraph nonetheless. It was December and I didn’t hold much hope.” However, much to his surprise, the advertisement worked and the maiden voyage sold out. When Phillip called to share the good news, Vos’s words to him were: “Send cash!” The new Victoria Falls journey proved successful.

When Rovos Rail did eventually start making some headway, the company – like many others – was impacted by events such as a volcanic ash cloud, airline strikes, the Ebola outbreak and a crippling global recession.“It’s certainly been a challenging and interesting ride but one has to play to one’s strengths and luckily I thrive under pressure and I’m a good crisis manager. I also don’t like being told I can’t do something,” he smiles.

There is a great deal that Vos would like to say about local politics and how it affects his business on a weekly basis but, in short: “The railway infrastructure on which we are 100% reliant needs attention to enable our services to run efficiently. We have procured our own electric and diesel locomotives so that one day we may become independent of Transnet in this department. Our goal is to be as self-reliant as possible,” says Vos.

The business now employs 440 staff members at Rovos Rail Station, the impressive private railway station and headquarters in Pretoria. In 1999, the derelict 60-acre property was rehabilitated and renovated to become the home of everything from the on-site laundry and kitchen to the locomotive and coach maintenance workshops, reservations and the finance department. “We also have our own little museum that pays homage to our 30 years of operation and also South Africa’s railway history,” says Vos.A sixth train set is in production with completion aimed for December 2019. This means that the company will be able to have five Rovos Rail trains out at once on any of the eight journeys it offers along with Shongololo Express running on one of its three trips.

What’s next for Rovos Rail? “Consolidation,” says Vos. “Once we’ve launched our sixth train we need to focus on maintaining all the coaches, training staff and persevering in our pursuit to be independent,” he adds. “Our daughters are also actively involved in the business and I imagine there will be significant change over the next few years as they work with me to propel us forward.”

The company also has long-standing, amicable and prosperous relationships with many travel agents and tour operators around the world. “Without them we would not be here so I feel this is as much their celebration as it is ours,” says Vos.

Like many in the hospitality industry, Rovos Rail has had to weather its fair share of turbulence and even though the company has grown substantially, the determined and family-orientated spirit that started the business 30 years ago is still very much at its core. “We have staff members here who have been with us since the beginning and over 100 employees who’ve been here for over 20 years,” says Vos. “It’s quite incredible and unheard of these days so for this I am truly thankful,” he smiles.

IL Moran, April Property of the Month

This April, our Property of the Month takes us up to the Masai Mara, Kenya.

Situated on the winding banks of the Mara River, in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, Il Moran is an ideally located a luxury, under canvas tented camp.  We love the newly refurbished camp which has 10 spacious and private luxury tents hidden under ancient trees, deep in the forest. Each tent has with private verandah, ensuite bathrooms with bath, large shower, twin basins, flush toilet, running cold and hot water.

The camp is small and intimate, with attention to detail, a prime location and abundant wildlife.    Il Moran also boasts a Silver Eco Rating by Eco Tourism Kenya for their environmental practices both in camp and with their neighbouring community.

The camp also offers guests a wide variety of activities during their stay, giving guests authentic and again, intimate, experiences with both nature and people.

Activities that can be enjoyed:

  • Game Drives
  • Walking safaris
  • Hot Air Ballooning
  • Wildebeest Migration
  • Cultural Visits
  • Birding

Other facilities:

Wifi is available in the main camp, electricity in the tents with USB charging point, children 8yrs and older welcome and the camp is open all year round.

Tengile River Lodge – Property of the Month

Dylan and Bernadette recently visited Sabi Sand Game Reserve’s newest lodge, Tengile River Lodge and they were not disappointed.

The word unique is all too oft used, but it truly is the right description for this property.  You have a sense of destination at Tengile.  The atmosphere is calm and tranquil with a feeling of home-away-from-home.  The rooms and lodge are so comfortable you could enjoy a slow safari without hesitation.  You have all of the activities available to you, but could also quite simply sit back and absorb nature from the comfort of your private lounge and pool set in riverine forest.

The décor and structure of the lodge is beautifully executed, and the smallest of details have been thought through.  Tones of green, wood and rusted metal mould together seamlessly making the décor and design both strikingly beautiful and complimentary to its inspiration which is clearly the location.  No detail has been overlooked, a simple gesture of putting plug points in the outdoor lounge is enormously beneficial for guests, as they can charge their electronics while taking in the grand old trees and sand river.

The lodge is everything you need to take a step back and relax, whether it be at the beginning of your safari or the end.

And, as is expected from a lodge of this quality, the service and food were exemplary and it is an exciting new addition to the lodges available to us.


Guides Training 2019, Hwange

Gavin was recently in Zimbabwe, Hwange running his annual guides training. Hosted by Wilderness Safaris this is always an exciting week for the guides.
Gavin’s vast experience takes the guides through an intense week of practical training such as walking in the bush, tracking, identification and even camp/table etiquette and some of the more domestic aspects of the job.

Gavin takes a broad encompassing look at Africa as a continent, birds, mammals, biomes and reasons for vegetation diversity as many guests have traveled to Africa previously, particularly East Africa.

Here are some of the highlights of the week.  We had a fantastic turnout with guides from Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia all training.

Another sunrise, another day. We spent the first 3 to 4 hours of each morning out walking and driving to find elephant and lion primarily. We would find spoor, stop and discuss the spoor, then either track the animals or move on again to find better spoor.


Brilliant flower of Striga asiatica. A peculiarity of the Striga genus is their hemi-parasitic lifestyle! Their roots invade their hosts roots system very successfully, and draw some nutrients directly from them.


Data on African Savanna elephant . A short lecture was given to us by an elephant researcher who has been working on elephant dynamics in the park.


Dave Carson, briefing students on requirements for Proficiency Tests. Dave is a fellow professional guide, who actively participates in training guides in Zimbabwe, and is also one of the nominated ZPHGA examiners at the bi-annual Proficiency Tests held in conjunction with National Parks.

Discussing a Camel Thorn Tree. Sstudents would be selected to lead walks in the morning, discussing whatever subjects took their fancy on the walk, as a way of developing their ability to talk sensibly with guests, to exchange information with their colleagues AND as a means of gauging their knowledge for the Professional Guide supervising the walk.

Discussing the material used in Red billed buffalo weavers nests!
Despite living with these birds for years none of the students had ever held a twig from a nest or given them more than a cursory interest! This is a typical conundrum with guides all over Zimbabwe, and probably other countries too!

Douglas trying to catch a catfish or barbel, as the fish disperse from the main pan (out of frame) across the flooded grassland to colonize new areas.

Students gather for an early …5.30am..breakfast before starting the day.

Early morning at Backpans…female hippo and young calf a large female hippo re-enters the pan with a very young calf, and a two to three year calf as well.

Elephant dung riddled with coprophagus ‘mushrooms’.
This is a common sight only during the rainy season, when conditions are good for the fungi to germinate and produce ‘mushrooms’.

Flooded plains of Ngamo. The recent heavy rains here have created these temporary flooded grasslands which benefit a large number of amphibians here, and of course give the grass a boost to grow. Being deep sandy soils, these conditions will not last long and the water will be lost to the below-ground water regime.

13. Gray crowned crane. These beautiful birds are not common here, and normally are seen in pairs or threesomes, including the most recent chick. Subject to some local movement, it is thought that the Zimbabwean western population move between central Botswana and western Zimbabwe, seasonally.

14. Great stormy sky. Some ferocious storms were daily occurrences either on the camp or in the immediate vicinity.

African foxglove. (Ceratotheca triloba). These lovely annuals are scattered throughout the grasslands and scrub, adding some contrast colour to the yellows and mauves of Hibiscus, merremia and Wild sesame plants.

17. It’s 5am and time to wake up. The summer sky lightens quickly, and sleeping in a waterproof tent with open sides ensures no one sleeps too late.

18. ‘Jewel beetles’. Mating bugs, creating another bundle of ‘gems’ to delight us! These iridescent insects abound in some areas of the bush, and make fine macro-photographic subjects.

19. On a walk…walking safely and informatively is a key part of a Field Guides’ skills. We practiced this daily.

21. Stingless bee entrance. This tiny waxen tube is all that indicates that a nest of stingless bees is here…often prized by local hunters for the extremely strong and dark honey they produce, although in tiny quantities.

22. ‘Stud’ or ‘Devil thorn’ flower. The seed pod has two short dorsal spines which embed themselves into boot soles, lending this plant the name,’ Stud thorn’. The flower is very attractive, and being a prostrate plant spreads these lovely blooms along lengthy lines in the grasslands.

23. Taking a break. This happy mix of student guides are from Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and enjoyed the cross culture interaction both socially and professionally.

Fungi are particularly active in the wet season, and a wide variety of fruiting bodies were found, from this ‘brown gilled’ variety to Boletes and bracket fungi too. This gilled specimen was on the elephant dung….and the guide was careful to wash his hands thoroughly after this photo, to avoid being poisoned by any spores on his hand that might inadvertently be transferred to his mouth!

25. There are a huge selection of Ipomea species. In fact many look similar to Merremia species!

26. Trying to estimate the age of a Leopard tortoise. We found a surprising number of these reptiles, and they always raised interesting discussions on whether they should be picked up or not…(NOT) aging them by counting ridges (approximately), and their general ecology.

27. We saw 3 different prides of lion. It is always exciting finding lions on foot, as the guides track them to contact. Sometimes they are very demonstrative, and other times all one hears is a low growl and the lions run away into a thicket….not a place to follow them. It is nice to find them from the vehicle, and just enjoy them without any angst on both sides.

11. End of course, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambian student guides. At the end of the nine days, the students all dispersed to their respective safari camps in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Embued with an enthusiasm and knowledge for their roles as guides, they were a very happy and vocal crew! Kudos to Wilderness Safaris, in those three countries for agreeing to send their guides away for the week for this collective training session. A very positive action.

Camp of The Month – Sirikoi, Kenya


Sirikoi is a privately owned camp, in fact a gem, hidden amongst the fever trees of a stream that drains off the slopes of Mount Kenya. The property directly adjoins Lewa Conservency and all the game dives and walks take place on Lewa.


Sirikoi-Tent Tent-Couple








The camp is owned and run by Willy and Sue Roberts, whose legendary hospitality and understanding of all things ‘safari’ have created a stunning environment for this lovely tented camp. The permanent tents are on raised decks facing across a treed lawn towards a natural waterhole, and although the camp is fenced (two strands about five feet above the ground allow zebra, rhino, buffalo to the camp) it only keeps elephant and giraffe out!


Sirikoi-Helicopter Bedroom-Sirikoi








Four luxury, tents face out over the lawn. Each is furnished with either a double or twin beds, a Mexican stove for warmth in cold winter months, comfortable chairs and cushions, a thick carpet in the bedroom, and the en suite bathroom and a wardrobe area is at the rear of the tent. A window looks out from the bathroom. Here, twin vanities and a shower, a separate loo and ample room provide enough space and refinement to satisfy every need.


Tables-Lawn Verandah









The main lounge dining area is a short distance away, with a comfortable lounge and gorgeous sitting room and dining room adjoining each other with of course a small service bar too.  The main dining area is out in front on the raised area overlooking the waterhole. This is under a buck sail, strung underneath the fever trees! Absolutely wonderful and most meals are taken here with various wildlife within easy visual reach at all times.


There are another two separate permanent camps here as well, namely

SIRIKOI HOUSE and SIRIKOI COTTAGE.   These thatched camps are only minutes apart by foot, and built out of solid stone and mortar.  Furnished brilliantly with a contemporary colonial style and a degree of panache not associated with safari camps, these are ideal for families or small intimate groups.


The wildlife experiences here are tops!  All of the Big 5 are well represented here, although lions are not always easy to be found as they commonly rest up in thick reed beds and thickets during the day. The conservancy has the highest concentration of Grevy’s zebra left in Africa, Reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and Beisa oryx are specials that may be seen too. Painted dogs pass through periodically as well.  Only Grant’s gazelle is found here, of the gazelle group, but Lesser kudu, klipspringer, Defassa waterbuck, Plains’ zebra and Coke’s hartebeest are some of the other species found here.


Helicopter flights may be undertaken onto and around Mount Kenya, and into the surrounding plateau gorges like Sekota.  Walks with an armed scout are also good to do.




Some cultural visits may also be taken to the nearby communities which are supported by the camp, and the conservancy too.

Depending on availability, flights in an original bi-plane by Willy Craig may be organized.


The Sirikoi-Lewa association is a familial one and spans decades of association, and are strengthened by marriage too!

The experience here is second to none other in East Africa, and should always be included on a East Africa itinerary.

Camp of The Month – AndBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

Namibia is a huge land of contrasts. The west coast is Namibias’ only coast, and the Namib Naukluft National Park is essentially to protect the Namib Desert and its unique denizens!

AndBeyond run a unique 5 star lodge on a private concession on the foothills of the Etendeka Mountains, with stark rock escarpments at the east and rust and pink sand dunes on the western edge.









The lodge is sited on the foothill slopes, with all the bedroom units in a semi-circle facing down across the endless gravel plains with the dunes in the far distance.  The main lodge is open, simple and spacious ensuring a smooth air flow at all times through the lounge and dining area. A small gift shop is always open with select local curios and items of interest for sale. The lounge inside is generously furnished with comfortable chairs and settees, and adjoining dining area set out with separate tables and chairs. All of this ensemble faces out across the valley to a distant waterhole which attracts herds of oryx, springbuck and ostrich, with clouds of sandgrouse in the midmorning too!


The sturdy thick-walled cabins are accessed via the paved pathway from the lodge.  10 cabins including a couple of family units are located away from the lodge, cast in a wide semi-circle.

Each has a large queen sized bed, dressing table, settee and lounge area, fully carpeted and air-conditioned too. The en suite bathrooms are spacious, with a shower, vanities and outside shower as well. These are glass walled, but a screening wall ensures complete privacy for guests.

The main dunes are the biggest attraction here, and they are an hours drive away along the main road to the park entrance.


Big-Red Oryx-Dune








The road leads down between the dunes, along the Tsauchab river valley ending up eventually at Sossusvlei itself. Here the main dunes dominate the horizons and ‘Big Daddy’, the tallest dune available to the public stands at 338m/1151feet high!  Early in the morning is the best time to climb a dune here, and it is a mile walk to the base, before starting the long haul up.


Walks can be done through the plains in the cooler parts of the morning and this will uncover an interesting array of creatures, plants and rocks from an era past.  Quad bikes also do a trip through hills and plains to the soft rust-red sand dunes normally where sundowners are taken and the light changes by the minute at the days end.


Oryx, springbuck, ostrich and Black backed jackal are about the only animals commonly seen, but if one is patient phenomenal images present themselves in the early morning with the light on the dunes, and especially if animals are on the dunes as well!


Sossus-Balloon Mountains








Ballooning is another way to see the scale of this dune field, the oldest desert in the world. The early morning light strengthens by the minute, outlining the curvature of the earth above the endless sand sea, and the dunes gradually come to life, like supine sand dragons in the sunlight.


There is no other destination like this in sub-Saharan Africa!

What stops lions from attacking us in an open vehicle?

This is a common question, and in all truth, a good one!  The answer is relatively simple, but requires some understanding of the history of human-wildlife interaction in Africa.

If lions are hunted from a vehicle, they learn to fear and shun them, attacking them if they cannot get away!  Like all animals they learn from experience.



December January 2016 2017 Content-149



In all the areas where we take our guests, hunting of lions is no longer carried out.  This means that all national parks, reserves and private reserves that we visit, hunting is no longer carried out. In fact right now, very few areas in Southern Africa or East Africa allow hunting any more, which is a double edged issue, not to be discussed here.


So, where there is no negative association with humans and or the vehicles, the lions have learnt to relax with vehicles near them. However there are definite protocols for guests to observe when on Game Drives when around big cats and dangerous game too.


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  • Remain seated at all times, especially near dangerous animals. **Because: You are already higher than the animal on the ground, and therefore potentially intimidating. By standing up, you exacerbate this advantage and scare the animal. Fear evokes a negative reaction, such as growling, snarling and a possible charge!
  • Do not move around suddenly or excessively ** Because this attracts their attention, and again evokes an unnecessary interest.


Unfortunately, there is another aspect of human-animal interaction which is not commonly regarded, and it relates directly to predators and primates acute sensitivity to visual contact and eyes in general.


Dark glasses, large binoculars and even large camera lenses are regarded as eyes by the cats, being large, dark and shiny.  Lions and leopard take a while to get used to these items and even then lions will blink and look away from constant lens or binocular exposure!


So, as long as one obeys the rules and respects these animals, there is a strong chance that in a lifetime of game viewing big cats there will not be a problem with a vehicle attack!


I do not know of a single attack on a game viewing vehicle by a big cat where guests have caused it, when under the direct supervision of a qualified guide!

Camp of The Month: AndBeyond Lake Manyara, Tanzania

CAMP OF THE MONTH (APRIL 2017): AndBeyond Lake Manyara, Tanzania

Lake Manyara is one of 33 lakes in the Rift Valley system, and the lodge is located at the base of this escarpment in the tall Acacia forests, not far from the lake shore.  The lodge itself consists of a central area on split levels. An open lounge is right under a huge Khaya tree, and under the thatch is another comfortable lounge and bar. Down one level is the dining area with a lovely long solid wood table, where fabulous meals are served. At night the Thick-tailed bushbabies will come down and walk along the upper rails of the lounge, a rare sight indeed.




The 10 tree house suites are located in the forest, scattered around the lodge with enough privacy between each, due to the bush in between. A steep, wide staircase leads up to the lockable front door, and then one steps into a luxury, en-suite bedroom with a view through the forest. The suites are all about 9 to 10 feet off the ground! Fabulous.

a-tanzania-safari-at-andbeyond-lake-manyara-tree-lodge-3 Lake-Manyara-5






Wildlife viewing is the main incentive to visit here, and as it is the only permanent lodge in the park THIS is the place to stay. Game drives lead one out through the forest onto the lake shore where herds of elephant feed on the grass, as do herds of an unusually coloured wildebeest attract ones’ attention. They are a tan colour, and are the herds are mixed a grey and tan.

Impala, giraffe, buffalo, Defassa waterbuck, klipspringer and of course lion and leopard also live in the forests of the escarpment.  Manyara is famous for the ‘Tree climbing lions’! They do this to escape the biting flies found at ground level where the diminutive DikDik live in pairs in the thickets.

Flamingoes, pelicans and hundreds more species of birds occur here, from the thick evergreen forests near the entrance, the tall Acacia tortilis forests, scrubland and the lake shore shallows and the grasslands. Of note, the Fulleborne’s long claw, a rarity is found here!

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There is an extensive road network and it is worth taking a packed meal with you as the drive distances can be long, so rather spend extra time out before heading home to relax for the remainder of the day.

Cultural visits are undertaken to a nearby community of fishermen, and one may either walk or cycle through the village itself. The guides for this are from the village itself and know everybody and everything about it!

This lodge is a must for visitors en route to either Tarangire or The Crater.









**Certain images courtesy of AndBeyond Lake Manyara