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My Indian “Jungle Book” Experience (Part 1)

In search of the Bengal tiger The heat of summer penetrated our light clothing and although the air was dry and arid, the scent of the forest laced through the…

In search of the Bengal tiger

The heat of summer penetrated our light clothing and although the air was dry and arid, the scent of the forest laced through the air, hinting evidence that we are indeed in the heart of Central India, the Madhya Pradesh region where Kanha National Park sits. Famed for its lush sal and bamboo forests, tall grassy meadows and deep ravines, Kanha was the hub of inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel, “The Jungle Book”.

There are only a handful of lodges on the quiet south side of Kanha, near the Mukki gate, one of three gates into the national park. Our choice proved to be a great advantage as fewer jeeps are allowed into the park via this gate providing guests a more secluded wildlife experience. Kanha is one of the best managed and monitored parks in India with dedicated park rangers guarding the forests and guiding guests through this magical natural labyrinth.

Morning safaris start at 5am just before the break of dawn. Open deck jeeps form a neat queue in front of the Mukki gate as vehicles register. There is a swell of excitement despite the groggy daze of a premature morning. I was armed with a pair of binoculars and a notebook to pen my sightings while my husband meddled with his digital DSLR camera ready to capture a ‘National Geographic’ moment, in case nature decided to surprise us.

A park ranger leapt into our jeep , introduced himself, muttered a few words to our naturalist from the lodge where we stayed at, and our engines sputtered to life. The light mist parted as we caught the first glimpse of the magnificent sal trees stretching for miles with banyans dotted around providing shade and cover for the endemic swamp deer or better known as barasingha, spotted deer also known as chital, wild boars and gaurs. A symphony of morning chirps weaved through the air as we caught birds in flight and land birds crossing our path.

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The day had just begun as the first few rays of light broke from the horizon. The mahout was already at work. A great big silhouette teased my eyes as I saw huge ears flapping and four giant feet taking gentle strides towards our jeep. Could it be? Yes it was! An elephant with a man riding him atop. The mahout smiled and exchanged a few words with our park ranger. He told our park ranger that the search was still on; the elusive tiger was yet to be found. He waved goodbye and disappeared behind our jeep, eyes peeled for the animal most tourists have come here to see.

Meantime, we savoured in the rich diversity Kanha had to offer with fantastic sightings of jackal, leopard, jungle cat, barking deer, peacock, langur and gaur. With over 350 species of birds, introduction upon introduction were made with every sighting and bird call. From green bee-eaters to Indian rollers to grey hornbills, this was a treat for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. As mid morning approached, a picnic was laid out for us with the forest as a backdrop. Tea, coffee, sandwiches and fruit were passed around and while we savoured our breakfast, our park ranger scrambled to the office to check if the mahout had recorded sightings of tigers. He rushed back with great excitement and urged us to hurry along.

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A tigress had been spotted and in order to see her, we went off the beaten track atop an elephant with a mahout. The ride was bumpy and quite an adventure trying to avoid spindly dry bamboo branches from stabbing us. And then we caught sight of her, majestically seated on a bed of earthy-amber leaves, she stared into the open, in her element completely unperturbed by our noisy rustle. Her orange and black coat camouflaged perfectly into the surroundings. She was not only sharing her space with us but also with a large meandering python. She eyed occasionally at the reptile with no intent of making a kill, just like Shere Khan and Kaa from the Jungle Book.

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Most of us when asked to conjure up an image of a tiger imagine a man-eating predator skulking through the steamy jungles of southern Asia, particularly in the subcontinent of India. Here in Kanha, tigers are friendly, welcoming and accustom to the scene of jeeps and clicking cameras. There is a strong unspoken bond between tiger and human. As a result of tourism, conservation efforts such as ‘Tour Operators for Tigers’ (TOFT) have emerged forming alliances among Indian operators in order to promote best practices in wildlife viewing. Over the years, the Indian government have also realized the need for stricter monitoring and census in order to keep the tiger population at a healthy state.

… continue reading to Part 2

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The Secret World Of Banyumulek Where Potters Reside

Exploring Lombok on a motorbike is perhaps the best way to get around. Weaving through traffic in Mataram, bee lining through small lanes and stumbling upon a treasure trove of…

Exploring Lombok on a motorbike is perhaps the best way to get around. Weaving through traffic in Mataram, bee lining through small lanes and stumbling upon a treasure trove of a quiet pottery making village – Banyumulek. Located north of Mataram, the city center in Lombok, Banyumulek is lined with shops selling terracotta and clay pottery. Venturing further in, away from the shops, we found the ‘heart of the workshop’ – ladies sitting in their verandahs busy molding, shaping and forming pots and vases. A parade of vases and pots lined the narrow roads sunbathing in the glorious warmth.

Banyumulek_Lombok

Men bicycling down tiny lanes with stacks of pottery tied at the back heading toward the smoking furnace of haystacks where the pots and vases are fired. Children help their mothers strap on stacks of wood for the furnace. Ladies at the furnace keep their eye on the heating pots occasionally flipping the haystacks to release the heat. Others squat around exchanging stories around the neighbourhood.

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Villagers eyed us from a distance as we exchanged courtesy smiles. It was pretty evident that we were visitors and they were villagers. Perhaps not much tourists have ventured that far beyond the row of pottery shops. I chuckled under my breath because this would be an ideal a scene of “desperate housewives” in an Indonesian village setting. Everyone had their chores, each to its own work, and each shared a bond – a bond that comes from being part of Banyumulek, the quiet pottery village.

Banyumulek_Lombok

We made our exit back to the shops to hunt for a pottery or two and gladly settled for four instead! We compared prices at different shops and realized that everything was cheap. Just as we thought it wouldn’t get any cheaper, Annan Pottery came along – a wholesale shop with a wide range of displays in a spacious warehouse. They even had a range of cookware from pots to kualis to tagines! I’ve been scouting around for a tagine ever since I watched the episode of Kylie Kwong where she whipped up a Moroccan meal for friends. And who would have thought I’d fine a tagine in Lombok, Indonesia?! I was squirming with excitement and proceed to ask how much it was. The lady explained that it is a fast selling item and it is slightly more expensive. I pressed on to ask her to reveal the price and she replied – 24,000 Indonesian rupiah for the small one and 30,000 Indonesian rupiah for the big one. My jaw dropped! That’s only RM8 and RM10 individually! Beyond my wildest dreams that I found a tagine in Lombok that costs close to nothing!

From then on, it was a shopping spree. We chatted up with the lady, she introduced us to her sons who were hard at work decorating pottery pieces. We drank coffee, picked up two more pottery pieces, exchange a few travel stories and a big hug. She told us to keep in touch and said that if we ever saw a piece of pottery we liked in a store or magazine; take a picture of it and send it to her, as she makes customized pieces as well. What a find!

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[info]If you are in Lombok, this is a place not to be missed. If you hire a guide, insist that he takes you here instead of other designated pottery shops where they make a big commission from your sales.

Annan Pottery (Wholesale Center)
Jalan Raya Banyumulek Kedin
Lombok Barat – NTB 83362
LA Akhsan Tel: 08175760337
Nanik Tel: 081803628480
Email: ananpottery@yahoo.com[/info]

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Balinese Letter Writer In Tenganan

An old shrunken man with a crown of grey hair peers through his glasses and regarded our presence. He quickly returned to his newspapers as we lingered on in his…

An old shrunken man with a crown of grey hair peers through his glasses and regarded our presence. He quickly returned to his newspapers as we lingered on in his front yard fascinated by the wooded washed out signboard that read “Special Balinese Letter Writer”.

I walked up the steps to where he was sitting with his newspapers still in hand. I quickly greeted him “Selamat Soreh Pak” (Good afternoon Uncle). He instantly broke into a welcoming smile inviting us in. Dusting the bamboo lashed seats, he invited us to sit and he stowed away his newspapers and offered us some drinks. Once again, genuine Balinese hospitality astounded us.

Balinese Letter Writer

Pakcik (Uncle) Wayan is perhaps the oldest Balinese inscriber in Tenganan, east of Bali. A vanishing craft of carving the ancient tales and the famous Ramayana story in Sanskrit on lontar leaves (from rontal trees). Long rectangular leaves about 25cm in length are dried, cleaned and naturally treated to prevent the leaves from breaking and wrinkling. The leaves are in a shade of yellowish beige giving it a rustic look.

Balinese Letter Writer

Beaming with pride, he uncovers booklets of lontar sheets are bound with vine and wrapped in newspapers. Prized art antiques, he explains that these booklets are passed down through generations and would never leave his family lineage despite extravagant offers from eyeing buyers. He unwraps a booklet and starts reading the story of Ramayana in a deep lyrical tune. The notes resonated in the air and my eyes caught sight of his overgrown nails curling up like ancient relic. Surely this man could pass for a character who stepped out an Asian folktale. He takes a breath and continues his rhythmic read. For a moment, time warped back and my hairs stood on ends.

Balinese Letter Writer Balinese Letter Writer

This dying trade fortunately has been passed down to his daughter who continues to share and promote the craft in Ubud, Bali. Not only is it a tedious and meticulous craft, each leave takes about two days to complete and is sold for 1 million Indonesian Rupiah each (approximately RM300). Each booklet contains approximately 50-60 sheets and he has orders enough to keep him busy till the end of the year. Most of his buyers are from Europe with a love for antique art pieces.

Hopefully the next time I’m in Bali, Pakcik Wayan will still be sitting on his verandah with newspapers in hand ready to welcome us back to his amiable house, and if he wills to have another apprentice under his wings.

[info]Interested traditional art collectors can get in touch with Pakcik I Wayan Muditadhnana at 036341178. His house is in Tenganan Village, off Candidasa.[/info]
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Green Table-Clothed Gem In Sri Lanka

A backlog of travel tales. I’ve finally found some time to write, recollect memories and relish in the folders of vibrant photographic images that was captured during our one and…

A backlog of travel tales. I’ve finally found some time to write, recollect memories and relish in the folders of vibrant photographic images that was captured during our one and half week visit to Sri Lanka. And so the stories unfold…

All packed and set to leave, we bolted straight out of the door and into a speeding taxi bound for Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Mindful not to be late, we quickly zipped into the check-in lane only to find that our flight to Colombo has been delayed for 4 hours! Our measly compensation was two RM20 food voucher and a weak apologetic smile from the Malaysian Airlines staff. We quickly filled up the hours with reading, Facebooking and catching a few cat winks.

Arriving in Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, we were surrounded by touts as soon as we exited the doors. Thankfully our hotel driver of Taj Airport Hotels quickly came to our rescue, whizzing us into his car and off to our hotel for a few hours of solid sleep. The next day holds and early start and a long journey to our planned destination.

Bandara our transport assistant from Heritance Kandalama greeted us with a charming smile. Tan skinned and cherubic looking, Bandara constantly has a smile plastered on his face. He excitedly unveiled Sri Lanka in words as we journeyed 4 hours from Colombo to Dambulla, on the north-west region of Sri Lanka.

One must be super skilled and alert to be driving on Sri Lankan roads. The two lane dirt covered roads has no distinct lines on it, cars weaved in and our overtaking one another while skillfully avoiding oncoming traffic. I held my breath for the first hour every time Bandara overtook a car, but soon realized I may end up with a headache for lack of oxygen if I continued… I relented and sat back to blissfully enjoy the every changing scenery of paddy fields, verdant mountains and buzzing villagers.

The bumpy journey came to end as we rolled into a small lane canopied by trees on the left and right. Anticipating a huge majestic hotel in the middle of the forest, we saw instead we saw a basic structure covered with green creepers folding over like a natural tablecloth.

All packed and set to leave, we bolted straight out of the door and into a speeding taxi bound for Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Mindful not to be late, we quickly zipped into the check-in lane only to find that our flight to Colombo has been delayed for 4 hours! Our measly compensation was two RM20 food voucher and a weak apologetic smile from the Malaysian Airlines staff. We quickly filled up the hours with reading, Facebooking and catching a few cat winks.

Arriving in Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, we were surrounded by touts as soon as we exited the doors. Thankfully our hotel driver of Taj Airport Hotels quickly came to our rescue, whizzing us into his car and off to our hotel for a few hours of solid sleep. The next day holds and early start and a long journey to our planned destination.

Bandara our transport assistant from Heritance Kandalama greeted us with a charming smile. Tan skinned and cherubic looking, Bandara constantly has a smile plastered on his face. He excitedly unveiled Sri Lanka in words as we journeyed 4 hours from Colombo to Dambulla, on the north-west region of Sri Lanka.

One must be super skilled and alert to be driving on Sri Lankan roads. The two lane dirt covered roads has no distinct lines on it, cars weaved in and our overtaking one another while skillfully avoiding oncoming traffic. I held my breath for the first hour every time Bandara overtook a car, but soon realized I may end up with a headache for lack of oxygen if I continued… I relented and sat back to blissfully enjoy the every changing scenery of paddy fields, verdant mountains and buzzing villagers.

The bumpy journey came to end as we rolled into a small lane canopied by trees on the left and right. Anticipating a huge majestic hotel in the middle of the forest, we saw instead we saw a basic structure covered with green creepers folding over like a natural tablecloth.

Heritance Kandalama – Man-Made Nature’s Glory

Heritance Kandalama (18)

Since its inception in 1992 for construction, Heritance Kandalama had a very close stake to sustainability ensuring that from its development to operations, the area’s biodiversity and community must be preserved. Among many awards the hotel has won, it is also the first LEED certified hotel to be recognized outside of USA.

As though emerging out from the lush of nature, the Heritance Kandalama building was aligned to fit the profile of the craggy land. Instead of blasting stones or removing trees, they elevated the Dambulla and Sigiriya on stilts in order to eliminate any ecological impact.

Situated in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle’s heartland, Heritance Kandalama is flanked by two UNESCO world heritage sites – the 1st Century BC Dambulla Cave Temple and the 5th Century AD Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The hotel is surrounded by rocky outcrops, lush forests, and overlooks the glistening Kandalama Tank.

With its commitment to sustainability, Heritance went one step further in setting up an Eco Park as a tool for wildlife and environment education. This is where waste from the hotel is being sorted and waste water treated. The Eco Park also has a unit for making paper out of elephant dung and waste paper and a nursery to cultivate indigenous seedlings. Over the years, this facility has also evolved into an animal rehabilitation centre where wildlife is rescued, cared for and prep for the wild.

Heritance Kandalama (29)Heritance Kandalama (44)

After 16 years, the hotel is not only conserving the environment, they are giving back to local communities and playing the role of a change agent in the country. Its doors are constantly open for the occasional sceptic, curious researchers, students and tasteful travellers who seek a different kind of travel experience.

This idea became a vision and turned into reality. Heritance Kandalama, not just a pride of Sri Lanka, but soon to be an example to the world. Watch the video and step into Heritance Kandalama, the ‘green table-clothed’ hotel as I dubbed it.

 

 

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Mission Trip 2010: Reaching Out & Giving Aid

The harsh realities of Cambodia stares me in the face. My second trip to this desolate country in a month has left an indelible mark in my throve of memories….

The harsh realities of Cambodia stares me in the face. My second trip to this desolate country in a month has left an indelible mark in my throve of memories. Touching down in Siem Reap, we travelled four hours on a local bus to Battambang. Packed with over 40kgs of old clothes, medical supplies and a vague sense of what to expect, our team of a doctor and four medical students, 10 professionals and a little girl (Vanora) and set out to make medical aid possible for the rural village folk.

We met up with Pastor Sam of Legacy of Hope, an English language institute that offers quality education to children and youth. He brings us around the school, a few simple blocks of tiny classrooms with ceilings low enough to make you feel claustrophobic. Students stare at us intently offering welcoming smiles and respectful bows as we peeked in.

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Prior to our arrival, Pastor Sam had organized the purchase of medicines and prepared a group of local translators to help us with the medical camp. We spent the rest of the day sorting, counting, packing and labelling medicines into the wee hours of the morning.

The next day, many questions still hung in the air as we travelled another hour into interiors of the country side– ‘How many people will come?’, ‘How will the response be?’, ‘What will we encounter?’, ‘Will we be able to cope with the numbers?’… To add to the sea of questions, it was the first time a medical team has visited this particular village.

A multitude of people were found waiting at the entrance of the school, the temporary ‘hospital’ for the next 2 days. Along the way as our van approached, groups of people were seen walking towards the school, some pulling wooden carts to ferry their children, others dragging their little ones by the finger in hope to get some medicines for their ailing bodies.

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Children walked around with torn clothes, some half-naked and most of them without any shoes or slippers. Their hair streaked with a light tinge of blonde not from hair dye but as a result of severe malnutrition. Old women and men offer a smile to welcome us and I’m overcome by the sight of decaying and charcoal black teeth. I returned a smile with my best effort trying to hide the feelings that overcome me – feelings of empathy and despair.

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In a place like Cambodia, cleanliness and hygiene is a concept hard to grasp or even understand. These people have so little to survive much less spare a few dollars to buy toothpaste or soap for bathing. They live on bare minimum, a shade above their head and enough to fill their stomachs. Finger nails packed with dirt are trimmed manually by biting on it. Water is a precious natural resource since it rains for 6 months and not even a drop for the next half of the year. And in those dry seasons, water is used for cooking rather than washing or cleaning.

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Yet despite the poverty stricken conditions, nothing comes free. Parents still need to pay for their children’s education and medical aid is not covered by insurance or even subsidized by the government. In order to put food on the table, one has to work hard plowing and tilling their land in harsh weather conditions. Meat is a complete luxury for these rural folk since it costs USD12 for 1kg of chicken!

On the first day of the medical camp, we saw over 350 patients. Setting up stations to test their blood pressure, glucose level and finally meeting a doctor – we dispensed thousands of tablets, cleaned wounds, gave out vitamins and extended our hearts to these people. Children walked into the ‘hospital’ without parents, farmers miss a day of work just to get a basic medical health check, families streamed in and the hall was filled. The doctors didn’t have a minute to rest and the pharmacy buzzed with activity.

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Home With The Wild

The spirit of safari comes alive at Ngala Private Game Reserve, the first private game reserve to be incorporated into the well known Kruger National Park in 1992. Spanning 14,700…

The spirit of safari comes alive at Ngala Private Game Reserve, the first private game reserve to be incorporated into the well known Kruger National Park in 1992. Spanning 14,700 hectares (36,300 acres) of game-rich wilderness, respect for nature overtakes human activity and development. From the minute we entered the Timbavati control gates into the national park, we were given strict instructions to travel not more than 40km per hour as animals roam free. My travel partner and I mused in delight as we spotted our first pair of giraffes munching on leaves and then a herd of impalas staring intently at our vehicle.

Ngala Private Game Reserve shares an unfenced boundary with the world renowned Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest wildlife sanctuary allowing the free movement of wildlife along natural corridors. The private game reserve is formed by a three way partnership between the private sector, the state and a non-governmental organization (&Beyond, South African National Parks and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in hopes of controlling poaching and protecting the diminished number of animals in the park.

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“Reinstating nature to make it valuable, that is the approach we (&Beyond) took. It’s all about educating the locals about the value of their backyard,” Les Carlisle, group conservation manager explained. Poaching has since stopped within the private game reserve. Whilst demands for ivory, horns and sorts still continue in Asia, the locals have learned to respect and protect nature for what it is.

On arrival at Ngala, we were greeted with a friendly welcome of homemade lemonade and chilled towels by a host of friendly staff and then ushered to our cottage. Tucked away under large tamboti and mopane trees, 20 classic thatched cottages are well spread out within the vicinity. Tastefully designed, each cottage has its own private verandah. Cobbled stone pathways lead you from the cottages to the expansive dining area with rugged chandeliers and an elegant buffet table with fresh flowers.

The familiar hectic city life is long gone as you step into the spacious sitting decks decorated with plush Victorian sofas overlooking thick riverine woodlands and a watering hole. Jameson who greeted us at the reception told us to keep a lookout on the watering hole as elephants, cape buffaloes and impalas would frequent the natural pool for a gulp.

Home with the Wild at Ngala Lodge Sprint! Elephant reaching out

Ngala prides itself in the intimate and personalized service the staff extends to each guests. From arrival to departure, our needs and wants were taken care of regardless of how much effort or time it took. Our butler Patrick was always on his toes with a big smile on his face. The lodge manager willingly helped with clearing the dishes and rangers go beyond game drive conversations as they spend evening dinners with guests, getting to know them better.

Patrick chimed, “We are a community at the staff quarters. We play soccer and get along like family. We have a great chef and excellent food too. Sometimes I have to skip meals because I eat too much!” After much conversation with the staff, I soon realized that the sincerity and warmth that exudes from each staff member stems from the fact that their needs are well taken care of by the management.

Up to ninety percent of the staff at Ngala comes from the nearby village call Welverdiend where the local Shangaan tribe lives. Ngala has provided vast employment opportunities for the community at the Welverdiend, developed computer centers in several schools, and empowered individuals to set up small businesses to improve income levels.

Les Carlisle explained, “Our strategy is to work with communities, not for communities. That way partnerships between us are stronger and we work hand in hand, not one ahead of the other.” Building long lasting and trusting relationships with people of the land has proven testament to their success in sustaining community partnerships.

Visiting communities living in Kruger National Park

Safari Experience

Our ultimate wish was to spot the famous African Big 5; lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino and leopard. At 4pm, guests gathered around the spacious open deck for afternoon tea and bite-sized pastries and fruits. Our ranger, Mike Robertson introduced himself and briefly explained the history of the game reserve and what we would expect from the game drives.

Within the reserve, only a limited numbers of vehicles are allowed at a sighting and rangers are well aware of their boundaries between the animal and the vehicle. We were given prudent instructions not to make animal calls while on game drives and to respect the privacy of the animals in their natural surroundings.

Baby Hyenas at their hideout

We hopped onto our open 4×4 safari vehicle where our tracker, Elvis greeted us. Elvis spent most of his life in the bush. The national park was his backyard and as a child he would follow his father hunting for rhinos and buffaloes. Today, hunting is not his game, instead he finds pride and satisfaction in showing guests around his backyard.

Mike turned the engine on and turned around to ask us, “What would you like to see today?” Instantaneously we replied, “Lion.” He nodded and we were off on our first game drive. It was soon learned that ‘Ngala’ means lion in Shangaan and the reserve lives up to its name, as we spotted several prides of these majestic cats in wide open plains and on the dirt road catching a few winks before the sun sets. The spectacular diversity of wildlife that moves through this immense wilderness was truly awe-inspiring. During our three hour morning and evening game drives we spotted elephants, spotted hyenas, buffaloes, hippos, white rhinos, giraffes, impalas, zebras, kudus, warthogs and wild cats.

Ngala_Kruger NP (68)Tracks Sharing space with the Kings In his element - King of the Jungle Giraffes

Our game drives were always punctuated with a break at a chosen stopover; either a watering hole or in the wide open grasslands. Safety is always a priority as the ranger and tracker kept a close eye on the surroundings. We savoured the sights and sounds of the wild whilst sipping on wine, juice or a hot cup of coffee. Being on foot in the wild offered a different experience as we watched the elephants and buffaloes waddle in water just a few feet away. Our senses became more sensitive to the slightest of sounds; birds chirping, cicadas whistling and the scent from the tiny aniseed plant.

Most of our evening game drives lasted through sunset and into the night. This was when nocturnal animals like the bush babies, owls and termites come out to play. As the skies transformed into a black velvet blanket filled with glittering stars, Mike, our knowledgeable ranger stopped the vehicle and unraveled a dozen stories about the constellations, Greek legends and astronomical wonders.

Tea at Kruger National Park

African Culture through a Gastronomical Affair

At Ngala, it is all about guest experience. Having stayed three nights at the lodge, not one of its dinners were at the same location. From the elegant candlelit dining hall to the romantic glow of the courtyard around the blazing bonfire and the lamp-lighted open deck with a choir of dancing Shangaan women, dinner was an anticipated affair.

Meals are created to give a wholesome and traditional flavour with choice ingredients, fresh produce and locally sourced meats bought from the local village or the nearby White River town.

Food at Ngala Lodge

Lettuce Mokoena, head chef of Ngala Lodge greeted me at the lunch buffet table as he explained his quite recent passion in cooking. Before he became the head chef, Lettuce started as a security guard at &Beyond lodge. He applied for a position as a waiter and soon found joy in serving guests. He soon tried his hand as a kitchen staff and found that his skills in cooking blossomed quickly. Now 8 years after, Lettuce is one of the most respected and well-loved chefs among the &Beyond family, of which Ngala Lodge is a part of.

“I love my job and it gives me great satisfaction serving guests an unforgettable meal,” says Lettuce. Attention to detail is the key to this mouthwatering experience. Lettuce and his team give extra attention in picking only quality ingredients and sticking to precise cooking methods.

One of the ways to ensure this is by growing and harvesting vegetables from their own ‘shambar’ or garden. Vegetables such as carrots, beetroot, onions, spinach and pumpkin are homegrown and tended with care.

Hearty breakfasts and healthy lunches feature traditional Pan African flavours such as slow roast pork, ‘Bobotie’ -a curried mince meat dish covered with an egg based topping, ‘Pap’ – a traditional porridge made from ground maize, ‘Boerewors’ – homemade sausages, butternut pumpkin soup and ‘Melktert Pudding’ – a custard based tart topped with cinnamon.

We had a wonderful experience in South Africa’s famous wildlife sanctuary and hope many others can enjoy it too. We have full confidence that it will continue to thrive for the simple reason that sustainability takes precedence over profitability. &Beyond’s model ‘Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife and Care of the People’ is a wholesome cycle that protects, respects and sustains the ecosystem.

As light fell over the safari, we caught the glare of a lion before it flicked its tail, turned and walked into the horizon. I realized without a doubt that the reality of this experience is not only in the viewing of big game, but the simple magic of building unforgettable connections with those who have served you and our mutual love and respect for nature and wildlife.

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