Amakhosi – When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know

Amakhosi Safari Lodge

By Renate Engelbrecht

Wednesday, Oct 12

The line from Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams was so apt as we drove into the Amakhosi Private Game Reserve. I would only realise how apt a day or two later. “When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know…”

Coming from Pretoria, it might have been a long drive to get to Amakhosi Safari Lodge, but once we hit the dirt road and we could roll down the windows, it was all worth it. As always. The lodge is located on the banks of Zululand’s Mkuze River and forms part of the Amakhosi Private Game Reserve. As its Zulu name suggests, it truly is the place of kings, with their wonderful team treating guests to a safari fit for a sovereign.

There was no way for me to know what to expect of this safari though, as it was my very first yoga safari. Yet, it was probably one of the most memorable and insightful safaris I’ve ever been on, on so many levels. What made it different?

Amakhosi the place of kings
Amakhosi – The place of kings. Image: Renate Engelbrecht

Yoga on safari at Amakhosi

It’s not every day that you get to do yoga on safari. I have done a bit of yoga before, but often found it too hard and ended up laughing at myself (to my fellow yoga classmates’ frustration). But, with yoga instructor, Virginia Burger from Yoga with Virginia at the steer, things just flowed.

Meditation beside the river
Image credit: Carla Lewis

In fact, on day two of the three-day yoga safari, my body started releasing the tension already – something I’ve never experienced before. Virginia’s hatha and yin yoga classes were subtle, yet the effects ran deep, and I was amazed at what the combination of game drives, delectable cuisine and yoga could do.

It was a magnificent three-day cleanse – washing me clean of any stress and tension – without even having to go on a detox!

P.S. Amakhosi will be hosting another yoga safari with Yoga with Virginia on 2 – 4 December 2022. Contact them on res@amakhosi.com / +27 34 414 1157 for more information.

Amakhosi’s close knit team

If there was ever a team that works like family, it’s the team at Amakhosi. It is evident in the way they work together, but also in the way they communicate with their guests. They’re a happy, strong group of nature lovers who love sharing their passions for the bush with the people around them. Ultimately, that’s what it’s about in the bush, isn’t it? Learning more about nature from those who know it best. Having conversations with those who get to live in and experience the bush and all its wonders on a daily basis has become one of my favourite pastimes and getting to do that with Amakhosi Safari Lodge’s team was special.

Philip and Jeremy preparing sundowners
Jeremy (left) and Philip (right) preparing sundowners. Image: Renate Engelbrecht

Our ranger, Philip and tracker, Jeremy – who have been friends since childhood and come from a village close by – amazed us with local stories and interesting facts about Amakhosi and its surrounds. Philip’s interest in birds also evolved into a very special talent. He can do bird sounds like no one else can and had us all in awe as he called the birds and they either responded in call, or even curiously fluttered closer. Amakhosi is a birder’s paradise and with Philip as your guide, you’re sure to spot some magnificent birds and perhaps even tick a few off from your birding list.

Philip ranger Amakhosi Safari Lodge
Ranger, Philip. Image: Renate Engelbrecht

A destination with significance

The Zulu culture is deeply engraved at Amakhosi and the surrounding areas. Be sure to ask the team about the battle of Ulundi, with Ulundi being merely an hour away. There are also signs of bushmen in the area and the Zulu king’s palace is about 20km from the reserve.

Maqongo Hill, where Dingaan was beaten by his half-brother, Mpande in the Battle of Pongola, is also located on the Amakhosi Private Game Reserve.

Euphorbia heaven

Those who love trees, would be happy to know that Amakhosi is home to a rather large collection of Euphorbias – a succulent tree that makes for the most spectacular sunset photos.

According to Philip, these trees’ milky sap or latex have been used by locals to stun fish. I’ve later read that the latex is very poisonous, causing blistering, allergic reactions or even blindness. And, some locals even believe that the tree attracts lightening.

Game drive at Amakhosi
Game drive amidst Euphorbias at Amakhosi. Image: Renate Engelbrecht

Amakhosi’s Big 5

Between yoga sessions and dining, we were privileged to go on morning and afternoon game drives, in search of the Big 5. Some of us were luckier than others, having spotted the leopard across the river during one of the yoga sessions (I lost out on that), but the rest of the Big 5 I got to see. In fact, one night as I walked up to my room, I heard a snuff and as I got closer, I saw a herd of buffalo peacefully grazing on the riverbed in front of my room.

We also spotted lions on more than one occasion and although the 26 elephants they have on the reserve were a little shy, some did come and say hi.

Mother cheetah and cubs
Mother cheetah and her cubs. Image: Renate Engelbrecht

One of the highlights was probably the cheetah cubs we got to see twice. Amakhosi forms part of the Cheetah Meta Population Plan, which continuously records data on cheetahs in South Africa. According to Alwyn Wentzel, Operations Manager at Amakhosi Private Game Reserve, there are currently only about 6000 cheetahs left in the wild, which is why it is so important to be part of such a programme.

Protection and conservation at Amakhosi

It’s clear that Amakhosi’s team is passionate about protecting their own, which makes it even more special to be there. While it’s only one biome (savanna), the reserve boasts various vegetation types and lots of red data plant species.

They have recently launched a canine unit that looks after and protects the rhino on the reserve too. Wentzel says keeping the rhinos safe is currently one of their biggest fights. With less and less support from government over the past five years, they’ve had to start taking matters into their own hands, hence the canine unit.

We were lucky enough to do a short bush walk with handler, Pierre Barau and his dog, Npisi and we were amazed at how in sync they were.

READ: Dave Pepler on conserving nature with words

Canine unit Amakhosi Safari Lodge
Pierre and Npisi. Image: Renate Engelbrecht

While the yoga safaris take place on set dates, a visit to Amakhosi Safari Lodge – whether for yoga, birding or just being in nature – is definitely worth looking into. With Amakhosi being rather close to Mozambique, it’s also not be a bad idea to consider making it a beach and bush trip while you’re at it.

Go ahead, let a three-day yoga retreat or bush experience wash you clean like a long-anticipated bushveld thunderstorm. There’s nothing like it. As Fleetwood Mac rightly sang: “When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know.”

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