Xanet Scheepers

By Xanet Scheepers

Digital Lifestyle Editor

Primitive luxury in the middle of the Kruger bushveld

The Kruger Untamed camp site looks very much like a mirage in a desert when you first lay eyes on the pop-up camp set up on the banks of a dry riverbed in the middle of the Kruger National Park.

Roar, roar, roarrrrr! My eyes fly open as I awake with a startle from the deep sleep I was in. It takes me a while to get my bearings and figure out where I am. It’s 4am, I am in a canvas tent at the Kruger Untamed pop-up camp, mere metres away from a dry riverbed. There is a lion outside – I don’t know how far away, but from the sound of the roars, its close. My heart rate is about 220 bpm.

Kruger Untamed tent

My friend, who loves the Kruger, jumps out of bed getting ready to unzip the tent. I’m about to lose my mind. “What are you doing, come back to bed, it’s going to eat us,” I whisper-shout at him to no avail.

Lying flat on his stomach, he slowly starts zipping up the tent, because “he wants to see” as I turn my back towards him, keeping my eyes tightly shut – convinced that if I don’t see the lion, it won’t see me, or eat me for that matter.

About two hours later, still wide awake, we get our morning wake-up call from the armed ranger patrolling the camp to start getting ready for our early game drive.

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Mother nature’s spoils

Our game ranger Etienne looks bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as he asks us if we heard the big cats earlier that morning. As we get onto our game drive vehicle, he says chances are very good that we will see some lions during our game drive as they were very close to our camp.

So, we set off on our morning adventure, the crisp morning air painting my cheeks pink, my eyes darting over the beautiful scenery flying past me as we start our journey to spot ‘the big five’.

Mother Nature was in a generous mood that morning as we had several amazing sightings during our drive. As the sun was rising, we stopped at a watering hole where a hippopotamus was just waking up, spoiling us with a massive yawn as we watched in admiration.

Kruger Untamed game drive
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers and Megan Brett

It wasn’t long after the hippo’s morning greeting when we crossed paths with a pride of lions. They were just lazily strolling in the road, enjoying the early morning sun. Some of the lionesses headed into the bush, but a couple of the others were curious, moving closer to our game drive vehicle to satisfy their curiosity. “Keep your arms inside the vehicle,” Etienne whispers from the front seat.

He explains that the lions will not attack the vehicles, as they are used to the shape of them, but as soon as an arm or limb sticks out of the vehicle, it’s an unfamiliar shape and can trigger the animal to attack.

I gulp as the male lion approaches us, making sure not even my shadow can be seen on the ground outside the vehicle. He seems very uninterested though as he sashays past, giving us a glance every now and again as he makes his way into the bush.

Lions in Kruger National Park
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers

As we leave the pride of lions to bask in the early morning sun, we weave our way onto a side road where we have an encounter with a hyena. The lone predator cautiously crosses the road in front of the vehicle giving us a backward glance as it heads into the bush.

Hyena Kruger National Park
Picture: Xanet Scheepers

While the rhino eluded us, we did manage to get a close look at some giraffe, elephants, buffalo and other antelope.

Elephant and giraffe Kruger Untamed
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers

In fact, on our drive back to camp we were privileged enough to see a pride of lion circling a herd of buffalo at the watering hole. The stand-off between the lions and the buffalo was unlike anything I have ever seen – the buffalo fiercely protecting its young, and the lions constantly charging the buffalo.

Luxury camping at Kruger Untamed

Returning to camp invigorated from our amazing morning in the bush, Lysta Stander, our hostess for the duration of our stay, greets us with a big smile, ushering us to the breakfast table.

Breakfast is served
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers and Trudie Jacobs

This formidable hostess has staged opening ceremonies for world class events in amphitheatres, stadiums and the Sun City Super Bowl, so when it comes to hosting guests for a camping experience, she is going all out. When Stander sets up camp – even in the middle of the Kruger, she does it with panache and comfort.

Kruger Untamed’s tents are fitted out with proper double beds, beautifully made-up, complete with bedside tables and lamps. Our bush room even featured a bathroom tent with a chemical toilet and bush shower. A 25L bag is filled with hot water during certain times of the day for guests to shower.

The attention to detail in both the room and bathroom of the tent shows that Stander’s goal is to make sure her guests are comfortable, but also ensuring they experience a primitive bush camp set-up.

Kruger Untamed tented accommodation
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers

The dining area is set on a wooden deck overlooking a dry riverbed with several areas where guests can kick up their feet and relax. There is even a framed swimming pool for guests who would like to cool off.

Camp at Kruger Untamed
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers

At night the beachy vibe of the riverbed changes into a magical picture of bonfires lighting up the dark bush sky, stars shining bright as guests sip on a glass of red wine.

Camp at night
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers

As with everything else, attention to detail is also evident in the dishes Stander serves. One meal that stood out for me was the warthog potjie and shortrib potjie we had on our last night at Kruger Untamed.

Beyers Truter from Beyerskloof wines joined us on our last evening and did a lovely wine tasting around the camp fire. It was the most amazing experience. The chef served oxtail soup, which I can still taste when I close my eyes and think back to that special evening.

Beyerskloof wine tasting
Pictures: Xanet Scheepers

For dinner the warthog and short rib potjies were paired with six of South Africa’s best pinotages – a better wine and meal pairing will be difficult to find.

While there is still so much more I can tell you about my Kruger Untamed experience, it would be better for you to experience it yourself.

There is still a month left before they pack up camp for the year, so visit www.krugeruntamed.com to see if you can find a booking.

It’s an unforgettable experience you’ll never regret.

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