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Educational trip to Simbavati River and Hilltop Lodges, Camp Jabulani and Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

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African Synergy hosted an educational to visit Simbavati River and Hilltop Lodge, as well as Camp Jabulani and the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. We invited some of our top supporting tour operators, and we had a total of 7 lovely ladies that travelled.

Simbavati River Lodge

First stop was Simbavati River Lodge, where we arrived to an ice cold refreshment and a big warm welcome from Lelanie and team. After settling into our tented suites, and freshening up, we headed out for the first official game drive with Moshe the ranger and Nicholus, the tracker. The African Sun put on quite the sunset show for us that evening, one for the books, that backdrop for our sundowners was absolutely breathtaking.

We enjoyed a lovely wholesome dinner upon our return, and were treated to a visit by a few hippos who swanned quietly past us on the deck, this is Africa baby!

Before we were to depart for Simbavati Hilltop lodge, we were surprised with a very welcome Spa treatment in the new Simbavati Spa, surrounded by the sounds of the bush outside and the magical hands of Itu, the therapist, I thought I was in heaven! Just what we all needed, thanks Lelanie and team!

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Simbavati Hilltop Lodge

Just a quick 5 minute drive and we arrive to Hilltop Lodge. Having just opened in July 2014, I was very anxious to see it again, as the last visit I had was a brief one as it had just opened its doors. It was such a delight to see how all the vegetation had grown, and the lodge looked so alive. The tents are spacious and the views breathtaking. The new Sala curtains add such a relaxing element to the tent decks. A perfect honeymoon destination!

We had a wonderful and educational game drive with Eddie, and we got to spend some time with a hyena den with quite a few hyena cubs, so special! We returned to an outstanding boma dinner paired with some lovely wines. Wish we could stay one more night!

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Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre

The next morning we on the move fresh and early, and made our way to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, in time for the early morning Cheetah Run. The Centre is a non profit organisation that was founded by Mrs Lente Roode, with cheetah breeding programme being the core purpose, and it has grown in size and numbers through the years, as Mrs Roode and team do not turn away any injured or animals in need.

A visit to Limpopo has to be complemented with a visit to the HESC, the affordable tours are extremely interesting and more importantly educational and respectful to all the animals. The HESC has rescued some victims to Rhino poaching in the last year or two, and have two rhino cows who survived an attack for their horns, and are almost, 19 months later, fully healed, and they also have two rhino orphans, who were found next to their mums who had been brutally killed. With the knowledge and insight they have gained over the past 2 years, they have decided to dedicate time and space in the centre for a new project called “Rescued Rhinos at HESC”, whereby victims to Rhino poaching will find a place to recover safely and with love. I think we were all quite emotional through our visit, and as always my respect just keeps climbing with every visit to the centre.

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Camp Jabulani

From there we were whisked away to a dam in the Kapama Reserve, by our personal ranger during our stay at Camp Jabulani, Charne ( yes, a lady!) and enroute, we stumbled upon a giraffe duel in progress… they were warming up to fight for that special Giraffe lady… that was so interesting. As we arrived at the dam, we spotted some motion in the bush, and slowly but surely the Camp Jabulani elephant herd came out of the bushes from various directions to have their afternoon swim in the dam. They forage freely during the day and this is one of their favourite things to do. It is a photographers dream! Special moments, just watching them be the beautiful, graceful animals that they are.

The Camp Jabulani staff were eagerly awaiting our arrival, and Kate and team welcomed us with a lovely lunch, prepared by Head chef Duane. With full tummies we were then shown to our rooms. A few had their own suites, and four of us shared the elegant Zindoga villa. Very spoiled indeed. We took opportunity to have a dip in the pool, before our evening game drive.

We enjoyed the stylish sundowner experience, as we prepared ourselves to meet Jabulani ( who is now 18 years old, after being rescued at 4 months by HESC). We were reminded by Tigere, one of their head groomsmen about the story of how Jabulani was rescued by Mrs Roode, when found close to death and abandoned by his her, and nursed him back to health. They tried to reintroduce him to the wild herds, but they would not accept him. Shortly after Mrs Roode rescued a herd of elephant back safari operation elephants from Zimbabwe, and brought them to South Africa with their groomsmen, whose livelihoods had also been threatened. The herd of elephants, all orphans themselves, embraced Jabulani lovingly into their herd. And so Camp Jabulani was built, to sustain the herd. They researched and adapted their training methods, to be on a reward system. THe elephants have never been happier, and have even given birth to five calves since finding their new home.

All of the ladies who experienced the elephant interaction and safari, realised the love that is the herd and Camp Jabulani, and had a better understanding for everything they do, and the way the elephants are loved. Nothing short of exemplary.

The newly built boma area had the fire blazing when we returned and we enjoyed a predrink before settling to a sensational dinner, prepared by the new executive chef, Patrick, who is a wonderful personality, as well as an excellent chef. Recipes were requested!:-)

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It was time to return to reality the next morning, no more being spoiled by the lodges.. I used to be a “beach person”…. but this experience has steered that another good 90 degrees left to becoming a “bush person”. The ladies who travelled were so delightful and considerate, and it was a great group. We all got to experience the lodges for our clients, and understand the unique offering that each holds. Thank you for Zahedah from Comair Ltd, ZitaLynne from Wilderness Safaris, Amy Fox from Welcome Tours, Lovelyn from Your Africa and Barbara from Personal Africa for sharing your time with us!

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