our home in the wild- part three

food detective

Categories: Wine Line, Eating Out, Posted on September 17, 2014 by Sandy Bergsten

My daughters and I were now halfway through our tracking safari in Sabi Sand. Our stay at Londolozi’s secluded Pioneer camp exceeded any and all expectation. At each turn our understanding of this incredible eco-structure deepened as did our appreciation and love for the amazing people we encountered. This had truly become our home in the bush.

Friday afternoon and evening were full of surprises. After lunch we met our new jeep-mates from Rotterdam. Then it was off to follow a cheetah fresh off its kill.

Resting a few meters away we found our cheetah completely satiated. The three of us took a look at her bulging belly and hoped ours didn’t look the same after all of the incredible meals we’ve been served.

We passed a herd of nyala, which was obviously missing one of its members.

We had many bird sightings. With Rich’s help we learned much about the indigenous birdlife.

We had a rare jackal sighting.

Then a spectacular sunset.

We ended the day with our pride of lions.

As we came in for dinner Graeme announced that Kay, Londolozi’s sommelier, had planned a special wine dinner just for us. Just as Rich taught us how to follow the animals through the Sabi Sand game reserve, Kay took us an in-depth tour of South African wines. We sipped, learned and relived the sights from our afternoon drive.

We toasted our good fortune with a Steenburg 1682 Brut Chardonnay NV with its aromas of granny smith apples, peaches and overtones of freshly baked biscuits. We laughed over our bubbly while we heard once again the story of Catharina Ustings Ras, one of the most daring and controversial figures to settle at the Cape and the fate of those five husbands!

With the Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup Kay poured a Strandveld “Adamastor” 2012. This blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon was named after the mythical god of wind and storms that ravage the coast. It was a superb Bordeaux-style wine with wet gravel minerality and floral aromas.

With our Springbok Carpaccio we had a Springfield “Wild Yeast” Chardonnay 2011. This unoaked western Cape wine was made with grapes from 12-16 year old vines. A complex style wine with notes of pineapple and pears.

And because (of course) the girls and I each requested a small portion each of the two entrees we were thrilled that we got to taste both the wines. A Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 to go with the Seared Scottish Salmon with a Salsa Verde. This Upper Hemel-&-Aarde Valley wine had smooth tannins and depth from the deep red clay in the soil. And a De Toren “Z” 2011 accompanied the Grilled Chalmar Beef Filet with African Hollandaise. The name literally meant “the tower” in Dutch and referred to the winery structure, which allows for gravity-flow winemaking. The moniker “Z” was for the Zephyr winds that shaped the ripe blueberry nose with hints of chocolate and spice and an enduring mineral qualities.

To complete our evening our Hot Fudge Pie with Cream was served with a Waterford Heatherleigh dessert blend. This Muscat Alexandre and Semillon was made using the Solera system, the same one used for making sherry. Its complex flavors of dried apricot and citrus provided an elegant finish not only to the wine but also to this incredibly memorable meal. Thank you Kay and Graeme!

Saturday marked another chilly start with Rich and Lucky.

Just out of camp we encountered a herd of zebra.

There were more exotic birds at every turn. We were fortunate that our friends from Rotterdam were on their way to becoming expert birders. We found that Rich was as well versed in native fowl as he was in the sierra fauna.

During our coffee break we heard a hippo making a big splash.

Then standing in a field we saw a majestic waterbuck.

The giraffes gracefully crossed the high grass.

Another herd of elephants. It was incredible how they spent almost twenty hours a day constantly grazing.

Back at breakfast a vervet monkey stole the banana bread from the morning’s bountiful buffet. Caven went after it with his slingshot, and with a smile purposefully just missed the clever little thief.

He had his work cut out for him protecting the freshly baked goods from these bandidts.

After breakfast the three of us went on a tour of the local village with Lina, one of the camp’s most knowledgeable elders. She told us of their Shangaan roots and history.

We walked along “Freedom’s Way”. The metal bars that rose out of the ground brought attention to the difficult path we must all walk in order to reach our greatest potential. Nelson Mandela said of his visit to Londolozi “During my long walk to freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that Mother Nature offers.”

At the Learning Centre we discovered Londolozi’s commitment to Good Works and the continuing education program offered free of charge to every employee and each of their family members.

Lina ended our tour in the Elders’ Village. There she consulted “the bones”, an ancient practice where a diviner would throw a collection of shells and animal knucklebones onto a mat to predict the client’s troubles and the probable causes, most often a restless ancestor.

Before lunch we stopped in the Design & Creative Centre for a photography consultation. Kate, the Creative Director, helped us review some of our photographs from our trip. It was exciting to see them come to life on her large computer screen.

Caven brought us a little something to whet our whistle while we waited for our lunch of Watermelon with Minted Feta and a Rocket Salad, Beef Kofta with Peppadew Hummus and Rosemary Potaotes, Grilled Brinjal Tomato Basil and Halloumi Stack, and Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast wrapped in Parma Ham served with a Tarragon Velouté.

That afternoon it was just the three of us once again with Rich and Lucky. But we weren’t lonely for long. For that afternoon proved to be an afternoon full of babies.

We saw a month-old giraffe with its parents.

An adorable baby Rhino.

The cutest little hyena that came right up to our jeep. These adorable little fellows countered every “Lion King” bias.

We heartened at the sight of our cheetah, today looking much more her regal self. The three of us hoped the same held true for our midriffs.

On our way for a sundowner we crossed paths with more giraffe.

An array of drinks and special guests greeted us for our final “Surf & Turf” dinner. We dined with Ryan, the communications director for the Good Works Foundation, his wife Rav, the visiting doctor to the camps in the region, and Rich our guide, who truly felt as if he was a member of our immediate family. Under candlelight we began our meal with Roasted Pumpkin and Fennel Soup.

Our amazing chefs, Virginia and Petunia, brought us Wing Rib for the “turf” and Mocambiquan Tiger Prawns for the “surf”. We had a choice of Mushroom Gorgonzola Sauce, Lemon Sauce, Garlic Butter and Peri Peri, then for sides Coconut Cream and Coriander Dal, Thick Cut Chips, Cardamom Scented Basmati Rice, Grilled Sweet Corn with Chili Mint and Lime Butter, and Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables with Whole Garlic. For dessert a Treacle Toffee pudding with Macadamia and Toffee Sauce.

Phindile, lantern in hand, helped us make our way down the path. With full stomachs and hearts we drifted off to dream of our last expedition into the bush.

Sunday marked our last morning drive. We were thrilled to learn that Ryan and Rav would be joining us. While yesterday was the afternoon of offspring this morning proved to be the dawn of the kill.

We saw lions from across the river finishing off their water buffalo.

After searching in vain for a pack of African wild dogs we stopped for coffee and hot cocoa.

My little monkeys climbed a tree.

Then we heard a true monkey scout crying out an alarm. We packed up and followed its distress signal.

Rich continued his expert-tracking lesson. The soft sand told an elaborate story and provided an invaluable roadmap to what lay ahead.

We came upon the tree where a leopard had stowed what was left of his nyala.

Then after a rugged traverse across the brush we discovered the male leopard resting after his feast.

Sadly we crossed the river one last time.

We took quick showers then a final breakfast. To our delight one of the little vervet devils jumped right onto our table and took a swipe at my yogurt topped with freshly made fruit compote and granola.

This time we didn’t alert Caven. We just smiled as the little guy licked the jam off his tell-tale fingers.

Graeme and Rich collected our belongings into our jeep.

We drove one last time to the airfield to meet our prop plane.

It’s difficult to put into words how much this trip has meant to my daughters and me. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. There were so many unexpected depths and treasures to our experience on this continent. I know our mantra for years to come will be “please let us go back to our home in the wild”.

Thank you Rich, Graeme, Lucky, Caven, Virginia, Petunia, Phindile, Kay, Lina, Kate and Ian you made this trip a life event. And to my dear dad and the memory of my sweet mom you were with us for every moment and each step.

Stay tuned… for our African adventure must continue… I know deep my heart that it will!


September 23, 2014

Hi Sandy...I loved your wonderful photos & feel the same about my trip (just back) We stayed at Selenti in Sabi Sabi as well as at Ebony in Singita which was glorious! Please tell your friend Jen to forget Tanzinita & concentrate on South Africa...Victoria Falls can be done in 1 day...Cape Town, the Penquins, the Restaurant on the coast Harbor House, & beautiful Franschhock should not be missed!..would love to see you in Cleveland..I will never forget So Africa & may go back...plse put me on your blog xo Carole


September 22, 2014

Hi Sandy! What fun to read! I was on safari last October in South Africa at Sabi Sabi. It must be very near where you went. Do you realize how lucky you were to see a leopard twice? We did finally see one the very last day. I have been missing your blog! I was glad to have the reminder and will look at back issues! Keep sending me updates when you do new posts! I have tons of news for you. When will you be in Cleveland next? Love and hugs, Pam


September 21, 2014

Hi Sandy, I have followed your safari trip with eager eyes. My family is planning one for next year and after reading your report, it's made us totally re-think our plan. I've spent a few hours now reading reviews/the Londolozi web site and am thinking more and more we should abandon our current plans of Tanzania for South Africa. I loved how you did wine country before the safari, was that all arranged through Londolozi or did you plan that your self? Did you guys just rent the rooms there by the night or did you organize one of their tours? I was looking at the ones that hit Victoria Falls as well as Kruger Park and they look pretty epic. Anyway, any information you can give me on how and what you booked, we kind of want to copy the whole thing 😊 It's a lot more expensive than what we were planning on doing so I need mucho ammo to convince my in-laws that this is better, besides just the safety of South Africa over Tanzania. I look forward to any advice you can offer! Jen

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