Sitting in a Land Rover safari vehicle with Nick, our trusty guide, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy – like something was watching us, hiding in the undergrowth – and not two seconds later, a group of five bachelor Elephant bulls stepped into our path and silence fell over our group.
For someone that started off on this journey terrified of elephants, The Outpost presented me with the opportunity to face my reasonably unfounded fear. In the very profound words of Lawrence Anthony, author of The Elephant Whisperer – “Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants expect those that we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves”. This beautiful message, and with countless calming sentiments from Nick, I was set for a transformative stay at The Outpost.
Recently I had the pleasure of staying at The Outpost, part of the Rare Earth Collection, and then moving over to their newly-constructed private villa Pel’s Post, meaningfully named after the Pel’s Fishing Owl, which makes total sense when you first lay your eyes on the sensational view – a view that normally only a bird would have access to. Both lodges were constructed with eco-materials and trying to make as small an impact on the landscape as possible. That’s tourism with a conscience.
There aren’t many places in the Kruger National Park that offer the kind of views that both The Outpost and Pel’s Post can offer – panoramic exposure to the seemingly endless horizon. Sitting on our giant veranda, we spied an abundance of animals – elephants primarily because of their size – but various buck, daisies and, although we didn’t see them much, the baboons could be heard from kilometres away. It’s hard to stress about anything when you have 180 degrees of pure magic in front of you.
Being able to drift off to sleep at with the electronically-controlled fabric shutters open to the wilderness was a treat that I didn’t know I craved. Being woken up in the morning by the gentle appearance of the sun, and the harmonious song of the birds of the savannah, meant that each end every day at The Outpost started on the right note. It was pretty hard to tear ourselves away from the uber-comfort of the cotton sheets and fluffy pillows, but somehow we managed.
The morning game drives – after the initial shock of waking up at 05h30 – were the highlight of the day, and not only because Ranger Nick makes a mean ‘Ranger Special’, known in other areas as a ChocaMochaRula (coffee, hot chocolate and Amarula). We got to enjoy the Kruger as it was waking up – birds were shaking off the cold and getting warm air in their feathers, elephants were contented and eating their way through wild expanses of bush, and the youngest residents of the bush were excitedly wandering, eager to start their new day.
After the morning drive, we were welcomed back with a delicious breakfast spread which Ollie the Outpost squirrel really liked getting involved in. The story was the same at Pel’s Post (minus Ollie) and we tucked into something warm and delicious after a good few hours of bush adventuring. When breakfast ended, we spent most of our days by the pool (which also has a view of the landscape surrounding the lodge) and trying desperately not to get caught by the powerful African sun.
It wasn’t long before we longed for adventure once again, and after High Tea at 15h30 – which featured the most delicious treats anywhere in the Kruger (yes, I really would go that far) – we boarded the ‘Landy’ and off we went. It wasn’t long before we found elephants, and on one particular day, we found a breeding herd and a few males following close on their heels. After hiding under the seat for a while, I raised my head over the side and saw all of my concerns were unfounded – the elephants were simply munching on their dinner, while the younger ones chased each other around their peaceful mother’s feet.
Every evening we were taken to a different spot for the age old tradition of ‘sundowners’ and after a few gin and tonics, and a few sunset-selfies, we would head back to the lodge, suddenly starving and willing Nick to drive faster. Mind you, it did get a little chilly at night, so we could have been rushing him to get out of the cold too. It’s anyone’s guess really.
Post-evening game drive but pre-dinner rituals always included a bath. At both Pel’s Post and The Outpost, the baths in the open plan bathrooms were simply divine. They overlooked the wilderness, and were perfectly sheltered so none of the other guests could see you. At Pel’s Post, there are only four rooms, so you can bath in the middle of the day or use the outside shower and the only thing that will stare at you is the occasional bird, and we don’t think they’ll tell anyone.
For dinner, we were always presented with two starter options, three mains and one dessert. Fish was on the menu, and even though we were a fair distance from the sea, the chef prepared it so well that it tasted as fresh as can be. One particularly magical evening, we were told to be changed and ready for dinner at 18h30 which we all thought was odd, because we’d been having dinner at 19h30, but anyway, ready we were. Nick loaded us into the Landy and took off towards The Outpost. He quickly missed the turn, which only added to our confusion until we laid eyes on our real dinner venue – a clearing, lit by lanterns under the protection of a mighty Baobab tree. We drank, ate and mingled under the clearest sky I have ever seen and stared endlessly at the milky way. The food was sensational, and the Baobab tree dinner is something that I will never forget.
Having experienced The Outpost and Pel’s Post, I now know what true, responsible tourism looks like, what love of wildlife looks like, and what five-star service feels like. For more information, visit www.rareearth.co.za/the-outpost-summary.
Images ©Ryan Abbott | TCB Media