“Intimate and stylish lodges in a superb location in the Kruger, offering close encounters of the bush kind at affordable rates”
Both camps have just 5 sleeping units, reached via planked walkways which cut through the bush from the main lodge. Shawu's take the form of bandas made from buffalo dung pisé with a canvas front, whilst those of Shonga are classic safari-style tents slung beneath finely thatched roofs.
All have beautiful private platforms of polished wood: Shawu's look out to its watering hole, Mpanamana Dam, whilst those of Shonga hug a low hillside with views out through the thorn trees. We marvelled at one of the Kruger's largest bull elephants grazing just yards from our tent.
Decoration at both lodges has been faultlessly orchestrated in a classic colonial-safari style. Each of the tents and bandas has a free-standing woodburner, leather chairs and ottomans, unusual woven-metal wardrobes and twin beds that can be made up into kingsize doubles - indicate your preference when booking. Mud cloth hangings, funky bedside lamps and appliqués, durries and old leather suitcases and trunks add a twist of decorative zest.
The bathroom areas of each lodge have been partially delineated by screens of woven cane, allowing you the luxury of views out to the bush from your freestanding clawfoot bathtub. Sinks are set atop surfaces of burnished copper and at both camps you're treated to a second, outside rain shower. Expect snowy white towels and linen, a hairdyer, bathrobes, extra blankets in the wardrobes, lashings of hot water throughout the day, and mozzie netting both above your bed, and across all door and window openings.
If you're joining the early morning game drive - it tends to leave camp at around 6am - tea and biscuits will be laid out for you first thing, or can be delivered to your tent. A big breakfast is served on your return. This will be an extensive array of fruits, cheeses and cold cuts, a cereal and yoghurt cup, then the cooked breakfast of your choice.
Lunches stick to a light buffet formula with a choice of 2 or 3 different salads, a pasta or a rice dish and some kind of grilled meat: we were treated to delicious chicken kebabs with a satay sauce.
Dinners are memorable occasions at both camps: once night has fallen, and the oil lamps have been lit, the romantic allure is honeymoon-perfect. Your meal begins early, taking into account that you're likely to be leaving early the following day on a game drive: at about 6.30pm in winter, an hour or so later in summer. Aperitifs are laid up along a candlelit table, as are the different wines, which are all South African, and all good.
At both camps you eat on the deck in warmer weather or inside at cooler times of year. Starters tend to be thick soups in winter, salads in summer. You're offered a choice of 2 main courses, one meat - sirloin of beef, rack of lamb with mint sauce, lamb chops, fillet of kudu or ostrich steak - the other fish: hake, kingklip or trout, which is often served in a lemon, white wine and butter sauce. Our dinners were accompanied by plenty of vegetables and everything had been cooked to perfection by the local Shangaan chef. If you have any special dietary requirements, let them know in advance.