Zebanine, named after the river that runs nearby, is the camp we stayed in. Cathy's grandmother purchased Zebanine from Baron Von Oertzen decades ago. Only recently has it been outfitted with electricity and used commercially, having historically been the family's own special vacation spot.
When we first drove up my jaw literally dropped. It was so lovely. Lots of small huts with thatch (straw) roofs. Green grass. Colorful flowers. Monkeys jumping around in the trees. The family there to greet us.
Cathy and I were assigned a two room hut with a bathroom connecting the rooms. We only stayed in separate rooms the first few nights finding it much more fun to be together so we could wake each other up when we heard lion call at night. The rooms were basic yet nice with beautiful mosquito netting draped over the beds.
Keeping the doors locked was the first instruction I received upon arrival. The monkeys are mischievous and loved to steal whatever they could from the huts. Last year Dr. Hugo would shoot them. This year, due to new gun regulations, he was relegated to defending his home and family with a simple slingshot. It was surprisingly effective. We found it was only necessary to make the motion and the monkeys would run.
A kitchen hut housed the food, but the table where we shared our meals was outside right next to the watering hole and camp fire. Much of our time was spent at one of those three places.
To just sit at the watering hole and watch the menagerie of animal come up was amazing. At one point there was a combination of elephant, imapala, warthog, mongoose, monkey, and baboon. It often seemed that Cathy and I would come back from drives in the bush tracking game only to hear that the rest of the family had seen just as much game, if not more, right there at the camp.
Translated "Love of the Quiet", Tanda Tula is the $500/person/night commercial lodge owned by Cathy's family. They were kind enough to let us go on game rides, eat Bush Breakfasts, and hang out - even though we weren't guests. Guests of Tanda Tula stay in tents. Calling them tents is accurate, but a bit misleading. Though colder than our huts, the tents were quite nice with quality furniture and outdoor shower stalls.
What is a Bush Breakfast? Allow me to explain. After a few hours of riding around in the cold tracking game, the ranger pulls up to a table set up in the middle of nowhere offering warm clothes to wash your hands and freshen up. A nearby stairway leads down into the dried riverbed. After descending you see tables with checked clothes and a full place setting. You see fresh bread, amazingly delectable sliced fruit, and lots of other goodies. Then you see a fire pit with cast iron skillets- each emitting this mouth watering fragrance. There were sausages, eggs, toast, fried green tomatoes, corn fritters... mmmmm. A meal like this could fill a person for days. And since food is always a highlight for me, I was eager to jump in.
Much as I like food, I really couldn't eat meals like this three times a day. So I decided that though Tanda Tula was nice-- the food was tasty, the staff accommodating, and accommodations luxurious-- I was very happy to be at Zebanine. I felt more comfortable there. It was self catering which meant we fixed our own meals and ate what and when we wanted. (Usually lots of fresh bread toasted and topped with avocado OR fresh bread toasted and topped with sharp cheddar cheese and apricot preserves. Mmm) There were also no other guests there. I enjoyed meeting the guests at Tanda Tula, but being in camp with just family and close friends felt cozier. I could come out to the watering hole in my jamies and plop down on a chair and watch the warthog drink water. We could take the landrover out on a whim-- not bound by the trackers schedules. It lent to a much more relaxing time.
Both Zebanine and Tanda Tula were a part of the original land owned by Cathy's grandfather. The land is located inside the