The pretty property was part of the 14,000 hectare Kapama Game Reserve where the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre was located. While at Camp Jabulani, we had an opportunity to visit its facilities and see the many rescued animals, including regular and king cheetahs, five species of vultures, wild dogs and caracal, the center housed. We were particularly thrilled to “meet” Sheeba, an ambassador cheetah at the center that would sometimes welcome human visitors, two at a time, to feed and pet her for a couple of minutes. Although I had seen cheetahs close up before, feeding Sheeba and being able to pet her was a new and unexpected experience.
Our two-night stay at the property was a whirlwind. We went on two memorable elephant back rides, including one at night; watched the elephant family, babies and all, bathing and being put to “bed;” and spent a morning visiting the nearby endangered species center. When we weren’t game viewing or with the animals, we were in our luxury suite or enjoying one of Chef Rudolf Van Den Berg’s scrumptious and attractively presented meals. Our stay at Camp Jabulani was outstanding and worth repeating, although next time we would remain there three nights for a more leisurely stay. I will recommend the property to friends interested in a close encounter of the elephant kind within a Big Five game viewing setting.
Connectivity There was WiFi Internet access and a laptop computer for guest use in the lobby area. To take advantage of the connection I would bring my laptop computer in between activities and download emails directly to my email account. That was the only access point so I had to be brief in case other guests wanted to go online.
Handicapped Access The property welcomed handicapped guests
Length Of Stay Two nights
Location In the Kapama Private Game Reserve near Hoedspruit, South Africa
Managed Carl and Elsie Olen
Owned Lente and Adine Roode
Size There were six suites and 120 staff in the 100 hectare property located within the 14,000 hectare Kapama Game Reserve.
Year Opened-Renovated The camp was opened in 2002. In 2008, the suites underwent a soft refurbishment and in 2009, the gym was renovated. At the time of this writing, a family suite, the Zindoga Presidential Suite, was under construction.
The center of the room was taken up by two single beds set together. They were framed by matching wood glass covered night tables. At night, the staff draped mosquito netting over them. After the turn down service we found small keepsakes on our night tables, next to the matching wood lamps. In case we needed to make a call, which we did, there was a telephone on one of the night tables. On one side of the bed there was an animal skin rug and armless chair. At the base of the bed there was a rectangular chest where extra pillows and blankets were kept.
Across from the bed, sliding wood framed doors and screen doors led to a bush facing open terrace with wood floors, two lounge chairs with pool towels, a metal and glass table, two armless metal and wicker chairs, and a plunge pool. It was an inviting area.
Facilities A dining room, lounge area, tea terrace, 90 square meter workout area and 30 square meter spa section.
Fitness Center And Spa There was one therapist at the property.
Pool Our suite had a meter and a half deep plunge pool on the deck facing the bush.
The first afternoon we went on an hour long elephant ride from the camp to a water hole where we had afternoon snacks and sparkling South African wine and beverages. Each person was assigned one of the male elephants (although each elephant was capable of carrying two passengers and a groom since the camp was half full we each had a private ride). My elephant for that ride was Jabulani and his handler that day was Clifford. After a brief explanation by Paul, who was in charge of the elephants, we had an opportunity to feed Jabulani in his trunk and mouth. I also fed him directly in his mouth. We climbed aboard the elephants with the help of a metal contraption that allowed us to reach the top of the elephants and set off single file into the bush. The 70 kilogram saddle had stirrups and cloth straps to hold on to during the mostly gentle ride. Jabulani was rather playful and stopped to feed many times along the way. He was, I found out as we began the ride, the lead elephant so we headed the elephant line. Once we completed the elephant ride, we had cocktails, and went on a game drive during which we spotted many animals.
The following morning after breakfast we drove an hour, during which we enjoyed game viewing, to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC). On our arrival we watched a video about the center and how and why it was established before departing on a tour of the center on our own Land Rover. Although Donie remained our driver and guide, two centre staff members, Claudia and Andre, were on hand to highlight aspects of the tour, answer questions and assist. After browsing in the gift shop and buying a cup of coffee at the snack shop we departed at 12:15.
A 45-minute drive saw us at the water hole just in time for the arrival of the elephant herd for their daily bathing. It was a treat to sit quietly in our vehicles or closer to the water hole in the sun and watch the majestic pachyderms play, spray, roll, fall and splash their way around. They didn’t seem to mind our proximity and we were delighted to be so close that we could see them easily and hear their elephant sounds clearly.
That evening, after sunset cocktails, we set off on a second elephant ride. Gary rode Mupfuri I rode Sebakwe during the sunset walk. Riding at night was even more enchanting than riding in the afternoon. Although we each had a flashlight, it was more pleasant to ride under the light of the moon and listen to the soft padding of elephant feet and the sounds of the bush around us. Occasionally we could see antelopes and night creatures along the way. Because we were riding the elephants instead of walking the bush animals remained calm and closer than they would have otherwise.
Animals we saw during our game drives (not at the centre): male lion, hare, black backed jackal, giraffe, duiker, lesser bush baby, impala, wildebeest, nyala, elephant, warthog, guinea fowl, buffalo, terrapin, kudu, rhino, waterbuck, and hippo. Birds we saw: brown hooded king fisher, yellow beaked hawk, dark chanting goshawk, yellow and red billed hornbills, thick knee African darter, African ibis, blue heron, emerald spotted dove, African hoopoe, and glossy starling.
The property was recognized with Amarula Best 100 Retreats 2008 Winner of The Leading Eco Retreat in Africa; Amarula Best 100 Retreats 2008 Second Place: Best Retreat in Africa; Amarula Best 100 Retreats 2008 Second Place: The Ultimate in African Cuisine; and AA Travel Guides and American Express Accommodation Awards 2008 Gold Achiever.
Date Of Review November 2008
Reviewers Article by Elena del Valle
Photographs by Gary Cox
Service The staff members we met were efficient and polite. In addition to the camp managers and cleaning staff, we met a handful of the staff members including Obert, our pleasant server; Chef Rudolf Van Den Bert, who was always around to share the meal’s menu and chat with us; Paul, the knowledgeable elephant handler, and his assistant.
Would You Stay There Again? Yes