5 Mar, 2015
Big Cave Camp boasts one of the most extreme camp arrivals you will ever experience. While regular vehicles take cover under the trees below camp, the resident 4X4 inches down what appears to be a sheer rock face in a near vertical descent. And that is how you will soon ascend to camp. Nothing to worry about though as the driver and guides are the Lewis Hamilton’s of this route, the vehicle has a glue-like rock-holding ability and it’s basically as safe as well; a solid rock. We made the ascent in the rain with the rocks shimmering under the thunderous sky. A warm welcome awaits at the top with drinks and friendly faces. This will be the first moment to take in the setting which is unique and dramatic. And by no means the last time you ooh and aah at the jaw dropping beauty of the area.
Rooms score top marks for privacy, amenities and modern bathrooms with excellent showers but really top the charts for their settings which maximise the endlessly remarkable views. Thanks be to the technology gods for the creation of mega memory cards! As the thunder storms rolled over and beyond, shafts of sunlight cut through the sky and the boulders glowed a myriad hues. Each chalet veranda is wonderfully private with the only creatures gazing back at you being sun-loving dassies, curious monkeys and the most colourfully exotic of lizards.
On our first evening we took a drive around the 2000 acre property admiring the trees and magnificent vegetation all set in the theatre of boulders. Good fun to compare notes on what each boulder collection resembles … a teddy bear, a rabbit, SpongeBob, mother and child. It all depends on your age and stage as to what you see. Other residents spotted were duiker, wildebeest, zebra, impala and the black eagles.
Great care is taken as to the choice of a suitable sundowner venue. Shepherd, our aptly named guide, took us to lightning rock for his famous pink gin and tonics where yet again thanks had to be made for big memory cards. A spectacular sunset made ever more eye popping by the surrounds. Stormy December skies play the supporting role in the drama that is the setting of the sun while colours and light that are barely believable call for another round of rosy tinted G&T’s.
Happily fed with a surfeit of nature’s aesthetics, we bounce back to the lodge in time for pre-dinner drinks and a great time swapping the day’s notes with other guests. This is also the time to make tomorrows’ plans before settling into conviviality around the giant teak dining table. The staff’s easy charm leads the way for an evening of vibrant chatter amongst now new friends. All in-between bites of some seriously delectable dishes including mushroom soup, Macaroni Cheese and roast beef with vegetables.
Day two dawns with more communal banter around a lingering and lavish breakfast. Morning rains appear and enforce some serious book reading time. It feels fabulously indulgent to retire to literary activities so soon after waking. Deon Meyer’s Cobra was finished in a page-turning flurry of suspense and a few postcards scribbled to make the Northern Hemisphere really jealous. Then the happy sound of a gurgling Zambezi beer hails the lazy and relaxed guests to the bar before lunch. We headed off with our trusty Shepherd for a good 4 hours in the National Park. Thundering skies above, dusty roads below, vegetation whipping past and the smell of the bush; there is nothing better than an open safari vehicle. Our route twists and bumps through gorgeous grasslands and spectacular rock formations. We spot hippo in one of the water holes with the iconic egret standing guard. We were not seriously expecting to see the granite-coloured and elusive rhino but with happy snorts of joy coming from the us the land-rover punters, Shepherd rumbled to a halt alongside four of these rare and magnificent creatures. The white rhino is famously a placid and very myopic creature so we were able to alight and walk slowly up for a more proximate view of this prehistoric-looking endangered species. This family had been de-horned for their own protection from poachers and we notice they are close guarding a tiny infant. A very special encounter that we hope can be experienced by others in the distant future. Unfortunately, The Matapos Park is sadly lacking in game from the troubles of the past but the bush is fabulously pristine. We made scattered sightings of kudu, zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog and a vine snake but not in the volumes that this fertile wonderland of trees, grasses and rocky nooks and crannies could and did support. The birdlife is atwitter and deserves more attention and some serious binocular time. Next time.
Once again Shepherd herds us to the ultimate in sundowner spots. A stone platform that gazes across open grassy plains while taking in 270degree boulder views.
The pink gins mirroring the pink sky mirroring the smiling pink cheeks.
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