The most rugged and spartan of the 3 tented camps reviewed this month by Characterstays, Tamboti Tented Camp is the real deal in terms of an African safari experience. The authentic canvas tents have 8 lovely large netted windows and a wooden door onto a private deck overlooking a riverbed. Each tent is set amongst indigenous trees and the dappled shade creates an endless play of pattern on the khaki-green canvas roof and walls. There are no bathrooms at the tent, but the forested walk to spotless and spacious communal bathrooms make up for this lack. Twin beds, a full size wooden wardrobe, electricity, a fan, a fridge and glossy wooden floors elevate this stay well above grovelling in the ground. There is an outdoor table and chairs and each tent has its own braai area.
Tamboti Tented Camp is situated near the Orpen Gate of the Kruger National Park. It is a productive game area, with the highly recommended Big Five tarred road to Satara Camp.
This is as authentic as one gets in terms of a tented safari experience and I play my part well. I arrive wearing an oversized sun hat and three-quarter length linen pants, carrying an old leather duffle bag and my camera as rifle. In keeping with the safari theme, we drink gin and tonics on the deck in the evening, watching elephants pull down trees on the opposite bank of the river. A Genet cat jumps onto our deck with eerie stillness and a Honey Badger rifles through the bush next to our tent.
By now we have been in the Kruger National Park for almost two weeks, and we consider ourselves specialists. No longer content with the Big Five or calm sits in hides overlooking water holes, we are on the hunt for the most elusive finds. We have chosen the Orpen area specifically to seek out the rare wild dog, as this region has the highest concentration of the mere 200 wild dog in the Park.
We set out as the gate opens in the early morning, where open plains shrouded in morning mist set the scene for our hunt. We soon become distracted by four Ground Hornbills perched in a dead tree, performing a haunting dawn lament. This display is followed by a deep red African sunrise and a hovering Kingfisher perfectly catches the morning sun before diving down to a splashy breakfast.
Finally, as we have almost forgotten our mission, we chance upon them – a pack of 14 wild dog, running synchronised along the road in the golden light. We follow them for several kilometres, watching their antics and interactions. It is a beautiful privilege and once again the Park has not failed to deliver on its gentle surprises, calming and inspiring the mind and feeding the soul.