The Magic of Kuganha Tented Camp

Among other mesmeric qualities, the magic of Kuganha Tented Camp at Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve lies in its tranquillity – an almost tangible sense of peace and quiet created by the camps discreet location where the chirping of birds and the occasional thorn tree rustle of a kudu passing silently by are the only sounds that disturb the tranquility. Review by Des Langkilde.

Tucked away amidst a ticket of Acacia thorn trees, this luxury safari camp rises above a dry riverine bed frequented by game seeking solace from the midday heat. And a pair of elephants who come to quench their thirst from the swimming pool to the surprise, and unnecessary consternation, of guests lounging on the pool deck a mere arms-length from their slurping trunks.

Elephant drinking at Kuganha tented camp

I mentioned ‘guests consternation’, but anxiety really is not necessary due to the fact that this pair of rescued male elephants (Inverdoorn don’t name their animals) are brought to Kuganha by their handler each day and have become used to seeing humans floating in their drinking water.

For the fortunate few who are able to book a stay here (there are only 3 tents, accommodating 6), the magic is enhanced by the mesmeric spells cast by resident Chef Anamarie van der Merwe, whose culinary brews, bisques, braais (barbecues), and artisanal breads are prepared in her secret lair or in the boma.

Dining platform at Kuganha Tented Camp

Chef Anamarie’s delectable creations are served to each pair of guests on a dining platform positioned on the opposite side of the pathway in front each tent, or depending on the weather/wind, inside each raised timber platformed tents’ lounge area.

During Tourism Tattler’s overnight stay, my son Chase and I were exceptionally fortunate to have the entire camp all to ourselves, along with Chef Anamarie and her camp assistant Marri Janse van Rensburg’s undivided attention. To say that we were spoilt (and satiated with good food, wine and hospitality) would be an understatement!

On arrival (a short game drive transfer, by our ranger/guide Mareesa Swart, from the main Inverdoorn lodge) at around midday, a freshly prepared fruit & cheese board lay waiting in the tent (and regrettably remained that way as we’d just finished a late breakfast at the lodge) followed by a “light” lunch at 2 pm (our chosen time for this repast) which comprised several platters; namely kudu sosaties (kebabs), grilled hake fillets, a ginger, soy and garlic-infused chicken salad with coleslaw side dishes, and potato with mixed vegetables prepared al dente.

Lunch at Kuganha Tented Camp

As for luxury tents, they are huge! At 66 square metres, there’s plenty of space leading from the tastefully decorated front lounge area, around either side of the extra length queen size bed, past the hospitality nook with tea/coffee station, fully stocked complimentary bar fridge and safe, to the dressing area and en-suite bathroom with open-plan shower and toilet at the rear of the tent.

Luxury tent at Kuganha Camp Inverdoorn Game Reserve

Leading off from the entrance into Kuganha, a boardwalk leads through the Acacia trees to the Spa Detox – a secluded thatched hut that features an impressive hand-carved Zanzibarian door and frame that seems strangely out of place in this bush setting. The Spa was locked during our visit as a masseuse is only summoned from Inverdoorns’ sister lodge at Aquila, some 40 km away, by prior request.

The Spa at Kuganha Tented Camp

At 5 PM, our ranger Mareesa arrived (all staff are dedicated to the exclusive needs of guest at Kuganha) and the three of us set off for a sunset safari with a stop-over at Cape Cheetah – the rescue and rehabilitation centre founded in 2001 by Western Cape Cheetah Conservation  (WCCC)  – to watch the blur of a cheetah running at almost full speed (they can reach speeds of up to 120km/h over short distances). 

A cheetah running at full speed

These daily exercise routines, when the young cheetah work for their evening meal by chasing after a carcass pulled at high speed, offer a unique experience for guest at Inverdoorn. Also unique, is the Cape Cheetah/WCCC facility itself, which was founded at Inverdoorn in 2001 and pioneered the way for cheetah survival.

Inverdoorn cheetah sanctuary viewing platform

At the Cheetah Educationals, guests meet and learn more about cheetahs at the reserve (did you know that there are only between 583 to 871 mature cheetah of breeding age are left worldwide, 412 of which are constrained within fenced reserves and inter-breed thus adversely affecting the gene pool). For guest booked in at Kuganha, the educational is automatically included. 

Returning to Kuganha at around 7:30 PM, Chef Annamarie and her able assistant Marri welcome us back with warm scented facecloths to freshen up before being guided to the boma for our pre-arranged dinner preference (a braai of course). After chatting around the bonfire while savouring an excellent glass of Viljoensdrift RiverGrandeur Shiraz (alcoholic beverages are included during your stay here) we were guided to our table set up in the tents’ lounge area due to a slight breeze that had picked up. 

Boma bonfire at Kuganha Tented Camp

For our dinner, a starter comprised of Springbok carpaccio with capers and balsamic reduction on a bed of fresh garden salad was soon followed by beef fillet medallions prepared medium-rare, Karoo lamb chops marinated in rosemary, and a medley of crisp roasted vegetables. A decadent dessert of chocolate brownies, with ice-cream, passion fruit and strawberries rounded off the meal.

Kuganha Tented Camp Braai

Satiated to the point of drowsiness, we retired for an early nights sleep followed by an acceptable 7 AM wake-up call for the morning safari excursion. On returning to the camp at around 9 AM, an amazing breakfast was served on the dining platform. As if to bid us farewell on our departure, the elephant arrived for their morning drink and shower at the swimming pool.

Elephant at Inverdoorn Game Reserve

In conclusion, Kuganha definitively lives up to its Mozambican dialect name, meaning “Victory”. Ironically, the word ‘Kuganha’ in Nyanja – a common lingua franca spoken among the populace of southern Africa, also means “Criticism”.

Well, after being hosted for a night at Kuganha, I can confidently report that this magical bush safari haven is a victory for Inverdoorn, while my only criticism is that the tents are positioned a bit close to each other for complete privacy. But then, I’m told that Kuganha hosts a lot of honeymoon couples – I guess honeymooners would be so enthralled by their newly formed wedded bliss that the passionate sounds of neighbours would scarcely be noticed.

Guest posing with staff at Kuganha Tented Camp Inverdoorn Game Reserve
Posing at the entrance to Kuganha Tented Camp; Tourism Tattler’s Chase Langkilde, camp assistant Marri Janse van Rensburg, Chef Anamarie van der Merwe, and Inverdoorn ranger/guide Mareesa Swart.

PS. Did you notice an interesting thread in this review? All of the Inverdoorn staff with whom we interacted during our stay have a first name that includes the phonetical sound ‘Maree’ i.e Mareesa, Marri, and Anamarie!

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