Last updated on Jan 18th, 2021 at 11:14 am

Game viewing is an essential â??must-doâ?? for most people visiting South Africa, and a fundamental experience that locals shouldnâ??t miss.

However, the question is where, and how, to see a good range of African animals in an authentic environment, away from the frequent madding crowds of tourists.

Tangala Private Camp

There are many choices, but having discovered one of the countryâ??s best-kept secrets, Tangala Private Camp in the south of Thornybush Game Reserve in Limpopo Province, I wouldnâ??t choose to go anywhere else.

Itâ??s close to South Africaâ??s largest national park, the world-renowned Kruger; and to the west of Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, home of the famous white lions, and one of 20 private parks that form the Greater Kruger National Park where animals come and go at will.

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Off-the-grid camp

The camp is off the electricity grid and rainwater is collected for use along with borehole water. In tune with their policy of eco-sustainability, there is some solar power, while gas is used to heat water, and paraffin to power lamps. Food is often cooked over an open fire.

Tangala is also unfenced, and so the sound of lions roaring outside your bedroom window in the middle of the night is not uncommon.

Accommodation is beautifully comfortable, and the food deliciously wholesome

With only five thatched one-bedroom en suite units, they can accommodate a maximum of ten people. Furthermore, the units are positioned away from one another, so you never feel as if you might have to jostle for privacy.

Created to maximize shelter from the hot African sun, access to the rooms is up relatively steep ramps designed to deter even the most intrepid wild animals. Each has its own private porch, and inside, a generous shower, basin and separate loo. Cozy twin beds are draped with lavish mosquito nets and windows shaded with latte â?? the perfect place for a lazy afternoon siesta out of the sun.

Expansive deck and bar

Central to the camp is an expansive deck and thatched living area with a bar, dining tables and comfy couches. This is where you eat, drink and socialize, and meet twice a day before going out into the park on early morning and late afternoon game drives.

Itâ??s also a prime place to view the birds and animals that make their way to the nearby waterhole to drink.

Big Five and numerous birds and reptiles

Thornybush, itself, is home to 48 mammal species, including the Big Five; as well as about 230 bird species and 54 reptile species. There are 13 commercial lodges and camps in the park. Tangala is the only one that isnâ??t fenced, and undoubtedly the venue that offers the most authentic African safari experience in the area.

There are no fences between the individual farms, and the whole park currently incorporates 15 200 hectares of bushveld, that allows animals to move freely.

Life here is simple â?? and if youâ??re as lucky as I was in terms of game viewing, simply superb.

Highlights of my stay at Tangala

There were many special moments in the few days I spent at Tangala Private Camp; these are just a few of the best:

  • My first half hour in the reserve on a hot summerâ??s day in November. Itâ??s only a 7-km drive from the gate to the camp, but I saw zebra, buffalo and white rhino soaking in a water hole together, curious giraffes, antelope and warthogs.

  • The heart-stopping, riveting moment when a male lion visited the camp in the early hours of the morning. Itâ??s a gut-wrenching sound that I first heard while camping in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park many years ago, and one that is unforgettably primordial.

  • Watching a huge herd of buffalo drinking at the deck waterhole early one morning; and then move away as if in perfect unison.

  • Seeing a female cheetah lazily watch us after sheâ??d devoured her kill.

  • Tracking a young, inexperienced male leopard and then watching him try to make supper out of warthogs nearly his size. That evening the warthogs got away.

  • Following buffalo as they chased a small pride of lions, bellowing aggressively behind them; then watching the lions keep watch from their place of safety.