Covid-19 lockdown life at Royal Jozini

So what has lockdown been like at Royal Jozini?

Well first of all, all but most essential staff went home from Royal Jozini and that just left the security and game rangers here – with just 3 of the lodges occupied by their owners – so there were 5 of us, one live-in housekeeper and her two children – and the general manager and his family.

This was, we thought, to be a 3 week break and that it would be better in the bush than in the city. How right that was! But who knew that the borders wouldn’t open again straight away?  I am writing this at week 14 and I am not looking forward to leaving. It was not all plain sailing as the first two weeks had us feeling like refugees and anxious about the future.  But then the gentle rhythms of nature kicked in, the change of seasons began to show as the leaves on the trees changed colour and started to fall, and we settled to a very relaxed life of expansive scenery, drives into the bush to spot game and boat rides on Lake Jozini for fishing.

(The fishing, by the way, has been pathetic, frustrating and just arm exercise in throwing the line and reeling in the lure. It must be right what they say in that you cannot fish in a month without an ‘r’ in it, but even April was a disappointment!)

John and I live in Johannesburg – we have been in our home (several times renovated) since 1975. And we have loved the “go go go” of city life and business – but our hearts have always been in the bush.  So after these weeks locked out of South Africa, our heart place here at Royal Jozini has become our home and I think we shall feel quite discombobulated to return to what seems another life at another time!

It sounds like we have been on holiday, but by the end of April, the people of Eswatini discovered Royal Jozini, and with the government declaring tourism an essential service, I have been working all hours of the day and night with bookings and enquiries – and we been virtually full at every lodge each weekend. And people are booking to come again and again, which is very exciting indeed. (We have Covid-19 protocols in place!)

But each day we have taken a couple of hours, packed drinks, ice and snacks into a cooler, and have set off to have sundowners somewhere on the reserve. It has been soul-feeding. To see a tiny sunbird, or watch in awe as a mighty kudu bull stands and stares at us, with his magnificent horns a meter long; checking every roadway “is this elephant dung fresh?  How fresh?” and then proceed slowly in case a bull might be around the next corner and we have to hightail it in reverse.  And then to watch the sun sinking down in the sky, silhouetting the now bare branches of gnarled and ancient marula trees, or the iconic flat-top acacias, as the dry long grass sways in the breeze.  And there is a sense of ancient, unspoiled wilderness, a place that has always been, never changed.  And we feel a need so strong to protect and preserve so that generations to come will still look upon this with awe and wonder.