Nestled into its natural surroundings on the bend of the Monwana River one finds the spectacular Saseka Tented Camp. We were staying at Thornybush Game Lodge but had organised a quick visit to Saseka for lunch.
It is low and tiered to follow the gradient and the rock façade and railway sleeper walkway camouflage the exquisite experience waiting beyond. The large double doors are open, and we get a glimpse of the bush beyond. The fresh take on lodge décor is quite breath-taking and I can’t contain myself…
The artful creativity of acclaimed luxury lodge designers, Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens is both enchanting and sexy, a blend of yester-year and contemporary design. Sleek modern furniture sits comfortably beside restored ball-and-claw and riempie furniture, reminiscent of what one would find in an old country house.
There are collectables on an old workbench, an old sewing machine table plays host to a baboon skull and jars of thorn tree sprigs and other memorabilia are artfully displayed on other surfaces. A feast for the senses without feeling cluttered.
The main area is light and airy with a broad view over the dry riverbed, and the dappled light filtering through the cleverly designed roof gives the feel of being beneath a canopy of trees.
The colours are muted with pale wood, and tones of green and cream with touches of grey. It’s an indoor-outdoor feel inviting us to linger and enjoy the views.
We are allowed a peek into one of the tented suites, where the romance of yesteryear is perfectly captured with its roll-top bathtub, restored furniture and voluminous pale grey mosquito netting – the luxury bush experience continued with its blend of old and new.
The ceiling is a natural work of art, with local botanicals such as Gloriosa superba (flame lily), Haemanthus magnificus (now known as Scadoxus puniceus – blood lily), and Crinum macowanii (river lily) printed onto the fabric ceiling.
This unique design was created by Grant Woodward and Jess Buys, and working with the National Herbarium in Pretoria, they chose visually striking designs from the pressings of several species found around the Thornybush Reserve to be scanned and compiled into a canvas print.
The achieved effect is spectacular and sets the tone for the luxurious bush experience the tented suite offers. Beyond the interiors is a generous deck, private pool and outdoor shower.
Back in the main area, we have time to chat to Saseka Chef, Patience Nkwane. Her passion for food is obvious from the get-go, as is her love for working in the bush. She tells us that her food journey began with a catering course, and from there it was in-house training and further courses in various aspects of hospitality. Her first safari lodge job was at a brand-new lodge at Madikwe – with heaps more training and the opportunity to be more creative.
She tells us that she has been a part of the Thornybush team for well over eight years now, working first at Waterside and now at Saseka Tented Camp creating a myriad of culinary masterpieces for which she gets rave guest reviews. She loves working with freshly picked produce from the community garden projects and plans her menus around what is available locally and in season.
We chat more about her family life in Rustenburg, and the sound values instilled in her from a young age by her father who was a pastor. Home was always a nurturing space, not just for her family, but for the whole community. A place she still loves returning to when she has time off – to relax, refresh and to cook for her loved ones.
She tells us that she loves helping people, which is evident in the way she encourages her team to be creative in the kitchen and not afraid to express themselves. She loves encouraging the young members of her team to learn and grow, and so upskill themselves – just as she has.
And the future? I ask. “I would love to open a cooking school for the young members of my community, where they can not only learn the many skills required for finding employment in hospitality, but also where I can instill strong values and a conscientious work ethic.” A dream that will surely be realised one day.
But it’s time for lunch – a delectable selection of light dishes are served, from savoury pies and quiches, to light Thai chicken noodles and a variety of salads, with a sublime slice of cheesecake for dessert. All light and fresh and absolutely delicious!
Unfortunately, our brief visit has come to an end, and as much as I would love to linger and enjoy the serenity and the views, it will have to wait for another visit.
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