• Thornybush River Lodge

The Dagga-Boys of River Lodge

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

“This is it! The perfect spot to build my Crusoe treehouse that I have dreamed about for so long!’’ delighted Trevor Jordan, designer of Thornybush River Lodge and developer of the Thornybush Nature Reserve.

Trevor’s original plan was to build a Robinson Crusoe type treehouse getaway, which he had sighted further downstream of the Timbavati River. However, a herd of elephants had other plans!

Trevor Jordan & Lisa Harris

Construction day arrived. Excitedly, Trevor set off with his building team but to his dismay on arrival at the chosen spot, the magnificent Marula tree that had been specifically chosen to uphold his vision, had been completely decimated by elephants. Undeterred, Trevor set about choosing another spot for the treehouse and walked slap-bang into a pride of lions, fortunately only interested in lazing on a termite mound during the midday heat! This was to become the Room 4 Royal Suite site.

It was around that time, early 2009 that fellow partner, GT Ferreira jettisoned the Crusoe idea in

GT & Anne-Marie Ferreira

favour of a luxury owners’ retreat, and construction of the River Lodge as we know it today commenced. GT’s name is permanently etched in the annals of South African history, being the co-founder in 1977 of one of the largest financial services groups in sub-Saharan Africa - RMB. GT and his wife Mickey live on their Tokara wine estate, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch in the centre of the Cape winelands. Tokara is a combination of their son and daughter‘s names, Tomas and Kara, and their tempting array of wines, which include Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc can be enjoyed at the lodge.

Peter & Jacqui Hobbs with a Thornybush pangolin

Peter Hobbs completes the trio of owners; Peter was born in East London, South Africa and made a successful career in the corporate world in Johannesburg and Cape Town after graduating as a chartered accountant at the University of Witwatersrand. Peter also lives in the Cape with his British born wife, Jacqui. They are both passionate about the bush and take every opportunity possible to spend time at the River Lodge with their extended family, which includes five of their own children, their spouses, and six grandchildren.

The lodge reception area was originally designed around a splendid Marula tree whose sweeping branches shaded the expanse of the alfresco deck, which overlooks the banks of the Timbavati River. Having learnt from the prior elephant/tree debacle, the first task for the construction team was to erect an elephant-proof fence around the lodge grounds to protect the surrounding trees. 2011 saw a devastating fire, however which gutted the original reception building and damaged the Marula tree. Trevor and his partner, Lisa were overnighting on that fateful evening and despite a mighty fire-fighting effort by all the staff until the early hours of the morning, the building was reduced to a pile of ash. The reception area was re-built, and the lodge re-opened a year later but sadly the Marula succumbed 18 months on, after an influx of borer beetles took advantage of its compromised state.

One of the reasons for choosing this site for the lodge is the vast array of wildlife that is attracted by the seasonal pools of the Timbavati River throughout the year. Apart from the thousands of elephants that traverse the river, frequently stopping at the lodge swimming pools to satisfy their thirst, the lodge grounds provide a safe haven for the grumpy old buffalo bulls that have been rejected from their herds. You may have heard your field guide casually refer to these bulls as ‘dagga-boys.’ This is because they are constantly wallowing in mud to cool down and rid themselves of parasites, and as dagga means mud in one of the African languages, the phrase dagga-boy has been universally coined when referring to these senior bovid citizens.

Not long after the River Lodge was opened, and the owners were enjoying some time out, GT noticed a group of dagga-boys wallowing in the waterhole near the deck. Caked in mud, staring accusingly, three wise old dagga-boys lay. He was overheard discussing them with Trevor.

“Do you think that’s what they call us, Jordi, or are we not quite there yet?”

Chuckles from a few staff members could be heard and from that day on the three partners were fondly and respectfully called the three ‘Dagga-Boys’ of River Lodge.

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