Just five days before Christmas two bangs, the second louder than the first, heralded the start of a fire which burnt the main building of the luxury Shawu Lodge in the Mpanamana Concession of the Kruger National Park (KNP) to the ground. The fire, believed to be caused by exploding gas bottles, began at about 05h00 and devoured the reception area, the kitchen, the dining area, the wooden deck and the swimming pool area of the lodge before being extinguished.
Shawu's management couple, Carin and Scott Moffatt, reacted swiftly to the bangs and were able to move the six international guests staying at the lodge to safety. Staff members then wet down the thatch of buildings adjacent to the fire to prevent the fire from spreading.
Crocodile Bridge section ranger Neels van Wyk arrived on the scene with his squad and was able to secure the area, cutting away a section of the decking to ensure the fire could not spread further. Damage has been estimated at about R1.2 million.
The lodge had only been in place for a year when the fire occurred, and is expected to be back in business in April. The guests staying in the lodge at the time of the fire were moved to the main lodge in the concession, Hlangani Mountain Lodge. Operations manager for Mpanamana Concession, Lisa Cavanagh, credits the "great reflexes" of the Moffatts for the fact that no one was injured in the blaze and the relatively minimal damage.
She also offered thanks to the KNP's team, saying they were "superb" in their swift arrival and securing of the scene. Cavanagh indicated that the lodge would be rebuilt in the same style, although some minor changes would be made in the direction of the building to allow for the windy conditions in the area.