This was Cinthia’s first trip to Africa and Kerry was heading ‘home’ after being away for 6 years so when we heard the news about our South Africa safari we were beyond excited to say the least.
We flew out of Ft Lauderdale on Delta Air Lines to Johannesburg, via Atlanta. After a long flight, we were met by a smiling rep and transferred to the Southern Sun OR Tambo Hotel close to the airport. This is a lovely hotel with clean, comfortable rooms and all the amenities you could need. They offer complimentary Wi-Fi, so we were able to contact our families. Breakfast in the morning was fantastic!
We took the complimentary shuttle back to the airport for our South African Express flight to Hoedspruit airport near Kruger. The airport is a really small building with an airstrip. Even though we weren’t in one of the game reserves, with the smell of the flowers and bush around you, you really begin to feel like you’re in Africa.
We were transferred by an air-conditioned van to Ngala Tented Camp to a warm welcome and cool face clothes. We staying in the river view tented rooms and they are stunning! Lunch was served on the verandah overlooking the river bed. Due to the time of year, the river is pretty much dry, which is fortunate for me because I got to sit on my verandah and watch a bull elephant come down the opposite side of the riverbank and make his way to right outside my tent! Luckily he decided to stick around and Cinthia and the rest of the camp got to see him by the main lounge before our evening game drive.
The camp also has free Wi-Fi. The staff call it bush Wi-Fi because the signal is not extremely strong, but it’s functional.
One of the highlights of the stay, besides our rooms and the food, was seeing old George, the resident warthog, standing in the middle of the path the following morning preventing Cinthia and another couple from getting past. After much shouting for George to move, he eventually let them past and we were off on our morning game drive. We had the pleasure of finding a pride of 6 lion out for a late morning walk. What magnificent cats!
After our morning game drive, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and then we were transferred to the airstrip for our 9-seater charter flight to MalaMala Game Reserve. Cinthia and I have never flown on one of these small charter flights, so it was an experience we were a bit hesitant about. We had nothing to worry about! The pilots were great and the take-off and landing were smooth.
We were met by our game ranger, Dave, and transferred to MalaMala Main Camp in time for lunch out on their main verandah overlooking the river. The camp is large and there are beautiful trees and bougainvillea just about everywhere. Our room was lovely and it had his and her bathrooms, which is always a plus when you have 2 ladies sharing a room. All the amenities you would need are there. We had the pleasure of seeing another bull elephant down by the river from our verandah. The camp has free Wi-Fi throughout, but the signal is definitely better by the main lounge.
We had an evening game drive and got to experience off-roading African bush style! Our game ranger was awesome! We got to see a beautiful female leopard and he showed us how to spot chameleons in the bush at night. We even got to hold one!
The morning game drive started out with us seeing up close 2 white rhino still dozing in the bush. We saw impala and kudo by the dozen and some zebra. Then we had the pleasure of seeing a baby rhino with its parents. We drove for quite a while thinking that we weren’t going to see anything else until we came across a couple of buffalo. We stopped and watched for a bit and then took off thinking that was it. Boy – were we wrong! We came round a bend and ended up surrounded by over 100 buffalo! Incredible!!
We were transferred to the airstrip and reluctantly said goodbye to Dave. We had another small charter flight to Satara airstrip in the Kruger National Park. On arrival we were met with a beautiful spread of refreshments and snacks and an air-conditioned van for our transfer to Singita Sweni.
Singita Sweni is a hospitality experience like no other! You immediately feel welcome and nothing is too much for the staff. The rooms are made of glass, metal and wood with the cutest vervet monkeys running around on your roof like they are trying to welcome you home. The rooms have all the modern touches you could think of and of course, free Wi-Fi.
For our evening game drive, we were provided with fluffy, warm ponchos with hoods. It was definitely cold in the evenings and these ponchos were such a treat. Our ranger, Chris and our tracker, Andrew were fantastic! We were also joined by a Swedish-German couple who we got along with from the start. We off roaded into the bush and down into a dry riverbed to see a pregnant lioness with a kudo kill.
The smell was not great, but it was an experience to see and hear. Chris had a sick sense of humor and decided to turn off the lights so were could get the full effect in the pitch blackness. Needless to say, we laughed throughout the game drive and through our incredible, delicious boma dinner.
For the morning game drive, we were given hot water bottles. Yeah!! It was cold. Chris and Andrew took us back to the lioness kill to see if any another predators had shown up, but she was still on her own.
We then said good-bye to our new friends and moved to another vehicle for our transfer back to the lodge and our transfer to the Satara airstrip for our charter flight to Skukuza airport.
We were met by our game ranger and tracker and transferred to Lion Sands Narina Lodge also in Kruger. The lodge is lovely and the rooms large and comfortable. All your amenities are provided and free Wi-Fi, but the signal was definitely better in the main lounge areas.
Lunch was great and was held on the open verandah by the main lounge. We joined a Swiss-French family on the evening game drive and got to see a leopard, a mom and baby white rhino and a bull elephant. The family group of Lion Sands hospitality is excellent.
After breakfast we were collected and transferred to Mpumalanga Airport, approximately a 2 hour drive. The transfer was very scenic and we got to pass through Hazyview. We really liked Mpumalanga Airport. It’s small, but has everything you need. Our visit to the Kruger area covered all three access airports.
We caught the direct flight to Cape Town. On arrival in the afternoon we were met by a Representative and transferred to the Cape Grace Hotel. This hotel is stunning and the location is perfect because it’s a short walk to the V&A Waterfront. The rooms are stunning and we had the most beautiful view of the harbor and Table Mountain.
That evening we took a walk to the waterfront and did some shopping before having an incredible meal at the Harbour House. Lightly breaded calamari and Mozambican prawns – awesome!!!
The following day we started early with a great breakfast in Cape Grace’s Signal Restaurant. It was going to be a busy day for us as we had quite a number of properties we needed to see before arriving at our hotel in Franshhoek.
Our guide, Janice, took us to the top of Signal Hill and the view of Cape Town is spectacular.
Franschhoek in the winelands was our final destination today and it’s only an hour away from Cape Town. At Franschhoek Country House we enjoyed a nice dinner at their restaurant, Monneaux. The staff are wonderful and friendly, they offer complimentary transfer to the little town if you would like to dine at any of their local restaurants or shop.
Our room was beautiful and the beds so comfortable.
The following morning was our last day in South Africa. We decided to have breakfast in Franschhoek’s town and we were told The Pancake House would be open. What an unexpected surprise!! We met the owner, Gideon, an eccentric character.
As we hadn’t been up to Franschhoek Pass, he offered to drive us up after our breakfast. What a way to end our trip!!!
Cinthia and I got to experience the friendliness of the people of South Africa, being on safari in the beautiful African bush and sightseeing in Cape Town and Franschhoek. This was just a taste for Cinthia and she definitely wants to bring her family one day. To me, it was a reminder of why I love and miss South Africa and will hopefully return with my family.
Thanks AAC for a wonderful trip!!