Mix in four camps in Botswana, four lodges in private game reserves near Kruger, throw in three different hotels in Johannesburg, a journey on Rovos Rail and the Indaba travel show in Durban and you have a whirlwind adventure through Southern Africa.
I flew on Delta via Atlanta. If you can’t fly business then seat 31G is best – Economy Comfort. I got to Atlanta early and stopped at One Flew South – great sushi and Thai restaurant in Ter minal E. 14.5 hours later (we had a tail wind) I was back in Johannesburg. My first night was at Fairlawns in one of the villas. The room is huge and the breakfast spread the next morning was abundant and fresh.
Back to the airport and onward to Mau n, Botswana. My first camp was Abu Camp. Abu is pure luxury in terms of food, service and accommodation. It would have been a great place to finish, but for me I was just the beginning.
The focus at Abu is on the amazing group of elephants. You can walk along side on your walking safari or ride. I choose to walk.
You can touch and feel these magnificent creatures. Cathy is the matriarch, then Sherini and the new little Warona – He is a ball of energy, ready to romp and play just like a 2 year old – trouble is he weighs over 200lbs and doesn’t know it.
Mombo was the next stop and its legendary game viewing did not disappoint. I saw the famous lone wi ld dog that had teamed up with a jackal, and the lioness with a full male’ s mane. Hyena and leopard were next on the list as well as elephant and buffalo, and it was only on e hour into the afternoon game drive.
Kings Pool – stop number 3. I really liked Kings Pool. The main area was huge will lots of places to tuck away and relax. But relaxing was not on the agenda. I drove to the new Duma Tau site and it is going to be stunning. All of the rooms look out onto the deep lagoon. I did get one game drive in and managed to find two leopard and a lioness moving her cubs – one in her mouth and the other tagging along behind.
Selinda was the final stop for Botswana. General game viewing was a little quite – but hard to judge with only one day. Wild dog are top on my list and they had just denned so the guides new exactly where to fin d them. Thanks to Liz and John for making the experience at Selinda so special. I was glad to see you can still grab a piece of toast off the fire in the morning. The wine tasting event after the night drive was great fun as well.
Back to Johannesburg and this time a night at The Residence. This is a real gem of a property in the Houghton area..
My first Kruger reserve camp was Tanda Tula. Tanda Tula is a small cozy camp in the Timbavati a short 1 hour transfer from Hoedspruit airport. Lions, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and giraffe it’s all there. Tanda Tula is tented accommodation which is not common in the Kruger area.
I then flew to MalaMala. The landscape of MalaMala is so diverse from open plains in the northeast corner to woodland further south and bush country that is perfect for leopard. MalaMala I s the largest game reserve and in two game drives I experienced the big 5. The best was wa rthog piglets trying to out run a leopard – they won. I was spoiled with a private guide. Matt was amazing, friendly and knowledgeable and excited to show you everything MalaMala has to offer. I spotted great Rhino at Tanda Tula and MalaMala.
A short road transfer and I arrived at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. If you want total privacy and luxury Ivory Lodge fits the bill. On arrival we had to wait for an elephant to finish his lunch by the pathway before I could get to my room. The room is a real retreat . I took a couple of hours to myself, ordered lunch, which was delivered via a hatch in the living room wall cupboard.
The food was so good – Impala kabobs and curried shrimp. Time for an afternoon game drive – again with the leopard! Next up lion and few elephant sprinkle in a few kudu and you have a great afternoon drive.
Last up was Elephant Plains, a lodge that is priced at a more budget level . The treat here was leopard and wild dog!
I returned to Johannesburg and onto Pretoria for an overnight at 131 Herbert Baker, one of the best hotel experiences I have had. The final leg of my journey was an overnight trip on the luxury Rovos Rail from Pretoria to Durban. The day began with champagne and snacks at the Pretoria station. We were shown to our rooms, which were small but hey it’s a train! The food was outstanding and wine selection even better.
It was very interesting seeing the landscape of South Africa change from urban Johannesburg, to beautiful farm land finishing up with the rolling hills of Durban. It is a little tricky shaving while the train is moving – but it was great fun getting dressed up for dinner. The staff was so accommodating and friendly and Rohan Voss the owner of Rovos Rail joined our journey!