South Africa the Splendid! There are not many countries in the world that rival South Africa for all the wonderful things on offer!
The wildlife is mind-blowing, the wines are free flowing and exceptional, the cuisine is sophisticated and varied, the weather is dramatic and can be 4 seasons in a day, the people are generous, kind, remarkable and impressive. I have traveled to East Africa and that indeed was life changing, but nothing prepared me for how I would feel in this gorgeous land!
I travel quite a bit and work to ensure that I advise my clients on the best experience for their holiday travel. This trip took me to some of the very best properties in the country and I am glad to share a bit about what this experience might look like for you.
I will start in a tented camp and a lodge in the Timbavati reserve, take you to an exceptional luxury property in the fenced Thorny Bush reserve, then southward to the luxurious and experiential Singita properties in the Sabi Sands reserve. All fabulous, all very different, and well beyond game watching experiences. Keep in mind that Kruger is a National Park the size of Israel but all along its Western border are unfenced private reserves where game roams and migrates freely. Each is unique in its own way! I would suggest safari goers experience at least two different reserves and stay in different properties. In each, I can assure you that the wildlife experiences that you encounter, will never be like the day before. Each time you say good bye to the staff that befriended you during your stay, you will want to hug each one of them and promise to be back. That is how Africa changes people – the interaction and observation of the complex wild life and the generosity of the people in every way possible. Yes, the food and wine are exceptional, but that is just the bonus!
The Timbavati is a private un-fenced reserve north-west of Kruger National Park. This is a true tented camp run in a way that is family-style with a very welcoming staff and incredible wild life experiences.
Welcome to Tanda Tula – this is Thabo, our happiness-tender
My tented accommodation – it is hot during the day, but fabulous sleeping weather.
Breakfast in the Bush
Lunch at Tanda Tula
There is no “typical day” on safari. Each drive leads to its own surprises – this is nature, not Disney! Off we go.
One never knows what they might encounter on a typical day on safari, actually no day is typical. It might be catching a leopard in a tree sleeping next to the zebra that he caught that morning, catching one of only six packs of wild dogs in the entire Kruger area, watching two lionesses strategize to team up on an impala, observing a herd of elephants make their way towards water….
OUR TRACKER, Given
LEOPARDS – (one with an impala kill)
WILD DOG – not what you think – an incredibly complex pack that run hundreds of miles. They are very rare to catch and rival lions in their predatory success!
LIONESSES patiently strategizing
Arriving to fabulous Singita Boulders in the Sabi Sands
The new design is based on a cave man and natural elements theme and décor. It is minimalistic and modern but still very comfortable.
12 identical villas are exceptionally spacious with large bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms, and indoor living area, however the special spot is the outdoor deck area with shower and a plunge pool sitting area. Some even include a lower deck Jacuzzi.
Besides the most sumptuous accommodations and food and beverage, what you are really paying for is the most incredible staff in the world. We checked in to an army of great looking, polished professionals who were so incredibly friendly and extremely knowledgeable. This is the big league as far as service!
Lunch on the River at Singita
There is an incredible South African wine program at Singita. Guests are encouraged to try whatever appeals to them!
It was really hard to say good bye to Singita Boulders and the illustrious team there…
Note: For the most discerning client, not worried about budget at $1,700 a night per person, this is over the top, exceptionally friendly and personalized service and wow factor. No one will feel uncomfortable here as the staff all introduced themselves with a handshake and smile ready to take care of all needs. I don’t think anyone will questions the bill once they experience the property and the caliber of people taking care of them.
Then, on to Singita Castleton, the private estate ideal for a family or group of friends. Spectacular in every way! Formerly, a private family home located 15 minutes from Singita Boulders. This lovely home is run by Claude, Miranda and their team. An exceptional facility for those seeking leisure activities outside of the game drives.
All 6 villas have a king bed and two are interconnecting. If you push, they will do a roll-away. This is an exclusive buy out and with 3 couples, price point works out to be equivalent to Singita Boulder Lodge but with so many more personalized amenities.
Chef Calum, Savoy trained chef, is extremely flexible and approachable and designs menus daily that will appeal to his guests. Guests are encouraged to join him for cooking or even send the kids in for cooking and bread baking. All meals, snacks, drinks and incredible wine cellar are included.
Home features tennis, fitness center, expansive lawn and lawn games, pool, trampoline, and many dining and entertainment areas allowing for meals to be special each time.
A river runs by home and spectacular game viewing can be had from the property while enjoying drinks, pool, meals. The fantastic and dedicated security team are exceptional with escorting guests to rooms when predators are out, handling luggage, etc.
Being in Africa is always special and we took full advantage while there to see as many of the fabulous properties that we sell. Thanks to our amazing partner, Swain Destinations, we did this is grand style – by helicopter!
First stop, to the Thornybush to see the iconic Royal Malewane!
Thornybush is a fenced reserve and not open to Kruger. That said, the property is one of the most gorgeous classic luxury properties in the region. This is a direct competitor to Singita Boulders, but maybe a better fit for those seeking a more traditional classic colonial English design. Room product, public areas, grounds and service are gorgeous!!
The ideal suite for a family of 4 or two couples traveling together is the Royal Suite:
Standard villas are pretty stunning too!
Fantastic Spa and fitness center to tame the soul between bush drives.
Onward bound to a great 4-star option for those interested in incredible game drives but a more careful budget. We arrived at Tintswalo in the Manyeleti Reserve which is sandwiched between Sabi Sands to the south, Timbavati to the north and open to Kruger on the east.
12 villas, including a 2 bedroom presidential. Each room styled after an African explorer. Long grass brings big herds and thus the predators to the area, so game viewing is spectacular.
Fantastic price point, large rooms with plunge pools. Public areas are ok but not for a guest seeking an over-the-top luxury experience such as Singita or Royal Malewane. Tintswalo is designed more for those seeking a fantastic safari experience in a comfortable, family-run environment. Tintswalo is a good bet!
Lodge Public Areas
Intercontinental OR Tambo Airport
During my two week travels through South Africa, I connected through Johannesburg 3 times. The easiest and very, very nice airport hotel option is the Intercontinental OR Tambo Airport! I highly recommend this for late arriving flights.
- Walk across road from airport.
- Excellent staff and many of them.
- Great restaurant with very good menu and wines.
- Spa on 8th floor with great light, fitness center and very good spa treatments.
- Many interconnecting rooms and suites that work well for families.
If you have some time to get into the city, Sandton is a very exclusive and relaxing area and the place to be is most definitely the Saxon. Plan on at least a 40 minute drive though so this is really only a great idea if you have some time to enjoy the property!
South Africa offers so much but a great way to cap off a trip like this is some time on the water. Please check out my recent visit to Mozambique.
Or, if you like the idea of some time on the river a visit to Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River would be ideal!
EXTREMELY Victoria Falls
From Zimbabwe to Zambia! Victoria Falls is a stunning wonder, best seen by helicopter.
The area is extremely popular for many extreme sports including microlighting, bungee jumping, gorge swimming or simple hiking near the wet and wild falls. Microlighting is basically gliding on a small lawn mower over the mighty Victoria Falls. Can you say adrenaline rush!?!
It is hard to truly wrap your head around the force of nearly 120 million gallons of water roaring every minute over Victoria Falls. That is, unless you take a similar plunge yourself. You can do so by bungee jumping. Or try the gorge swing, where you free-fall 160ft, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph before swooping outward, swinging and soaring through the gorge.
If that is not enough, during the months of August to December, you can swim in Devil’s Pool. This is when waters of the Zambezi river are low enough to reveal a small naturally-formed swimming pool at the top of the falls. Called the Devil’s Pool, this rock-enclosed lagoon allows you to safely float at the edge before the water takes a nearly 340ft swan dive.
Victoria Falls is most beautiful from the Zimbabwe side but if you would love a wonderfully unique place to stay, I would suggest staying on the Zambia side at Royal Chundu. The property is slightly remote from town, but if you arrive to the Livingstone airport, we would arrange a helicopter pick up with tour of Victoria Falls and then arrival at Royal Chundu for your post-safari relaxation riverside.
Get all inclusive package with all meals and 5 activities included. This could easily could be a three night stay. In May, June and July, the locals come by in boats for fishing upstream. Fishing, rafting, falls, canoeing, day trip to Botswana for game viewing is additional. Our pick for guests wanting to relax post-safari with a water experience.
Rooms can be either on the mainland overlooking the river or you can choose from 4 more expansive suites on the private Livingstone Island. Arriving to the island takes 15 minutes from the mainland.
The public space for drinks, meals and relaxing on the island
Sunset cocktails aboard the African Queen in Zambia
On the Zimbabwe side, if you are looking for an elegant grand dame and walking distance to the falls, I would suggest, the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Old world charm surrounds you everywhere. From the gorgeous dining room to the lovely relaxing pool. Check the dress code for restaurant before going to dine. Deluxe rooms either have space or a view. Space is the way to go. Executive Suite are enormous and very well appointed – long, gorgeous classic décor.
Caution: The hotel can be extremely busy especially immediately after the Rovus Rail train arrives. Guests that book in the stable rooms will enjoy added private check in and additional amenities.
The other option in Victoria Falls is the Victoria Falls Safari Club. This is a more casual and natural setting for those that are seeking more relaxation and some wild life sightings from the bar. The new club rooms are very spacious.
I had the great pleasure of boarding the super exclusive Rovos Rail for a peak at a by-gone era of glamour and a slower pace. A guest can make their way for a three-night trip from Pretoria to Victoria Falls or in reverse. Fabulous dining, service and scenery await.