On Safari with Friends & Family: South Africa and Botswana

“There was never another time like that first time in Africa” – The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Ernest Hemingway, 1936


IMG_6481 2

Safari Life is like no other experience in the world. It is raw, remote, heavenly, luxurious, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring, emotional, terrifying, hopeful, indulgent, carnal, sensual, simplistic, rugged, and moving all in one. On the other hand safari life can leave you simply speechless and for certain it does change you. What you experience deep in the bush stays with you for a life time, and most often brings you back for more.

I have had the marvelous opportunity to go on safari several times in South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania and it was my objective to share this experience with my children before I lost them to the rigors of college, demands of a career or adulthood.

It was with this in mind that three families came together to embark on a Southern Africa journey like no other! With kids ranging in age from 11 to 19, our group of fun loving adults committed to a 2 week trip which included Johannesburg, the Sabi Sands of South Africa, Victoria Falls between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the Okavango Delta of Botswana, with some of us finishing up in Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula.

Our safari adventure started at the spectacular Dulini Game Lodge in the Sabi Sands a  private 160,000 acres concession that shares a 50 kilometer unfenced border with Kruger National Park.

1f9b5f4c-8c5a-47c8-bd3a-abbb31f6d4ff 2

Dulini Game Lodge was absolutely perfect for our group of 3 families as we took over the Lodge and its 6 tented accommodations on an exclusive basis.  The property is gorgeous and the service could not have been kinder, more personalized, nor more enthusiastic!

There was plenty of areas to relax, chill out, take in the views and spot wildlife.


Accommodations are lovely, private and relaxing –


Our private pool and deck –


Loved my hot baths after the evening game drive!


Plenty of space for the kids to roam and explore –


Chilling out in between game drives is one of my favorite aspects of safari life!


Well, actually ANY MEAL in the bush is my absolute favorite part of safari! The freshness, creativity, abundance, and genuine hospitality of the team make each meal an event!


Our first game drive in the Sabi Sands was plentiful indeed. Within 24 hours we had seen the “Big Five” (Leopard, Lion, Elephant, Rhino, and Cape buffalo) and so much more! The Sabi Sands is famous for their abundant and habituated wild life resulting in extraordinary close encounters – especially of the elusive leopard! We also saw cheetahs, baboons, monkeys, rhino, giraffe, wild dog, hyenas, hippos, crocodiles, kudu, nyala, ampalas, springbok, lechwe, the list goes on!

The most incredible thing we witnessed in the Sabi Sands (which even our rangers and trackers were beyond ecstatic about) was a mother leopard with two newborn cubs. While normally incredibly elusive, the mama leopard was trying to relocate her two newborns to a new den in order to evade hyenas and other predators. We watched as she attempted to get her cubs to follow and then signaled to one to stay put when she transported the other by mouth. The scene that unfolded before our eyes was absolutely incredible for all of us! We all wonder if the cubs made it through the night.


Long drives in the bush always include a morning stop for coffee and cookies. Or for the most indulgent breakfast drink Mocha Amurula! (a silky liquor made from the Amarula fruit that makes Baileys seem like watered down chocolate milk in comparison)


Our rangers and trackers truly made our experience exceptional: Thank you Stefan, Colbert, Kaiser and Martin!


The Madrid family –


Bowerman family – we missed Greg on this trip!!


The Grant Family –


Moms and Daughters –


Fathers and sons –


The oldest and the youngest kids of the group –


Our star photographer –


and boom, a Hippo Jaw –


Evening drives include SUNDOWNERS, your favorite cocktail while watching the African sun literally drop out of the sky! No two African sunsets are the same – each night a spectacle.


The entire camp is open air so early mornings and evenings are meant for staying close to the fire place! Winter temps drop to 35 degrees (and go as high as 85 degrees in the heat of the day)


Every excellent camp has a wine cellar to impress!


Our dinner in the BOMA (British Officers Mess Area) was just beautiful with chef cooking lean meats and gorgeous vegetables over the open fire on the Brai (South African Barbecue) and the entire staff singing and dancing for us!  Not a dry eye in the bunch!

Saying good bye is never easy in Africa!  A safari holiday however should have at least two and if you are lucky three different camps in the itinerary so that you experience unique topography, perhaps a combination of a lodge stay and a tented camp, each area is known for different concentration of wild life, and of course each stop means new friends who will truly change your perspective in life!

Charter flights in Africa save a lot of time and miles and are a delightful way to see the countryside below.  Here we are taking off for Botswana.


This crew was all in …..until we got in the air!

I chose to not miss a minute of landscapes below, the topography as we entered into the Okavango Delta in the Kalahari desert was stunning, even with the extreme drought they are suffering.


As we landed at Nxabega situated on the 19,000+ acres private game concession, we could see the andBeyond team coming to collect us from our flight.


Upon landing, safari vehicles whisked us along the deep, sandy desert pathways to the tented camp.


What a heart-felt welcome awaited us at this stunning 10-tent camp, andBeyond Nxabega. Our families took over 6 of the 10 accommodations. We met some other fun and interesting travelers here, including a simply amazing 93 year old woman and world traveler named Helen.


The architecture, design and accommodations are simply stunning and exceptionally comfortable.  Every detail is considered to insure maximum comfort for “campers”!

Botswana is truly a wild and untouched paradise for wildlife and Nxabega did not disappoint! The safari experience in the Moremi Reserve of the Okavango Delta is jarring, untamed and pure!

(Our visit in the delta coincided with  a severe drought, but when water levels are higher, fishing and traditional “mokuru” wooden canoe boating is another option for experiencing the delta)

Who knew collective nouns could be so much fun?

A PRIDE of Lions –


A DAZZLE of zebras –


A PACK of Wild Dogs –


A THUNDER of hippos –


A COALITION of Cheetah (they are actually quite solitaire but we did see a coalition of two one day) –


A LEAP of leopards –


A CAST of characters –


A CONGREGATION of crocodiles –


A MEMORY of elephants –


Notice the ears spread wide – elephant warning – our vehicle was charged several times – being with such knowledgeable rangers who can read the warning signs and react accordingly was spectacular!


A FORKL of Kudu (or Ampala or one of the dozens of species of African antelope – I’ll admit, I have not mastered them)!


A CLAN of hyenas (mama with babies) – they looks so cute but they are bone-crushing scavengers who literally eat anything and all of it!


We also saw a GANG of buffalo, a TROOP of monkeys, a CRASH of rhinos, A VENUE of vultures and the list goes on! How fun is that?

We stopped for coffee at this elephant’s “grave”. Here are the guys next to an elephant tusk to give you perspective. They say elephants never forget and Gee told us that the elephants return here to visit their deceased family member.


Morning coffee breaks and evening sundowners were just such a nice treat offered by our expert rangers and trackers at Nxabega – We were so grateful for the incredibly competent and knowledgeable team of Richard and KB, Gee and Ollie –


Our ranger Gee and tracker Ollie checking for foot prints and clues on our drive –


The cycle of life is real and raw on safari.

We felt compassion for this pack of wild dogs, they played with their puppies and then tucked them safely into their den before heading out to hunt –


Our ranger and tracker team knew that they were off to hunt and pursued carefully as the pack took off in search of dinner –


It was difficult to watch but witnessing a kill on safari is an exhilarating part of the experience. We now felt compassion and fear for this Red Lechwe (one of the many African antelope species). The hard thing about a kill from a pack of dogs, whom are the most successful hunters in Africa, is that they eat their prey alive.  Of course our empathy was now with the lechwe but we knew that the wild dogs needed to eat and feed their young.


The last night on Safari is always emotional. We chose to head back to the camp to enjoy our last sundowners in this beautiful setting!

This is how to do Sundowners!


A beautiful setting for our final night dinner –


Travel is the very best gift you can give children and it is our best bet for helping to make this a more understanding and loving world –


Farewells are the hardest.  People come to Africa for the animals, but leave in love with the people! The people simply steal your heart!

And just as we had arrived, we were gone.

Some say Africa is a “once in a lifetime” trip. I challenge you to go just once! This has been my 4th trip to Africa for safari and I simply cannot wait to return! Next stop will be Uganda and Rwanda for gorilla trekking in 2020! Please let me know how I can help craft your journey to Africa!

“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all of your sorrows and feel as if you have drunk a half bottle of champagne  – bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.

 – Out of Africa, Karen Blixen, 1937

Please check out my blogs on Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Victoria Falls, South Africa, Botswana, the South African Winelands, the Cape Peninsula. (I can also share my personal experiences in the Seychelles and Mauritius which make for incredible post safari relaxation or an idyllic honeymoon). Coming soon Uganda and Rwanda!

Leave a Reply