Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve and the Western Cape
Land Based Adventures
Exploring around my country of birth - South Africa
This past April, my traveling companion Lorraine and I were so excited about our trip back to Africa. We had made plans to attend a friend's wedding in the Cape Winelands as well as to spend time in Cape Town and the Western Cape before heading off into Safari territory--my favorite part of the country, Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve.
On our arrival into the Cape Town International Airport we were met by the high pitched sound of Vuvuzelas bellowing out and a crowd of folks chanting "Go Bafana Bafana Go"! At this point I knew I was home in my beloved South Africa, and our warm welcome was a reminder that the FIFA World Cup Soccer event was less than two months away. Spirits were high, the infrastructure was in great shape and all the safari lodges and city hotels were ready to receive thousands of international visitors.
Although we did not make it through to the finals of the Soccer World Cup, we are all so proud of what South Africa achieved by being the tremendous hosts to the 2010 World Cup Soccer event. Everything went off without a hitch all over South Africa and many visitors enjoyed Victoria Falls, time on safari in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, as well as the beautiful sights around Cape Town including our new world-class, ocean-front soccer stadium!
After the wedding festivities in the Cape Winelands, we drove via Stellenbosch and Franschhoek to Grootbos Nature Reserve. Grootbos is truly luxury in harmony with nature!
We checked into Forest Lodge, which offers breathtaking views out to the Indian Ocean, ancient forest, and a chance to see breaching whales from June to November. Our luxury suite was amazing, and the hikes and botanical nature walks, along the white sandy beaches and scenic cliff tops and even into caves, were fascinating!
We drove along the coast road via Hermanus and Gordon's Bay back to Cape Town and checked into the elegant Table Bay Hotel, located in the Waterfront Complex. We were treated to views of Robben Island and the mighty and magnificent Table Mountain (referred to as "My chunk of rock" by my Mom!). We did a day trip down to Cape Point and photographed the African penguins on Boulders Beach. For many who have seen the penguins in Antarctica, it is a thrill to see the African penguin on the white sandy beaches of Cape Town and in warmer temperatures!
We departed Cape Town the next morning on a two-and-a-half hour flight to the Kruger (KMIA) Airport and were transferred by private vehicle through gorgeous scenery to Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, bordering the world-renowned Kruger National Park. En route, we stopped off to do a site inspection at Kirkman's Kamp.
Kirkman's Kamp is particularly good for leopard viewing and home to a host of wildlife, including the 'Big Five.' Sabi Sand is part of a conservation area that covers over two million hectares (almost five million acres), an area equivalent to the state of New Jersey.
We continued on our site inspection to Sabi Sabi, which includes four lodges on their private reserve including the award-winning Earth Lodge! I just love the Sabi Sabi philosophy, being "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," which stems from over 100 years of safari experience. Lorraine's favorite was Little Bush Camp (Today) with just four rooms--perfect for a family and friends' private safari. Selati (Yesterday camp) has long been my favorite Southern Sabi Sabi property. But, once I saw Bush Lodge for the first time, I was no longer sure--tough call!
We checked into Lion Sands River Lodge late in the afternoon. Often referred to as "the soul of Lion Sands," the lodge is built on the banks of the Sabie River on a site with trees that date back 800 years. This was the first time I had been back to Lion Sands since the refurbishment, and since then, they had enlarged all of their standard accommodations. What a magnificent lodge Lion Sands is for so many reasons: Family-owned and operated, exceptional food and service, outstanding rangers and trackers, and the game viewing is SUPERIOR!
Best of all, we got to see a lion kill! We all know this does not happen on every trip to Africa, and for Lorraine and I this was a highlight. Our ranger and tracker worked as a team and knew right away that something BIG was about to happen in the bushes just three meters from our open safari game drive vehicle! The next thing we knew, we saw two lionesses and one cub dashing across the dirt road after an impala that was doing its best to escape. We drove off road (benefits of a private reserve) to follow all the action. It took a total of 12 minutes from start to finish for the lions to polish off the entire kill. And, all this happened just 10 minutes into our early morning Lion Sands game drive!
We bid farewell to our new friends at Lion Sands and traveled north into the Thornybush Game Reserve and on to Shumbalala Game Lodge. This truly is a magnificent five-star exclusive and private lodge experience with only four Superior Suites and one Presidential Suite. It is a vast, wild place where the lions roam at Shumbalala.
Our last stop was in the Northern Sabi Sand region at Djuma private game reserve. This is a fantastic family safari option, well run and managed, but still has the feel of a home away from home. A great team of staff took care of us, and we even had dinner out on the lawn one evening where we encountered a late-night elephant about 75 meters away from our barbecue feast. We sat on the edge of our seats ready to dash, but the elephant was more than happy to continue munching away on Mopani leaves and was not bothered by us in the slightest. After about an hour, he simply raised his head, flapped his huge ears, and then dashed off into the bush. It was all very exciting and a real bush experience!
Sadly, our safari site inspection had come to an end and it was almost time for us to head home. Lorraine spent time with family in Durban and Johannesburg, and I was able to fly down to Cape Town for a few days to spend time with my family including a night out at the Franschhoek Country House and Villas. Franschhoek is about a 90-minutes drive from Cape Town through magnificent mountain and wine lands scenery. What a treat this was for my Dad and me! We dined at the renowned Monneaux Restaurant, just one kilometer from the main town. This is truly a fantastic base to indulge your tastes for fine wines and world-class cuisine.
South Africa, my home...with its incredible scenery, rich flora and fauna, and amazing cultural diversity leaves little to the imagination. I can only imagine my next trip back will be even more thrilling!