In August, I was in South Africa with my family to celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary of my grandparents who live in Somerset West, a town to the east of Cape Town. After a busy week spent wine tasting in Franschhoek, whale watching in Hermanus, and eating some truly amazing food at the Vergelegen Estate, I bid farewell to the Gwyther clan and boarded a flight to Hoedspruit to start my trip in the greater Kruger area. As much as I enjoyed my time in the Cape, I was happy in the knowledge that I could now escape the hustle and bustle and return to the bush.
I spent my time in the private game reserves bordering the Kruger National Park. With promises of abundant game-viewing combined with excellent standards of accommodation and hosting on offer, I had high expectations. The variety of accommodation on offer is broad – from sophisticated lodges with manicured lawns, air-conditioning, and private plunge pools to smaller, more intimate bush camps. The area caters for all safari travellers. The game viewing was excellent and I lost count of the times we came across large herds of elephants, all with adorable young. Impressive herds of buffalo, rhino, wild dog, leopard and lion were also present and my knowledge of birds and smaller mammals grew exponentially. I spoke to a couple at one camp who had seen lion, leopard and cheetah all within the first hour of their first game drive.
One of my most memorable experiences was more of an audio safari than a visual one. On the evening I was staying at the gorgeous Tanda Tula Safari Camp, we had had a quiet evening game drive. We stopped and set up for sundowners, and as we did so we started to hear lions roar in the distance. We quickly finished our drinks, packed up and went to find them. We stopped for a minute to listen and the lions started again, closer this time. We continued on but it was starting to get quite dark and visibility wasn’t great. We heard them again; they seemed to be very close through some thick bush that even the spotlight couldn’t penetrate. All of a sudden, with the lions continuing to roar, a large herd of elephants started up, trumpeting and rumbling. The loud battling noises went on for a good five minutes; it was an intense sound, only heightened by the fact that we were in the dark. Our guide let us know that the elephants were warning the lions off, protecting their young. As much as it would have been exciting to see, hearing it whilst surrounded by complete darkness in the bush was exhilarating.
South Africa offers such an incredible range of things to do and see. Cape Town and the surrounding area alone warrants a lengthy stay; Table Mountain, a day trip to Cape Point including the penguins at Boulders Beach, the vibrant Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, glamorous Camps Bay, the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, whale watching and shark cage diving from Hermanus, the winelands, the list is endless. Consequently, a safari in South Africa is often only part of a bigger holiday, but it is a valuable addition. The game-viewing is first class, the accommodation is beyond comfortable and the accessibility is easy. I spent my time in the greater Kruger area which is malarial, but there are a number of non-malarial options in the private game reserves of the Eastern Cape near Port Elizabeth, or Madikwe Game Reserve, north-west of Johannesburg. If you’re looking for a real authentic bush experience in the pristine wilderness, then perhaps South Africa is not the destination for you, but if you want a top quality, truly enjoyable safari that delivers great game viewing, you can’t go far wrong.