Newsletter No. 9 Vol. 1 July 2001

SOUTH AFRICA, ZIMBABWE, ZAMBIA, BOTSWANA, AND SWAZILAND TRIP

JUNE 29-JULY 21, 2001

The most memorable trip I have ever taken in my life as a travel agent, flight attendant or private person was this one to Africa, summer of 2001.

We flew non-stop from Atlanta to Johannesburg via Capetown on June 30th. After the 100 miles shuttle to Sun City, we finally checked into the Cascades Hotel. The Hotel is encircled by a necklace of tropical gardens threaded with tumbling waterfalls, weirs, lagoons and shaded walks - giving The Cascades it’s name and positioning it as one of the most sought after sophisticated and elegant hotels at Africa’s Kingdom of Pleasure: Sun City. Strikingly beautifully colored birds and fish are at home in The Cascades gardens and lakes that cover the gently sloping hillside. The gardens are laced with footpaths that wind between tens of thousands of exotic and indigenous trees and flowering plants. Unwind as you meander through the aviary or sip a long, cool refresher while you relax next to the sparkling pool, to the accompaniment of tropical birdsong. Kwena Gardens - open daily - is home to over 300 Nile Crocodiles and is located just inside the main entrance of Sun City.

It was fairly cold at night, since this is their winter. Days were nice and warm.

This is an amazing place. Invented mainly as a gambling Mecca, Sun City is going through a slump at this time, since gambling is allowed everywhere in South Africa. The whole city is owned by Sun International Hotels, who runs 4 hotels in the city, which charges a fee to enter. There is a beach resort within the city and an entertainment center with a convention complex.

The first morning we visited the Kwena Gardens and Crocodile Farm. Sun City runs free shuttles and a monorail within the city. We saw many huge crocs and lots of baby crocs too.

In the afternoon, we took the game drive, our first safari in Africa. At 500 square kilometers, Pilanesberg is the third largest game reserve south of the Limpopo River. Since its official opening in 1979, 8000 large animals of over 20 species have been re-introduced, so that today the park accommodates virtually every mammal of southern Africa. As you drive through the granite outcrops imagine the cataclysmic violence that erupted in this volcano that is the Pilanesburg National Park today. This eruption created the area and gave birth to its unique rock formations some twelve million years ago. For the hills of Pilanesburg, a 50,000 hectar game sanctuary lying about 200 km northwest of the Witwatersrand in Bophuthaswana, are actually the crumbling foundations of this ancient volcanic crater - its center now serving as the beautiful setting for a man-made lake known as Mankwe, the ‘place of the leopard’.

The very topography makes the area a feast for the eyes. There are granite koppies, thickly forested ravines, natural lakes, typical northern Transvaal bush-veld - and also rolling grasslands and gently wooded areas more reminiscent of central than southern Africa.
The park can be explored on well-maintained game-viewing roads. Visitors can join a night drive, or an early morning or late afternoon game-viewing drive in an open vehicle. An exciting way of viewing the park and its wildlife is to take an early morning balloon flight. Game drives are conducted by the various lodges and by Pilansberg Safaris (balloon trips over the park are offered).

A huge variety of birds are attracted to the gardens. The thousand of trees, shrubs and flowering plants in the carefully landscaped garden below the Cascades Hotel include tropical palms and cycads. The paths through the dense forest offer glimpses of 12 waterfalls and cascades, which is the central theme of the 14-storey hotel.
Although the animals can be seen at all times throughout the path, plan your game viewing for the cooler hours of early morning and late afternoon. During winter when animals tend to stay close to dwindling water supplies, the viewing is generally better that in the hot summer season.

We were fortunate to see the Chacma baboon, the African elephant, the Gemsbok (oryx), the red hartebeest, hippopotamus, brown hyena, impala, a rare sighting of the elusive leopard, white rhinos, warthog, waterbuck, gnu or wildebeest, and zebra. We also saw several birds such as the bee-eater, the magnificent African fish eagle, crested francolins, Go-away birds, Grey Lourie, red and yellow-billed oxpeckers, Egyptian geese, helmeted guinea fowl, yellow-billed hornbill, red-backed shrike, and, many others I didn’t get their names. We saw 4 of the big 5 on our very first safari, including the leopard. We felt very fortunate. This was a great experience for us.

The hotel was fantastically luxurious and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Sun City. We had a very early shuttle transfer back to Johannesburg airport the next morning for our flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
We were met by Bushtracks, who took us across the border via the Victoria Falls bridge int Zambia.

The magnificent new Sun International resort in Zambia is situated on the banks of the Zambezi River, close to the spectacular Eastern Cataract of the mighty Victoria Falls. The area encompasses approximately 46 hectares and is located in the southeastern corner of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, within the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site.

Our accommodations are fantastic. Even better than Sun City, how can that be? We’re in the back of the falls, which are just a stone throw away. We can hear the thunder. We’re warned not to walk around after dark on the property, since there has been hippo sightings close by at night. The hippos came out of the water at night to feed on the lawn and they can be dangerous. Hippos kill more humans in Africa every year than any other animal, including the Cape buffalo, which is second, and the lion. The native peoples have a great respect/fear of the hippo.

Victoria Falls is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world - hence its almost universal appeal to travelers. The mighty Zambezi flows broad and placid to the brink of a 1700m wide basalt lip before taking a headlong 100 meters plunge into the thunderous, frothy chasm of the gorge below. This is the world's largest sheet of falling water. We walked out the back gate of the hotel and entered the Victoria Falls National Park. It was right there. The might falls. What a sight! WOW!

There is path to follow right on the opposite edge of the falls itself, and we can feel the spray of water coming from across. Some enterprising young boys find the opportunity to rent us a raincoat for a US$. We needed that raincoat, since we get totally drenched. The view is indescribable. This is the first time in my life I have ever seen the rainbow all the way around the circle at the same time.

Once the river has taken its plunge, there is quite a different experience to be had.
For those with the courage, the rapids immediately downstream offer some of the most terrifying white water rafting and river-boarding anywhere in the world - the Colorado pales by comparison. But that is for tomorrow.

This evening we get picked up by Bushtracks again and go back to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe for the cultural dance show and to have dinner at the boma at the Victoria Falls Lodge. It was a bit hurried, since the border closes at 10pm. The dances were very interesting with many different tribes performing. We were treated to Sorghum beer as a welcome drink, not much is needed! The dinner was served at the boma, buffet style. You go up to the cook and choose your meat from a variety of options, such as kudu, warthog, ostrich, etc. I found the warthog to be very sweet and tender, my favorite game meat.

The border is interesting: the people from Zambia come across to shop. In the evening they are still at the border, trying to get back across with loads full of stuff in plastic bags and in wheelbarrows and refusing to pay the toll, so they wait. It’s a mess and very cumbersome. Zimbabwe is having major political problems at the moment and their currency is in fact worthless outside the country.

On the 4th of July we have an all day Zambezi White Water River Rafting trip reserved with Safari Par Excellence. Established as one of southern Africa's leading adventure and safari outfits since 1990 we're lodge owners on the Zambezi River, adventure specialists in Victoria Falls and canoe safari operators on the Lower Zambezi River.

The Zambezi offers outstanding white-water rafting. For those with steely nerves the rapids below the Victoria Falls are among the worlds wildest but safest, due to the deep water, steep canyon walls and lack of midstream rocks. Spectacular scenery, sunshine, warm water and superb rapids combine to make this the most enjoyable one day rafting experience in the world.

Prior to starting your rafting excursion at the activity center you can decide to raft in an "Oar Boat" where your guide does all the work. You just hang on. Our guide was Mezza from Australia. He knew the river well.

Alternatively you choose a "Paddle Boat" option where you are actively part of the boating experience. The day starts with check in at The Waterfront at 7:30 am, a short ride away where rafters receive their safety briefing over a continental breakfast including tea, coffee and juice.

I was not sure that I would actually do this, until it was too late to turn around.

We were driven to our starting point at the rim above rapid nr 10. The walk down was very steep. To make it easier a ladder had been laid down all the way down consisting of sticks and branches. Unfortunately a hippo had tried to use it a week before and fallen down to its death. The natives from the villages we passed going in had taken care of every part of him in a day or so. Nothing was wasted. Our walk down to the river was steep and Jan was lucky to have a helper take her by the hand and lead her down as he walked barefoot next to her. Incredible, she just disappeared, getting ahead of everyone. There was no way I could make it back up that trail. I had to do this. 

Rafting started with rapid number 10, since we could not begin at number 1 due to high water in the river (Paddy's Folly) through to rapid number 25. The top section of the Batoka Gorge (rapids number 1 - 10) features the greatest concentration of grade 4 and 5 rapids anywhere in the world. Rapid number 9 is a walk-a-round, but the water was too high still to do so. We had a fantastic day on the river with lots of sunshine and fun. As soon as we dried out from the spray of the last rapid, we got drenched again from the next. The yellow raft flipped 3 times with its eight inexperienced paddlers. They learned to right the raft pretty quick after awhile.

A light luncheon was served mid- way through the day on the banks of the Zambezi. The afternoon section is gentler in nature except for rapid number 18 (grade 5) called "oblivion".

The walk out of the gorge is steep (750 feet) but navigable and rafters are encouraged to take their time. It was much easier than the walk down. Guides accompany you on this hike. Ice cold soft drinks and beers are served at the top of the gorge before an approximate one-hour drive back to the hotel for a fun dinner (barbeque/spitbraai) at the Waterfront. There is the option of taking a helicopter out of the gorge if you have run out of steam to make the hike.

Please note that if the water level is too high the river is closed for rafting due to safety reasons (usually between April and May).

During "high water" season, only rapids #10 to #25 are run (approximately 20km).

The Zambezi River is renowned for its extremely high volume and steep gradient

 - treat it with respect -

  • "Gnashing Jaws of Death" #10: Class 4: An easy run to practice on…..
    "Overland Truck Eater" # 11: Class 5: A big barrel for about two weeks in the year during the transition between high and low water in mid January and early July. Watch out for the hole, eddy line and whirlpool.  This is the second rapid on the "high water" run.
    "Three Sisters" #12A,B,C: Class 3/4: 12B is the famous Zambezi surfing wave for kayakers - surfs best between August and December with two windows and a massive green shoulder and a big eddy. Rafters prefer the term "three little pigs".
    "The Mother" # 13: Class 4/5: A massive wave train at its best, first 3 waves super fast.
    Rapid # 14: Class 3: Big S-bend in the river. Center chute to be avoided at lower water levels.
    "Washing Machine" # 15: Class 5: Simple wave train but un-runnable in the middle because of a huge crashing hole - go left or right into the eddy.
    "The Terminators I and II" # 16: Class 4: A massive wave train and trough at higher levels, not much when low.
    "Double Trouble" # 17: Class 5: A simple wave train but un-runnable because of 2 large holes - also known as "The Bitch".
    "Oblivion" # 18: Class 5: Three waves make up THE rapid on the Zambezi. The 3rd crashing wave is responsible for more raft flips than any other in the world - only about 1 in 4 attempts succeed! This rapid marks the end of the "low water" one-day run.
    Rapids #19 to #25: Class 2/3: Easy runs at the end of the day. Rapid #25 is the last rapid on the "high water" one-day run.

We were again picked up early the next morning for our 2 hour drive to via Kasane to Mujenche. We crossed the river at Kazungula via the “ferry”, which turned out to be our own little boat.

Situated on the Western side of Chobe National Park, in the Chobe Forrest Reserve, Muchenje is the only lodge in this area and offers unique prolific game experiences, yet just forty minutes from Kasane and two hours by road from Victoria Falls. Muchenje Safari Lodge offers unparalleled Safari experiences. Owner run and managed by Peter and Sandy, attention to details is paramount with nothing being too much trouble at Muchenje.

The lodge accommodates only twenty guests in intimate exclusivity. The ten twin-bedded thatched chalets, all with en-suite facilities, are situated on the escarpment edge all with their own balcony and unique view. Each chalet is exquisitely furnished and great care has been taken to create a true African 'ambience'. The central lodge has a stunning panoramic view of the Caprivi flood plains in Namibia and overlooks its own waterhole frequented by all species of game. Guest dine together on a long railway sleeper dining table, dress is informal. Main lodge features dining area, bar, reception, curio shop, game viewing platform and library. The feature swimming pool is built amongst natural rock formations, taking advantage of the African vista and providing a tranquil setting for guests to relax during the heat of the day. Meals are served table d'bush, wholesome and plentiful, yet well presented. Theme dinners, vegetarian and special meal requests are catered to. Muchenje offers the most diverse Safari activities in the entire Chobe region. Our qualified and experienced professional guides will give you a glimpse into Africa's very soul. 

Game Drives: Probably as comprehensive as you get, taken in open safari vehicles where safety is paramount.

Our guide was Neil, originally from Maun. Imagine the explosive tranquility of hundreds of elephants surrounding you, or the excitement of a lion kill. We will intrude into their world whilst giving the respect they deserve. Neil was very sensitive to the needs of the animals, yet was able to find them and educate us about them. We saw 100’s of elephants bathing and playing in the Chobe River, giraffes, Roan antelope, Chacma baboons, Cape buffalo, bush babies, slender and white tailed mongoose, and scrub hare on the night-drive, hippo, crocodiles, impala, kudu, red lechwe, vervet monkeys, springbok, springhare, warthog, waterbuck, zebra, lions, and a leopard, again. We were the first to see the lions this year in the area, and the leopard sighting was indeed rare.

Bush Walks: Discover the intricacies of the wild that you often just pass by. Our professional guides will share the ancient secrets of tracking, survival techniques and bush craft whilst we wander through the wilderness with the likelihood of big game encounters. The bush walks are done before breakfast.

River Cruises: In addition, we offer game viewing by boat and fishing trips. We spent the whole day on the river. The lodge packed us a scrumptious lunch; tablecloth and all that we enjoyed while watching the young elephants play in the water all around us.

This evening was a night out for dinner. The entire meal was transferred to the bush, where we were served from the open fire under the full moon: A truly memorable experience.

JULY 7 SATURDAY: My 55th birthday and 21st anniversary.

This day, after an early morning bush walk before breakfast, we fly on a private charter, a Cessna 210 into the Okavango Delta to Kanana Camp.

Kanana Camp is set deep in the Delta in an area that is notable for more than the usual big game drives. (Kanana is the Bushman word for Paradise.) The Kanana tract encompasses a necklace of islands on the Xudum River. This idyllic setting makes for exciting game walks - with an armed ranger, of course. Within this private concession lies some of the best areas in the Delta for exploring by mokoro (canoe), an ideal way to sample the varied bird life. Both these activities meet clients' demand for more physical activity on safari.

The traditional camp is built among spectacular shade trees. Eight traditional deluxe tents with hard wood flooring and en-suite facilities sit on raised decking and front onto the floodplains. The public areas are also raised on decking and encircle a massive ancient fig tree, which is the focal point of the public area of the camp. "K & D's objective was to build a small traditional camp with minimal impact on the eco-system and to blend the facilities gently into this serene setting," comments Doug Wright, Ker & Downey Director responsible for the development. On offer from Kanana will be a plunge pool, walking, mokoro rides, fishing, boating and game drives. Kanana has its own airstrip nearby camp. By game viewing on foot and by mokoro, you do not have the noise of the vehicle and therefore will experience the bush in its true form. You will be at one with nature without the intrusion of man. There will be just the sounds of the bush and your footfalls on the earth. The silence will help your ears to pick-up the previously unheard sounds of the bush usually hidden by the mechanical hum of the car. You are on their ground on their terms! Motorboat excursions to the Xo Lagoon is offered when the lagoon is in flood and game viewing in 4 x 4 vehicles is also available.

I FOUND A BOTTLE OF FINE CHAMPAGNE WAITING IN OUR CAMP.

Incredible as it may sound, Kanana seemed even “better” than Muchenje. So far, every experience is a step above the last. How can that continue? We’re now in the middle of nowhere, with all amenities anyone needs. The champagne was consumed in the evening after dinner around the campfire with the hippos providing the concert. We could also hear the lions roar and the hyenas howl in response. The lions were hungry tonight. Would there be a kill?

Drew and Gaby are the hosts here and they are from Australia. James is our guide and a local from Botswana. He is an expert birdwatcher. The extra touch here is the warm water bottle in bed at night. It does get cold here in winter during the night. The wake up call consists of a voice calling out:

“Knock, knock coffee”, which is served on a tray inside the tent.

The hippos were laughing all night long; most likely they tell dirty jokes under the water, then came up to laugh! What a riot! What an incredible experience.

We did the early morning game drives, the afternoon drives, the mokoro canoe rides and the bush walks.

In addition to seeing the Monitor lizard, the Nile crocodile and the mammals, such as the lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, hippo, baboon, vervet monkey, impala, red lechwe, reedbuck, white rhino, and the rare leopard again,

we also saw many birds here: and it’s not even the best time of year for bird watching!

Arrowmarked Babbler,  
Blackcollared Barbet,  
Little and Swallowtailed Bee-eaters,  
Swamp Boubou,  
Blackeyed Bulbul,  
Blackbacked Cisticola,  
Red Cormorant,  
Copperytailed and Senegal Coucals,  
Black Crake,  
Darter,  
Greenspotted Dove,  
Forktailed Drongo,  
Yellowbilled Black Duck,  
Black Egret,  
Redbilled Francolin,  
Pygme and Egyptian Goose,  
Hoopoe,  
Ground and Yellowbilled Hornbill,  
African Jacana,  
Malakite and Pied Kingfishers,  
Grey Lourie,  
Redfaced Mousebird,  
Giant Eagle and Pel’s Fishing Eagle,  
Meyer’s Parrot,  
Plainbacked Pipit,  
Marabou and Saddlebilled Storks,  
Hooded Vulture,  
Bleating Warbler,  
Blue Waxbill,  
Masked and Spottedbacked Weavers,  
and my favorite the Lilacbreasted Roller.

After 2 days here in absolute paradise, we flew back to Maun for our flight to Johannesburg.  
We were met with a shuttle to the Grace Hotel in Rosebank for the night.  

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World "The Grace" is an ideal choice for guests seeking a sophisticated city hotel with the highest levels of service and luxury, as well as that personal charm found only in small establishments. The Grace won the prestigious A.A and S.A.A Accommodation Award for "Best Luxury City Hotel" for 1999, only one year after opening. Set in the heart of stylish Rosebank, a secure leafy suburb, The Grace has easy access to Johannesburg's most prominent businesses and the International airport.

This has got to be the “best” hotel in Johannesburg. It’s beautiful and the service superb. Our dinner at the hotel was outstanding.

It’s time to meet our private driver and guide: Stuart McMillan, a native from South Africa. He fits our personality perfectly. This will be a good trip. We get a minivan to ourselves for a week. He loves to share his views and knowledge about history and politics of South Africa and has a lot to tell us. We leave Johannesburg and Rosebank via Houghton, where we drive by the old and the new homes of Nelson Mandela.

We start out the day in Pretoria, Capital of South Africa. The Vortrecker Monument dominates the skyline. We see Paul Krueger’s home, where he lived from 1883-1902. We stop at Church Square and the Union buildings and gardens.

Then we drive by the Cullinan mine, where the world’s largest diamond was found, through Bronkhorstspruit, Witbank, and Middleburg to Mhluzi, where we visit the Ndbele village and Borchabelle craft center cultural site. Here we see Blesbok and Cape Mt> Zebra along the road, and also several Secretary Birds. This was a German missionary village and we look into the church.

We continue on N4 to Belfast, where we take the R540 to Dullstrom. This is fly-fishing country and big forest growing estates are located here. We see several little duikers running around in the bush.

We spend the night in the most delightfull country house B&B I have ever seen.

WALKERSON’S COUNTRY MANOR  
Waboomkop Farm, off Dullstroom/Lydenburg Rd, Dullstrom,  
PostCode: 1110, Province: Mpumalanga
Tel: +27 1325 40246, Fax: +27 1325 40260   CF-002673BB

The estate is located 12km from Dullstroom on the R540 Lydenburg road, 45km from Belfast, 148km from Nelspruit, 250km from Pretoria and 270km from Johannesburg Located on a trout fishing country estate Walkerson’s is a luxurious lodge of exceptional standard situated on a prestigious estate in the eastern Highlands. The lodge features 18 luxury rooms with king-size beds, en suite bathrooms and open log fires, outstanding conference facilities, a charming small wedding chapel and access to trout waters and fly fishing on the estate. Walkerson’s is a rare experience in pleasurable living. No children under 12. The estate offers trout fishing at a variety of well-stocked trout waters, streams and still lakes. Fly fishing tackle and accessories are available. Special fly tying and instructions can be arranged at short notice. A nominal charge will be made for fish taken. A 9km professionally designed walking trail is located over the estate, with spectacular views, forests, and bubbling streams. Ideal jogging trails alongside lakes and streams are on the estate. Antelope, a fascinating variety birds, and various flower species can be viewed. Two small conference rooms are available, both with all amenities of the highest standard. A charter helicopter service is available to Walkersons Hotel by prior arrangement. A tarred runway for light aircraft and experienced pilots only, adjoins the lodge. Walkerson’s offer accommodations and international cuisine to the highest standards, in breathtaking surroundings.

We get back on the road and head for Lydenburg, a Dutch area of “suffering” from malaria. We turn off onto R37 and pass Sterkspruit National Park, drive the Long Tom Pass and the Devil’s Knuckle to Sabie. This is a very scenic route across the Eastern Drakensberg Mountains. It was originally part of a wagon road. From Sabie we head north on R534 to Graskop, where we take the Panorama Route north. We continue into the Eastern Escarpment, where the Savannah merges with the distant coastal plains of Mozambique to MacMac Falls, 230 feet and MacMac Pools. This area has many beautiful waterfalls. We also stop at Lisbon Falls, 295 feet.

W we drive north to the Blyde River Canyon National Park. Hippo and crocs live here and all 3 types of primates: baboon, vervet and samango monkeys live here. We stop at the three Rondavels resembling 3 cylindrical huts of the Xhosa tribe. The Swadini Resort can be seen below on the Blyde River. We explore Bourke’s Luck and Potholes where the Blyde and Treur rivers meet. Grit and stones carried by the swirling waters have carved potholes here in the shale and quartzite to create a scenic jumble of cliffs, islands, plateaus, and potholes. Early prospectors found lots of gold here.

The Pinnacle is an impressive column of sandstone sedimentary rock appearing to rise sheer from the evergreen foliage below.

We had back to Graskop for pancakes at Stuart’s favorite restaurant. It’s next to a craft village, which was the best part for me. We encountered many craft markets along the road, where the local people sell their wares to travelers. They also sell macadamia and cashew nuts.

We take R533 via Kowyn’s Pass and Hazyview to enter Kruger National Park at the Paul Kruger Gate.

We arrive at Londolozi Tree House Camp in time for tea and the afternoon game drive.

Londolozi Private Game Reserve is an unashamedly exclusive and luxurious safari destination covering 14 000 hectares (34 580 acres) in the heart of the game-rich 56 000 hectare Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Londolozi is a Zulu word meaning "protector of all living things" - an ambitious conservation ethic that Londolozi embraces in its sensitivity to the natural world. This is why the Londolozi Model is the blueprint of CC Africa's founding principles: "Care of the land, care of the wildlife and care of the people".Each of the six air-conditioned luxurious suites has its own cascading plunge pool, outdoor shower and en suite bathroom featuring a huge, inviting tub. The private decks with plunge pools and outdoor shower overlook the lush banks of the Sand River. Capturing the essence of total relaxation are the private salas, found in three of the suites. These intimate covered decks extend into the treetops by a short elevated walkway. The deck floors feature inviting chairs and comfortable footstools. The tree-shaded teak decks and private outdoor showers lead into sumptuous interiors of soft silks and suede lit by carved Zanzibari lamps. The spacious en suite bathrooms have heated cobblestone floors, inlaid with pebbles from the Sand River. Tree Camp takes its name from the ancient Ebony Tree shading the camp. Small and exclusive, Tree Camp is surrounded by large, shady trees and offers wonderful views of the Sand River. The camp has a lounge area with guest library. The main sitting area leads out onto a large wooden deck, raised on stilts and elevated over the river.
There is a large swimming pool set in the camp's garden. Guests are welcome to visit Londolozi Bateleur Camp's curio shop and orientation center. Elegant candlelit dinners are enjoyed in the boma (reeded enclosure). You can savor Pan-African cuisine - food for the soul. Africa’s famous spices - saffron, vanilla, cumin and nutmeg, enhance this mélange of traditional African recipes. At Londolozi Tree Camp, you can indulge in moonlit bush dinners and private bush breakfasts. Dinners are served in a clearing in the bush under a star-studded sky. The incredible effort, the surprise, the spectacular settings, visual impact and fairytale-like atmosphere of dining under the stars are an unforgettable African bush experience.

Activities at Londolozi center around game viewing drives in open vehicles that traverse an area of some 14 000 hectares (34 580 acres) in search of wildlife, including nocturnal species viewed after sunset. This is when we spotted the rarely seen Pangolin. You may request the sole use of a Land Rover for game viewing, (subject to availability.) Armed rangers will lead you on bush walks - the quintessential wilderness experience. The Shangaan are renowned trackers of wildlife - a skill honed to perfection among the many CC Africa trackers and rangers. Shangaan people are in the majority in the southern Lowveld and most of the staff at Londolozi comes from this cultural group.

Londolozi is a prime wildlife haven and has been rated the best game experience in Southern Africa. We were fortunate to see cheetah, spotted hyena, impala, nyala, gnu, steenbok, grey duiker, vervet monkey, dwarf mongoose, greater kudu, giraffe, buffalo, lion and leopard. Lions are the only truly social members of the cat family, and sightings of lion prides are the order of the day at Londolozi.
Hippo favors open water channels and pools. Buffalo and elephant favor reedbeds. Riverine forest along the river is green all year round, and is the haunt of leopard, greater bush baby (galago) and bushbuck. The dainty-hoofed klipspringer and rock dassie (hyrax) are the only larger mammals restricted to rocky outcrops in the Sabi Sand. Chacma baboons use the outcrops as vantage points.
Bird diversity is high, with over 40 species of raptor including Hooded Vulture, Secretary Bird, African Fish Eagle, Bateleur, Brown Snake Eagle, Dark Chanting Goshawk and Giant Eagle Owl. Cuckoos, Rollers, Kingfishers, Hornbills, Shrikes, Starlings and Weavers are well represented. Some common birds along the Sand River are the Paradise Flycatcher, Heuglin's Robin, Collared Sunbird and Green Pigeon.  Pied Kingfisher and African Black Duck favor open water channels and pools. Burchell’s Coucal, Redfaced Cisticola and various Weavers populate Reedbeds. Some common savannah birds are the Green Spotted Dove (formerly called the Emerald Spotted Wood Dove), Woodland Kingfisher, Blue Waxbill, White Helmetshrike, Lizard Buzzard, Yellow-billed Hornbill and Lilac-breasted Roller.
There are 13 lizard species. Interesting reptiles found basking in the area are Bushveld Lizard, Flapnecked Chameleon, Tropical House Gecko and Water Monitor/Leguaan. Nile Crocodile swim through the open channels and pools. Fish such as Sharptooth Catfish, Bowstripe Barb and Mozambique Tilapia also favors open channels and pools.

There are over 20 varieties of frog including Broadbanded Grass Frog, Snoring Puddle Frog, Tremolo Sand Frog and Golden Leaf-folding Frog. Groves of Wild Date Palm grow on the outer fringes of reedbeds. Jackalberry, Tamboti, Brack Thorn, Knob Thorn, Flame Creeper and Sycamore Fig are among the trees that flourish in the forest along the river. The forest is green all year round. Red Bushwillow and Marula dominate the crests and slopes while Knob Thorn, Leadwood, Tamboti and Magic Guarri are abundant on the flats. The distinctive scent of the Potato Bush permeates riverbanks in spring. Arid-adapted plants provide a sparse covering on rocky outcrops, forming a distinct habitat to which certain plants and animals are restricted. Distinctive trees include the Largeleaved Rock Fig, cactus-like Candelabra Tree, purple-stemmed Common Star Chestnut and angular Velvet Corkwood.

The principle habitat of Londolozi is bush savannah and a thin band of evergreen riverine forest along the Sand River. The watercourse of the Sand River is lined by swathes of sand - from which the river derives its name. It is the artery that sustains the region's wildlife. Three other river-associated habitats can be distinguished, each with characteristic species: open water of channels and pools, reedbeds and riverine forest along the river. These forests are green all year round. Rocky outcrops also create a unique habitat for flora and fauna alike.

The Londolozi Model, demonstrating the sustainable multi-use of wildlife, was the blueprint on which the principles of Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa) were founded. The basic principles that guide all CC Africa endeavors are "Care of the land, care of the wildlife and care of the people". Londolozi is in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, adjacent to the world-renowned Kruger National Park, in the heart of the South African Lowveld. The fence between the two reserves that had blocked wildlife movement for thirty years was finally taken down in 1990. The uninhibited movement of buffalo, elephant, zebra, leopard, buffalo, white rhino and other species became a reality. Sabi Sand is now part of a huge conservation area and one of the richest wildlife regions on the continent. The "big five", especially leopard, are relaxed when approached by vehicles, allowing for unsurpassed photographic opportunities. Londolozi has become known for its far-sighted methods of land and wildlife rehabilitation as well as community involvement programs. For example, the intense erosion and bush encroachment evident in the early days was effectively managed, leading to the restoration of the area's historic open grasslands. This in turn encouraged the return of plains game that had largely disappeared. Bush clearing has many spin-off benefits. Londolozi strives to be ecologically sustainable in every aspect of its operation - from tourism activities to project management.

Stuart picks us up early today, but we did have time for the early morning game drive before breakfast. We were so lucky to see the leopard this morning on the north side of the river. We also were treated to a concert given by the hippos. All this happened before 9am this morning.

We have a long day ahead. We drive back out the Paul Kruger Gate and Hazyview south on R538 via Whitriver and Plaston to Karino, where we get on the N4 in the direction to Maputo. This is an area of kloof, meaning rocky, rugged outcrops along the Crocodile River. At Melalane we get on R570 to Jeffe’s Reef and the Swaziland border at Matsomo. The Kingdom of Swaziland got its independence from Britain in 1968, and King Mswati III has ruled for 25 years. At Piggs Peak we stop at the arts and crafts village, of course. We cross the Komati River gorge, via Forbe’s Reef to Motjane. Here we stop at the Ngwenya glass factory and craft village. Mbabane is the capital city; our hotel is close by in Ezulwini.

The Royal Swazi Sun, widely recognized as the flagship of the Kingdom of Swaziland, has won a glowing international reputation over the years, and today it sets a fine example of luxury and service excellence which is appreciated by kings and commoners alike. The hotel is sheltered by the mountain of the Ezulwini Valley, whose slopes are crowded with copses of trees and grey rocky outcrops. There is always the constant hum of the casino and the celebrity bells of the jackpot machines at the Royal Swazi Sun Hotel. There are many memorable places within minutes of Royal Swazi Sun to visit and fascinating craft shops to browse through. A wide variety of animals, birds, trees and flowers can be seen in various national parks and nature reserves. The Mbabane market forms the colorful bustling center of the Capital city, and is a "must" for everyone from photographers to those who want a taste (in more ways than one) of real Swazi life. Swazi beads, traditional cloths and a wide variety of souvenirs can be purchased. The Mantenga Cultural Village, comprising of a homestead of sixteen huts with the traditional artifacts on display, illustrates many faces of the ancient Swazi way of life, socially, economically and religiously.

The first stop today is at the Candle Factory outside Manzini. These are the most interesting and colorful candles I have ever seen in the shape of all the animals and everything else imaginable.

The middleveld here offers perfect growing conditions for sugar cane and tropical fruits.  
We drive passed Big Bend to the border at Lavumisa and Goleta.

We’re back in South Africa.

We drive along the Pongolapoort Dam via Mkuze to Hluhluwe, where we take the sandy/gravel road to Sodwana Bay. But first we stop at the craft village.  
In the heart of Maputaland, close to the pristine Lake Shazibe nestling behind the world's highest natural dunes, a short distance from the sea, Sodwana Bay Lodge has been carefully designed to match the rustic eco-orientated nature of the region. The hotel resort has 21 twin bed lodges, each with its own en-suite shower and toilet.

Sodwana Bay National Park, world renowned as a diving destination, is chosen by more South Africans to qualify as scuba divers than anywhere else. Sodwana Bay Lodge however boasts the only 5-star PADI diving school in the district certified to train and license divers to international instructor level. The school has a fully equipped dive shop, an on site 3 meter dive pool and organizes a comprehensive range of day and night ocean and qualifying dives.

International and local eco-tourists marvel at the distinct ecosystems and prolific animal, bird and plant life to say nothing of the sight of humpback whales as they spout and gambol close to the shoreline en-route to their Southern Ocean feeding grounds.

Sodwana Bay Lodge is located within easy reach of the many other unique attractions of this part of Africa. Explore this "Garden of Eden', go game-viewing just an hour away in the open-air comfort of a customized Dinizulu Safaris vehicle. Delight in the local cultures, or let professional guides unveil the mysteries of our famous turtle beach.

Sodwana', meaning 'little one on its own' in Zulu, could as well mean 'little paradise on its own', as it is a paradise for anyone with an interest in the great outdoors. Sodwana Bay's coral does not form a continuous reef, but is clearly divided into a number of reefs that run parallel to the shore, each one designated by its distance from the launch site at Jesser Point. The fairly unimaginative names, Quarter-Mile, Two-Mile, Five-Mile and Seven-Mile Reefs, belie the beauty of these popular dive sites. The surf launches are a unique and exciting experience. Divers help to push the boat into the shallows, jump in once the engine is started and then hold on tight as the skilled skipper negotiates the waves. Though every reef hosts its own territorial inhabitants, some of which are very predictable, something new and unexpected often happens: perhaps even a visit from a school of dolphins or an encounter with an enormous and gracefully cruising whale shark.

While the guys go diving at reef 7 and 2, Stuart drives Jan and me back to Hluhluwe and onto Bushlands, where we visit the DumaZulu Village for their orientation and dance show. This is a Zulu tribe village, where the Zulu people are willing to educate us about their ways. We also have a chance to show the local basket and craft market.

After a morning dive at reef 5 we start our drive to Durban. At Hluhluwe we get back on the N2 south. We pass the Nyalazi River, Mtubatuba, Richards Bay, Stanger and Shaka's Kraal,

We say goodbye to Stuart when he leaves us at the Zimbali Lodge at Ballito, just north of Durban.

Set in the lush subtropical coastal belt, 42km north of KwaZulu Natal’s capital city, Durban, Zimbali Lodge is Sun International’s first "boutique" hotel; the first project of the newly formed leisure investment company, AfriSun KZN. Zimbali Lodge and Country Club is located in a forest surrounded by a championship 18–hole golf course designed by world renowned Tom Weiskopf. Zimbali, Zulu for “Valley of Flowers”, the estate on which the new lodge is established, is in the heart of a haven of naturally occurring lakes and wetlands.
As a protected environment, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife, from magnificent butterflies, such as the Citrus Swallowtail, to many beautiful species of antelope and bird life. The ocean provides another life system for exploration by nature-lovers, and the lush forests surrounding Zimbali are a birdwatcher’s paradise, with sightings of the rare Narina Trogon a distinct possibility. The superb championship golf course has been designed specifically for use by golf cart and will offer one of the most breathtaking, scenic golf experiences in the world. The lodge is 5-Star hotel plus boutique and “Service Excellence” is the motto.
Local attractions include: Shakaland – a traditional Zulu village, Crocodile Creek, Zulu Battlefields, Shaka’s Rock, Game Reserve, Tugela River Adventures, Indian Market, Flag Farm Animal Farm

This is a beautiful lodge. Jan and Eric get T-time for early morning golf.

Tom and I enjoy walking down to the beach and watching the big waves come in from the Indian Ocean. We see Nyala and Samango monkeys playing in the trees. There is a tree full of Blue Herons.  
The negative pool is stunning both on top at the lodge and below at the beach.

Our shuttle comes at 1400 for the airport and our flight to Capetown.

Cape Town is already one of the top 10 tourist destinations cities in the world. Like most tourist areas, the Cape Town region attracts most of its tourists during "peak" times - between September and March, which is South Africa's summer. But Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, which is temperate for most of the year. Most international tourists wouldn't know the Cape's best secret - Cape Town is frequently at its best in the traditionally low season from April to October! This coincides with our prime safari seasons in Southern Africa. Cape Town does experience winter rain, but it is mostly at night, and daily temperatures are not - certainly by European and North American standards - cold at all. Daily temperatures generally average above 16 degrees Celsius. The Cape is at its greenest, lushest and most beautiful between April and October. Ask any Capetownian and they will tell you that this period is indeed the Cape's best-kept secret.
Cape Metropolitan Tourism recently launched a new campaign - aptly named "The Secret Season". An integral part of the Secret Season Campaign has been the identification and promotion of specific tourism routes, all of which are in easy reach of the center of Cape Town. The Cape has a wealth of history, beauty and culture to boast, and these routes reflect that diversity. The routes that make up the Secret Season Campaign include a Whale Route, a Floral Kingdom Route, an Adventure Route, a Wine, Beer and Cheese Route, a Ghosts Route plus a Shipwreck and Lighthouse Route. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and feel the need to get away from the bustle of your high tourist season, May to September would be an excellent time to visit Cape Town, which at this time of year is quiet, beautiful, temperate and unpolluted.

We check into the Table Bay Hotel for 3 nights.

Set on the historic Waterfront, The Table Bay Hotel has been created as a tribute to this world-famous bay. The hotel sets its own standards in international service, cuisine and luxury. Achieving the status of Leading Hotel of the World, the hotel adheres to the standards of absolute excellence within the parameters of luxurious accommodation and superb hospitality.
The Table Bay Hotel is magnificent, straddling the antique breakwater with a style that is both innovative and entirely in keeping with its surroundings. It is a contemporary architectural treasure, capturing the essence of the enchanting Cape where Victorian elegance combines with contemporary charm. Panoramic views either overlook the bay to Robben Island, prison home of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela for the greatest part of his 27 years of political incarceration, or across the harbor to the majestic Table Mountain with its shifting table-cloth and tumbling clouds.
Catering for the business and leisure traveler the hotel offers Conference facilities for groups of up to 300 and a team of Guest Relations Officers who will advise and assist in planning your leisure activities. The Table Bay Hotel is only 20 minutes by road from Cape Town International Airport and five minutes from the center of the city. Right on the doorstep are the city's prime retail outlets in the Victoria & Alfred Shopping Centre.

The WHITE SHARK DIVE is cancelled due to a winter storm that closed the harbor for 3 days.

White Shark Ecoventures was established in 1992, and offers daily shark diving/sighting tours off Gans- baai. Gansbaai is a mere stone-throw away from the most southern tip of the African continent and is situated 160 km from Cape Town (2 hrs drive).  Approximately 12 km offshore from Gansbaai we find two islands situated next to each other.  The unique channel (6 m deep) between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock has earned international fame and recognition as one of the most successful areas in the world, to view the great white in its natural environment. This area is rich in sea life and has an abundance of other wildlife species such as Cape fur seals, Cape Genets, Cape Cormorants, Jackass Penguins, Whales and Dolphins. The day starts with a door-to-door shuttle service collection in Cape Town
at 06:00.  Upon arrival in Gansbaai, breakfast is served in a restaurant, followed by a briefing on the program for the day.  The boat departs from the harbor at approximately 08:30 to arrive in the channel 30 minutes later. Once the sharks are in the area, divers may enter the two man steel cage from the dive platform (situated on the stern of the boat) and get ready for the action.
Lunch, drinks and snacks are served on board throughout the day, and all diving equipment is supplied. Lady "T" is a luxurious and powerful 26 ft deep-sea cabin cruiser, fully licensed to South African Safety standards.  With a spacious cabin, private toilet and top fly bridge for photography, she provides all the comfort for a full day at sea. Return time to shore is approximately 16:00 and arrival back in Cape Town at 18:00.

Today we’re taking the - CAPE TOWN HIGHLIGHTS TOUR ALL DAY

We travel via Camps Bay, Hout Bay, Boulder’s Beach to see the Jackass Penguins, and Chapman's Peak to the Cape of Good Hope Reserve. We saw Bontebok here and wild ostrich. We also stopped at the Ostrich Farm and gave the Eland a smoke. After enjoying stunning views from the highest point we continue towards Simonstown and Muizenberg. After an optional lunch in Stellenbosch and sightseeing on your own, we will have an introduction to South African wines at a local wine estate, Spier Winery. We drive through the university town of Stellensbosch before returning to the Table Bay Hotel.

Please note: The drive via Chapman's Peak is subject to the road being open, alternatively we will drive via Ou Kaapse Weg. Touring time: Full day Traveling time: 5 hours 30 minutes

The last day we take the HALF DAY CAPETOWN CITY TOUR before leaving for the airport and the all night and all day flights back to Atlanta and Seattle.

This early morning tour takes you directly to the cableway and up the famous Table Mountain or up to Lion’s Head for a stunning view of Table Mountain in the clouds, while your guide explains the varying flora & fauna. You are then taken on a city tour, which includes a visit to the SA Museum, the Malay Quarter at Bo Kaap and the harbor. Walk through the Castle and Greenmarket Square Fleamarket before driving through Sea Point back to your hotel.

Please note: Ticket for the cableway is NOT included due to the fact that the tour is weather permitting. Touring time: Half day Traveling time: 2 hours

 


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