Lions, Cheetahs, Giraffes & PENGUINS!
|Price Point:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Flight/Travel:||(3.5 / 5)|
|Accommodation:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Must Go?:||(5.0 / 5)|
|Average:||(4.5 / 5)|
South Africa Overview:
We visited South Africa during the middle of May for 9 days.
Airline: South African Airways, Economy, 21 hours travel time traveling from the East Coast.
Hoedspruit & Cape Town, South Africa.
Accommodations: Thorny Bush Game Reserve, The River Lodge at Thorny Bush, Nova Constantia, POD at Camps Bay.
Days 1-2: The flight in was tough. 16 straight hours in economy on an airline that doesn’t seem to care about it’s passenger’s comfort. It also wasn’t cheap by any means. But as soon as we looked out our window during our final approach, South Africa was visual perfection. The Wild Collective set up our entire South Africa itinerary to make sure we got to soak up everything SA had to offer in the time we had! Flying into Hoedspruit, we started off at Thorny Bush Game Reserve and that was a perfect way to begin our adventure.
- bring a 300mm+ zoom lens for photos
- exchange money at the airport
- wear earth tone clothing
- make sure to take malaria pills and use the insect repellent supplied by lodges
- tip your ranger & spotter
- bring a SOUTH AFRICAN travel adapter
On the drive in you saw giraffes walking on the side of the fenced, road. It was unbelievable. Our room was impeccable as well. A private villa with a deck that overlooks some of the reserve. We were told that animals were known to come up to it and to make sure our rooms were locked because baboons like to steal things. It was quite funny, although, it wouldn’t be funny if it were to have happened.
The main Thorny Bush Game Reserve lodge has a spa & I highly recommend trying it out. Travis and I both received a hot stone massage after that long flight in and it put us both to sleep. Fantastic! The reserve provides lunch on the deck of the main lodge and it’s a stunning view. We both kept saying, “I cannot believe we are here!” Plus, the staff was so polite and welcoming. That really makes a difference for us.
Up first was our first safari adventure! You get to do 2 a day. One at 3:30pm or 4pm until 6:30pm or 7pm & one at 5:30am or 6am until about 9:30am or 10am. Trust me, you want to go on every game ride! Don’t miss out on this experience. For our first safari, it was just Travis and I. We are in this open truck and just cruising through the reserve that is thousands of acres. We were told most of these animals have never seen a fence in their life. To me, that was really special. We would get to see them in their natural habitat acting as they do in their daily lives. About 15 minutes into our safari, our spotter said he thinks he saw a leopard in a tree. Let me tell you, we were quite far from this tree, all I saw were branches, well we went around and ended up right below the tree & what do you know, A LEOPARD SLEEEPING IN A TREE! Are you kidding me?! We sat there and just watched her be a lazy cat. She was actually a lot smaller than I anticipated. But this was so phenomenal. Our ranger answered every last question we had and looked everywhere for new animals to make our first experience one to really remember. We spotted a rhino, elephants, and tons of impala.
What made this trip the most special is that it was Travis’ birthday. I reached out to Thorny Bush to do something special for him and they over exceeded my expectations. When we returned from our safari they had a private dinner waiting in our room with a menu and hand-picked flowers and candles leading into the bathroom where there was champagne and a bubble bath awaiting us. The private dinner was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. I love my food, and this was some of the best we’ve had! Plus, they had a homemade baked birthday cake for him. This was a really special occasion and they really did everything they could to make it even more special.
Our early morning safari was unforgettable. We got to spend time with an entire pride of lions. How insane?! It took us about 90 minutes to find them. Which is totally normal. You have to remember you’re in their habitat of, what seems like, unlimited space, it’s going to take time to spot them. But when we found them, it was breathtaking. The king of the jungle just walking through the reserve trying to find a nice place to nap. You’ll never experience anything like it!
We transferred to another lodge in the Thorny Bush collection, the River Lodge. First impression was WOW! Our room, which is named Klaserie, is a house basically. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. One of my favorite rooms we’ve had in all of our travels. Although it rained, through most of this day, we were still able to hang out with elephants on our night safari ride, which was really cool because they travel in packs of 10-20!
Days 3-4: We stayed at the River Lodge for a total of 2 nights. What was crazy about this property is that there was a lion which roamed the property. We actually had to be escorted to our room once the sun set as a precaution. The following morning, I was actually woken up by a lion sending out a mating call. I’ll tell you, I’ve been woken up by a lot of things, but that was definitely a first for me. Each safari, we found new animals and it was just mind blowing every-single-day. I wish we spent more time on the reserve. Hanging out with lions, leopards, cheetah, elephants, rhino, zebra, giraffes, it’s like nothing you’ll ever do again in your life. Not to mention, we went on a walking safari. Yes, it’s exactly like what it sounds. Walking in the footprints of a lion, talk about exhilarating. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any lions while walking but there was a crocodile sunbathing, so that was cool! Our ranger and spotter were so awesome, seriously, any questions we had, they answered and you could tell that they loved this experience as much as we did.
Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to our safari adventures & off to Cape Town The flight was about 2.5 hours & we flew South African Airways.
- take UBER to travel, it’s safe!
- Wifi is not the strongest here
- Negotiate with sellers in pop-up tents, USD is often accepted
- Pack a sweater for the cool nights
Nova Constantia was our next stop! Driving through Cape Town was more beautiful than I could’ve imagined and Constantia itself, wow. When we arrived at the 5-star accommodation, we were speechless. We were upgraded upon arrival & that room was beautiful as well as the entire property itself. The staff made sure we had everything we needed and offered recommendations for restaurants and fun things to do in Cape Town.
Day 5-7: If you’re going to Cape Town, I highly recommend DSA Vacations for private tours! Our first tour was of Cape Town in itself. We started at the botanical garden of Kirstenbosch, which is known for it’s award winning flowers. It’s stunning and the views are breathtaking. One of my favorite things is they have a flower for Nelson Mandela there that is bird of paradise, but with gold colors and it’s the only place in the world that has it. Pretty cool! Our next stop was Cape Point which has the Cape of Good Hope, the lighthouses, and it’s where the currents of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet. Plus, photo opportunities here are one of a kind. Beware of monkeys, though! I saw them steal 2 people’s lunch! There’s also traffic, and by traffic, I mean ostriches in the middle of the road. If you do this tour in this sequence, you’ll miss all the tour busses and much of the place feels private just to you and your group.
Our next stop was my favorite and one that I had been dying to do for a very long time…. BOULDER BEACH! This is where the colony of African Penguins lives. Now, do not go to where the boardwalk is and you see the penguins from afar. Go to Foxy Beach. It’s much more private, secluded, and only a handful of people. We ended up climbing some boulders and had the beach all to ourselves with hundreds of penguins. It was so incredible. We spent 2 hours with them. Be careful, if you get too close they will bite you. Just respect them & they’ll do the same.
The evening we went to dinner at Gold Restaurant which I have to say is a MUST! This is a wonderful dinner with the African experience. It’s right in downtown Cape Town & you receive a 14 course meal. Each course is from a different country in Africa. You also get to watch African dance and singing during your meal. Really neat!
The next day was our private tour with DSA Vacations to go wine tasting. Stellenbosch is known for it’s wines and we definitely got to taste a whole lot of them. First was a chocolate and wine pairing at Waterford Wine Estate (recommended for my lady readers!) the next 2 wine tastings were wine & cheese. The places were called Anura Wine Estate & Eikehof. Everything was different and the surroundings looked like a post card. Not to mention, this time of year the weather is stunning; warm with a breeze.
Our final tour with DSA Vacations was shark cage diving. This is an all-day affair, and I have to say, take some sea sickness pills. I promise, even if you’re not prone to it, it will happen. I’ve never been sea sick in my life, but this did it for me. The drive is about 2 hours to Gansbaai, which is known as the great white shark capitol of the world. We did our dive with Marine Dynamics. They offer you a wonderful video before heading to sea which puts your anxiety at ease. What helped me was a fact they offered which is, 4-5 people die a year from shark attacks while 400 people die a year from toasters. This put it in perspective and made this experience exciting. The water is EXTREMELY COLD! I mean, you dunk your head under and feel like you have an ice cream headache, cold. But we got to see a 10 foot, great white shark, female, which was SOOOOOO AWESOME! It was hard to believe we were in the same waters as this shark. She was more curious than anything. They don’t feed the sharks, so once they figure that out, they leave. But, wow!
Day 8-9: Our final accommodation was at POD Camps Bay. Camps Bay is one of the prettiest places in South Africa, and right on the water. POD’s rooms were modern and simple with balconies with the view of Table Mountain on one side and the ocean on the other. We kept it simple for our final day and just enjoyed the views and walked along the beach. There’s tons of shops and restaurants on the strip next to the beach. It seemed like we blinked and it was time to head back to the states. South Africa was by far, our favorite experience. We’re counting down until we go back!
South African slang:
- Robots = traffic lights
- Now now = just now (sarcasm)
- Hooters = car horn
- Takkies = sneakers
- Braai = BBQ
- Bosch = bush