While Cape Town was great, the best part of our trip was safari. Booking a lodge was a bit more difficult than booking a hotel. There are lots of options in different parks and private game reserves, and most are quite remote. I made a list of lodges in the various parks from Trip Advisor and other travel blogs, and then gathered pricing and availability on each one. It’s a highly manual process since most lodges don’t have an online booking tool. The pricing and amenities for safaris can vary a lot, from glorified tents with self-guided game drives to all-inclusive luxury lodges.
We stayed at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve in Sabi Sands. It’s a Virgin property with about 10 rooms in total. It’s pricey, but the level of service was exceptional. Our room was cleaned twice a day, there was fresh milk stocked in our mini bar for coffee/tea, and each night, the chef came out before dinner to verbally deliver the menu for our multi-course meal. I loved the intimate atmosphere of the lodge, and we would absolutely stay there again.
We had safari drives from 5:30-8:30/9 each morning and again from 4:30-7:30/8 in the afternoon. Breakfast and dinner immediately followed each game drive, and they were quite casual. Guests normally went straight to dinner after the drive. In the middle of the day, we would nap, swim, read, and relax. Lunch was served from 1-3, and we had tea and snacks prior to the afternoon drive. Our lodge was located in the bush, so we would see elephants, monkeys, and impalas throughout the day.
All guests have the same ranger and tracker for their entire stay, and my understanding is that they try to pair up guests based on trip timing and duration. Keith and I were alone for the first two game drives, and were then joined by two British couples. Our ranger Calvin drove the land rover, and our tracker John sat on the front of the vehicle. John has been a tracker for 25 years. His father was also a tracker, and he would ride his bike through the park when he was 10 years old to visit his dad. Needless to say, he’s quite experienced. He spotted a chameleon on a tree in complete darkness when we were driving back one night!
We were also joined by Shawn, a junior ranger who just finished 8 months of field research on elephants in Botswana. Calvin and Shawn were so knowledgeable about the animals, and their passion was infectious. We saw lions (male and females), lots of elephants, buffalo, rhinos, leopards, zebra, giraffe, baboons, monkeys, hippos, impala, kudo, and lots of other antelope I don’t remember, birds, bugs, and snakes. The park is very conservation focused. Rhino poaching is a big problem in the area, and several times a year, the rangers have to take a polygraph test to confirm they’re not involved in poaching.
The other night, Keith and I were talking about future trips, and I was trying to convince him that we should go on another safari in the next year or so. I just loved it so much. The photos below are my attempt to capture some of the beauty we saw.