A safari in South Africa is truly a once-in-a-life-time thrill.
Anyone who has been to South Africa and has gone on a safari will tell you it’s quite amazing and one heck of a trip and experience. It’s like none other you will ever experience.
The game drives are truly spectacular, full of anticipation, excitement and fun. There’s typically one in the morning and one at night; sometimes they have them in the afternoon, but animal sightings and viewings are far and few between. Best to go on the morning and evening drives.
Evening Game Drives
The evening game drives may bring a kill. As we all know, most animals hunt at night, so it’s a good chance you’ll see a kill or two. It’s a good idea to be prepared to hear and see a kill. If this is something you don’t want to experience, then it’s probably best not to go. If you do go, it’s truly an awesome experience.
On your evening game drive, you’re bound to see and hear lions hunting for gazelles or impalas. Lions hunt in packs, so you’ll see more than one lion. And, they’ll be right next to your jeep! So close that you could almost reach down and touch them! The first time you get close to one, you think ok, this is close enough, ok, stop, stop, stop! But, nope, the safari guide drives the jeep as close as one foot away. Yeah, quite an awesome experience to say the least.
While on your evening game drive, you’ll also see impalas, grouping together and scattering gracefully together. There’s also the Big 5 to spot – the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. The trackers know where to go to find the animals. It’s not a zoo, the animals run wild. There are no fences in the Serengeti or Botswana; the only fences are in Kruger National Park. But even in Kruger, the landscape is quite expansive, so the animals have quite a lot of land within which to roam.
When you go on Safari, you don’t go out alone; there’s typically two or three other open-air cool 4×4 jeeps that leave together and return together. Each guide has a walkie-talkie. No guns; yep, they do not carry guns, none. But the guides will tell you that the animals aren’t interested in you. Ok, well, let’s hope they’re right!
There are a lot of animals to see and rest assured, you are bound to see them. It’s quite a rush when you see and spot your first animal. It’s hard to imagine seeing animals run wild and free. We’re so used to seeing them in a zoo.
After awhile, your eyes get adjusted and it becomes easier to spot the animals in the bush. Be sure to bring binoculars. The 4×4 Land Rovers are open-air, providing you with a clear view of the landscape and the animals in their natural habitat.
The first time you get into an open 4×4 Land Rover, you think, am I safe? What about the monkeys, will they just drop in for a visit? Can a lion jump in here and attack us? Your blood will certainly be rushing. All valid questions, all part of the experience.
The next best thing to seeing the animals, is the lodges. Some of the most outstanding resorts in the world are in South Africa. They are scattered throughout South Africa, offering different experiences, highlights, and most of all, availability to go on game drives.
Let’s go visit some of the best lodges South Africa has to offer.
#1 | Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is perched on the rim of the world famous Ngorongoro Crater. This amazing Lodge consists of 30 Maasai-inspired suites raised on stilts.
All the suites have a deck overlooking the awe-inspiring crater, a fireplace and a banana-leaf ceiling and grass roof. Crystal chandeliers, Zanzibari wall paneling, velvet bedspreads and Persian carpets are some of the highlights in these suites. There is a blend of antiques and African art to add to the decor. The en-suite bathroom has an incredible Maasai-made chandelier floating above a central stone-covered bath and a shower.
Each suite comes with your own personal butler, who will bring you tea in bed, stoke your fireplace and even draw your bath.
The animals run wild in South Africa, and upon arrival, you will soon notice elephants, giraffes and other animals nearby the Lodge. It’s quite an experience to walk up to your suite and see an elephant in the near distance. Guests are discouraged from walking outside the suite due to the risk of running into a lion, hyena, leopard, elephant or the Big 5. Certainly, the deck attached to the suite offers guests the availability to be outside without having to exit the suite. But, after dark, there’s not much to see; but the skies are so dark that’s it’s an incredible time to enjoy star-gazing.
#2 | Sanctuary Kusini Luxury Camp, Serengeti
Sanctuary Kusini Camp is a secluded safari camp set in a cluster of small hills, or kopjes, on the grassy plains of the Serengeti National Park. The camp blends in with the landscape’s natural contours.
The camp’s rustic safari tents provide an intimate and very authentic safari experience, with dark wooden floors and private verandahs overlooking the Serengeti.
Kusini offers a first-hand experience at viewing the buffalo right outside your front porch. The tent walls are made from thick canvas, a true glamping experience. Each tent is en-suite. In fact, all of the accommodations in South Africa are en-suite because of the high risk of running into wild animals in the evening.
Secluded Kusini is an ideal starting point for a game drive or bush walk with an expert safari guide. The Serengeti plains are rich in rhino, elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard. The landscape is outstanding; the kind you see in movies.
Indeed, it’s an amazing landscape, and with the animals, there’s nothing that compares. It also provides the setting for the spectacular annual wildebeest migration. As far as the eye can see, wildebeest, wildebeest, and more wildebeest! It’s just incredible.
#3 | Sanctuary Chief’s Camp, Botswana
Chief’s Camp is situated on the previous hunting grounds of the Batawana Tribe on Chief’s Island, deep in the Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The camp overlooks the seasonal Piajio Channel. It is located within the Mombo Concession of the Moremi Game Reserve, an area renowned for its abundant wildlife and large variety of bird life.
The camp is comprised of 12 luxury bush pavilions. Each pavilion boasts a spacious seating area and private game viewing deck with a hammock. All pavilions are en-suite and include an indoor and an amazing “must-try” outdoor shower.
The main lodge complex is an amazing structure, filled with African motifs, hardwood floors, and open-air construct. The lodge houses the dining area, bar, curio shop, library and reception area. There is also a treatment room offering a wide range of spa treatments, using Thalgo and Africology products.
The main lodge was built into the existing landscape, under a heavy canopy of mature Jackalberry, Sausage and Rain trees. There is a main deck upper area that offers expansive views over the floodplain to the north, while the lower level of the deck houses the swimming pool.
The elephants and leopards are known to visit the lodge at any time of the day. In fact, a young elephant quite often visits the lodge and provides visitors with quite an upfront and personal experience.
Be forewarned, elephants will use their trunks to sweep your feet, so be sure to keep a safe distance away. They are quite fast and more agile than you think. And, they are quite smart, as we all know. So, enjoy him if he approaches your camp, but respect him and his power as well.
And, as for the leopard, he will sometimes sit on the walkways. It’s quite an amazing thing to see a leopard just lying there; quite stealth-like and regal.
We had a first-hand look at him when we came back from our evening game drive; he was sitting right there in the walkway. Wow. We all couldn’t believe it. How amazing! He’s gorgeous!! All day long we were looking for him, and there he was, sitting right there, right in front of us, at our lodge. We sat there for a while as we all snapped photos of him with our cameras. After a while, he got bored with us and walked away. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
#4 | Toka Leya Camp, Zambia
Situated overlooking the mighty Zambezi River, Tokay Leya Camp, consists of spacious safari style tents with en-suite facilities. The interior design of the tents features cool wooden flooring, tasteful, uncluttered African décor in earthy hues and climate-control for a cool summer sanctuary.
The tents also feature expansive wooden decks from which to soak up the views of the Zambezi River, often to the sights and sounds of birds, elephant and grunting pods of hippo.
The hippos are quite a site. They are huge animals and can hold their breath under water for up to five minutes. They are avid swimmers and are faster than people realize. Hippos are the number one cause of death in South Africa. So, if you come upon a hippo, be sure to have your running shoes on, or be ready to outrun your mate! Kidding, but seriously, hippos are very dangerous.
The eastern side and main area of camp is under a shady canopy of Jackalberry, Knobthorn and Waterberry trees. The western side is in a more open setting with an ancient baobab tree as one focal point along with the panoramic Zambezi vistas.
There are wooden walkways that meander between the units and main areas.
The hyenas are notorious for making a visit to this camp. Visitors are told they won’t harm you. Wow, so much to learn! Monkeys are at the camp too; they are rampant everywhere. Be sure to hold on to your necklaces and handbags as monkeys have been known to snatch a few.
The camp’s dining, lounge and bar areas offer ample space for relaxation and are complemented by an infinity pool. Meals are served on the gorgeous sundeck. There is a pool deck and dining room that also overlooks the Zambezi. The curio shop exhibits a fine selection of local crafts, so be sure not to miss that.
#5 | Lion Sands River Lodge, Kruger, Sabi Sands
Lion Sands River Lodge is set on the banks of the Sabie River, in the Lion Sands Private Game Reserve.
In the Southern section of the Sabie Sand Game Reserve, this area is famous for its spectacular game-viewing. Lion Sands has exclusive access to the Sabie River that teems with local wildlife along its banks.
The 18 luxurious thatched rooms are decorated in elegant purple and cream, cool in the summer yet cozy in the winter, and are linked to all areas by raised wooden walkways. Each air-conditioned room has an en-suite bathroom, an indoor and outdoor shower and a private wooden deck overlooking the river.
The lodge has a sitting room and bar, two swimming pools, a secluded bird hide and private hammocks in which to relax and take in the atmosphere around you.
River Lodge has access to one of the most highly concentrated game-viewing areas in South Africa.