Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

Exploring Africa’s Wild Wonders

Holidaying like a Safari Guru is more than just a holiday—it’s an exhilarating journey through some of Africa’s most stunning landscapes and vibrant ecosystems. Our recent extended trip had two main goals: connecting with our cherished clients from the USA, who have become great friends over the years, and evaluating new safari camps to ensure we offer only the best to our guests. 

Along the way, we immersed ourselves in conservation work, helping local teams in Botswana with their community education and species protection efforts. We sipped some of the Cape’s finest wines and soaked ourselves to the core in the rainbow of the world’s most expansive waterfalls.

Here’s a Glimpse into our Unforgettable “Holidaying Like a Safari Guru” Journey

FIRST DESTINATION: VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE

Our adventure began at the breathtaking Victoria Falls, a natural wonder that can be viewed from both Zimbabwe and Zambia. For the most comprehensive experience, we recommend purchasing a KAZA visa on arrival, allowing access to both sides. While the Zambian side offers unique features like the Devil’s Pool, two-thirds of the falls lie in Zimbabwe, providing stunning views from various points within the Victoria Falls National Park.

Our first stop was the serene Mpala Jena Camp, nestled along the Zambezi River, roughly 30 minutes upstream from the small town of Victoria Falls and the falls themselves – a wonderful immersion in the wilds of Africa from the bright city lights that still clouded our vision. Shooting the rapids and dodging the abundant hippo, our ice-cold gin and tonics offered the perfect refresher along the way. Arriving by boat, we were greeted with tranquillity and a breathtaking setting. The perfectly located Mpala Jena treated us to plenty of exciting wildlife sightings, including buffalo, elephants and even lions, which are less common in the area, and not to forget the odd nobbly-backed crocodile making an appearance in the river below. The personalised service and beautiful surroundings made for a perfect start to our journey.

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

Next, we experienced the luxurious Victoria Falls River Lodge, offering well-appointed suites and a relaxing plunge pool. Having succumbed to a little jetlag, the lodge’s location along the Zambezi River provided a peaceful retreat for a few waterside siestas, interrupted only by the sounds of hippos, passing boats, and a little distraction from the helicopter tours above. But we were still firmly in a wilderness destination, and the perfect reminder was a less-than-graceful hippo venturing past our suite.

To explore the cultural side of Victoria Falls, we stayed at the historic Grand Old Lady of the Falls, the Victoria Falls Hotel. Recently refurbished, this Edwardian-style five-star hotel offered walking access to the falls and the vibrant town, a bustling centre for day traders crossing over from Zambia to buy and sell whatever commodity is cheap on the day. The hotel has a private pathway to the rightly famous Victoria Falls, but be sure to keep a lookout for elephants that frequent the back streets, especially in the late afternoons and early evenings – this is a town unlike any other.

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru Tip: Choose accommodation based on your preference for either the lively village atmosphere or the serene African savannah. For those seeking peace and quiet, lodges like Mpala Jena or Matetsi Victoria Falls are ideal. The beauty of staying in a bush lodge outside the falls means you experience the area while still in a safari setting.   You still have access to the falls and the tourist areas of the small town, which is not only renowned for its arts and crafts but also offers adventure activities, like bungee jumping, white water rafting, a brewery, gin distillery and a few great cafes.  Note, if you don’t wish to hear the constant beating of choppers above, choosing a lodge a little further from town, such as Mpala Jena or Matetsi Victoria Falls is worthwhile.

EXPLORING BOTSWANA’S WILDERNESS

From Victoria Falls, we journeyed to Botswana, where we met Safari Guru travellers and dear friends Rick and Barbs at the newly opened Mokete Camp in the remote Mababe Depression. Mokete Camp offers a raw, off-the-beaten-path safari experience between the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park.   In true Safari Guru fashion, our little reunion was also to celebrate being the first-ever guests to stay in this magnificent new safari destination.

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

This remote corner of Botswana only offers access by helicopter for tourists, and the arrival at midday with teaming herds of elephants below was nothing short of amazing.  While the Mababe depression is known for large herds of game and the excitement of witnessing thrilling predator-prey interactions, it must be said that everything, including the skurrying mongoose of the area, is a little startled at the sight of a safari vehicle.  This makes for quite a change from the species seen in the Okavango and other popular regions of Botswana – and one that will change over time as the inhabitants of the area get more used to people and vehicles.  

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru Tip: For photographers, Mokete would be quite challenging, but for wildlife enthusiasts, it makes for a hugely rewarding and exciting safari experience to see the mega herds of plains game and diverse wildlife congregating around the Mababe Depression’s water points.

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

The design of Mokete is quite unique and unlike any other.  A very light footprint, cleverly designed to allow free movement of cooler air throughout.  The camp is 100% solar and offers a plunge pool at each tented suite, including a modest-sized lap pool in the main area.  It is a very well-thought-out safari property indeed.

After an exciting few days at Mokete, we headed to North Island Okavango, another new camp since the COVID break.  As if travelling with Rick and Barbs wasn’t rewarding enough, North Island was a luxury and indulgence overload, right down to having our personal elephant greeting us in our well-thought-out suite. North Island is surrounded by shimmering lagoons and lush woodlands and offers a secluded luxurious island retreat right in the heart of one of Africa’s most iconic ecosystems, the Okavango Delta.

holidaying like a safari guru deon de villiers north island

North Island Okavango is part of Natural Selections, an exciting safari operator opening up a number of new safari destinations across southern Africa.  Like many operators, their goal is to create incredibly diverse safari circuits, including the desert landscapes of Namibia and the wild coastline of the Cape, known for its congregation of whales in the calving months.

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

Having said our goodbyes to Rick and Barbs, we headed to Duba Plains Camp, soon to become our safari highlight.   One of Botswana’s only Relais & Chateaux accredited properties and listed as one of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the world, Duba Plains did not disappoint.  Not only were we treated like royalty, but Duba also offered a wildlife extravaganza.  Our superb safari Guide, Mot’s, put on quite a show with animals around every corner, seemingly ‘arranging’ the best sunset the Okavango could ever have displayed and rustling up an award-winning gin and tonic under the watchful eye of a leopard – now that’s talented!

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

Duba is renowned for its big cat hunting interaction, but over and above lions and buffalo, Duba Plains prides itself on offering some of Botswana’s best safari highlights on the private Duba Island. It’s a feast for the eyes and, without a doubt, matched by the service and attention of its personnel, with a special shoutout to Baby.  When it comes to executive chefs, one could anticipate plentiful unconventional extraversion and eccentricity, but this one took the cake. In her manner and own words, Baby is an outside-the-box thinker, aiming to deliver parties in your mouth—she loves nothing more than blending the ‘unblendable’ to create her masterpieces. A talent she crafts exceptionally well!

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru
Holidaying Like a Safari Guru

Duba is definitely any wildlife photographer’s dream destination, with uncluttered vistas and tons of wildlife interaction. We were treated to big cats every day, with spectacular light shows, as only the Botswana sky can offer.

Our last stop in Botswana was one of Safari Guru’s very popular safari destinations, Splash Camp, an option that doesn’t hurt the bank account too much. Splash is in the Kwara concession, which was once a hunting area. It is incredible to see animals rebound and thrive after years of persecution, and supporting this area offers positive outcomes and helps support the community that once relied on the lucrative hunting trade.

Splash takes you back to traditional safari style with communal dinners and friendly evening campfire chats.

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru
CAPE TOWN AND BEYOND

With so many of our Southern Africa itineraries, including a stay in the Cape, we ventured off to the Mother City to play tourists in a city I once called home.  Table Mountain, penguins, Camps Bay, V& A Waterfront, Kalk Bay, and the list of things to do in the Cape goes on. Cape Town offers so much, and Kensington Place, our first stop, provides exceptional first-class hospitality, style and comfort.  From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, we felt at home – to the point that we considered extending and forgoing our next destination.

While we did hire a vehicle to get to some outlying areas, we found that Uber offered fantastically cost-effective services around the city. Tip: opt for Uber Black, as the vehicles and drivers offer more comfort and professionalism. We also recommend booking your favourite Cape Town restaurants well in advance, as their popularity means they book out many months in advance. See Safaris Guru’s restaurant guide and link to the Dineplan Booking App.

Lekkerwater Beach Lodge was next on the list, and what a fantastic addition to any safari itinerary. Accommodation that allows a bird-eye view over the Indian Ocean.  A noteworthy mention was definitely our guide, Tim,  whose passion for the ocean and the Cape made for hours of fascinating conversation.   For those wishing for a bush and beach combination safari holiday, Lekkerwater is definitely the one for you. Communal dinners, oceanside walks and fireplace chats, and the good old cliche comes to mind, “arrive as guests, leave as friends”…

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru
holidaying like a Safari Guru
THE PERFECT ENDING: THE WINE VALLEY OF FRANSCHHOEK

When holidaying like a Safari Guru, there’s always an emphasis on the picturesque wine valley of Franschhoek.  It’s almost tradition at this point!   To me, Franschhoek offers the perfect ending to any holiday – now we’re talking bush, beach and wine combination safari 😎.  Franschhoek offers some of Southern Africa’s best wines and has some of the region’s top restaurants, from fine dining to tranquil bistro-style garden settings.

Monument House was our first stop, and it would absolutely blow our hair back in terms of luxury and opulence. Monument’s guest facilities and personalised amenities beckoned us to stay put and enjoy.   And just that, we did!

ChanteClair, my home away from home, was our final stop of this extended journey, and the familiar faces and Kassie, the lodge dog, made for a very enjoyable last few days.   Located only within walking distance of Franschhoek, this fantastic little guest house offers formidable vineyard-style accommodation and hospitality.   

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru Tip: Have days to spare and wish to add a few nights to your safari without breaking the bank? ChanteClair is the perfect destination, and either The Studio or the Vine Suite offers standalone facilities with indoor fireplaces and kitchenettes. What more could you wish for?

Holidaying Like a Safari Guru Special Offer

If you’re inspired to embark on your own safari adventure, take advantage of our special promotion: book a safari with us and enjoy a three-night stay at ChanteClair free of charge from July to September 2024 (terms and conditions apply).

Holidaying like a Safari Guru means embracing the wild, supporting conservation, and indulging in the finest luxuries Africa has to offer. Ready to start your own adventure? Let Safari Guru guide you to the heart of Africa’s wild wonders.

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