Mala Mala Rattray’s

Mala Mala Rattray’s

This small family owned luxury lodge in the heart of South Africa’s prime game viewing private reserve set a standard of excellence other properties should strive for. At Rattray’s the total was greater than the sum of the parts. In addition to elegant, comfortable, new and spacious suites, top notch facilities, remarkable Big Five game viewing and excellent service Rattray’s also offered modern conveniences. Service was personalized and attentive, head and shoulders above the norm.

Camp Okavango – The Okavango Delta, Botswana

Camp Okavango – The Okavango Delta, Botswana

Our first impression of Camp Okavango was colored by the positive comments we had heard from fellow travelers before arriving there. Whenever we mentioned to someone we were headed to Camp Okavango their faces would light up in a smile. They would tell us how much they had enjoyed their stay and send their regards to Rob and Tammy, the Camp managers. We arrived at Camp Okavango following one of the bumpiest bush plane flights we’ve ever had, hot and nauseous not to mention shaky. Rob’s quiet and concerned welcome was priceless. Our introduction to the Camp was beneath the huge mangoosteen tree that was the heart of the one square kilometer island based Camp. Under its shade we enjoyed pleasant moments of contemplation, conversation and excellent bird watching. Thanks to a water feature at the base of the tree many birds congregated and nested there.

Chichele Presidential Lodge

Chichele Presidential Lodge

The common areas at the Chichele Presidential Lodge were beautifully appointed, combining European flair with classic African design. They were open, airy spaces overlooking the African bush that undulates over rolling hills finally giving way to a river in the distance. Chichele is located on a hilltop above the Luangwa river bottoms, which are teaming with wildlife. Evening meals were exceptional, served out under the stars on a patio situated near the swimming pool. The patio provided a quiet, private, and intimate setting. We especially enjoyed the candle light dinner for two with a dedicated waiter who served our table only. On our second night, the evening meal was an excellent Bra i (barbeque) served at a banquet style table. The service was attentive, helpful and gracious.

Xigera Camp

Xigera Camp

Problems with the landing strip at the camp we planned to visit caused a change in our travel program and a last minute change of camp to Xigera, pronounced kee-jeh-rah. From the beginning, one of the things that appealed to us at Xigera was the guest diversity. We were the sole Americans among a group of Europeans and Aussies. Our fellow guests there, more even than at other camps, seemed especially eager to chat with everyone else and learn about them and their game viewing experiences. We quickly struck up conversation with several couples and found we especially enjoyed the meal times and social moments at the Camp.

Sussi Lodge – Livingstone, Zambia

Sussi Lodge – Livingstone, Zambia

The wide range of activities available at this lodge set it apart from many other camps. While at Sussi, we experienced game drives in the Mosi-oi-Tunya National Park, a trip to the world famous Livingstone Falls, and riverboat rides at sunset where we viewed wildlife from the river. The sunsets on the upper Zambezi River were some of the most stunning we have ever seen. Because Sussi Lodge was within the Mosi-oi-Tunya National Park there was an abundance of wildlife that came into the camp area, and the wildlife viewing from the common areas overlooking the upper Zambezi River was outstanding

Kings Pool Camp, The Linyati/Savuti Channel

Kings Pool Camp, The Linyati/Savuti Channel

Although every trip and every lodge and camp we have visited in the past had qualities that distinguished it among its peers, some stand out for their sheer excellence. Our stay at Kings Pool, named for a Scandinavian monarch who visited the area before the camp was built, was one of the most rewarding overall visits to a game viewing tented camp in two dozen experiences to date. Fronting an oxbow of the Linyati River, Kings Pool had a rare combination of a superb location, extraordinary game viewing possibilities, a well designed, spacious and comfortable room, superior “home cooked” food and an outstanding, experienced and knowledgeable guide.

Savute Safari Lodge – Botswana

Savute Safari Lodge – Botswana

One of our fondest memories of Savute Safari Lodge was bathing with elephants – well almost. A bachelor herd frolicked in the waterhole immediately in front of our room while I showered. Thanks to the glass windows and sliding glass door I could see the waterhole and the elephants from the shower. They went on drinking and spraying themselves with water long into the afternoon allowing Gary to observe them while he took his shower a little while later. We continued watching them delightedly from the living area of our room for several hours.

Puku Ridge Tented Camp

Puku Ridge Tented Camp

Located within the borders of South Luangwa National Park, Puku Ridge Tented Camp had a traditional safari feel with modern comforts and amenities. Each tent was built on a concrete slab for a sturdy yet sophisticatedly rustic feel. The décor was simple and romantic, highlighting a beautiful sunken bathtub. The camp was situated on a ridge overlooking the African veldt (a field), which had abundant wildlife and beautiful sunrises in the mornings. Because the camp was inside park borders, animals wandered through as they pleased.

Kwetsani Camp

Kwetsani Camp

It required a day of travel and three flights, the last one on a small bush plane, from Cape Town to reach Kwetsani Camp. We left the comfort of our waterfront hotel at 7 a.m and reached our new honeymoon suite at Kwetsani at 7 p.m. Although we were tired and hungry, we were also thrilled from a close viewing with a female leopard on our way from the airstrip to the Camp. Kwetsani could house up to 10 guests on its one kilometre site which was raised on stilts beneath a shady canopy overlooking the plains. It was one of several properties on the Jao Reserve, a 15-year 60,000 hectare concession with maximum guest occupancy of 48. The large elongated island was heavily wooded with palm mangosteen and fig trees and was one of the most remote camps in the expansive Okavango Delta. That night we enjoyed a fireside buffet dinner on the sandy boma enclosure. Prior to dinner, we watched with pleasure as local staff members sang and danced around the roaring fire with enthusiasm and laughter.

Eagles Crag at Shamwari Game Reserve

Eagles Crag at Shamwari Game Reserve

After two days of traveling from the U.S. to South Africa via Europe we arrived in Port Elizabeth jet lagged and exhausted. Viktor, a Shamwari representative, awaited us just outside the arrivals area and drove us through verdant and rolling hills to Eagles Crag at the 20,000 hectare Shamwari Game Reserve. An hour later found us at the entrance to elegant Eagles Crag, named for the crowned and booted eagles that made the area their home, and one of six properties on the Shamwari Game Reserve. The Reserve, named for the word friendship in Shona, was the first project to repopulate land in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa with animals that, over time, had been exterminated by man. When we visited, the Reserve had an abundance of healthy animals and the largest concentration of black and white rhino in private hands in the world. When we arrived, lodge managers Tania and Ryan Plakanouris welcomed us and helped us settle in to our spacious suite with a view of the crowned eagle’s nest.

Tahuayo Lodge

Tahuayo Lodge

One of the most extraordinary things about the Tahuayo Lodge was that this welcoming enclave of comfort should exist at all in the midst of the untamed wilderness of the Western Amazon. Perched high on a bank of the Tahuayo River, the lodge was a sprawling, thatched-roofed complex of large huts linked together by covered bridge-like walkways. Entirely built on stilts, it was distinguishable only by its size and layout from the tidy indigenous villages down river.

Thornybush Game Reserve

Thornybush Game Reserve

One of the oldest game lodges in South Africa , Thornybush was also one of our favorite for game viewing and a pleasure to visit. As in other lodges, we started our game viewing drives around dawn. Though it was difficult to leave the comfort of our spacious African design suites, with private plunge pools, in the cold of early morning winter, our drives were rewarding.

The Rhino Walking Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

The Rhino Walking Safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Imagine waking to the sound of a young wounded water buffalo being hunted by a pack of hungry lions as it searches for the safety of the herd. Now imagine walking out into the bush to see how the drama ended; standing fifty yards from a pack of lionesses tearing apart a carcass when they pick up your scent and scramble. Though we were warned that it is rare for visitors to have close encounters with animals during bush walks, lady luck was with us that day. We followed our able and patient guides to the kill shortly after breakfast our first morning at the only wilderness concession inside Kruger National Park and a big five area, Plains Camp at Rhino Walking Safaris.

Lebala – Kwando Safaris

Lebala – Kwando Safaris

We felt far away at Lebala , named for open spaces in the Setwana language. With a maximum of 16 guests and 19 staff members in a 232,000-hectare gaming concession, we felt near Africa and well settled for game viewing. Our camp, as most game viewing camps in Botswana , was set in the open, without fences or impediments so wild animals could walk by anytime. During our stay, the staff made sure all our housing, meals and laundry needs were cared for so we could focus on the purpose of our trip – viewing the wonderful wild animals.

Chobe Safari Lodge

Chobe Safari Lodge

We were amazed by the quality of the game viewing near the Chobe Safari Lodge. During our first private river boat ride we saw three of the big five, including a teenage leopard on the bank of the river. Our patient, knowledgeable and able private hire driver/guide Flores led us to one impressive viewing after another, including a sitting buffalo less than 20 feet from our boat; an elephant family with young; a large hippo pod of 20 or more adults and pups; two spectacular African eagles; a 70 year old crocodile and more.

Singita Lebombo Lodge

Singita Lebombo Lodge

Named for the neighboring Mozambique Lebombo Mountains , this remote and architecturally distinctively Singita property was perched on a hill overlooking a stunning gorge near the confluence of two rivers. We found it ideal for a tranquil, sophisticated, service oriented get away with game viewing options. We appreciated the wilderness area’s game viewing possibilities, including the famous Big Five, and Singita’s emphasis on aesthetically pleasing surroundings, comfort and relaxation. The magnificent vistas, from the main building and our room, and the excellent service were among our favorite features.

Kwara Camp – Kwando Safaris, Botswana

Kwara Camp – Kwando Safaris, Botswana

Set in a remote concession adjacent to the Okavango Delta, Kwara offered all the creature comforts and wonderful game viewing opportunities. Its reputation for leopard sightings was reinforced during out stay. We were able to see lots of game and birds during our drives and river boat ride. We found the camp well run and inviting in spite of the wilderness setting. The staff were welcoming, the food good and the game viewing excellent.

Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve – Bushman Lodge

Kagga Kamma Private Game Reserve – Bushman Lodge

Kagga Kamma, located in an arid area, was named for the waters that were plentiful at one time. It is the only game lodge in South Africa with four star graded luxury caves, was a great place to get away. We appreciated the lodge’s comfort orientation; cave design rooms, and efficient service staff. Without phone, fax cellular phone, or Internet access, we focused on the quiet and stark beauty of our surroundings.

The Outpost

The Outpost

The Outpost is one of those magic places you long to go return to, especially on a stressful day. We remember the exceptional room and its breathtaking view. The 270-degree vista and the room itself were unlike any other we had ever experienced. While we were there, some of the guests remarked on the understated and elegant decor of the lodge, and the eager and welcoming attitude of the staff, the future owners of The Outpost. Perched on our hill top room, we could see to the north, south and east for miles. The open design of the room which featured a roof and walls on only two sides was delightful. We saw two nearby rivers, large animals and the main features of the landscape with the naked eye. At night, we felt the cold breeze and heard the wonderful animal sounds surrounding us.

John Chase Safari Luxury Mobile Tented Camps

John Chase Safari Luxury Mobile Tented Camps

An outdoor enthusiast’s dream, our luxury mobile camp experience in the Nxai Pan National Reserve of Botswana was intimate, safe, clean and comfy. Communing with the outdoors and nature, especially in an area with no other accommodation options, was a pleasure. Accustomed to fussy Americans, our experienced, colorful and knowledgeable hosts John and Tina and their team were welcoming and tended to our every need. The tents (with bathrooms en suite) were in excellent condition with great attention to detail, and modern though maintaining an African feel.

Deception Valley Lodge

Deception Valley Lodge

We found Deception Valley Lodge, the only photographic safari lodge in the Central Khalahari Region, graceful, charming and fun. A specialized boutique property situated on a former cattle ranch, the Lodge afforded us the opportunity to enjoy small group outings; and share time and experiences with guests and staff in a convivial environment. There was a quiet and unspoiled beauty in the area which we will miss.

Garonga Safari Camp

Garonga Safari Camp

Our stay in Garonga, a 2,500 hectare stylistic holistic haven in the bush, was soothing. After weeks in remote game viewing areas of Southern Africa , delayed flights, a long drive from Johannesburg in a manual 4 x 4 along unfamiliar roads, we arrived in Garonga a bit stressed. Used to focusing our energy on dawn and sunset game drives, it took some effort to refocus and appreciate the main attraction at Garonga, our aesthetically oriented surroundings and the leisure services available.

De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre

De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre

After four weeks of game viewing in Southern Africa , we still found De Wildt amazing. Seeing cheetahs, king cheetahs, wild dogs, Egyptian vultures or honey badgers in the wild is rare. During our safari trip we were very fortunate to see cheetahs two or three times. We treasured each brief viewing. Visiting De Wildt was like going through a working laboratory, where the staff were the animal caretakers looking after these precious creatures from birth until their reintroduction into the wild or delivery to a zoo. At De Wildt we had a chance to see the wild dogs interacting in a pack, eating and playing; we saw cheetahs and king cheetahs up close next to their fence; we also went inside the caged area where they ran loose, fed and prepared to mate.