A small group of Travel Makers’ regulars flew off to Africa for a good mix of culture and safaris, and what a trip it was!
The first treat was a casual walk around jacaranda-laden Pretoria. What a sight - the blue and dusty reds of the earth in fabulous contrast! Talking of things ‘blue’, we then boarded the Blue Train to Cape Town. It is a truly splendid, self-indulgent experience with the best of everything - especially an excellent introduction to South African wines.
Cape Town was simply wonderful. The food and wine are excellent, and cheap by Australian standards too! The city itself is clean and beautiful, both from below and as part of the magnificent vista from the top of Cable Mountain, which is an excursion not to be missed. The side trip to Stellenbosch was a delight too, both the wine tasting and the picturesque town itself.
A very comfortable Kenya Airways flight to Victoria Falls took us to our first river safari. We saw hippos, elephants and crocodiles all from the comfort of small private vessels. The falls themselves were kind to us – there was enough water coming over the precipice to make the view impressive, but not enough to cloud us with spray. The fabulous walk along the cliff opposite the falls was great, beaten only by the helicopter ‘Flight of the Angels’. It isn’t a cheap activity but is an absolute must!
On to Chobe and our first real safaris, on both land and river. There were elephants by the score, dozens of lions (with cubs), lots of hungry crocs, and so many varieties of birds, all of which were very, very close and so healthy looking.
On to Timbavati in South Africa and to the And Beyond Ngala Lodge. We enjoyed up to ten hours of safari a day, all of which were very well managed with the guides both professional and personable. The commentary was excellent and locating the ‘Big Five’ proved to be great fun with the time invested being rewarded by getting within meters of lions, leopards, buffalos, elephants and rhinos. A nature lover’s and photographer’s paradise.
Without any doubt this is the best tour we have been on. The accommodation, meals, program management and tour guides were all top notch. I could go on for ages about the joys and delights of this tour, but that may spoil the appetite.
For Shelley and I, travelling to Africa was something we dreamed of but really didn't think we'd ever do. It wasn't so much the organisation, as we'd done plenty of travel. It was more the need to work out what was possible, plus safety (given the general instability of the place).
When Phil Dalley mentioned his plans for an Africa tour, we knew that our dream could become reality because there was everything we had hoped for, in just the right package. We met most of our fellow travellers at a dinner beforehand, which was a great idea as it allowed everyone to ask questions and feel comfortable together.
Finally, we were on our way and enjoying perfect sunny weather in Cape Town. This was somewhere that I'd always wanted to visit and the images of Table Mountain, the waterfront and the scenery around the Cape were lovely. Each night we enjoyed a delicious meal and excellent local wines and on the final evening we all played drums and one of us (no names) danced on-stage at the Gold Restaurant!
The journey north on the Blue Train was superb; we were totally spoiled and feasted magnificently! Finally, we were at our first game park - Ngala Lodge – which is a private game reserve with 5-star hospitality.
Getting-up at 5am to see the animal kingdom at first light was very 'early' and surprisingly chilly but so worthwhile. There were lions, elephants, giraffe, impala, leopards, hippos, rhinos - we saw just so much and so close. It is amazing that the animals take so little notice of the vehicles (and people).
After that, journeying on to Victoria Falls was just awesome and unforgettable in its own right – and doing the extra helicopter ride over the falls is an absolute must!
The second game park was Chobe River in Southern Botswana. Here we stayed at Bakwena Lodge, a lovely, friendly riverside lodge outside the game park. Being on the river meant that this was our opportunity to see spectacular herds of elephant, buffalo and antelope, plus large pods of wallowing hippo and a wonderful array of birdlife. We cruised on the river to see the wildlife and took jeep rides through the park – totally unforgettable.
Returning home, we are just so amazed at what we saw and did, and we learned a great deal about the countries we visited: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. Looking at TV/movie images of African wild animals will never be the same as being there!
Our tour had everything we could have hoped for and doing it all with Phil and Jan Dalley was great, not just for their company but also because in that part of the world things don't always go to plan and any 'fixes' happened with a minimum of fuss. This left us to concentrate on enjoying ourselves - which we certainly did!