In 2019, we’ll be discovering the wonders of magnificent South Africa and Zambia on this unique small group tour, staying in superb luxury safari lodges from where your game drives each day allow you to discover the “Big Five” and many more wild animals in prolific numbers, in two of the most beautiful game parks in Africa. The tour also includes the stunning Cape region of South Africa, staying on the sea in Cape Town and a luxury hotel in the breathtaking wine region of Franschhoek. Here’s a little rundown on our tour last year, to whet your appetite!
We’ve just come back from one of the best holidays and most incredible experiences of our lives – Africa! It by far and away exceeded my expectations and was, as the kids would say, absolutely awesome (actually, they did say it, because they were there)! I have travelled in Africa before, 30 years ago in Kenya, which was wonderful. I had forgotten after so many years how incredible it is to see wild animals in their natural environment – it’s an experience that makes you never want to leave.
Our first stop: we flew out to Mfuwe, in Zambia, via Lusaka and were met at Mfuwe’s tiny “International airport” by our guide, Jason, who was “ours” for the next three days. It’s really nice the way the lodges do this as you really get to know your guide and it makes it a lot more personal experience.
Both of the lodges we stayed at I would categorise as “Glamping” – the term that seems to be used these days – glamorous camping! At Mfuwe the feel of the whole camp was fabulous, set on a river bed which at this time of year is mostly dry but attracts lots of animals, and our huts were beautiful. Our huts were on the hippo pond – literally RIGHT ON – so we could hear them grunting and snorting all throughout the day and night and often in the mornings they were submerged right by our balcony! They are pretty noisy, I have to say – but it added to the general excitement of being on safari and after waking up a bit the first night, thereafter we slept through what we called their “roll call”!
The food was excellent – it was a set menu at this lodge and we they cater for any special dietary requirements. You eat in a communal area but at individual tables, and after dinner, you must be escorted back to your hut by a guide… because there are so many animals in the vicinity – they literally are all over the grounds at night! Especially hippos – they leave their pond at night to forage! Not to worry, they cannot get into the huts which are very solid buildings – but you can’t wander around at night. Once in your hut, that’s it! (Barring emergencies of course – there are guards on duty all night). Pretty exciting stuff (but we felt totally safe)!
The game drives at this lodge were absolutely exceptional – of the “Big Five” we saw four on the first morning! Mfuwe is set on a river delta and so the game is prolific. We saw everything – giraffes, lions, lion cubs, hippos, elephants (many, many elephants!), leopard, buffalo, hyenas, zebra and numerous species of antelopes. Each day you venture out very early – about 5.30 – and do a morning drive. Each lodge has its own routine as far as meals goes but basically the day is free to relax, have a spa treatment, sleep or whatever takes your fancy, before the afternoon drive. The afternoon drive takes you into the evening and darkness so by the end of the drive, you are spotlighting. Very exciting!
My 20-something children had warned in advance that they probably wouldn’t get up every morning by 5.30 – way out of their comfort zone, they said… and it’s a testament to how exciting the drives were that they did not miss a single one (and amused us greatly after all their talk)! On safari, everyone has FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – because on every drive, you see something exciting and different!
We met one English lady at Mfuwe who had lived in Zambia for 20 years and now returns every year. She said Zambia is the last best kept secret in Africa and the game even better than in Botswana. Also, the local people were just delightful. It is fantastic too how all the lodges greatly support the local communities – very important and makes a huge difference to the region. The people who run the Bushcamp Company, which owns Mfuwe and other more remote camps, have been there for years and are fabulous and generous employers, even paying for a certain amount of their employees’ kids’ schooling. The whole feel of the place was one of being “at home” even after just one day and we absolutely loved it. We almost cried saying goodbye to Jason with big hugs and promises to return!
Back to Johannesburg and a night at the Intercontinental airport hotel before flying to Ulusaba. Flying out to Ulusaba was on a very small aircraft operated by Federal Airlines (no worries – impeccable safety record!) which was such fun as they operate to many different lodges and sometimes operates a “hop” between them – for example, we dropped a couple at one lodge before taking off again and flying literally 5 minutes to ours! It meant we flew low over the landscape which was beautiful and very exciting!
Now, Ulusaba! This was our “Super Glamping”! On our Morocco tour we stayed at Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot – and those of you who have stayed there will testify that it is just heaven – and Ulusaba was too. These resorts, which are known as Virgin Limited Edition, are just exceptional. At Ulusaba you have the choice of staying “up” at Rock Lodge or down on the plain at Safari Lodge. We stayed at Safari and it was stunning, again with animals wandering along the dry river bed right by the lodge. My only little surprise was that our huts, which were very beautiful, were accessed via a rope bridge – NOT easy to walk across but I guess it increased my core strength during the 4 days we were there! Anyone with mobility problems would want to stay on the lodge side of the bridges!
The game drives at Ulusaba were totally different. Katie and I fell in love with our guide, Steve, who looked incredibly like the English actor Idris Elba (!!), and he teamed up with Eric who was our tracker – and an excellent one too! The game is not as prolific as at Mfuwe – so the drives are spent tracking and finding the animals (more like what I had experienced in Kenya years ago) and were in their own way just as interesting and exciting as at Mfuwe. We just had to be more patient! We saw a number of “kills” and numerous leopards, of which there are many in the park. We saw a pride of seventeen lions, amazing! Whereas in Mfuwe the prides were smaller. We saw wild dogs and also rhino which sadly in Zambia have been poached out. We all agreed that we loved both parks equally, and were very happy we had had two quite distinctive experiences in each one.
The food at Ulusaba was gourmet standard and there were choices at each meal. As meals are taken communally on one large table (which was fine, we met some great people!) we requested one special night for just us, and they set us up on the deck of their amazing wine cellar. We dressed up and dined by candlelight, with the bush and the animals right out there in the dark next to us. Just beautiful.
Again, we were really sad to say goodbye to Steve and Eric and in fact everyone at the camp! The service was truly exceptional and the whole experience had been memorable – and I mean life-long memorable! We all agreed this was one of the best holidays we have ever done. Africa gets under your skin… and stays there! I would go back every year if I could.
However it wasn’t over yet – Cape Town was waiting! We flew through Jo’burg again, without stopping this time, and flew into Cape Town as the sun was setting – spectacular! Cape Town is a very beautiful city, set on the ocean and with the stunning Table Mountain and Twelve Apostles as backdrop. We stayed at the Twelve Apostles hotel which is right on the sea (sunset facing!) and was lovely – and right near Camp’s Bay which is a lovely part of Cape Town with lots of cafes and restaurant and galleries.
While in Cape Town we had a great cable car ride up to the beautiful views from Table Mountain – just superb – and the Marina area is full of fabulous restaurants, cafes, galleries, boutiques and and a gourmet food market. There are many amazing restaurants all over Cape Town – there is a seriously incredible foodie culture there!
A huge highlight of our time in South Africa were the wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. As you can see from the pictures, this is exquisitely beautiful countryside. I have never seen such beautiful wine regions anywhere in the world. Flanked by magnificent mountain ranges, this area is a delight to visit and absolutely wonderful to spend a few days at Mont Rochelle, another of Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition hotels. We started with a delicious lunch on the terrace accompanied by their own excellent wine, overlooking the mountains and village of Franschhoek. I can’t even find enough superlatives to describe this hotel! It is HEAVEN! Exceptionally beautiful décor, rooms and grounds including gorgeous pool area, restaurant (superb food), indoor/outdoor bar, spa, croquet lawn, tennis court… Mont Rochelle is such a special place to relax for a few days after the days on safari. In this area we did some beautiful wineries and tastings and Franschhoek is a shopper’s dream with many lovely galleries and boutiques.
We have been lucky enough to have many travel adventures, all over the world. Our African Adventure was the most unforgettable – Africa gets under your skin in a way no other country ever will!
Join us on our “African Adventure” next year – you can see the full tour itinerary & prices at https://frenchbarging.com.au/africanadventure/
And if you would like to book on the tour, or have a further chat to us, please contact us on 1800 606 838 OR email us at email@example.com