African Safari Co. & Expeditions spent the last month exploring South Africa’s camps, lodges and hotels as well as meeting with our Africa travel partners and enjoying some beach time with our Director of Chaos!
We arrived into the Cape Town airport by our jovial driver and headed directly to the Queen Victoria Hotel at the V&A Waterfront. After settling into our spacious and lovely room, we ordered a room service dinner and were not disappointed! We were up early the next morning to get in an early breakfast, where we were greeted by an incredibly friendly staff, and then on to meet our transfer. Though we only had one night to spend here before heading out on safari, we highly recommend this luxury hotel!
From Cape Town, we had a 3 hour drive through some beautiful scenery and interesting little towns to Sanbona Gondwana Lodge. The reserve was beautiful with lovely accommodation and great food. This area was originally farm land and is currently in the status of reintroducing wildlife. The conservation efforts were clearly at the forefront of this safari experience and we can’t wait to see the progress in the future! After two nights here, we headed back to Cape Town and on to one of our favorite hotels, The Oyster Box, on the shores of the Indian Ocean for some beach time.
The Oyster Box is an incredibly beautiful hotel with spanning decks that overlook the waters and towering lighthouse. Just below the deck is a large swimming pool, bustling with guest soaking up the sun and kids playing. However, if low key is more your speed, as it is ours, there a quite pool surrounded by palms with a dedicated server tucked at the far end of the hotel by the spa. One of our favorite parts of the Oyster Box is the resident cat who clearly runs the show. She can be found lounging out front, refusing to move for anyone, best just to go around, or perched on her pillow thrown on the couch in reception.
After two nights, we loaded our bags into the vehicle and introduced ourselves to our driver, whom we would continue to have throughout the trip and can easily say was one of the most considerate and engaging people we have ever met, we headed to Phinda Vlei Lodge. While we try not to have favorites, this is certainly one of them! Not only is the main lodge area immaculately decorated while staying perfectly luxurious and the rooms leaving nothing to be desired with private plunge pools and full privacy, but the food is fantastic and only made better by the incredible chef Happiness, whose name could not be more on point. The guides are experienced with a wealth of knowledge and the reserve rich with wildlife, breathtaking scenery and incredible sand forests. It goes without saying that this is one of our top picks for custom client safaris.
Next up was Manyoni Private Reserve, where we had the rare opportunity to participate in a rhino dehorning. While this is a controversial issue in conversation, it has unfortunately become necessary due to poaching and after following it from start to finish we can say that it has been perfected by an incredible anti-poaching unit and extremely experienced vet and did not impact the animal. Game drives here were lovely and the wildlife in abundance. We had some especially nice elephant sightings, even having to move out of the way quickly at one point when a herd decided that we were in their road! This reserve has a brand new luxury camp, Rhino Sands, with just four enormous tents and is wonderfully hosted by owners Dale & Shannon Airton.
Next, it was back to Durban for a few nights at the Zimbali Hotel and epic celebration of the 10 year anniversary of one of our longest standing Africa partner, and friends, New Frontiers. There dancing, dinning and drinks. The night was filled with good times, great people and a true love and respect for this amazing company and it’s incredible owner. We also had a lovely breakfast before heading off again……. at least until it was rudely interrupted by some very cheeky monkeys!
Wrapping up our safari portion, we bid the bush a sad farewell and headed to Cape Town for the We Are Africa conference to meet with camps, lodges and our Africa based partners. The We Are Africa event is a combination of trade show, conference and family reunion – for Julia, it’s an intense three days of 72 meetings, countless smiles and hugs from friends from all over the world and a deep dive into what’s new with our favorite camps and an introduction to recently launched experiences. What’s extra exciting this year? The Congo Conservation Company has expanded their adventure options into the Central African Republic, Bryce & Nicola at Kambaku River Sands launched a beach getaway, Nicky & Kate at Angama Mara are bringing farm-to-table out in the Mara through a Shamba maze and one of our most loved camps, Kanana, got a face lift.
We would now like to take the opportunity to share with you the new definition of how to hold a dinner meeting according to our Director of Chaos.