My visit to South Africa this year was to visit some new camps and lodges I haven't seen before. I also attended the Africa Tourism conference INDABA in Durban.
Tintswalo Waterfall, Johannesburg, is about a 30 minute drive from the International Airport and a great property for unwinding from the long flight. It is located within a gated community which centers on the hotel and its equestrian center. When I arrived I felt like I was arriving at a gated Country Club. The building represents a large barn and the rooms are on each side of a long & wide hallway which resembles horse stalls. Each room is named after a breed of horse and my room was named ""Morgan,"" which is an American breed and in turn, my room was decorated in red, white & blue. The rooms are large with great views of the hills and the community, gorgeous bath and wonderful linens. The cuisine was excellent.
Krueger Park - This is the first time I have actually driven through Krueger Park. I like to compare the park to our National Parks such as Yellowstone. We have our wildlife and they have theirs. It reinforced what I have always felt: if you are going to travel all that way and spend the money to visit South Africa, don't stay in Krueger Park. Though it is a lovely drive and you do get to see a fair amount of wildlife, you can't leave the paved road and get up close and personal unless the animals happen to be by the side of the road.
Lukimbi Private Game Reserve is a private concession located in Krueger Park. They market this property as a 5-star property and it is ""maybe"" a 4. The accommodations are roomy bungalows nicely appointed but in need some sprucing up and new linens. The service was good most of the time, and they have an excellent guide, Alfred. He has accomplished a lot in his life and I admire what he has done. People traveling together are seated together at meals, unlike some lodges that have everyone sitting together. The food was dull and didn't have much flavor, which is unusual in Africa.
In regards to wildlife viewing I have never seen so much rhino in one day! I think my first day in the concession we saw 50 to 60 separate Rhino – it was amazing. And in addition we saw all other wildlife common to the park.
Sabi Sands is my favorite game reserve in South Africa! I have visited other reserves and parks in South Africa and I keep coming back here for the wildlife viewing, the guides and properties. You can't get much better than Sabi Sands. Especially if you love cats like leopards!
Within Sabi Sands is the 5-star Savanna Private Game Lodge. I have been hearing a lot of great comments and was looking forward to my visit, as this is one of our preferred properties. The lodge met my expectations and more! I fell in love with this lodge. Everything was 5-star from the accommodations to the linens to the cuisine to the staff. It was truly one of the best experiences I have had in South Africa and I can't wait to recommend it to my clients and go back for a return visit. What I liked about the property is I felt like I was at a good friend's home. From the dining staff to the guides they all make you feel at home and relaxed.
Afterwards I was able to visit another favorite lodge, Leopard Hills. After my prior stay here I felt the bungalows needed a bit ""sprucing-up"" and they have done it. The bungalows are gorgeous with a new paint job, curtains & linens plus they updated the baths. They have also expanded the dining area & bar and have added new rooms for the spa. The cuisine is still wonderful and they have some of the best guides in the Sabi Sands. And there is a good reason they call it Leopard Hills– they always have leopards nearby, and I was privileged to see one of many leopard mom's and her two new cubs near the lodge.
After leaving Krueger I made my way to the Hazyview & White River area to visit friends. This area is excellent for a before and after Krueger visit because it is located near the Nelspruit International Airport. This area is one of South Africa's agriculture centers where you will see orchards of oranges, bananas, mangos, fields of sugar cane and forests raised for paper. It is a gorgeous area and reminds me of the Bay Area in California. I stayed at Castlebridge Hollow, a nice little property located in a shopping center with great restaurants. Near by are Hippo Hollow and Elephant Whispers if you want an elephant experience. Rooms are great, overlooking a central courtyard with a pool, and breakfast is served at one of the shopping center’s restaurants.
On to Indaba in Durban and I arrived at the brand new airport - King Shaka International. They have a few kinks to work out but a great improvement over the old airport. I wish that Durban had a decent hotel in town. The majority are run down and I stayed at a property that is dreadful, the Tropicana Hotel located in the South Beach. Due to Indaba there wasn't any other hotel available.
After Indaba I was able to obtain a room at the lovely Fairmont Zimbali Lodge outside of Durban. It was wonderful to have beautiful linens and great food. It makes you realize how important it is to stay at the right property. Next door they have opened a new much bigger property, also a Fairmont. I was able to see some of it and it reminded me of a Four Seasons property.
My last stop in South Africa was the Madikwe Game Reserve which is ""Malaria Free"" and located near the Botswana border. I have been hearing great comments about this reserve and I was not disappointed. They have the ""Big Five"" game and also wild dog. I spent three nights at the Madikwe River Lodge. The accommodations were private chalets with a view over the river. I can't say enough about the great staff they have here along with our guide Charles. They do need new vehicles but make up for it by giving you fleece lined ponchos to keep you warm.
Afterwards I was able to visit Madikwe Hills and fell in love with it. Each chalet is built into the hillside for privacy with gorgeous views and plunge pools. They also have a two-bedroom chalet with full kitchen, chef, butler and private game ranger. It is wonderful for a family or couples traveling together. The staff is superb and I can't say enough wonderful things about the food. It was to die for!