Southern Africa is truly a unique and culturally diverse country, with an eclectic mix of wilderness and metropolis, wildlife and nightlife, Old Africa and the New World. My Itinerary began with two days of sightseeing in the water front city of Cape Town, the oldest European settled city on the African continent. From our cable car ascent up Table Mountain we walked along trails with outstanding sea views. Other city sights included Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, the Cape of Good Hope, and a visit to the only colony of penguins in Africa.
Forty miles away are Stellenbosh, Franschhoek, and Paarl, surrounded by vineyards, fruit orchards and mountains, and renowned for their gracious blend of 18th century Cape Dutch, Georgian, and Victorian architecture. There is a lot of exploring the Cape's premier estates to do here, tasting wines and enjoying the hospitality of this very special area.
One thing worth tyring is travelling on the ultra luxurious Blue train. Gourmet cuisine, fine wines, high tea and sumptuous accommodations, combine with romantic ambiance, impeccable service and beautiful scenery, to make this a truly magnificent way to travel from Cape Town to Pretoria.
A quick flight from Johannesburg to Skukuza and then a short drive, and we were finally at our first game reserve. Mala Mala located in the Sabi Sand Reserve is adjacent to Kruger National Park. Within this private reserve, the luxury and tranquility of Africa is ever present. Exceptional game viewing in open Land Rovers, dinner around an open camp fire in a reed enclosed "boma", visits to secluded hides and night dives are all part of the unforgettable experience.
Our next destination, spectacular Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls, Musi Oa Tunya "Smoke that thunders" is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and truly a sight worth seeing. Our lodging for the night was the River Club, situated on the Zambian side of the Zambezi River. The River Club's ten luxury thatched roof bungalows overlook the Zambezi. The rooms are completely open in the back giving the best possible views of the river and creating an Old World romantic atmosphere. Although not a game lodge, the Zambezi National Park is located just across the river. Hippos were regularly sighted, and we woke to their sounds in the early morning.
On to Botswana. Our safari in Botswana explored two contrasting ecosystems. The Linyanti ecosystem is big game country where the majority of the 76,000 plus elephants in Northern Botswana reside, the attraction being the permanent water and mopane forests. Wildlife seen here also includes buffalo, lion, leopard, hippo, impala wild dog and cheetah. The second area we explored was the unique ecosystem of the Okavango Delta. Here, as the sands of the Kalahari meet the Okavango River, the waters spread into a maze of meandering channels, forested islands, papyrus thickets and placid lagoons. This green, wet wilderness teams with animal and bird life. Along with day and night game drives, activities offered in this area are mekoro trips (traditional dugout canoe) along narrow canals and guided hikes.
All our safaris were off the beaten path because this unspoiled wilderness has more acres of wildlife reserves than roads to get through them. That is why you are more likely to get transferred by air as you explore this countries vast, best and most pristine wildlife habitat.
In each of our three camps, individual bungalows provided a bedroom under canvas or thatch, with en suite bathrooms in a most traditional safari setting. Built on raised platforms of wood canvas and stone, each camp, Kings Pool, Chitabe and Joa, blended seamlessly into their lush backgrounds. We were made to feel as if we were experiencing an Africa suspended in time, having an authentic bush experience and yet still mad to feel safe and comfortable.
Our host during much of our stay in Southern Africa was Wilderness Safaris. What I found so impressive about this company was not only do they provide a wonderful wilderness experience for their guests, they clearly understand and take the responsibility to help protect the parks, reserves and wilderness areas around them. They also understand the need to empower and uplift the communities around their camps in order that the local people can derive benefits from wildlife-based tourism. To accomplish these ends as a company a portion of each guest's faire is allocated to the " Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust".