This year, my mum turned 70!! As a gift, I took her on safari - a bucket list item we’ve both been dreaming about since day dot.
I chose South Africa as there were direct flights NYC > Johannesburg and Sydney > Johannesburg.
I couldn’t have done any of this without the assistance of Rose at The Luxury Safari Company. Big shout out to her for her decisive decision making and minute attention to detail.
A few tips about safari:
Stay on private land - most of the lodges own the land they sit on. The main advantage of this is that you can drive off road and there are rarely any other cars around you. I’m told that with public land (e.g., national parks), all vehicles need to stick to the road and if there’s a sighting, you’re often surrounded by 20 other vehicles. It’s more expensive doing it this way but it will truly make a difference to the experience.
We went in February which is considered off peak. You still see all the same animals and we had amazing drives each day. The lodges, flights, etc were not at capacity so I’d actually recommend this time of year. Plus, it’s nice to use the pools and have daily outdoor showers!
The flights are not what you think - There is no queuing, security and you fly directly onto dirt strips. My point is, you can plan to do a few safari regions and it won’t be a major hassle.
Dress up. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and dressing in theme makes the pictures so much better! It’s the same effort to put on a leopard print dress as it does a tracksuit.
Wear red lipstick. Drives start at 4.45 am and you won’t want to do your face. Red lips, however, you can do on the run and it hides the bags and uneven skin tones.
Drink Amarula. It’s a local liquor similar to Bailey’s. We had it every day and even spiked our coffees with it in the morning :)
Work shirts. If you were following me on IG, you’d notice I wore one almost daily. They’re great because they look cool and keep the sun off you! I never had to worry about sunscreen.
Bring a hat. They’re a great prop and very handy for keeping the sun away :)
Pack light! The small aircraft will only take soft sided bags so we packed very light (my backpack was 7kg). You wear the same thing most days. Mix and match!
Pack binoculars and a camera. TBH, most of my pictures were taken on my phone but I do plan to print some of the nicer quality pics.
That’s about all for my deep, deep analysis of your African adventures (lol).
We spent four nights at Chitwa Chitwa. This place is small (only 8 rooms) and absolutely fantastic! We saw the best wildlife here and the lodge, staff and bush dinners were sublime. It’s located opposite the watering hole for the hippos and you actually see them every single day! There’s plenty of wildlife from the comfort of your deck and we saw incredible sights on our drives: leopards eating impala, lions eating zebra, baby elephants, etc. Our car held three other people which we made great friends with and a few nights we had group dinners with them and our diver.
We spent two nights at Molori and it was out of this world luxe. The level of service was very intense and at times, so over the top you didn’t know what to do! Here, there is no schedule - you drive, eat, drink any time you like. The drives were private and we never saw any other guests in the lodge - everything was kept very private (only five rooms). With all this flexibility we ended up just following the same schedule as Chitwa. I thought the scenery was absolutely stunning with green grass, red dirt and a mountainous horizons. The drives, however aren’t as interesting as you’re driving around on flat grass plains whereas Sabi Sands has more terrain, meaning you never know what is around the corner.
With a few nights to spare, we had three nights in Cape Town. We stayed at the Marly Hotel in Camps Bay which is an upscale beachside suburb. The hotel was very small (10 rooms) and right on the beach. With only two full days to explore we did:
Cable car to Table Mountain. Once we were up there we did a 30 minute walk, took some pictures and came back down. It can be foggy up there and impede your view so I’d suggest you do it as soon as you have a clear day.
Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel. They’re tea specialists and trust me, they know what they’re doing! It’s a gorgeous pink hotel that’s worth checking out.
Walk around Long, Loop and Bree Streets. They’re lined with great bars, restaurants and homeware stores. I went silly on homeware’s.
Wineries. I’d say Stellenbosch is the most well known area however, with only two days to explore, we wanted to go somewhere closer. The two wineries we went to absolutely did not disappoint!!
Steenberg Vineyards: 30 minute Uber from our hotel (about $20). Modern, trendy and fantastic for lunch!
Klein Constantia: Old and beautiful with a lot of history (Napoleon, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens were fans). Approx. 15 minute Uber from Steenberg.
Sunset cocktails at Camps Bay
We only spent one night here but i’d definitely recommend the Peech Hotel.
Below are my Safari fashion picks.