CAPE TOWN

The tour began in Cape Town, where we stayed with a group of 19 guests at Amber Tree Lodge, a beautiful Eco Lodge right in the heart of the city. The lodge is owned by the truly awesome Stephen Smith, a qualified gold and silversmith, entrepreneur and artist, and one of the most laid back and kind hearted people we have met in South Africa. The accommodation was lovely , beautifully decorated with a warm African feel, very comfortable with an open plan living / dining room, great kitchen facility, lovely shared bedrooms of varying capacity, and a great courtyard garden with hand crafted funriture under trees and potted chilli plants dotted around. Stephen also provides an eco friendly environment by use of solar geysers for all hot water used at the lodge, a recycling system for kitchen waste, and energy saving bulbs which are used throughout. Then, to cap it off, there is a fantastic view of Table Moutain from the balcony to the front of the lodge.

  

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Our time in Cape Town was crammed with good times. During our stay we took a day trip to Cape Point and Boulders Beach, went shark diving, wine tasting, and soaked up the city, the culture, and ate some of the best local cuisine around in restaurants we had pre-booked for our guests.   

 

Cape Point is a declared Natural World Heritage Site within the Table Mountain National Park, and Boulders Beach is a sheltered inlet of granite boulders on the Cape peninsular which is home to a protected colony of African penguins. This is a truly beautiful area, and luck was on our side as the weather was fantastic for walking and taking a dip on Boulders Beach. We walked along Cape point and it was beautiful, the sun was shining and the views were magnificent, then we went to Boulders Beach, had a walk to see the colony of Jack Ass penguins aptly named for the noise they made, and some had a dip in the sea. We also had a bite to eat in a local seafood restaurant just off the beach, the food was great.

 

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We went to Steenberg Vineyard for a wine tasting afternoon and it was fabulous, ourselves and our guests were treated very well and our hostess was great. If you have been wine tasting before you should know the script, if not it went like this: 4 half glass measures of wine, obviously all differnt kinds, and a platter of differnt foods to compliment them. It was fantastic to learn how wines and foods go together and to have the chance to sit and be taught a little about wine selection when holding a dinner party or planning a meal. It made everybody appreciate wine and how it compliments food that bit more, and was a great way to spend an afternoon / early evening as a group. After we had finished with the wine tasting we moved on to the restaurant and ate more food and drank more wine. 

 

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Shark diving went down a treat. We set out just before sunrise when the great whites are most active and on the hunt for seals, and headed to Seal Island where the sharks actually breach out of the water. Dragging a decoy seal behind us we enticed the sharks our way in the hope to witness a spectacular show, and that we did. We had around 6 breaches on our decoy, as well as the great whites the ship's skipper lured in right by the cage we had in the water which we took turns in. Everybody had a fantastic morning, it was like nothing else any of our guests had ever seen before, and everybody was left buzzing with excitement.

 

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KNYSNA

From Cape Town we moved on to Knysna for a couple of nights where we stayed at the Phantom Forest Eco Reserve. The reserve is a 137 hectare nature reserve on the Knysna River, harbouring a unique biodiversity of Afromontane forest, Cape coastal fynbos and estuarine wetland. There are over 150 bird species, bush pig, bushbuck, grysbok, the rare blue duiker (one of Africa's smallest antelope), and a variety of other small game to be observed. The unique forest hideaway enjoys a superb location, tucked away high up in a private woodland overlooking Knysna lagoon.

 

The accommodation was unbelievable; very private and luxurious wooden cabins set within the forest itself, with views of the forest from both the bedroom and bathroom where only the resident vervet monkeys could sneak a peek at us as we relaxed in style. There was also 2 swimming pools, a hot tub, treatment rooms where everybody enjoyed an amazing massage, and the finest six course 5 star dining you could possibly imagine. Our guests spent their time here doing whatever they wished to do; venturing into Knysna town, relaxing around the pool and in the hot tub, and some enjoyed the free canoes down on the lagoon.

 

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From Knysna we took the group bungee jumping at Bloukrans bridge. Not everybody in the group participated, some decided to take the role of spectator and who would blame them, this is after all the worlds highest land based bungee coming in at a height of 216 meters (709 feet). Only the most fearless of adrenaline junkies within the group took on the challenge. It was great to see their faces before and after the event. Fear on the way out, adrenaline fuelled animals on the way back.

 

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A couple of days relaxing (except for the bungee of course) was exactly what everybody needed before we embarked on the next phase of the trip...


KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

During our time in Kruger we stayed at 4 rest camps: Pretoriuskop, Skukuza, Satara, and Olifants. The accommodations we used in the camps were bungalows: small comfortable huts with thatched roofs, of varying capacities, with comfortable beds, a bathroom, fridge, and in some cases a small but well equipped kitchen. Camps in Kruger vary in facilities, some have swimming pools, big restaurants, trails you can take safely on foot, and nearly all have a camp shop where you can buy food supplies and gifts. Each camp also provides a Braai (bbq) for each bungalow and camping pitch alike.

 

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From camp we conducted daily game drives, setting out at sunrise to catch the nocturnal life settling down as diurnal life awoke, then for lunch having either  a picnic or heading back to camp to cook, and set out again in the afternoon returning to camp at sunset. Kruger sunrise and sunsets are incredible. As well as our drives we had also organised for each of our guests to go out with armed rangers on sunrise, sunset and night drives, and also on morning and afternoon walks out in the wilds of Kruger. With the group being so large they were split into smaller groups and taken out by different guides on different days and to different areas, which really made for some good tales of adventure around the fire in the evenings. To be able to go out during darkness hours with armed Kruger rangers is awesome, the nocturnal activity in the national park is just as exciting, if not more exciting at times as daytime drives. 

 

Our target species for the trip were primarily the BIG FIVE; elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo, and we honed in on those species time and time again, plus an extensive list of other mammal and bird species. On top of our daily game drives we organised further adventures for our guests where armed Kruger Rangers took them out on sunrise drives, morning and afternoon walks, sunset drives, and night drives.

 

Some uncommon sightings we made were: a young female leopard meters from our vehicles at around 11:30am, a drowned giraffe in the Olifants river which was being eaten by crocodiles, 2 litters hyena pups at different locations by the side of the track, and a female cheetah with 3 cubs around 10 months old.

 

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On one eventful night drive, out with the entire group of 19 guests, 1 armed Kruger ranger, and 2 Trek guides all on 1 huge safari truck, we witnessed a battle in Kruger. There had been a lion kill just outside of our camp where 7 lions squabbled over who had which part of the buffalo, whilst countless spotted hyena and jackal (striped and black-backed) constantly attempted to get in on the kill. We stopped approximately 7 or 8 meters away from the action and could literally feel the rumbles of the lions deep throated growls and roars. To add to the fear induced excitement, our truck was also open sided!

 

As if the action wasn't already intense enough, two very large and very dominant males lions came out of the darkness and attacked the group of 7 youngsters! They all scattered, the sound was deafening and the sight spectacular, there were lions all around us all making noise, and one old T.B ridden male who had been lingering around got a good old fashioned battering. As the dominant males chased the youngsters away we tried to follow at speed, the chase was more exhilarating than words can describe, it was like living an Attenborough documentary. We turned back and headed to the kill where the hyena and jackal had taken full advantage of the young lions misfortune and helped themselves to what was left. Now hyena do not mess around, the carcass was torn to pieces in no time, leaving very little for the dominant males who were soon to return. The noise of hyena excitedly feeding and squabbling over a carcass is haunting, yet amusing at the same time. Vocally it sounds like they are laughing aloud at their own fortune, however, seeing it in this context where they are tearing a carcass to pieces is actually quite gruesome. (Images of this awesome event are in the gallery below)

 

The entire trip was a great success. All of our guests had an amazing time and went home very happy, and we had an equally amazing time with our guests.

 

We would like to thank everybody who provided their services during the trip, and also all of our guests who came along and made the trip as fantastic as it was. For information on our next South Africa trips details can be found on our  'Next Tours' and 'Custom Tours' pages. Hope to see you there.


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