Many apologies for the late trip report.
Well . . . it’s hard to take in all that we experienced on our first trip to Africa and I know I’ll be thinking about it for a long time. It was just fabulous and exceeded all of my expectations. I was well prepared thanks to the great advice and trip experiences I’ve read on this board.
We flew the day flight from BOS to LHR, arriving in the evening, got a good night’s sleep, enjoyed the next day before going back to Heathrow for the evening BA flight to JNB.
The flight was much more pleasant than I had expected and we arrived on time after seeing our first African sunrise from the plane window.
We booked the trip through CCAfrica and visited Phinda (4 nights), Londolozi (2 nights), and Ngala Tented (3 nights).
We were met by a CCA representative, who handed us our trip materials, and transferred us to the Federal Air terminal. We had to wait a couple of hours for our flight to Phinda, but the time was pleasantly spent sitting outdoors, in the small but well-tended garden, drinking coffee and juice. It was heavenly to rest and get organized and to be outside after the long plane ride.
There were just four of us on the flight to Phinda, which was a bit more than an hour long.
I will divide the report by Lodge and then under each lodge, by accommodation and game-viewing. That way all of the veteran safari goers can skip to the animals, while others can read about the less essential (but lovely) parts of the trip.
Photos at: http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&conn_speed=1&Uc=10z24pb1.1pebw3dp&Uy=-o1ia3k&Ux=1
Accommodations, food, etc:
We were welcomed at Phinda Forest Lodge with ginger-spiked lemonade as we signed our waiver forms. The reception area located about halfway from the road/track to the dining area, has seating, the gift shop, two computers for internet access, and bathrooms. We were then taken to our amazing cottage, room 16. It was the last one on a meandering path through the sand forest. The photos on the website don’t do the room justice. There is a front covered veranda with two chairs and a table. The mini-bar/refrigerator is also on the veranda built into a counter. There are also two pairs of high Wellington boots sitting upside down on pegs, for rainy days. We had one day where it rained mid-day, not interfering with either drive.
The room had a couch, coffee table, small desk and chair, closet, shelves, and safe, along with the bed and side tables. What makes it all special is the walls, or lack of—the walls are all made of glass so you have an unobstructed view to the sand forest. The rooms are spaced far enough and angled away from each other to insure privacy. There are blinds that are drawn for you at night. The bathroom had an enclosed WC, double sinks, beautiful tub surrounded by a shelf with candles on one side, and a separate shower with a frosted glass wall. Shampoo, conditioner, cotton balls, insect repellant, and bottled water were all provided. In addition there were three jars of mint/candies on the coffee table.
We arrived in time for lunch and were served spinach gazpacho with a platter of grilled shrimp, mushroom salad, pea pods with tofu, and lettuce and basil. This was a typical lunch at Phinda—about four or five different selections, including meat or fish, and salads.
The dining veranda overlooks a meadow where often nyala and impalas grazed.
Dinners were held either in the Boma or on the dining veranda except for our fourth night when we were surprised with a bush dinner—barbeque, bar, bathroom, torches, beautifully set tables, all greeted us after our game drive. It was magical. Dinners usually included a choice of about three entrees, salad, bread, starch, vegetables, and, of course, dessert. The food was excellent, with the lunches and their interesting relishes chutneys, and sauces having a slight edge over the dinners.
We would have our wake-up call at 5:30, meet at the dining veranda for coffee, biscuit, or bread. The same routine with the afternoon drive at 3:30-4:00.
We were quite fortunate to be placed in a vehicle with two women from California who turned out to be the best of travel companions. We were all new to safaris, and were willing to see whatever animals we could see. We ate most of our meals with them and some other people who later joined us.
The atmosphere at Phinda, created by those that work there, was incredibly warm and welcoming. Almost everyone we came in contact with was from the local area and many had worked at Phinda from its opening. I had read all of the CCAfrica website and was impressed by their commitment to conservation and to the local communities. From what I saw at Phinda, the website was not hype but a true representation of their commitment. The staff is proud of their Zulu heritage and delight in explaining their ways to you.
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