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Trip Report Trip Report:Cape Town, Phinda, Dulini, Ngala Tented

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September 14, 2009

Hello Folks,

This is a report on a 17 day trip to South Africa that included:
Cape Town
Phinda Vlei
Exeter Dulini
Ngala Tented Camp

We had an extraordinary trip. All our arrangements were made via the internet through &Beyond (formerly CC Africa). Shanaaz Ziervogel was our agent. &Beyond is a terrific company with 50 lodges around Africa and a few in India. &Beyond also did all of our in-country air transportation between locations, mostly on semi-chartered airplanes. Our arrangements were perfect.

All three game site lodgings (Vlei, Dulini, and Ngala Tented Camp) were world class accommodations and services. Everything was four and five stars. I also like the fact the &Beyond hires and trains locally with 80-85% of their staff from the local area. They also are the gold standard in training game rangers and trackers. All are quite knowledgeable and service oriented.

All three of our game lodges were small (six suites with a total of 12 guests maximum) which means there is never more the six guests to a 4 X 4 land cruiser. Food at all three sites was unexpectedly tasty and way too much to eat. All costs are included in the fees including most alcohol but, of course, these sites charge a very significant daily rate).

Quite by accident, I think the order of our trip was perfect. We flew from Seattle to Dulles International and then direct to Johannesburg. Then we flew to Cape Town….very long day of travel.

We stayed at the Victoria and Alfred Hotel which is very well located. We rested here for three days to take care of jet lag and to see Robben’s Island, Kristenbosch gardens, and the Bo Kaap area. We went on a very special “Cape Malay” cooking tour of the Bo Kaap area through Andulela tours. This is a fantastic opportunity to visit with some local people and learn to cook Cape Malay style in a woman’s home. This was a real highlight and I would highly recommend it.

Our first game reserve was Phinda where we stayed at Phinda Vlei. Almost the moment we arrived, we saw the “Big Five” and more. Phinda is a private and fenced game reserve so they have more control over seeing animals. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this well managed private game reserve isn’t exactly life in the “wild” but for a first time person you see almost every animal you can imagine. So after three days in Phinda, we relaxed knowing we had seen all the important animals and were now ready to see them in a more wild or wide open setting. I highly recommend Phinda for the first time safari person. The guides, trackers, and lodge personnel are wonderful.

Next stop was Dulini Lodge in Sabi Sands which is connected to Kruger. Here the game runs wild through the reserve and Kruger so it’s much more difficult for the rangers and trackers to predict where animals might be found but it is leopard country. We so many leopards, lions, elephants, zebras, hippos, rhinos, water buffalo, and so much more. We also visited the community where &Beyond staff are working to develop the schools and helping the villages replant trees and vegetables. It was an amazing four days. The accommodations are bigger then most apartments and the staff, food, comforts were first class.

Finally, on to Ngala Tented Camp which is considered one of the “wildest” areas near Kruger. Here again the game was less predictable but we saw everything but wild dogs (they left the area the week before we game). We watched a leopard for an hour and 45 minutes stalk a herd of Impala until she took down a female Impala bigger than her. What an adventure…We saw every animal you can imagine but it took more effort and time because the animals roam from the Ngala game reserve into Kruger and beyond so they can’t predict what will be around when you get there but it is really seeing animals in the wild as opposed to a controlled fenced game reserve ( e.g. Phinda).

For first time safari people, I think our schedule was perfect. Seeing all the animals in Phinda relived my anxiety about maybe only seeing a few different animals so I could go to Dulini and Ngala more relaxed.

&Beyond is well known for their highly trained rangers and trackers and we were very impressed by all of them at the three reserves. We also really like the &Beyond commitment to building the local community. &Beyond is not a non-profit but one of the larger stock holders is the Getty Foundation which we think was a good sign of their commitment to the community and conservation. If we ever do this again, we will certainly check with &Beyond to make our plans.

Finally, we went in late August to early September which is the beginning of spring in South Africa. I think this is close the perfect time for this trip. The evenings and mornings are cool, the grass is low, the animals have to rely on particular water holes so need to come out, and we did not encounter one mosquito!!! All the rangers told us it was the best time to seen animals although summers are more lush with vegetation (and hot hot weather).

I hope this report helps. Let me know if you have any questions. I love the honest sharing on this website.



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