Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Africa & the Middle East
Reload this Page > Cape Town/ Phinda (Homestead)/ Singita (Castleton Camp)/ Victoria Falls

Cape Town/ Phinda (Homestead)/ Singita (Castleton Camp)/ Victoria Falls


Aug 29th, 2012, 04:18 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
Cape Town/ Phinda (Homestead)/ Singita (Castleton Camp)/ Victoria Falls

TRIP REPORT: Cape Town -Phinda (Homestead) -Singita Castleton Camp -Victoria Falls
Background info for our trip-
This was our 4th trip to Africa and all of the previous trips (spanning 1998-2009) have been to South Africa. We keep saying we’re going to try somewhere else but we keep having such great times and sightings in South Africa that we see no reason to go anywhere else.

On two of the previous trips we traveled with our 3 children and this trip we expanded to include our sons’ new wives. Our daughter also made the trip. All are in their 20’s. So there were 7 of us traveling.
I did all the planning for the trip with the exception of the hotel in Victoria Falls which was a suggestion of a travel agent. My goal in selecting locations and accommodations was to keep us all together. Some of our children are located in different areas of the world so we don’t get to spend much time together as a family. I didn’t want to spend our “downtime” in 4 separate hotel or lodge rooms.

Our flight from the U.S. was out of Washington, Dulles to Joburg. It was a SAA flight but booked thru United Airlines. We arrived in JNB around 5pm, and then took a 7:30pm SAA flight to Cape Town.

For Cape Town, I booked the Hollywood Mansion. It is a private residence in Camps Bay, with 5 suites and it’s absolutely beautiful. (For my detailed reviews of the places we stayed please check Trip Advisor.) As it turned out, we were busy with activities in Cape Town from early in the morning until dinner so we didn’t really get to spend much time at “home”. The Hollywood Mansion was a splurge but it was about the same as what we would have paid for 4 nice hotel rooms and we had a lot more room.

On our last visit to Cape Town, we used a guide recommended on Fodors, Wayne Milne. Wayne is Take2Tours.com and he is super! As soon as I started planning this trip, the first thing I did was contact Wayne to make sure he was available for this trip too! Last trip we only used him for half of our time in CT. This trip we were with him from the time he picked us up at the CT airport to the time he dropped us off. We told him in advance all of the activities we wanted to do in CT and he scheduled them all and made the appropriate reservations. I just can’t say enough good things about Wayne. We had to make many last minute changes to our itinerary and he handled them seamlessly.
In Cape Town we had these activities planned:
Cable car to the top of Table Mountain
Robben Island (for the 2 couples only)
Cape Tour (Drive down Chapmans Peak to the Cape of Good Hope)
Shark Cage Diving in False Bay (ended up going to Gansbaai)
Segway off road tour of the Spier Winery

As they say, the best laid plans….. The Cape Tour was the only day that went as planned.

DAY 2: Our first morning we were suppose to take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain but it was closed due to high winds, and it was raining. So Wayne made a quick change in plans for us and we bundled up in our new raincoats and fleeces, (there’s a story there ) because Wayne told us the cold front had come in and the high temp for the day was predicted to be 8 degrees C which is 46F. Our first stop was Signal Hill which has a great view of not only Table Mountain but also Lions Head (Mountain) and the entire city of Cape Town. Spectacular views! It was really cold up there and started to rain, so we didn't stay very long. We continued on with a city tour of Cape Town and then stopped for an Italian lunch at the Waterfront. NOTE: There is a great African “souvenir” store right by the entrance to the Robben Island ferry. If you don’t want to “haggle” for prices at the Green Market, we found this to be the best place to buy reasonably priced items. We bought some beautiful pottery and a few glass pieces. My daughter bought all of her trinket type gifts for her friends back home here also. We wish it had been at the end of our trip so we could have purchased more. We never found better prices anywhere..

After lunch, the 2 couples left to take the boat over to Robben Island ( Wayne had purchased their tickets months earlier). And after some souvenir shopping and a quick grocery stop, Wayne took the rest of us back to the Mansion. By choice, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the computer, reading, or just spelunking.
As far as the couples, they returned later than expected and had an INCREDIBLE story to tell! My oldest son, our master storyteller, explained how they had just survived “The Perfect Storm” coming back on the prison boat from Robben Island. I have to admit, they were drenched so their stories of 25 ft swells, an account supported by all, we're very believable! Note: On our prior trip to Robben Island they used ferries. Now apparently, they are using old prison boats for a more realistic adventure. It sounds like they got it!
We topped off the evening with burgers on the grill and a movie. Everybody headed off to bed pretty early, still catching up on sleep.

DAY 3: After breakfast at the house, Wayne picked us up for a trip down to the Cape of Good Hope. We had to cancel our plans for Table Mountain AGAIN because of the fierce winds. The rain had stopped but the winds were gale force!

We took Chapmans Peak Drive down to the Cape and stopped at Boulders Beach in Simons Town to see the penguins. Unfortunately, since the last time we were there they had built a pedestrian "boardwalk" along the dunes of the beach and we were required to stay on them. Last time we were free to roam the beaches and get very close to the penguins. I understand why they had to do that but the new set up was quite disappointing as a lot of the penguins were in the distance. We didn't stay long.

As soon as we got to Cape Point, we had lunch at the only restaurant there which is a very nice place and the same place we ate last time (at our request). They had the outside closed this time though because the winds were just too strong but Wayne had still reserved us the best table.

Lunch was kind of strange. Half of us ordered "fish &chips" and when it came it was a whole fish that had been battered and fried. That meant it looked like a fish! And it even had the skin on under the fried batter. Ewwwww. We weren’t used to that.
I was proud of myself though. I ate most of it.

After lunch we hiked from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope. We were able to do this one way (it’s about an hour hike) because Wayne drove the van around to pick us up at the end. It's an amazing hike with incredible views! This is a "must do" hike! However, the winds were just unbelievable! I seriously thought we were going to get blown off the mountain we were hiking on. On the way, we saw a momma ostrich sitting on her eggs, and many, many Rock Hyraxes (dassies) running about. They were not afraid of us and kids were touching them! Wayne said he had never seen anyone touch them before.
We arrived back in Cape Town about 45 mins before the Green Market closed. The “kids” wanted to shop there but as it turned out, they were not in the mood to argue about price so they came out with very little.

DAY 4:The next morning Wayne arrived at the house and informed us that our False Bay Shark diving trip had been cancelled due to weather. High winds and rough seas. Not only that, but also, Table Mountain was closed again. But our hero, Wayne, had already worked out another plan. He had been able to squeeze us in on a shark trip in Gansbaai, which is also known as Shark Alley.
Because we were on an afternoon Gansbaai shark trip (1pm) Wayne had to cancel the Segway tour we had scheduled for that afternoon. Sharks were our priority. On the way to Gansbaai we had enough time to stop in Hermanus for some unofficial whale watching. We didn’t see any.
Gansbaai, which is 2 hours east of Cape Town, was actually my first choice for shark cage diving last trip. Anyway, to make a long story short, it was unbelievable! The sharks were anywhere from 10 ft to a big guy that was 18 ft and ate the entire buoy! Sharks are so hard to get pics of because they are so fast and when they breach out of the water they are not only fast but make a huge splash. So if you don't get the pic while they're in the air, you’re sunk. DH did get one of the best breeches on video. The kids all got in the shark cage. They absolutely loved it! DH and I didn't get in the cage. It was freezing cold and we just didn't have the desire. Besides, the view was fabulous from the top of the boat. So, in a nutshell, the sharks were INCREDIBLE! I would highly recommend Gansbaai over False Bay. The last trip we used Apex Predators and only saw 2 sharks the whole time. Of course, on any given day, anything can happen. Apex in False Bay is a LOT more expensive.
Upon returning home from our shark trip we were greeted by the smells of a delicious dinner! I had hired a chef to cook a 5 course meal for us to celebrate my DIL’s 24th birthday. The dinner was delicious! We had stuffed mushrooms, butternut squash soup, roast, chicken, broccoli and cauliflower cheese casserole, an out of this world fresh salad, and strawberry cake! Yum!

After dinner we all had to pack to be ready for a 7am pickup in the morning.

Wayne was there to pick us up a few minutes before 7 and took us to the airport. We really love Wayne Milne and we were all sorry to have to say goodbye.
We had a 2 hour flight from Cape Town to Durban and then we had a private bus drive us from Durban to Phinda, our home for the next 4 nts!
To be continued….
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 29th, 2012, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,003
Most interesting report. Makes me want to return to Cape Town. May I ask, is it very expensive to have a guide like Wayne?
taconictraveler is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 29th, 2012, 07:31 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Great start!
Femi is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 29th, 2012, 07:38 PM
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 689
Thanks for the informative report on Cape Town. Hope your next installment will include photos.

What month were you there? Tried the link for Take2Tours and it said no such site.
KathBC is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 30th, 2012, 06:25 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
As to the questions, our trip was August 4-20, 2012. So it was in their winter. Except for the one cold day in Cape Town we experienced very mild temperatures during the day. Early mornings and evenings were chilly though.
My apologies, Wayne's website is take2tours.co.za (not .com)I believe he charges R2,200 (around $275 US) for a full day tour. It's less expensive if you provide your own vehicle.
I would be happy to post pics if someone would tell me how to do that.
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 30th, 2012, 11:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
Ok. Before I forget, the place at the Waterfront where we shopped was the African Trading Post.
DAY 5: At Phinda we stayed at The Homestead. “In this exclusive use private safari villa, the beauty of Africa’s wide open spaces is brought right indoors. Large sliding doors in four luxurious suites let in breathtaking vistas. Personal touches and the warmth of a dedicated team of staff, including a private ranger, tracker, butler and chef, bring renowned African hospitality to life.” (That’s easier than me explaining it.)
When we arrived at The Homestead at Phinda we were greeted by Douglas, our house manager, Sipho, the butler, Andres, the chef, Martin, our ranger, and Josiah, the tracker, and the housekeeping girl whose name I can't remember.

Phinda was fabulous! We were treated like royalty our entire stay. After everyone picked out their suites we had a quick lunch and then headed right out on a game drive. It was probably the best "first game drive" that we've ever had.
Here's the brief version.
We followed a HUGE bull elephant down the road until he stopped, then he proceeded to walk over and push over this huge tree! It was amazing! I mean it was a whole tree, and a big one! Even the ranger was in total amazement. He said they do it to eat the roots of the tree.
After that our guide spotted a large male leopard lying down in the bush. We watched him for quite awhile. He wasn't asleep, he just watched us. After about 15 mins, our tracker noticed that right there near us, at the top of a tree, was another leopard! They said it was a young male and they thought that the big leopard had chased him up in the tree and was waiting for him to come down. We watched them both until the large male got up and walked off. We followed him and he marked his territory several times, including once with a huge roar and growling noise. Love it when they roar!

Next, we went to where he had heard there was a pride of lions. By the time we got there is was dark so we couldn't see them very well but there were a lot of them, including cubs.

We returned to The Homestead, and enjoyed a delicious dinner of filet mignon and what was to become my new found favorite after drink, Amarula. Not a bad way to end the day.

For those of you who have not experienced game lodges, our normal day was like this: you get a wake up call around 5:15am-6:00am (depending on how early you decide to leave and how much time you need), have coffee, tea, juice or whatever and African snacks. Basically, just enough to hold you off until your mid morning stop on the game drive. You return to the lodge around 10:30am and have a hot and cold breakfast and then only a few hours later you have lunch before going out for the "evening" game drive at 3:30 or so and return sometime after dark so you have a chance to see the nocturnal animals also. But they are usually more elusive. Dinner is served whenever you return.

DAY 6: We left on our drive at 6:00 am this morning. We drove a good bit looking for lions when we came upon a large group of Cape Buffalo, the 4th of the Big Five sightings for us. We saw 3 of the 5 yesterday on our first drive. The herd had all ages, from young calves to older males. Then, continuing on our search for lions we found a small herd of Wildebeast. They are really ugly! We also saw lots and lots of nyalas, both male, which are larger, darker, and have big horns, females, and babies. We also saw a duiker and a red duiker, also a suni, the smallest antelope in the world, and of course, giraffes,zebras and lots of impala. After that we came across a family of wart hogs. Up until this trip our only sightings of wart hogs were of them running away. This group did not scatter and we sat and had a good viewing of them. It was a mother with 6 young ones.

And now yes, we finally got to see lions. It was a pride with one very large male, a huge older lioness, who, we were informed, never had cubs, 3 other lionesses, along with 4 cubs, 5 1/2 and 6 mos old. The cubs provided the entertainment. One kept running around with a palm tree branch as if saying to his brother, " haha, look what I have". It was fun to watch. Those 2 cubs also did a lot of wrestling. Most of which we got on video. All of the adults were sleeping most of the time and it was funny watching one of the cubs trying to wake up his mom. He kind of nudged her at first and then began licking her face. He must have "groomed" her for at least 10 mins. She never even opened her eyes. One of the cubs had a big scar on his back leg that the ranger said was from when he was about 3 mos old and he tried to get his dad to play. The dad was definitely not in the mood and he swatted him and sent him flying with a bad cut from the claws. . Moral of the story, don't mess with grouchy dads.

After the lions we were on our way to a hippo watering hole for our mid morning stop in the bush when we heard that a pair of cheetah brothers were nearby. We found them and they were beautiful! Our first cheetah sighting in all of our trips! (That was the main reason we chose Phinda).

We returned back to the lodge just after 11:00am and they had breakfast waiting. We were a little late but that’s the nice thing about having your own vehicle- you can go out as long as you want. We had a light lunch at 2:00pm before we left at 3:30 for our “evening” game drive.

Martin, our ranger had a game plan for us this afternoon. We were going to track a large herd of elephants and hopefully, black rhino. While we were watching the lions this morning, our tracker was off, on foot, trying to track black rhino. This is one of the few places in South Africa where you can find black rhino. Other than a quick glimpse last trip at Lion Sands, we have only seen white rhino. So we were excited about the prospects of seeing black rhino, another reason we wanted to visit Phinda.
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 31st, 2012, 01:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
My apologies. I read back over my trip report thus far and realized that I was probably putting in way too much detail about our game drives and sightings. I was writing from my journal notes which were very detailed.
So I'll just summarize the rest of our 2 week stay and try to stick to things that might be helpful.

In summary, we thought Phinda was wonderful. Aside from the lodging, which was perfect for a large group, we had sightings that we had never seen in all of our previous visits to South Africa. Phinda is fenced but it's very large. In our 4 nights there I don't believe we saw all of it. You definitely did not feel like you were in a zoo and I think that's what some people think about a "fenced" property. It was a little weird having the rangers knowing so much about an animals history but I think that happens a little bit everywhere. We would not hesitate to return to Phinda.

Our next stop was Singita. We stayed at Singita previously, in 1998, but I don't think we'll ever return there. It is a smaller property than Phinda or some of the others. And although they tell you that they have sharing rights with Londolozi, we never went over there and I never saw any Londolozi vehicles on Singita property either. We had some "good" sightings but with 8 game drives, on 5 of them we saw very little. But I realize that can happen anywhere. It's just that Singita is very expensive and I don't think we can justify the expense.
At Singita we stayed at Castleton Camp, which has 6 cottages and I believe it is always booked for exclusive use. I was disappointed that all of the cottages are separated and we did not feel as "together" as we did at Phinda where you can easily walk to any of the suites without going outside. Castleton Camp is very old and definitely showed its age. It is kept up as nicely as it can be though. It is going to be rebuilt on another piece of property next year so that is probably good because these cottages have seen better days.
Next up: Victoria Falls and DEVIL'S POOL!!
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 1st, 2012, 04:12 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 21
We were fascinated with your blog. Loved all the details.

We are leaving from Dulles in 3 weeks.

We are getting conflicting info on whether we should get yellow fever vaccine and anti-malerials. Any suggestions on this or any other thoughts?
gagga is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 1st, 2012, 04:53 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
I like the details of the game drives! Almost as good as being there.
Femi is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 2nd, 2012, 08:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
gagga- I recently posted about our experience with the yellow fever vaccine. If you're traveling FROM Zambia TO South Africa you have no choice.
We've always taken the malaria pills. We've never experienced any side effects.
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 2nd, 2012, 09:09 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
OK, since I already have it written, I will go ahead and post the details of our sightings. I will warn you, some of them were pretty gruesome.

Day 7: We had the most unbelievable morning game drive!
We headed out on our drive with only one thing in mind....to track hungry lions in hope of watching them kill. We knew the lions, a pride of 4 adults and 4 cubs, had only had a small kill the day before so that meant they were all hungry. We were determined to see a kill, even if it meant following them all day long. It took us about an hour tracking them to find them. After that our guide could tell by the direction they were heading that they were on their way to a watering hole where nyala, a type of antelope, hang out. We staked out the spot and sure enough here come the lions. They just settled down in the bush away from the watering hole but within close sight of it. We were parked right next to the lions. When we first started tracking them they were all there except the adult male. By the time they got to the watering hole they had left the cubs somewhere safe and it was just the 3 lionesses. Apparently, the lionesses didn't want the cubs to get in the way of a kill. Unfortunately, when we got to the watering hole there wasn't an animal in sight. It took about a 45 min wait before the first nyala showed up. Unfortunately for the lions, the nyala were down wind of them and they sensed the lions as they got close to the watering hole. One of the adult nyalas then made a loud trumpeting noise warning any other animals around and ran off. But the lions never even lifted their heads. They laid perfectly still and acted like they were full and sleeping. It was really an amazing act. Then, one of the lionesses did something I considered very tricky. She got up and slowly wandered over to the other side of the watering hole, just acting like she was going for a lazy stroll. She left our sight but we knew what she was up to. Shortly after that a young nyala came close. Then several other nyala hesitantly approached. Our guide said lions prefer adult nyalas not the young one. As the young one walked out of our sight, and just as the adults got within the lions sights the nyalas all turn and start running away and here comes the baby running back with the other lioness chasing it! It was an AMAZING sight! Just as the nyala reached the bush the lioness grabbed it! We immediately moved ahead in the jeep and saw her laying on her kill. Sadly it was still alive when she started eating it. I know it sounds gruesome but the sight and sounds of the kill and the eating were incredible. We were only about 15 ft away and you could hear the tearing of flesh and the crunching of the bones. I was ok until it started eating the head. I couldn't watch that.

This has been quite an amazing day. I saw things that I haven't seen in all of our other visits. After witnessing our first kill in the morning we went directly to have breakfast "in the bush". The staff and chef of Phinda Homestead had set up and cooked a fabulous breakfast in the bush. We all agreed that the scrambled eggs, cooked in a fire pit, we're the best we had ever tasted.

After our breakfast we set back out to locate a large herd of elephants. We tracked them and again, our ranger figured out which watering hole they were traveling to and we drove up ahead and found a nice shady spot to wait for them. Within just a few minutes the first few started showing up. A few more trickled in and then all of a sudden we here this noise and looked up and across the watering hole we see a whole herd of elephants RUNNING at full speed toward the water! There was dust everywhere! Thank goodness they were on the opposite side of the water from where we were parked or we would have been trampled! Although they approached from the opposite side, they immediately came right over to where we were. We couldn't have had a better view. The best part was that among them there was a little baby elephant SO SO cute. We had so much fun watching him, drinking with his little trunk, and then spraying water on himself, and the funniest part was when he tried to get out of the watering hole, the sides were so muddy and he just kept sliding down. But his momma was watching over him and she used her trunk to pull him up. So sweet.
We continued to watch this herd enjoying the water--drinking, spraying water, and then covering their bodies with mud. Up until now they had just ignored us. Then a large female started walking towards us very intently and our ranger immediately put our vehicle in reverse and started backing up. She continued towards us and our ranger did not like the way she was acting so we got out of there. It was such an enjoyable sighting!

After seeing the elephants we went hunting for the hungry lions again. We had heard that they had made another kill while we were at breakfast. We soon found them and watched as the cubs enjoyed snacking on the remains of another nyala. While we were watching this pride, there were 3 adult giraffes very nearby and one of the older cubs got up and started approaching one of the giraffes. The giraffe did not even move, as if to say, "bring it on". And the mother lion didn't move either. She probably figured a kick in the head by a giraffe would teach him a thing about giraffes. But the cub backed down and retreated with his ego still intact.

By now, it was getting really hot in the sun, and the only shade was being occupied by the lions. So we decided to head back for lunch.

In between our morning game drive and our evening game drive we were doing our usual –a variety of reading, sleeping, checking email & downloading photos. I was in my room when I heard a distinct noise. I only had to think for a second before I recognized it as the sound of an elephant blowing water. What???? I ran outside and there was a bull elephant drinking water from our pool! I had been told by the manager that animals frequently visit the pool but I thought that was one of those stories. My son was sitting on the deck only feet away from him. My son stayed very still and quiet while all of the rest of us snapped away on our cameras. Of course, everyone took turns getting in the picture with this massive elephant next to them. It was an exciting experience for all of us.

After lunch we were headed for the South side of the Phinda game reserve. All of our sightings thus far had been in the north side which is the side where our lodge was located. It was about a 45 min drive to get to the south side. Our objective for going to the south side was to see a cheetah that had 4 young cubs, to see crocs and hippos, and to see a den of hyenas. Unbelievably, we accomplished all 4. The south side had a different terrain than the north side. It was much more scenic. The north side is mostly bush with a few open savanna type areas. The south side was very picturesque and most of the areas looked like the pictures of Africa you see. Right away, we were radioed the location of the mother cheetah with her 4 cubs. She would have been impossible to find if another ranger hadn't followed her. She was hidden in the tall grass. The cubs were adorable!!! They were just precious looking! One cub never took his eyes off of us and the other 3 just slept most of the time. The mother was alert but ignored us. We stayed with them a good while, hoping the cubs would decide to venture out but they didn't.

We left the cheetahs to go to the river to see the hippos and the crocs. Most of the hippos were out of the water and standing on the opposite bank. Also, sunning themselves on a different bank were a couple sizable crocodiles. We didn't stay there long because we heard over the radio that the hyena den was "active", which meant the hyenas and pups were there.

As soon as we got close we could see 3 hyenas. They were huge! We had only seen hyena once before and they weren't near this big! We were told there were 2 pups in the den and while we were there one of them stuck his head out. He was very tiny but also very ugly! We watched the mother hyena, who had a big open wound on her back, roll around a bit, and then we left.

The sun was quickly setting so we decided to try and find the South Side pride of lions. It didn't take long. We found them sleeping with full bellies. Early that morning they had killed a juvenile (not a baby) giraffe. We saw the giraffe carcass where they had pulled it under a tree to keep it out of the sun. They had only eaten about half of it. It was pretty big and pretty disgusting looking. All of the legs and the long neck were still intact.

Ok. It was time to head back. We had a long drive home and it was dark so our tracker had his spotlight out to look for small nocturnal animals on the way home. We struck pay dirt! We saw a genet, a white tailed mongoose, a chameleon, and a bush baby! All of those we considered very rare sightings!

We ended the night with the best dinner we'd had so far, including a delicious chocolate brownie for dessert!

I have no idea what we could possibly see on the rest of this trip that could beat today but I'm sure we'll try.
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 6th, 2012, 01:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 174
I'll try and finish this up as soon as I can.
To continue on with our stays at Phinda and Singita--

Our last morning at Phinda Marvin, our ranger, drove us to the Phinda air strip for our chartered flight to Singita. Since we were a little early he took a detour because the female cheetah with the four young cubs had been spotted nearby. We easily found them and unlike the last time we saw them when they were just lying around, this time they were all up and playing. It was an awesome last sighting.

Our flight to Singita was 1 hr 15 mins. As we were approaching the Singita airstrip we saw LIONS on the runway. There was also a large zebra carcus in the bush right off the runway. We landed but couldn't get off the plane immediately because of the lions. They went back into the bush and we deplaned and immediately got into a Singita vehicle. We met Shelly, who would be our guide/ranger for the next 4 days.
She drove us to our home for the next 4 nts, Singita Castleton Camp which we had all to ourselves. We were greeted by 2 house managers and more butlers, cooks, and house staff than you can shake a stick at! All I could think of was, oh my gosh! This is going to cost us a fortune in gratuities when we leave!

After selecting our rooms (there are 6), getting a tour around, and having a nice lunch, we headed out on our first game drive.
We asked to go see those lions and the zebra kill near the runway. She took us straight there and omg! what a sighting! There were 3 lionesses there and one was just chomping away. Shelly said they had made the kill last night and they had probably all already had their 1st helpings. Watching this lioness feed was gross but amazing at the same time.
After leaving the lions, we saw lots of general game along with wart hogs, elephants with young ones, kudu, and even a leopard and hyena.
When we returned after dark to Castleton Camp we stepped off the vehicle to sounds of hyena very close by! The hyenas were around the camp all night.

Tuesday was a good day for sightings. The most memorable ones were a wild dog (yay! Finally got to see one!), a mother leopard with 2 cubs and the lion zebra kill that we saw the day before.
As soon as we started our drive we heard that someone had spotted a lone wild dog but had lost him. We later found him. He was very elusive and although we tried to follow him thru the bush we soon lost him.
A little while later we just drove up on a mother leopard and her 2 cubs as they were walking on the road. We followed them for quite a way. The cubs, which were about 6 months old , would sometimes wander about but always were within eyesight of the mom. Later on in the day we found a large male leopard, who was the father of the cubs. He was laying in the bush. We had a good view of his face but not of the rest of him. There were remains of a fresh, but pretty well consumed nyala kill in a tree nearby. The mother and cubs were there too.
In the afternoon we went down to the river and saw some hippo and couple small crocs sunning themselves on some rocks.

But the most remarkable experience of the day, if not the whole trip, was to come in the evening. Just before sunset we went back to the zebra kill near the runway that the 3 lionesses were still feasting on. They always ate one at a time. But by this time several hyenas had gather in the bush around there, waiting for their chance at the zebra.
When we first arrived at the sight there were 3 or 4 hyena but they just kept coming and coming! Within a few minutes we counted 12 of them! For the next 2 hours we watched the hyena circle around, and then back off. They would inch in closer, and then back off. It was so frustrating because we not only wanted to see a hyena/lion confrontation but REALLY wanted to see those hyena go after the rest of that zebra!
At one point, one of the hyena found a zebra leg bone on the outskirts and grabbed it and ran. Immediately ALL of the other hyena began chasing him all over the runway! The scariest thing was that up until this point we had counted about 12 hyena around the jeep but when that hyena with the bone ran by, BEHIND us another 10 or so hyena came running out! The sound of that was scary. The hyena with the bone was just cackling and cackling! It truly did sound like laughing! The others were just screaming and chasing him and making all kinds of hyena noises.
For all the noise they made over a discarded leg bone that had no meat on it we could only imagine what would happen if they were able to take over the zebra kill! We couldn't understand, with so many of them, why they weren't confronting the lions. Once when one of them got pretty close to the kill one of the lionesses fake charged him and he ran away like a little baby. Our ranger explained that most of this clan of hyenas were juveniles 2-4 years and not experienced enough to take on 3 lions.
So eventually, since it was by now very late, we gave up on seeing the hyenas take anything away from those lions. Our ranger, Shelly, said it looked to her like the lionesses were trying to eat at much as they could, as fast as they could, and would probably voluntarily give up the kill to the hyenas before the night was over, but not anytime soon.

The next morning (Weds) we returned to the sight and found absolutely nothing! There wasn't a bone or a scrap of meat in sight. Even the vultures overhead had full bellies!

On the way to that sight our tracker had spotted male lion tracks so we went looking for him. Before Wes could find him, another vehicle found 3 male lions. We were told there are 4 males in that pride but they didn't know where the 4th, an older lion, was. These lions are with the 3 lionesses we have been seeing. I think I forgot to say that 2 of the 3 lionesses were pregnant and should be giving birth in about 2 weeks. They only have a 110 day gestation.
We were informed that the 3 male lions were walking straight towards where the mother leopard with her 2 cubs were! Everyone was very worried. When we got there we immediately saw the lions and then our tracker pointed up. WAY WAY up! There, at least 60 feet up in the tallest tree was one of the leopards cubs! Then we saw his mother about half way up the same tree. Nearby, in another tree was the other cub. The mother cub had done a good job of sensing the danger of the lions and getting the cubs to safety!
However, I REALLY would have liked to have seen how that one cub was going to get down from that tree! I couldn't believe how high up he was.

Those 3 male lions quickly left the road and we then went on a huge adventure following them thru the bush. We drove over trees and huge rocks. We were huddled over, ducking branches and thorns a lot of the time. We were the only vehicle that found them and we sat and watched them for about 20 mins. They were next to a watering hole but it didn't appear that they were actively hunting but one or 2 would sleep while 1 or 2 would keep a look out for prey. They took turns.
Those lions were the last of that days sightings.

Well, I never thought I would say this, but I think we got safaried out. We have been so fortunate on this trip to have so many incredible sightings that now it seems like none of the other sightings can compare. The last couple game drives have been uneventful. I couple of baby elephants wrestling was the best we found yesterday. Oh well.We really got spoiled on this trip with amazing sightings.

Singita Castleton has done a good job of making our meals interesting. We never eat in the same location twice. Last night we had dinner in the boma and the staff performed native song and dance. We got to sing and dance along. Thank goodness we had that little bit of entertainment after dinner because the rest of the dinner was very quiet and actually quite uncomfortable. We now realize that Singita is a little too formal (stuffy) for us. It's uncomfortable because the staff stands around at attention watching you eat. So you can't really have much of a conversation because you have to be careful what you talk about. They stand around waiting to wait on you. We realize now that we should have just told them from the beginning that we don't need 24 hour servants and that we'd prefer to have dinner alone and that we can fold our own napkins and pour our own drink refills. Oh well.

In the morning we fly (20 min flight) from Singita to the Nelspruit airport where we will catch another flight ( 2hr 15min) to Livingstone, Zambia. We will be staying at Illala Lodge in Zimbabwe. We will cross the Zambia and Zimbabwe borders several times in the next 2 days.
agswimmer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 6th, 2012, 06:35 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Thanks for letting us come along on with you on your trip
Femi is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:33 PM.