Delayed trip report SA

Jun 2nd, 2007, 04:27 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 343
Delayed trip report SA

1st stop: Hotel Izulu, Ballito
We flew CDG-JHO-DUR, CDG-JHO on AF and JHO-DUR on South African airlines. From home wed drove to Paris CDG (3 hours)to get on the night flight to JHO, in order to arrive very early morning and get an immediate connection to Durban.
Hotel Izulu is located in Ballito which is just a short drive (30 min) away from the airport in Durban. Izulu was a great first stop, the AC rooms are luxurious and very spacious, the bathroom too. The hotel has five Bali style villas, each with 4 rooms and each villa shares a private outdoor jacuzzi. The restaurant (Gigiís) serves fantastic food, the wine list is extraordinary and the entire setting of the hotel is very nice. It also has a Clarins Spa (Impilo Spa). The hotel is near the beach but inland and it does not give you the feel of being on the beach. We drove to the beach (3 min) and shopping facilities of Ballito. A very touristy beachtown, nice but nothing special. We spend Christmas evening at Izulu and it was wonderful.

2nd stop: Thanda game reserve (very near Phinda).
The drive (toll roads) from Ballito took around 4 hours as we also made a detour to St. Lucia, it was Christmas and the beach was full with locals and tourists. IMO St lucia is a nice town but very touristy, I assume it would be nice to go on a boat tour but we did not have time for that. Thanda is situated 23km north of Hluhluwe, 300 km from Durban. We booked Thanda as it fitted perfectly into our itinerary and we had heard some positive comments from previous travelers. The pictures on eyesonafrica do the place justice! As it is very new, I wasnít able to get any feedback from Fodors this time, nevertheless I thought we must give it a try. Thanda Game Reserve consists of both a main lodge with villas and a tented camp with 4 tents so a max of 8 guests. We were 5 guests (my family) and occupied 3 tents. My parents in one, my brother in one and Bert and I in one. We stayed at the tented lodge that is situated away from the main lodge about 10-15 minutes drive and you get a real bush feel. The tents themselves have got it all but electricity, beautiful and very romantic. You can charge electronic equipment in the main lodge. The tents are also well positioned and far enough from another, which gives you plenty of privacy. Breakfast lunch, dinner are served in a main tent, food was excellent at Thanda, the house wine very good too. A short walk takes you to a beautiful viewing platform with sofa's a plunge pool and plenty of reading material. At night before dinner the fire is lit in the boma next to the main tent where you can have pre dinner drinks, all lovely. The first night (Christmas dec 25th) all the guests from the Tented camp were driven to the Main lodge to have Xmas dinner there, the Main lodge is gorgeous, really spectacular. IMO it almost doesnít fit in the bush, therefore I would prefer the tents. We had impala and Zebra grazing in front of our tent each morning and evening.

You can also visit the main lodge between game drives to spend some time there to use the pretty swimming pool or have spa treatments which accordingly to my parents were good. The main lodge is busier. The setting of the Spa next to the pool is beautiful. The villas there are apparently are out of this world, each with their own fire place, plunge pool etc

The game is actually pretty good at the new reserve Thanda, and although it is an enclosed camp, we saw lions and cheetah. What I really disliked is that on our first game drives we often drove besides the fences which gives you the Zoo feeling all the way which was not necessary as there were other areas that were great but apparently the cheetahs are often seen near the fences. After all it was true as we found them there playing on the road beside the fence. Game drives are in open very comfortable vehicles.
The staff were very friendly as almost always in Africa and we were taught a lot about their Zulu culture. Very interesting. They also have a cultural village which we didnít go to as it was Christmas and the Zulu show was cancelled.

3rd stop Blue mountain lodge Kiepersol
A long but very pleasant drive took us up from Thanda through Swaziland (east side) via Mananga back into South Africa Mpumalanga. Drove through Nelspruit then up to White river heading for Lunch at Cybele Forest lodge, we were starving by then and couldnít wait to get something to eat. The drive had taken us 5 hours by then and it was an unpleasant surprise when the man at the gate of Cybele refused to let us in, due to the high season the hotel was full and lunch was for hotel guests only! I asked to speak to the lodge through the radio and begged them if we then could at least have a drink. After much hassle we could enter, had 2 gin tonics on empty stomach and left the place pretty quick after. We expected more from Cybele forest lodge, the location was nice in the forest but the lodge itself looked very dark. We speeded from Cybele to Kiepersol to get to Blue mountain lodge, and oh what a find, beautiful surroundings, truly amazing lodge, light colours, pillared verandas with great sofas we thought it was like an out of Africa place. The people extremely friendly and luckily we could still order a late lunch on the verandah. Since we would only be there for the afternoon and night we went for the least expensive rooms , the duplex Quadrant suites, there are 4 of them and we occupied 3. The duplex rooms are very big, they have a lounge, a bathroom with shower and separate bad that is open to the lounge area, the bedroom is upstairs, very comfy beds. After lunch we had a rest, after all we had driven all the way from Hluhluwe (my dad actually was the only one that drove on the entire 12 day trip), we swam in the pool and did not get back to the lodge in the evening for pre- dinner drinks. There was a fire lit and the calm feeling we had sitting on the verandah was beautiful. Dinner was indoors and once again we had great food & wine. We ended with a final drink on the verandah, and quickly had a look at the beautiful old photos in the bar. The next morning we left after breakfast, our vehicle was washed and we headed for the Panorama route (Sabie, Graskop, Gods window, the Pinnacle) before driving up to the Sabi Sands.
4rd stop Simbambili
After the Panorama route we headed for the Gowrie gate (Sabi Sands) via Bushbockridge and Acornhoek. Got caught speeding between Acornhoek and the end of the paved road. My dad paid the police 500 ZAR in order to quickly get away and police man obviously was more than happy to let us drive on. We arrived Simbambili at nearly 2pm for lunch. As Simbambili has often been discussed here before I m not going into details too much. We all thought this was the perfect safari place, we loved everything about it. The main lodge is very nice with great views to a watering hole where game gathered everyday. We saw elephants, rhino, hyena and buffalo just from the main lodge while having lunch or dinner (in the evening they had the watering hole illuminated). The cottages at Simbambili are the most beautiful I have experienced on safari so far. The private decks on each cottage are big with a day bed and the little plunge pool was refreshing in between game drives. The massage therapist accordingly to my family was very good, I skipped on the massages. Game drives were great, lots of leopard (sadly including one death leopard Mbali). Our guide was very good and fun to be around with. Besides the Guide we were very fond of tracker Mamps, this guy even picked up a huge scorpion with his bare hands and let it fall asleep just like that. He can do it any time and the scorpions donít sting him. Food was good: Lunch IMO better than dinner. I felt sad leaving Simbambili.
5th stop Londolozi Tree camp
We had to drive all the way back to Acornhoek-Bushbuckridge-Hazyview to get to Londolozi. What a pain but unfortunately Simbambili and Londolozi donít share any traversing rights. The drive took 2 hours and we almost got caught speeding again by the same police man, LOL. We were to be at Londolozi for new years, the party took place at Bataleur camp and decorations were lovely, soft pink roses everywhere. The party consisted of pre dinner drinks and a dinner on big round tables (guide also at the table) Towards the end of the dinner there were sketches by the Londolozi staff, hilarious sketches, everyone laughed and had a good time. The last hour before midnight a drum band from Johannesburg came to entertain us with a percussion workshop, each person got a drum and we all had to play, it was a lot of fun. All together it was a great new years eve in the bush.
Londolozi is back under the management of the Varty family and I hope to visit Tree camp again in the future. I heard Tree camp has been totally freshened up, and is open again since June 1st (yesterday). I m sure the place looks stunning. The cottages are beautiful and huge, the deck and plungepool however IMO needed some upgrade. The new website of Londolozi is up. It seems Bateleur camp is now called Varty camp, but I m not sure. Gamedrives at Londolozi are known to be one of the best and they were indeed very good. It was pouring rain and cold during our last 1.5 day at Londolozi and we wore rain ponchos provided by Londolozi.
On our last day we drove from Londolozi directly to the airport in Johannesburg to catch the evening flight home.
Alejandra is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 05:19 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,636
hi, alejandra

better late than never- it was worth waiting for.

thanks for the up-date on the going rate for "on the spot" speeding fines - we'll be in SA in July with a hire-car, and should we fall foul of the speeding laws, I'll try to remember what you paid!!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 07:49 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Thanks for the report. You're one of the first to Thanda. Did Eyes on Africa book your trip? You mentioned their website.
atravelynn is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 08:08 AM
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No I did not book through eyesonafrica. But i love the way their website works, with the maps and especially the amount camp'pictures.
Alejandra is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 10:31 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 154
Hi Alejandra

I'm so glad your trip was a good one, but please, please, PLEASE do not encourage, celebrate, or propose to others the payment of "spot fines" which, in fact are nothing but bribes. This is illegal on your father's part as well as the police officer's and does nothing to help South Africa (or Africa) in any way. Your father was speeding and he broke the law again by bribing a police officer, and drew a second person into crime in the process through his actions.

Certainly the great lovers of Africa on Fodors shouldn't condone this kind of overtly unethical activity that exploits the poverty and unsatisfactory conditions of the police force. So many complain about safety in South Africa and yet are happy to help corrupt the police force that stands between them as tourists and the criminals.

Enjoy your holiday, but if you break the law, take your ticket and pay the fine. Chances are, it would have been less than R500 in any case!


kurt_a is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2007, 12:37 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 343
Hello Kurt,
I totally agree with you and to tell you the truth i hadnt thought about it before posting it and i wish i hadnt. You are absulutely right! Being half Nicaraguan, a very corrupt country i really should have thought twice before posting the fact that we got pulled over. If one of the editors reads this please take it out.
Alejandra is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2007, 04:06 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2004
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Fodors could add such feature as adapting the post after posting.
Alejandra is offline  
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