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I Speak of (South) Africa... 8-17 July 2006 (Jasher)

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Sep 22nd, 2006, 04:12 PM
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I Speak of (South) Africa... 8-17 July 2006 (Jasher)

Hello everyone,

Having finally completed the Mother of All Trip Reports for the Botswana segment of my trip, it’s nice to be starting afresh for the South African segment. For reference, my itinerary was as follows:

8 July: Johannesburg (Ten Bompas)
9 – 10 July: Sabi Sands (Singita Ebony)
11 – 13 July: Sabi Sands (Mala Mala Sable Camp)
14 – 15 July: Sabi Sands (Londolozi Pioneer Camp)
16 July: Johannesburg (The Grace)

For those who have not followed the Botswana section of this trip report, the itinerary for that segment was as follows:

22 June: Depart London on overnight Virgin Atlantic flight
23 June: Johannesburg (The Saxon)
24 – 27 June: Linyanti (Savuti Camp)
28 June – 2 July: Okavango Delta (Mombo Camp)
3 July: Linyanti (Kwando Lebala)
4 – 5 July: Linyanti (Kwando Lagoon)
6 – 7 July: Makgadikgadi Pans (Jack’s Camp)

The trip report can be read on the following thread:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34844345

A few notes in the itinerary – those of you who are familiar with my postings and my ‘3-night-minimum stay’ rule will probably be surprised to see so many 2-night stays on this itinerary. When I’m travelling purely for pleasure, I definitely stick to the 3-night rule, but since this was a site inspection trip for Destiny Africa I did a couple of 2-nighters in order to visit some additional camps. With both Mombo and Singita on my itinerary everything had to be scheduled around their availability – the 1-night stay at Lebala was an artefact of scheduling as it wasn’t possible to get three nights at Lagoon or three nights at Jack’s.

You might also be surprised to see three Sabi Sands reserves (all neighbouring each other) – normally I’d prefer a longer stay at only one reserve, as IMO it’s a bit silly to stay two nights at one reserve and then go next door for another two nights, particularly when you’ll probably end up seeing a lot of the same animals as their territories cross reserve boundaries. That aside, seeing the Big Three of the Sabi Sand back-to-back was a rare experience, and absolutely fascinating.

Now on to the trip report!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 22nd, 2006, 04:12 PM
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JULY 8: JOHANNESBURG (TEN BOMPAS)

As I deplaned from my Air Botswana flight, I heard someone called my name – it was Beth, the management consultant I’d shared a vehicle with at Lebala and Lagoon. She’d been two rows back on the flight. It was great to see her again, and I was happy to hear that she’d finally seen lions at Kwara, though she didn’t manage to see any leopards.

I emerged into International Arrivals following a more irritating than normal passage through Immigration and Customs, where it seemed that everyone had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning (it’s rare to find a happy and smiling immigration officer in any country, but this lot was particularly miserable – and you know how misery loves company) to find my driver from Ten Bompas holding up a sign for Mr and Mrs Asher and wondering where my wife was. But the ride to Ten Bompas in a plush, leather-lined white Mercedes did a lot to soothe my nerves – though it was frightening to realise that the billboards on the road leading to the airport are becoming very familiar…

We must have taken a different route than the one I’m accustomed to, as it was only once we got very close to the hotel that I started recognising the area, despite having stayed very nearby last year. Like the Saxon, the exterior of Ten Bompas is subtle, with only the sign for the restaurant, Sides, distinguishing it from its neighbours. Inside, it looked more like a posh restaurant than a hotel, with the bar to the left and the dining room on the right. The maitre d’s desk doubled as reception. All three were staffed by chic people dressed in black – yes, I was in design hotel land.

Checking in was quick and painless. One of the staff showed me up to my suite, No. 5. Each suite is individually decorated, and I’d provided them with a list of three which looked interesting after looking at the images on the Ten Bompas website (http://www.tenbompas.co.za). I’d long since forgotten which one was which, so it was a pleasant surprise to find a room decorated in warm golds and rich teals, with plentiful use of texture (the room was a collaboration between an architect and a couturier). It reminded me a bit of some of the posh places I’ve seen in Egypt. It was very spacious as well, with sitting and sleeping rooms separated by a floor-to-ceiling fireplace (visible from both sides). There was also a guest toilet and cloakroom off the sitting room as well as the en-suite attached to the bedroom. A bucket of ice cradled a champagne bottle on the coffee table in the sitting room, and a tray of canapés sat nearby.

I was delighted to discover that it would be possible to do some laundry despite my relatively late arrival and early check-out, and sent the dust-laden clothes from my last night at Jack’s off to be cleaned. I really wanted to clean my Mombo fleece, which had turned several shades paler after my time on the Pans, but it was ‘hang dry’ only and I didn’t think it would be dry in time for my flight tomorrow so I decided to get it done at Singita instead.

I took a few quick photos of my room before going down to dinner. Sides is one of the hottest restaurants in Joburg, and has gotten very good reviews so I was looking forward to it. I was a bit early for my reservation so I got a drink and took a look around the bar. Off to one side was the spacious lounge, with a free-standing fireplace imbedded in a column, and to the other was a sitting area with a computer (there is free internet access). I was briefly tempted to check my email, but decided not to in the end.

The crowd at Sides is young and chic – similar to the sort you might see in a restaurant in SoHo in New York. It’s very popular with non-residents as well as people who are staying at the hotel. The menu is seasonal and featured hearty winter fare. I had a delicious risotto with a glass of white wine, and chocolate mousse for dessert.

After dinner I took a look around the hotel. Ten Bompas is built around a sunken courtyard with a lawn and pool and plenty of outdoor seating (not much use now, but doubtless popular in the warmer months). They have an extensive wine cellar with a great selection of SA wines, as well as some imports. Most of the suites were occupied, but I was able to get a look at a few of them – one was the one PredatorBiologist stayed in, based on his description of the Joburg skyline on the wall.

I returned to my room to find a fire crackling in the fireplace – there’s always something so welcoming about a fire. I relaxed in the sitting room for a short while, writing in my journal, before going to take a bath. Ten Bompas has l’Occitane toiletries, which included a huge bath sugar cube with essential oils. I’d never seen anything like it, so I tossed it in – it smelled great.

After cleaning my camera gear and taking some more pictures, I pre-packed as much as possible since I knew I had an early start tomorrow in order to catch my flight to Singita – my laundry had already returned while I was at dinner. Then it was time for bed.
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Sep 22nd, 2006, 07:47 PM
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Julian,

I heard rumors earlier that for next year, there are going to be other options to fly to Maun (besides Air Botswana) is this true?

Although, i havent had bad experiences with them like many people have, they mysteriously put me on the earlier flight from Maun to Joburg and had to leave Kwara earlier than scheduled...

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Sep 23rd, 2006, 08:41 AM
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Hari

The skies may be open over Botswana, ending the Air Botswana monopoly. That decision will happen around the first of the year.
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 10:02 AM
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Hi Hari,

I put something about this in the Botswana section of my trip report -- according to the pilots and managers I talked to at Sefofane and WS, Air Botswana's monopoly ends in 2007.

WS, CCA, Sanctuary et al have been lobbying hard for the opening up of the Maun-JNB route to other carriers due to ongoing problems with Air Botswana (not enough capacity in the high season; lousy scheduling and last-minute cancellations; constant delays, problems with overbooking, etc). Hopefully 2007 will spell the end of Air Botswana's monopoly, though it's not clear when in 2007 this would come into effect. Though high season 2007 would be ideal, I wouldn't be surprised if things drag on until high season 2008.

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 01:43 PM
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I get a kick out of Air Botswana's motto
"Going your way."

While they were going my way, it was not always at the time or on the date my ticket indicated.

At least this last trip had no major delays.

So will this be the "daughter of all trip reports"?
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 04:15 PM
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Hi Lynn,

When I fly Air Botswana, my main question is not whether the flight will be delayed (that's a given) but by how much.

Yes, this should be the Daughter of All Trip Reports!

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 05:04 PM
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JULY 9: JOHANNESBURG (TEN BOMPAS) / SABI SANDS (SINGITA EBONY)
I think all the early mornings were starting to catch up to me (or maybe it was just the fact that I knew I didn’t have a game drive waiting for me) – I overslept and barely had time to pack. Fortunately Sides does an ‘express breakfast’ so I didn’t go hungry, though looking at the menu made me kick myself for not getting up earlier.

Ten Bompas, like many Joburg hotels, offers a direct drop-off at the Federal Air lounge at Bonaero Park (as opposed to being dropped at the international terminal at JNB and waiting for the Federal Air shuttle), which was great as it meant avoiding the international terminal and its attendant taxi and hotel touts. Unfortunately, my driver had no idea where the Federal Air lounge was located, with the result that we spent the better part of half an hour faffing around at JNB before finally locating it. The really odd thing was that this guy had no idea how to ring information (to get the number for Federal Air so we could call for directions). I ended up using his phone to ring Ten Bompas and asking them to look it up online.

This was not the best start to my day, as I’d spent most of the half-hour at JNB wondering if I was going to miss my flight, but at least the familiar Federal Air lounge was as restful as ever. After watching the check-in agent put a ‘Singita’ tag on my bag, I had time to relax with a nice cup of tea. I was momentarily tempted by the warm croissants until I realised that they came in individual plastic wrappers which were then microwaved.

I always think that the outdoor portion of the Federal Air departures area looks like someone’s back yard, particularly with the little gate in the waist-high wooden fence. I was surprised to find a rather large number of people queuing, until I saw that we were taking a jet rather than a little plane. Due to new fire safety regulations, Federal Air can no longer fly directly into the camps’ airstrips; instead they have to fly the jet to Skukuza where everyone is transferred to separate little planes, which seemed to me like a recipe for lost luggage and general chaos. Supposedly this is because the camps don’t have adequate fire-fighting equipment at the airstrips, though that then begs the question of why smaller planes are all right… I later learned that many of the camps are in the process of getting their airstrips re-certified, so this shouldn’t be a long-running problem.

I’d forgotten how absolutely tiny Federal Air’s jets are – if I’d remembered I probably would have checked another bag. There’s no overhead or underseat storage, just a small closet directly aft of the pilots’ cabin, so I stacked my stuff in there with everyone else.

One thing I did remember was how nice the Federal Air snacks are, and this time was no exception – there was a sandwich (roast beef), water, and biltong. The sandwich was pretty good for airplane food, and biltong is always welcome.

About an hour later we landed in Skukuza. As expected it was chaos, with a flock of little planes heading in different directions, passengers milling around aimlessly, and lots of shuffling of luggage to make sure that it went on the right plane. Compounding the chaos were all the passengers heading back to JNB and all their luggage, sitting in piles around the ‘departures lounge’ / picnic area. There were two Irish people smoking in the middle of the lounge, and like smokers everywhere they were oblivious to the way everyone edged away as soon as they lit up. Unfortunately, they were on my flight – our plane was a little four seater, and I had to hold my breath as they moved past. Ugh! At least I was upwind once the fans started going…

I’ve done a lot of flights over the Sabi Sands, and it’s always fun to see if I can identify any of the camps from the air. The first one we flew over looked like a collection of 1960s portable buildings, which puzzled me until I remembered that we were flying over Kruger – it was one of the rest camps. I saw the Sabi and Sand Rivers though I didn’t see any camps this time.

Singita was the first stop, so I was able to wave my smoky companions goodbye. Next to the airstrip, in place of the usual wooden shelter, there was what looked like the main deck of a posh safari lodge. Unfortunately, I forgot that I would be flying out of Londoz and didn’t take any photos for the Safari Photo Album.

The lounge was a large thatched wooden structure, with comfortable white and khaki sofas and chairs. It was shady and cool, and there was a fridge with cold water – definitely an improvement over sitting in your vehicle while waiting for your flight!

I didn’t have much time to enjoy the lounge, however, as Paul, my ranger , was there to greet me. After getting a bottle of water from the lounge, we headed out. I found myself missing the canvas roofs at Jack’s under the hot lowveld sun.

There was a shaded waiting area with a nice wooden bench at the Ebony Lodge car park, which struck me as a bit odd at first – who would be waiting here, and for what? It turned out that the bench was quite useful when waiting for the shuttle to the shop, which is located in a separate building midway between Ebony and Boulders.

We were met by one of the assistant managers, who led us downhill on a deep brown wooden walkway and over a gently arching bridge to the main lounge, a soaring double-height structure blending traditional safari lodge architecture and artefacts like pith helmets with funky modern furniture. It was cosy and welcoming, with rich dark wood accented by vibrant upholstery in what struck me as an almost Indian palette – deep magenta, burnt orange, rich blue-purple periwinkle. The lounge was divided into a number of smaller seating areas, interspersed with book-covered tables and African art. The river-facing side opened out into an expansive deck with a wonderful view over the Sand River. There was a Swarovski spotting scope on the deck for birders. It’s not always easy to see the river at Londoz, but at Singita the dancing waters were clearly visible down below. One of the staff was setting out lemonade, iced tea, and water, and I helped myself to a glass of iced tea – or rather I tried to help myself, because she poured it for me before I was able to do so.

I chose a comfortable orange chair looking out towards the deck for my introductory briefing, where I met Yvonne, the manager of Ebony Lodge. There were a number of activities on offer in addition to game drives – wine tasting, lunch or dinner at Boulders, the gym, and of course the famous spa. It turned out that both Ebony and Boulders had just been refurbished, so the timing of my visit was perfect. The new suites were still under construction but I hoped to get a chance to see them as well.

Yvonne introduced me to Shedrick, my butler, before showing me to my suite (No 4), over the river and through the woods across another gently arching wooden bridge. The brick pathway and manicured lawns were a bit startling after the wilder environs of my Botswana camps, though quite lovely in a different way. My suite was classic colonial safari, with a palatial bedroom and a grand four-poster bed swathed in acres of mosquito netting; a separate sitting room with cosy chairs; a fireplace dividing the bedroom and sitting room (hmmm…I’m sensing a theme); an enormous his-and-hers bathroom with two sinks, a gigantic clawfoot tub, separate shower, and dressing-room area with fluffy orange robes and slippers. Outside there was an expansive deck with an outdoor shower, heated (!) plunge pool (visible from the tub), deck chairs, and comfortable sitting area. The deck had a grand view over the Sand River, and I could see the tracks of animals that had come down to drink imprinted on the sand. The suite was full of the little touches that set Singita apart: a huge range of snacks and drinks (tucked away in a cleverly concealed fridge); china and silver on the tea and coffee tray; and a set of watercolour supplies in the sitting room. While looking through the snack basket I happened to mention that I have a soft spot for droewors – about five minutes after Yvonne left there was a knock on the door, and there was Shedrick with a small plate of droewors.
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 05:56 PM
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I unpacked and took some photos of my room for the Safari Photo Album before going to lunch. As I walked down to the dining deck I found myself eye-to-eye with a shy bushbuck mum and fawn, browsing among the foliage next to the path. What beautiful creatures.

Yvonne met me on the dining deck (situated below the main lounge and projecting further out towards the river). I was a bit early, so I wasn’t surprised to be on my own, but it turned out that most of the other guests had decided to go to Boulders for lunch. I didn’t mind – it was nice to just sit on the deck and enjoy the view. We were having a boma dinner tonight so there would be plenty of time to meet people. I took some photos of the views over the river, as well as some shots of the main lounge from below. The bushbuck were a bit too camera-shy.

Like Mombo, Singita had both a menu and a buffet. I started with a fresh Caesar salad, followed by an absolutely enormous club sandwich (this thing could have fed two people) and accompanied by a very good glass of white wine. There tasting notes on the wine list were surprisingly accurate – sometimes, after tasting the wine I wonder what the menu-writer was smoking). I wondered how the food at Boulders differed – the two camps share one head chef but each designs its own menu – and made a mental note to make sure I ate there before I left.

Once again the famous Singita service came into play, though so subtly that it was only in retrospect that I realised how good it was. Shedrick’s timing was impeccable – I never felt rushed while perusing the menu, but as soon as I was ready to order he was there. My water glass was never empty. And when a large black fly committed suicide in my wine glass (even Singita is not immune to the vagaries of outdoor eating) I barely had a chance to register its presence before the glass was whisked away and replaced with a fresh one. And it was all done so subtly, so seamlessly that it seemed natural, rather than feeling as if someone was hovering over me all the time.

I really shouldn’t have ordered that Caesar salad – between that and half of the club sandwich I felt like the beached-whale lions at Mombo had looked. Yvonne suggested going over to Boulders to take a look at the new suites, but after that meal I didn’t feel up to tramping around a building site so I decided to visit the shop. I needed a new fleece to wear while the Mombo one was getting cleaned, and I was also hoping to find another dufflebag – it was clear that my Hartmann wasn’t going to be large enough to get everything back to England, especially with two new fleeces to stuff inside. I’d been meaning to look into getting a slightly larger bag for awhile so I would have more room for souvenirs – the Hartmann is perfect if I don’t buy anything, but given that I often like to do some early Christmas shopping on my trips (camp shops are great sources for things that can’t be found in England) I often find myself running a bit short on space towards the end of a long trip.

The shop at Singita is located midway between Ebony and Boulders, and transportation between it and the lodges is by shuttle, which turned out to be a Land Rover with a canvas roof. Yvonne had mentioned that there was a female leopard who had cleverly decided to keep her cubs between Boulders and Ebony as other predators weren’t likely to come too close. She was often seen by people going to and from the shop, so I kept an eye out for a glimpse of that familiar rosetted coat. Unfortunately, the leopard didn’t feel a need for any retail therapy on that particular day.

The shop was surrounded by a wooden deck, which had some very high-quality sculptures as well as the more usual beaded animals and Zulu wire bowls. A shelf of animal sculptures caught my eye – their quality was noticeably better than anything I’ve seen in the craft markets, with naturalistic poses and actual expressions on the animals’ faces. I later learned that most of them were made by a local cooperative called Animal Art Unlimited based in White River.

http://cgi3.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...d=leadwood2025

Some of them were even more locally made, by members of the Singita staff. I was highly tempted to add a very fine pangolin sculpture made by one of the trackers to my art collection, but it weighed a ton – leadwood definitely merits its name!

Inside it was blessedly cool – even the roof over the porch couldn’t block out the heat entirely. After picking out a nice thick grey fleece, I spent a bit of time browsing. They had a very nice selection of Patrick Mavros sculptures, including some cufflinks (no pangolins, but the manager visited his site online and found out that they were available in London). For those who did not read my Botswana trip report, Patrick Mavros is a very talented Zimbabwean silversmith whose work I first encountered at Mombo:

http://www.patrickmavros.com

I did find a nice assortment of green canvas luggage trimmed with dark leather. It had apparently been designed by the person who had designed the lodges, which explained why the nice medium-sized bag had some artistic but impractical leather strings as a closure rather than a lockable zipper. The large one looked good, but I was a bit worried that it would be too large to take on light aircraft flights in Botswana. They had a tape measure, so I took some measurements to compare with the notes I’d received from WS about maximum allowable bag size.

While I didn’t pick up the luggage, I did find a wonderful picture frame made of dark wood with iron studs (it reminded me a lot of some of the doors at Merton). Having failed to get my Bushman bracelets I was on the lookout for unusual gifts, and I was momentarily tempted by a copper wire purse covered with buttons – I knew it was something my sister would love, as the colours and textures were fantastic – unfortunately, so was the price.

I charged my purchases to my room and took the shuttle back to Ebony, where I spent some time enjoying the plunge pool and the view from my deck. I took a look at the spa menu as well – after spending so much time with Spa Girl I just had to try the spa.

On the way down to tea I got sidetracked by the sight of the dining room through one of the windows – it was a particularly interesting perspective, with the light streaming into the room through the French doors. Tea at Singita was a cross between buffet-style and the sit-down style at Mombo – everything was displayed on a central table, but was served to you rather than helping yourself. There was hot and iced tea waiting, as well as water with lemon slices. In addition to chocolate brownies there were some very addictive thin shortbread biscuits – despite being still full from lunch I found them impossible to resist.

During my introductory briefing I’d been asked if I would mind sharing my vehicle with Singita’s general manager and his son, which was fine with me. The GM was a friendly South African man who was originally from Paarl, and his teenage son still attended boarding school somewhere near Paarl. The GM didn’t get a chance to spend much time in bush despite living in a house near the lodges – hearing every day about all the great sightings he’d missed must have been frustrating!

He was really hoping to see the leopard and her cubs, so we drove behind the lodges to see if we could pick up her tracks. This gave me an interesting view of a side of Singita few people ever see, the structure underlying that pristine surface. We passed the construction zone for the new suites at Boulders, and the quarry where the stone for the lodges is sources – insofar as possible all the materials used in the lodges are local. The terrain around Singita is particularly attractive, with picturesque granite kopjes whose surfaces glowed in the light of the setting sun even as the moon rose in the evening sky. Fig trees clung to the kopjes like living sculptures.

We startled a trio of klipspringers, who bounded away up – I’m always amazed by how they can bound up and down virtually vertical rockfaces without even having toes or claws to cling with. I tried to get some pictures of them but they moved a bit too fast for me to get the shots I wanted.

It ended up being a very quiet game drive, much to everyone’s chagrin (especially Paul’s). However, I had a very enjoyable chat with the GM about the changes taking place at Singita in the Sabi Sands, notably the reclamation of Castleton as Luke Bailes’s private retreat (which had resulted in the addition of additional rooms to Boulders and Ebony), and the plans for the new suites, which were designed with their own private access for those who wanted the ultimate private lodge experience. The former GM of Singita is now heading up Singita Serengeti, and the Singita team is hard at work to ensure that Singita Serengeti meets the same standards as the South African lodges. Apparently there are additional expansion plans in the works, which may include Botswana or parts even further afield – good news for Singita devotees everywhere.
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 06:26 PM
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Frank, our tracker, picked up the tracks of the female and her cubs, and for a while it looked like our quiet game drive might end with a bang. Unfortunately, after following the tracks for a considerable distance, we lost them at the base of a kopje. We circled the kopje and couldn’t pick them up again, and Frank and Paul thought it was likely that the leopards were tucked up among the rocks somewhere. We would come back in the morning and take another look.

The boma dinner at Ebony was the poshest boma dinner I’ve ever attended, with a lantern-lit boma and individual tables draped in white linen and set with silver and crystal. Paul joined me for dinner, and we enjoyed a delicious meal – I’ve always found kudu to be tough, but the kudu at Singita was meltingly tender. The wine was superb. They even had port on offer after dinner, and it was quite good as well, though I think I’ve become a bit spoilt by the port at Merton – few places can match an Oxford or Cambridge college for port. Paul suggested that I might enjoy doing a wine tasting with Francois, the sommelier at Singita, and I made a mental note to ask Yvonne about it.

As I mentioned at the end of my Botswana trip report, in my haste I had left my dental floss at Jack’s Camp, and so far I hadn’t had a chance to buy a replacement. It’s a small thing, but the sort of small thing which can slowly drive you mad (particularly if you love biltong and droewors as much as I do). I’d meant to buy some in Joburg, but had never had a moment to do so. I happened to mention this to Yvonne when she stopped by our table to see how we were getting on, and to my surprise she handed me a brown paper bag when we were drinking our port – when I opened it I found a roll of dental floss inside. It turned out that one of the staff very kindly donated a roll from her personal supply. Nothing that can make your stay more pleasant is too small to escape their notice at Singita.

After dinner I went back to my room for a nice long bath in the enormous tub (big enough to float in if you’re on the short side). Looking out the window at the steam rising off the plunge pool tempted me to take a midnight swim, but in the end common sense got the better of me, much to my regret. Now that would have been something – a midnight swim under the stars in the Sabi Sands.
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 07:53 PM
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A midnight swim and a 1AM feeding frenzy for the hyenas and/or lions! Julian Stew, I would call it.
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Sep 23rd, 2006, 08:04 PM
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santharamhari
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Thanks for the Air Botswana feed-back. Will await with baited breath!!!

Hari
 
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Sep 24th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Hi Rocco,

Those would need to have been some energetic lions -- unlike Boulders, which is down close to the river, Ebony is built higher up

Cheers,
Julian

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Sep 24th, 2006, 02:04 PM
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So Julian I'm intrigued what does the butler do, if you unpacked?
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Sep 24th, 2006, 03:13 PM
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Hi Matt,

As you know, it's the valet who normally unpacks your luggage

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 24th, 2006, 06:45 PM
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Julian,

You should consider moving to India...that's an everyday thing (Valet/butler) etc etc.,

Hari
 
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Sep 24th, 2006, 06:46 PM
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But ofcourse, there's traffic and potholes and heat/humidity etc etc., (the trade-offs)
 
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Sep 25th, 2006, 06:09 AM
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Hari

I have all of the above in the Bay Area (well excepting humidity) but no personal staff.

Julian

I was actually being serious. Earlier this year I loved the luxury and seclusion of Rattrays, but I really struggle to understand how a butler could improve that experience, thus my question.
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Sep 25th, 2006, 04:25 PM
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Hi Matt,

Sorry - sometimes it's hard to tell whether something is meant tongue in cheek or not!

Shedrick was wonderful - in addition to serving my meals, he essentially took charge of all the little things that can make a stay at a lodge not just luxurious but special -- things like making sure my room thermostat was always set to my preferred temperature (I hate it when people change the temperature in your room when you are out, especially as I prefer things a bit cooler than most people); ensuring that my snack basket was always stocked with my favourite snacks and adding new things based on what I had eaten; learning my tastes in food and drink and recommending dishes from the buffet or the menu; materialising with a drink or a snack whenever I was in the lounge and feeling peckish (sometimes I swore he could read my mind...I'd start thinking about maybe wanting a glass of water and he'd be there with a glass of water). He never hovered, but he always just happened to be nearby whenever I needed something.

Admittedly this isn't always the case with butlers -- some of them are better than others, and Shedrick was exceptional. Philemon, who has been my butler at Londoz on several visits, was similarly excellent. There was one stay when Philemon was on holiday and I got a different butler who wasn't as good (to be fair, he was a lot younger).

Cheers,
Julian
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Sep 25th, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 1,558
So glad we have Part Deux from you Julian (I mean Spa Boy!)Please tell me you DO have photos of lion cubs I will patiently wait to sww...one of these years..........
Can't wait to hear about Mala Mala.
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