Sista's Trip Report-Southern Africa April 2008

May 17th, 2008, 02:27 PM
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Sista's Trip Report-Southern Africa April 2008

Thanks to all of you Fodorites for all your advise during the planning stage of my trip. A special thanks to ekscrunchy for her great 2007 trip report and recommendation of Southern Destinations. Southern Destinations laid out our itinerary for us and made the arrangements. All travel logistics, transfers and flights were perfect. In addition, they put a lot of thought into our quirky requests for wild game viewing, golf, fishing and cultural aspects and came up with a great itinerary.

DH and I spend 3 weeks+ in S. Africa, Botswana and Zambia during April. We went to some locations that are not often discussed on Fodors. I will try to keep it short and answer questions that come my way:

Heysbrook Country Lodge near Waterfall Boven, Mpumalanga-outstanding place to recover from jet-lag. Evidently many Jo'berg residents come here to get away on the weekends. We met a lot of South Africans who were very welcoming and patient with all of our questions. DH did some trout fishing, we did some hiking and ate way too much. This was just an introduction into the fine food of S. Africa. Beautiful, romantic rooms and lovely wooded grounds. During the stay we took a tour of the Panorama Route with Eastgate Safaris. Excellent guide and especially liked Blyde's Canyon.

Honeyguide Khoka Moya Camp in Manyaleti-Great accomodations and food but marginal game viewing. Could've been the time of year or the cloudy weather, but it did seem that the ranger and tracker were a bit inexperienced. This initial impression was confirmed as we visited two other camps later.

Fancourt Resort-We drove from Port Elizabeth to Fancourt Resort near George. Incredible resort and wonderful golf courses. Day trip to Outshoorn to see the ostrich farms and Cango Caves was great fun. We also played golf at Pearl Valley Golf Course in Paarl. We were very impressed with the quality of the golf experience in S. Africa.

Cathbert Country Inn-Lovely B&B outside of Franschoek. Dinner there rivaled the other lovely meals we had in the Winelands: Bread and Cheese for lunch and Tokara for dinner. Tokara looks out over Stellenbosch-excellent wine and 4 courses for about $US 70.

Welgelegen Guest House-you cannot beat the location or service at the Welgelegen. We had no trouble navigating the city in our car from the central location near Kloof Street. The restaurants on Kloof were so convenient after a long day of sightseeing. We did a township tour to Distric 6 museum, Langa and Guguleto townships-well worthwhile but I would not recommend the long trip to Robben Island. Good restaurants include the Codfather in Camps Bay, Ginza and Yindee's Thai. Don't miss Kalky's in Kalk's Bay (thanks to a Fodorite for this tip) for fish and chips in a non-touristy spot right on the pier.

Zambezi Sun in Victoria Falls, Zambia-Good place to relax and enjoy the Falls. High water level made them difficult to see from the Zambia Falls but we were too lazy to go to the Zimbabwe side. We really enjoyed the sundowners at the Royal Livingstone's deck overlooking the Zambezi flood. Incredible sunsets there. The Zambezi Sun was fine, nothing fancy but very adequate.

Savute Lodge in Chobe National Park, Botswana-Our "chalet" overlooked the water hole and provided us with lots of game viewing. Nice vehicles, good food and wine, excellent accommodations. This is a well managed venue. We saw the big five, the little five and the ugly five. We especially enjoyed the wild dogs that we saw on two days. The zebras were getting ready to migrate and we saw hundreds of them arrayed across the Savute Channel.

Xugana Island Lodge-I couldn't find anything about this place except that it is owned by the same company as Savute Lodge and was a little worried. This place turned out to be a wonderful place to spend our last two days in Africa. The Okavango Delta is such a unique place and the solitude was remarkable. We did the mokoro tour and two bush walks that were a welcome change from the vehicle- enclosed rides we had experienced. We saw 3 very large hippo families. I will never forget the bell frogs who serenaded us to sleep. They sound as if someone with a marimba is playing a little tune-extraordinary!

I think that I now understand the many Fodorites who start planning their next African adventure as soon as they get back. I have this guilty pleasure right now-can't wait to return.
steamboatsista is online now  
May 17th, 2008, 03:13 PM
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Great report! I enjoyed reading about the places I hadn't heard much about. I have to ask -- what are the "ugly 5"?
isabel25 is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 07:14 PM
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Glad you enjoyed your trip. Please post pictures! Would like to spend some time in Chobe some day. And yes, what are the ugly 5?
matnikstym is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 08:38 PM
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That's something the Botswana guides joke about ....... and concoct their own versions of the "ugly 5" to entertain their guests ....... wildebeest etc etc.,
HariS is offline  
May 17th, 2008, 09:04 PM
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oops sorry, I meant Isabel - not, Lynn.
HariS is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Yes, our guide gave his "ugly five" as the wildebeest, hyena, vulture, warthog and marabou stork. I actually thought the warthogs were kinda cute.
steamboatsista is online now  
May 18th, 2008, 12:51 PM
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Thanks for the report. You flew into Jo'berg and went the Heysbrook Country Lodge from there?
bat is offline  
May 18th, 2008, 01:01 PM
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Yes, Bat, it was about a 2.5 hour drive from the Jo'Burg airport.
steamboatsista is online now  
May 19th, 2008, 10:20 AM
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Sista I am so glad that SD did a great job for you! You went to some interesting destinations that have not received much coverage here...thanks for reporting back!
ekscrunchy is online now  
May 19th, 2008, 02:00 PM
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Hi sista,

could you give me a bit more detail about the panorama route and Blyde's canyon?

did you tour there whilst staying at Heysbrook - and how far is that from Jo'burg?

we are looking at a trip next year wanting to fit in the drakensberg and a few days in/near kruger within about a week. Does that sound possible to you?

did southern destinations arrange it all for you?

sorry to bombard you with questions!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 02:33 PM
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Great report and nice to know Southern Destinations did a good job.

I was just about to ask what the ugly 5 was when I saw that Hari had responded to my request. That's pretty good to be answering me before I even put it into writing. Almost erie.

I like those Ugly 5. I suppose you could also refer to a rather full vehicle of obnoxious guests as The Ugly 5 also.
atravelynn is offline  
May 19th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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No problem, Ann...glad to help.

The Panorama Route showcases the area north of Nelspruit and west of the Kruger private reserves. This is in the northern end of the Drakensburg, as I understand it and it is quite lovely. We saw Blyde's Canyon, the Potholes, God's Window, Lisbon Falls and Pilgrims' Rest. Along the route are widespread commercial tree farms-eucalyptus for paper and pine for lumber.

Blyde's Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world (3rd largest, maybe?)and it did remind me of the Grand Canyon, but on a smaller scale. The vistas off the escarpment were phenomenal. Everything was very green when we were there (in April).

The Potholes were carved by violent whirlwind-like action of the Blyde River on sandstone. God's Window has an inspiring vista, but it was too cloudy that day for us to see it. Pilgrims' Rest is a turn of the century gold mining town, kind of touristy, but we had a nice lunch and quick look-see.

We did take the Panorama Route while staying at Heysbrook Country Lodge. Our guide was Johann Schultz with Eastgate Safaris. I would recommend him highly. We stayed at Heysbrook for 3 nights before going to Manyaleti-one of the private reserves west of Kruger for game viewing. We stayed 3 nights there, so it is definitely possible to spend a week in this area (or more!). Heysbrook Country Lodge is located near Waterfall Boven and is about 2.5 hours northeast of the Jo'burg airport.

Yes, Southern Destinations did work out the itinerary for us once we gave them our budget and interests. We worked primarily with Jason Powell.

I hope this helps...
steamboatsista is online now  
May 19th, 2008, 06:22 PM
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"I was just about to ask what the ugly 5 was when I saw that Hari had responded to my request. That's pretty good to be answering me before I even put it into writing. Almost erie."

Sorry Lynn - this happened the other day, when I was reading two threads and answered them both later and hadn't realized your question was in the other thread!

HariS is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 01:10 AM
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Hi sista,

that's very helpful.

any drawbacks with staying at the Heysbrook? - we'd need 2 rooms I think as our "kids" are more or less adult [apart from when it comes to paying!!!!].

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
May 21st, 2008, 06:00 AM
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Sounds like a great trip!
Kavey is offline  
May 22nd, 2008, 07:10 AM
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Hi Ann:

My only reservation about your almost adult children at Heysbrook Country Lodge is that, unless they like to hike and fish, they may be bored. We took one guided hike (included in the fee)to an old mine with lots of bats. They might like that. There was also wild game around...baboons and bushbok. I don't remember any teens there the weekend we were there, although there might be at other times. Waterfall Boven is quite well known for its rock climbing, if your kids are into that.

steamboatsista is online now  
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