Trip highlights from SA -- it was great!

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Mar 4th, 2006, 07:17 AM
  #1
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Trip highlights from SA -- it was great!

We're just back from 2 and a half weeks in South Africa, and this visit was as wonderful as any of our previous trips there. Some highlights:

I FINALLY saw a leopard! In the Kruger Park, close to the camp gate at Letaba. It was fabulous. He was lounging in a tree, just acting like a leopard.

In general the game viewing was very good. Because it's summer game was not concentrated at the water holes, and the herd animals weren't clumping together in huge groups (except for the buffalo), but we saw lots of game every day, including elephants and giraffes and zebras and buffalo, a hyena mother nursing her cubs, a good size zebra herd as well as many small groups of zebras, rhinos on two different days, and an especially interesting elephant behavior I'd like to know more about. (I'll ask in a separate posting.) The hippos were mostly keeping to the water, just showing their ears and eyes, and the crocs were also mostly in the water, since they didn't need to come out for warmth from the sun. We also saw an African wild cat, and a rock python. Also two lions.

What we didn't see any of, in spite of the time of year, was mosquitoes, hooray!

The camps we stayed at in Kruger were Berg-en-Dal, Letaba, and Mopani. Mopani was our favorite. Both Berg-en-Dal and Mopani have lovely swimming pools. We didn't use the pool at Letaba. If anyone wants more information about these accommodations, just ask and I’ll provide details.

We enjoyed Graskop (but didn't eat pancakes at Harrie’s famous place there) and the Blyde River Canyon, and the waterfalls, especially Lisbon Falls, which we thought prettier than Berlin Falls.

We stayed two days in Tsitsikamma National Park. We loved it. It's on the Indian Ocean near the towns of Wilderness, Plettenberg Bay, and Knysna. We really enjoyed the forest and mountains (you have to walk over one to get to the dock for the interesting boat trip up the Storms River), and the seashore was great. Lots of boulders with crashing waves, and dolphins playing just offshore. The accommodations were nice, and there's a swimming pool and a small beach.

In Calitzdorp we tasted wine at Boplaas and at Die Krans. We bought Boplaas potstill brandy, and a bottle or two of wine to bring home.

We stayed at Ladismith Country House about 10 km's outside of Ladismith. It was very rural and rustic, absolutely peaceful and serene. The set menu dinner was really good. I'd recommend this place if you want a retreat in the Klein Karoo. The young couple running the place are very personable.

In Franschhoek we wanted to eat at Reuben's which of course was fully booked for the night we were there. We should have booked in advance. But we went to Piccatta instead. My review of it is mixed. My husband Jim had a calamari starter, and rack of lamb with tomato tart for a main course. I had a salad of rocket, roasted peppers, and green beans for starters, and a stew of lamb shank and lentils. Jim's meal was delicious. His lamb was succulent. I would criticize the proportions of my salad -- there was too much rocket for the amount of peppers, so the strong greens overpowered the other vegetables a bit, I thought. As to my main course, the lamb shank was fine (and the leek garnish really went well with it), but the lentils were underdone. I had a dessert that made up for it though -- a flourless chocolate cake with sweet chili in it, and praline ice cream with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Scrumptious. The wine we chose was an Akkendal Wild Boar 2003. It's a blend of malbec, mouvedre, and one other cultivar that I can't remember. It was deep, smoky, barnyardy, really wonderful with the lamb.

We spent our last morning at the Waterfront in Cape Town, mostly for nostalgia. We had lunch at Dock's, the restaurant that looks out over the area where people board for the trip to Robben Island. Some seals were playing in the water, and two huge seals were sunning themselves on the dock, posing for photographs.

I want to thank the contributor to this file who mentioned the book "Where to Watch Game in the Kruger Park" by Nigel Dennis. We bought it in Nelspruit before we got to Kruger and found it really useful.

It was a delightful trip, and of course we found generous South African hospitality wherever we went. As all you readers of this file know, we started planningõ†÷ next visit on the plane ride home.
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Mar 4th, 2006, 08:25 AM
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Hello Celia,

Thanks for your trip report -- glad to hear you had such a great trip! Where do you think your next trip will take you?

Cheers,
Julian
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Mar 4th, 2006, 09:38 AM
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Well, to Kruger for sure, but where in addition we haven't thought yet. All we've decided is that we should go in April or October, for best weather, and probably 2008, not 2007, for budget and time reasons.
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Mar 4th, 2006, 02:49 PM
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Celia -- Great to hear what a good time you had! We love SA too.

We are going to Kruger in late December. We will only have one night at Mopani but I am curious if you have suggestions about which cottage(s) to ask for. From the map of the camp online it looks like cottages 9-12 & 43 & 45 have good views of the lake?

We will be 3 nights at Lower Sabie in a river view safari tent, 1 night at Satara, 1 at Mopani, 1 at Shingwedzi, then 2 at Punda Maria (then Pretoria for a night followed by 8 days in Botswana). Any other tips or other details on Kruger? Did you do any activities like game walks or night drives or bush braais?
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Mar 4th, 2006, 03:06 PM
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Welcome back and glad you found your leopard. Nursing hyenas would be a treat.

Two and a half weeks is a nice amount of time to get away and truly enjoy!
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Mar 4th, 2006, 07:02 PM
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Sounds like a wonderful trip. I'm planning on going to Kruger in July and haven't made reservations YET. We're 4 adults and driving from Crocodile bridge. How many miles do you think we can drive in a day. Where would you recommend we stay? How many nights in each one. Thanks you the help.Barbara
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Mar 5th, 2006, 05:04 AM
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Barbara -- how many nights do you have for Kruger in total?
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Mar 5th, 2006, 09:16 AM
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Celia,
Welcome home and so glad to hear you had another wonderful trip!
Just wondering - have you been to Ithala yet on your many trips? Game viewing is not spectacular but the setting truly is and it's so quiet!
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Mar 5th, 2006, 04:48 PM
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We will be in Kruger 3 or 4 nights. Plan to enter Crocodile bridge or Berg-en-dahl. Is there any particular camp your would recommend. Thanks
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Mar 6th, 2006, 05:19 AM
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Barbara -- If you only have 3-4 nights then I would stick with just the southern part of the park. If you go on Sanparks.org you can see photos, maps, etc. of the various restcamps within Kruger and there is a forum where folks get and give advice. Re: which restcamp to stay in, it depends in part on what kind of accommodations you are looking to stay in. Lower Sabie has safari tents with river views which are very popular and we are staying in one of those for 3 nights in December. If you have 4 nights then you might want to spend 2 nights at Lower Sabie and 2 nights at Satara which is known as a good area for seeing cats. The only camp we have stayed in is Olifants which we loved but it is in the central part of the park, quite a long drive from where you will be entering, so I would stick to the southern part of the park if I were you (which has the highest concentrations of game, therefore also the highest concentrations of visitors).
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Mar 6th, 2006, 07:17 AM
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Lisa, at Mopani we were in cottage 73, and did not have a view of the dam. But the view of it from the restaurant/bar is fabulous, and we enjoyed that both nights we were there. We just had drinks there, and braai'ed at our cottage. I think you're right about the views, based on the sanparks web site info.

Two years ago we entered Kruger from the north and stopped at Punda Maria to have a picnic lunch. We really liked the looks of the place, but didn't see inside the accommodations. We stayed at Shingwedzi. We did a night game drive there, and saw a lion hunt (not the actual kill, though) and we really thought the ranger knew his stuff and did a great job of interpreting what we saw. In general, I rate these drives very highly. The rangers know about everything, even astronomy, and they answer everything you ask, and tell you if they don't know, and in that rare event they try to find out and give you the answer the next day. We always do a night or sunset or early morning drive in every camp we stay at.

We tried to do a bush braai at Letaba and at Mopani. They require a minimum of four people. At Letaba the staff was pretty disorganized, and though we tried to leave our names on a waiting list for the braai, I have no confidence that they actually kept such a list. In any event, it didn't happen. At Mopani we also left our names on a waiting list, and I feel sure they did keep a list, but no one else signed up. There were not many people in the camp, which meant we sometimes had the pool and the bar all to ourselves.

On that trip we also stayed in the safari tents at Lower Sabie. At night we could hear the hippos snorting in the river. I'm sure you'll love it.
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Mar 6th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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Barbara, how far you can drive in a day depends on so many things -- how many side roads you take, how long you stop to look at the game or the views, how many stops you make for tea/coffee/picnics/potty breaks, whether you're going back to the camp after the drive or are on your way to a different camp.

I agree with Lisa; take a look at the sanparks web site, there is a huge amount of information there. I think she's right that with 3 or 4 nights you want only 1 or at most 2 different camps, because you want to be able to do an early morning or a night drive, and having 2 days in the same camp allows some flexibility in that regard, in case some of the drives are fully booked.

We stayed at Berg-en-Dal last month, and really liked the camp. Our cottage was spacious, with a huge patio, and a river view. We saw rhinos both days we were there -- the terrain there is the kind that rhinos like. We stayed at Lower Sabie 2 years ago, in the tents, and liked that too. What you will like depends on you, though. Do you plan to do a lot of cooking for yourselves, or eat in the restaurants all the time, or some of both? Do you want spaciousness and attractive decor in your unit, or are you more interested in the outdoor ambiance of the camp?

Even though you're going in July, you can see now what accommodations have already been booked in each park. That may help you plan.
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Mar 6th, 2006, 07:34 AM
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No, Kavey, we haven't been to Ithala yet; maybe next time!
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Mar 6th, 2006, 07:44 AM
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i'm still fine turning ..thanks for all your help. How does this sound? 2 nights in lower Sabie or one in crocodine bridge. and than one or 2 in Olifants. We will eat out all our meals..want more ourdoors exp and close to things and not concerned with luxury but need a good bed. Thanks. Barbara
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Mar 6th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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Hi - I have also just come back from three great weeks in SA - am already thinking about next year and would like the web links to the Kruger camps and lodges you mentioned.
Also stayed in Plett. right on Robberg Beach and did the wonderful trail out to sea along the rocks - well worth the effort.
We DID eat at Reubens and several other places in Francshoek - all wonderful and one of our favourite areas.
Thanks
ABK
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Mar 7th, 2006, 05:51 AM
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It's http://www.sanparks.org/
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