Trip Report:Cape Town, Phinda, Dulini, Ngala Tented

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Sep 14th, 2009, 07:27 PM
  #1
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Trip Report:Cape Town, Phinda, Dulini, Ngala Tented

September 14, 2009

Hello Folks,

This is a report on a 17 day trip to South Africa that included:
Cape Town
Phinda Vlei
Exeter Dulini
Ngala Tented Camp

We had an extraordinary trip. All our arrangements were made via the internet through &Beyond (formerly CC Africa). Shanaaz Ziervogel was our agent. &Beyond is a terrific company with 50 lodges around Africa and a few in India. &Beyond also did all of our in-country air transportation between locations, mostly on semi-chartered airplanes. Our arrangements were perfect.

All three game site lodgings (Vlei, Dulini, and Ngala Tented Camp) were world class accommodations and services. Everything was four and five stars. I also like the fact the &Beyond hires and trains locally with 80-85% of their staff from the local area. They also are the gold standard in training game rangers and trackers. All are quite knowledgeable and service oriented.

All three of our game lodges were small (six suites with a total of 12 guests maximum) which means there is never more the six guests to a 4 X 4 land cruiser. Food at all three sites was unexpectedly tasty and way too much to eat. All costs are included in the fees including most alcohol but, of course, these sites charge a very significant daily rate).

Quite by accident, I think the order of our trip was perfect. We flew from Seattle to Dulles International and then direct to Johannesburg. Then we flew to Cape Town….very long day of travel.

We stayed at the Victoria and Alfred Hotel which is very well located. We rested here for three days to take care of jet lag and to see Robben’s Island, Kristenbosch gardens, and the Bo Kaap area. We went on a very special “Cape Malay” cooking tour of the Bo Kaap area through Andulela tours. This is a fantastic opportunity to visit with some local people and learn to cook Cape Malay style in a woman’s home. This was a real highlight and I would highly recommend it.

Our first game reserve was Phinda where we stayed at Phinda Vlei. Almost the moment we arrived, we saw the “Big Five” and more. Phinda is a private and fenced game reserve so they have more control over seeing animals. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this well managed private game reserve isn’t exactly life in the “wild” but for a first time person you see almost every animal you can imagine. So after three days in Phinda, we relaxed knowing we had seen all the important animals and were now ready to see them in a more wild or wide open setting. I highly recommend Phinda for the first time safari person. The guides, trackers, and lodge personnel are wonderful.

Next stop was Dulini Lodge in Sabi Sands which is connected to Kruger. Here the game runs wild through the reserve and Kruger so it’s much more difficult for the rangers and trackers to predict where animals might be found but it is leopard country. We so many leopards, lions, elephants, zebras, hippos, rhinos, water buffalo, and so much more. We also visited the community where &Beyond staff are working to develop the schools and helping the villages replant trees and vegetables. It was an amazing four days. The accommodations are bigger then most apartments and the staff, food, comforts were first class.

Finally, on to Ngala Tented Camp which is considered one of the “wildest” areas near Kruger. Here again the game was less predictable but we saw everything but wild dogs (they left the area the week before we game). We watched a leopard for an hour and 45 minutes stalk a herd of Impala until she took down a female Impala bigger than her. What an adventure…We saw every animal you can imagine but it took more effort and time because the animals roam from the Ngala game reserve into Kruger and beyond so they can’t predict what will be around when you get there but it is really seeing animals in the wild as opposed to a controlled fenced game reserve ( e.g. Phinda).

For first time safari people, I think our schedule was perfect. Seeing all the animals in Phinda relived my anxiety about maybe only seeing a few different animals so I could go to Dulini and Ngala more relaxed.

&Beyond is well known for their highly trained rangers and trackers and we were very impressed by all of them at the three reserves. We also really like the &Beyond commitment to building the local community. &Beyond is not a non-profit but one of the larger stock holders is the Getty Foundation which we think was a good sign of their commitment to the community and conservation. If we ever do this again, we will certainly check with &Beyond to make our plans.

Finally, we went in late August to early September which is the beginning of spring in South Africa. I think this is close the perfect time for this trip. The evenings and mornings are cool, the grass is low, the animals have to rely on particular water holes so need to come out, and we did not encounter one mosquito!!! All the rangers told us it was the best time to seen animals although summers are more lush with vegetation (and hot hot weather).

I hope this report helps. Let me know if you have any questions. I love the honest sharing on this website.

Best,

KSC
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Sep 14th, 2009, 07:38 PM
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thanks....we are going to that area in about a month and look forward to many of the things you talk about
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Sep 15th, 2009, 04:12 AM
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I've also become a big fan of andbeyond, and so I was interested in learning more about their other camps. Thanks for the info.

Did you find the safari experience in the fenced reserves more rewarding in comparison to the open reserves? Or were they just diffrent experiences but equally rewarding?

Favorite camp/lodge if you had to choose one?
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Sep 15th, 2009, 04:46 AM
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Hi Femi,
they are all totally different. As I mentioned, Phinda is a bit more predictable but for a city boy seemed pretty wild. But when I went to Dulini and Ngala, it was harder to find game because they are free to roam for millions of acres but you really get a sense of the open wild spaces.

for first time visitors, I'd go to Phinda then either Dulini and Ngala. Dulini and Ngala are in opposite ends of Sabi Sands and are a bit similar so if you only want to go to two, pick one of them. Accomodations are fantastic at both with Ngala a treat because they are tents and Dulini a treat because the rooms are big. See pictures on their website...they are very accurate.

I love the mission and commitment of &Beyond...KSC
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Sep 15th, 2009, 10:33 AM
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cw
 
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Nice report. We did a similar safari trip--Phinda, Londolozi, and Ngala Tented, though we stayed at Forest Lodge at Phinda.

I agree with your observations--it definitely took more work to find animals at Ngala, though we never did see a leopard there--his/her tracks were around both morning and evening.

Phinda is hard to categorize. It has the drawbacks of not being huge and "wild" but it has a certain something that quite appealed to me. We had excellent guiding there and never felt enclosed by the fences. I admire what &Beyond did, and think it may turn out to be a model for what may happen in the future in other places. And it has the added bonus of being one of the few spots where you can have wonderful rhino viewing. We actually had some of our best sightings at Phinda.

Though in planning a future trip we want to go to more wilderness locations, i.e. Botswana or Zambia, I would really try to fit in a few days at Phinda if possible.

Will you be posting any photos?
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Sep 15th, 2009, 03:47 PM
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Thanks for the report. Who was your Phinda guide?
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Sep 15th, 2009, 04:32 PM
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Martin was our guide at Phinda with Joshua as the tracker. They were terrific. Very knowledgeable.

At Dulini, we had Zwaai Ntloko who was simply the best...he was like a school teacher and helped us understand every little thing...his tracker was Issac who was also frist class and knowledgeable.

At Ngala Tented, we had Ray Hume and the tracker was Jimmy. Both terrific.

All worked so hard to find game and teach us.
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Sep 15th, 2009, 05:16 PM
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&beyond knows their stuff - did they suggest the order of your trip? I loved Cape Town and to remember it so fondly after 17 days says a lot about that city.

Sounds like a perfect trip. Are you planning on going back yet?
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Sep 15th, 2009, 07:21 PM
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Thanks for the reply.

Another poster who returned from Phinda mentioned that some cheetahs had died there. What did you learn about this when you were there and did you see cheetahs?
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Sep 16th, 2009, 07:13 AM
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You can contact Phinda and ask them but as of last week we saw a cheetah there...
Wildwatch.com reported seeing a cheetah and two cubs at Phinda a few days ago.
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Sep 16th, 2009, 04:54 PM
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Glad you saw some cheetah KSC!
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Aug 12th, 2015, 05:15 PM
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Several years later, but we are doing a similar trip, Phinda Forest Lodge, Capetown then Dulini. Glad I might see all the animals on first Safari so I can relax at the last.
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