I recently was fortunate enough to go on an immense work trip around South Africa, investigating the hotels, resorts, and safaris to create the best possible honeymoons and holidays for you and possibly even add to Turquoise’s fantastic collection of hand-picked resorts. We’ll never send you somewhere we haven’t been ourselves. This is part one of my three stage trip report; I’ll be posting the next two instalments over the next couple of weeks.
My first stop was Garonga and Little Garonga. Most camps in Africa are best accessed by short flights; you can sometimes take other forms of transportation, but flights are often faster and provide incredible views. Garonga itself was a lovely and friendly camp. There are six tents in total, all very authentic but extremely comfortable. The tent was open all day and then zipped up at night; while I think the tent could get hot at the height of summer, there is a ceiling fan to help cool the air. While there, you can go on 2 game drives a day and enjoy bush baths, sleep outs, a picnic tree platform or massages. The sleep out platform is gorgeous, but really must be booked beforehand, as it is in some demand.
Little Garonga is a smaller grouping of three suites, separated up a slope from the main camp. The camp is completely self-contained, with its own dining room, pool, and vehicle, so it may be a bit lonely for those who are looking to meet other travellers. I actually think this would be best booked for a family or large group who can use all three suites.
As far as service goes, well, it’s incredible. All of the staff were so friendly and helpful throughout my stay. Most of them are locals who have been educated in their job duties perfectly, and they really made me feel welcome and like I was part of the family. The management team is highly visible and acted as true hosts throughout my stay. I’d be happy to go back and would eagerly recommend the camps to anyone looking for a friendly safari destination in South Africa.
One of the resorts which had a few ups and downs was Lion Sands. Its location is stunning, as it’s situated on the banks of the Sabie River and has the incredible potential for viewing game. There are lots of groups of elephants around and I had an exciting lion sighting. The game rangers are very knowledgeable, but they do play up the theatrics of the safari a bit; they’re all carrying rows of bullets and put some effort into keeping up the suspense. For someone who has been on multiple safaris, it could grow a bit tired, but could work for first timers who are genuinely excited about the safari and can get into the mood.
The accommodation at Lion Sands is also very nice, though it doesn’t always fit in with the surroundings. It could be just another luxury hotel anywhere, which was a downside for me but could be fine for the couple or family looking for just that. It’s also a fairly big lodge with twenty suites, which means your chances for personal interaction with the staff are few and far between. On the bright side, the food was just incredible, and I got an amazing takeaway box when I missed breakfast.
My last safari stop was Makanyane. I also flew to this one; the airstrip is an hour away from the camp, but you’ll hardly notice as they start you out on a game drive right away! The entrance to the lodge was so picturesque, too; it was over a suspension bridge and I got a warm welcome from the team when I arrived. The suites were also huge – they were actually bigger than my house! Mine had panoramic windows overlooking the lovely river; hippos are a common sight and big cats and elephants do venture into the camp whenever they please. I felt a part of the bush throughout my stay.
Like the first one, the rest of the game drives were great. The rangers were all very bubbly and a lot of fun. Madikwe has a lot wider spaces and is very flat terrain. This makes the distance between sightings longer but is a more comfortable ride and lovely scenery on the open plains. Similarly the rest of the staff are very friendly; Garth the manager is very much present throughout the day and will personally send you off on a game drive and greet you back. All of them mix very well with the guests and do a great job of being social hosts. I didn’t go on one, but walking safaris can be arranged on request and look like they would be very nice choices indeed.
Overall Makanyane was an exceptional camp – my personal favourite and represents amazing value with the Bride Stays Free offer. I would go back again without a doubt! A similar experience to Garonga, just not tented.
Come back soon for my next posts featuring Cape Town and Franschoek!