December 20, 2021 | By Cameron Shutts
Lion Sands – Narina Lodge
This family vacation was the best I have ever been on because of the destination in a National Park I had never before experienced a place so untouched by humans, with no development. It sounds cliché, but I felt like I could see the circle of life, how the tiniest of creatures can be so complex, and the different types of hidden intelligence I didn’t know many animals have. When you are there, you can see our world in such a different way, and you can see what happens after thousands of years of natural selection, evolution, and symbiotic relationships without human interaction, and the resulting environment that nature has created is indescribable. Sharing this experience with my family made the trip even better because we could talk about all of the interesting things we saw together during the rest of the day and discuss the drives over cocktails and delicious meals.
This was the first hotel that we stayed at while on the Safari. Narina Lodge is located in Kruger National Park, a 2-hour flight from Cape Town. The drive from the airport to the safari lodge was absolutely surreal. The safari lodge is very isolated in the middle of the National Park, with no fences or barriers around the lodge, so you are literally amidst all the wildlife South Africa has to offer. Everything about the lodge was perfect, from the service to the accommodation and dining, through and through.
We went on two game drives daily, one at 5:30 am and one at 4:30 pm, each lasting 3 hours. These times are selected because you will have the best chances of seeing optimal wildlife activity. Within our first two game drives, our guide and tracker were able to bring us to see all of the Big 5 African Safari Animals. During the day in between game drives, we usually relaxed by the pool, and I usually had a glass of wine too. Both safari lodges also had spas, but we didn’t utilize them during our stay because we were often busy taking tours of the hotels and different rooms so that I could understand what works best for my clients.
Singita – Lebombo
This was the second safari lodge we stayed at while we were on the Safari. The location was more remote than Lion Sands Narina Lodge, and we had to drive about 2 more hours to get here (there is also a 10-minute flight option). Everything about Lebombo was five stars, but even more so. Singita Lebombo was extremely personalized in the best way.
The term “personalized experience” is often thrown around in the travel industry, but Singita Lebombo is totally deserving of the phrase. Before arrival, I told them about my allergies and food preferences, and they created an individual menu for me daily. Honestly, though, their menus are more like guidelines because you can order anything you want even if it’s not on the menu. You have the same server for all of our meals, dining, and poolside service; ours’ name was Bonga. I noticed that she learned our preferences very quickly. For example, the first day, I ordered an iced coffee with milk and sugar on the side; the next day, when I ordered a coffee and forgot to mention the details, she remembered to bring them. The rooms at the safari lodge were luxurious; it was hard to get up so early in the mornings because my bed was so cozy! (Crispy clean sheets, really comfortable bed, perfectly soft/hard pillows)
In addition to the luxury accommodation and amenities, another aspect that really sets Singita apart is their focus on the wildlife and game drives, which is the primary reason most people go on a Safari. All of our drives were private, so it was just my sister, my mom, and me with our Tracker and Safari Guide. The game drives we did at Singita were really personalized because they focused on exactly what we wanted to see and do. This is amazing because not all safari lodges do private game drives. For example, at Singita, if you want to go on a drive and just focus on the plants and terrain you can do just that! Our guide and tracker were both level 4 certified (highest certification) so they knew the answers to literally any questions you could ever ask. The guide was really good at gauging our interests and customizing the drive to make it the most enjoyable.
Not only is Singita a beautiful destination for a vacation, but its primary mission is conservation. The owner of Singita wants to make it known that their primary business is conserving the National Park and secondary hospitality. A vast majority of Singita’s profits are directed towards preserving the National Park, maintaining sustainability, and saving the endangered species that live there.
Cape Town – The One and Only
We spent our first four days in Cape Town at the One and Only, which is currently undergoing renovations. This hotel is great for families because their residence-style rooms are on a secluded private island by the water and have various connecting room configurations to accommodate different group sizes. I also liked the location because it is in the safest part of the city, a charming area with a lot going on.
Since we stayed in Cape Town our first four nights, we had time to adjust to the big time difference to enjoy the Safari portion of our vacation to the fullest.
The city of Cape Town is surrounded by Table Mountain National Park, which we visited during our stay. This is a must-do if you visit, and you can either hike to the top or take the trolly. We decided to take the trolly that is located about a ten-minute drive from The One & Only. Once you get to the top of the mountain, you get a 360 view of the city and the areas surrounding it! The top of the mountain was unique because it is relatively flat, and there are paths to walk around for viewing, which took us about 30 minutes to complete.
Another must-do activity is visiting the Cape of Good Hope, the most southern point of the African Continent. The drive there is similar to driving down Highway 1 in Big Sur, California, but the views are more drastic. On the way there, we stopped to visit the African Penguin Colony, a unique species of penguin only found in South Africa.