African Safari Diaries: Elaine’s trip of a lifetime to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe
Earlier this year, Elaine, her husband and four of their friends went on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Their itinerary was vast and varied with a mix of sea, urban, rural, mountains, wildlife and different modes of transport, combined with casual and more dressed up experiences. We hope you enjoy reading all about it!
In February 2020 my husband and I travelled with four friends to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We have been very lucky having travelled to Southern and Eastern Africa many times, a mix of holidays and my husband’s work. We therefore know the countries fairly well and also know how good Somak Luxury Travel are, having used them for many trips.
Our decisions on where to go and how to organise the trip were based on the interests of the other two couples, where they have been, what they like and how they like to travel. We chose a mix of destinations and included places that were new to all, or some of them. Additionally, we chose a mix of sea, urban, rural, mountains, wildlife and varied modes of transport, combined with casual and more dressed up experiences.
We had to factor in time constraints re annual leave for some of us so chose an itinerary that made travel part of the trip. Our itinerary was therefore chosen to be of an almost circular route, travelling from the more urban to very remote and then slowly back to urbanity again.
Our journey started in Cape Town where we stayed at The Commodore Hotel, each couple travelling independently. Pick up from the airport was extremely well arranged by Somak Luxury Travel and we all arrived safely at the hotel. The Commodore was chosen for its proximity to The Waterfront, ease of walking and options from there.
We knew the hotel was excellent at arranging transport locally and further afield to meet our different interests. During our time in Cape Town we used the red, blue and red buses to see and learn so much about the area and its history.
Early on our first morning we went to Table Mountain and were rewarded with fabulous views. On our second day we spent a full day travelling around the Cape Peninsula, taking in Simon’s Town, a boat trip to Seal Island, Cape Point and the lively Camp’s Bay.
We left Cape Town very early in the morning for a flight to Johannesburg and onwards to Kasane where we stayed for two nights at Chobe Safari Lodge. We chose the Safari Lodge because of its close proximity to the town, the river frontage, lovely rooms, substantial buffets and really warm welcome. Kasane is a very friendly and accessible town where all currencies are welcome, so we were able to spend some time exploring the town and combining this with game drives and river cruises.
Having left most of our luggage at the Safari Lodge, where it was stored securely in the luggage store behind reception, we travelled onwards to Kasane airport for our light aircraft flight to Kwando Kwara. Kwara has recently undergone a significant rebuild and refurbishment. What an amazing transformation.
It was always a wonderful camp, but now it is truly fabulous, with spacious lodges, two pools and welcoming outdoor areas. Our stay here was truly amazing.
Early morning and evening game drives, mokoro and river trips provided a wealth of experiences and fabulous game viewing. Sightings included a large pack of wild dogs, leopard, lions, elephants and large amounts of general game. We were also very lucky on our river cruise to have an excellent sighting of the extremely rare situanga. A truly amazing three days.
From Kwara in the Okavango Delta we flew by light aircraft to another Kwando camp, Lebala. For my husband and I this was like coming home. We have stayed here well over 20 times and it was the first Kwando Camp we stayed in many years ago. Such a fabulous setting, with large, airy tents looking out across a vast terrain where elephants, hippos and other animals can frequently be seen.
So many highlights during our three days here, lions stalking prey, lions and wild dogs interacting, a stand-off between hyena and wild dog and the truly amazing and extremely rare sight of the birth of a baby elephant. Just fabulous.
After three nights our journey continued by small aircraft back to Chobe Safari Lodge for one night to collect the rest of our luggage, another river cruise and game drive before travelling onwards by road to Victoria Falls.
February is a wonderful time to be at the Falls, the river is in full flood and the spray just amazing. We chose to stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel for our two night stay. Having stayed before, we knew it was perfect for everyone. Plenty of space to walk around, the town and Falls close by and easy to walk to and the views from the terrace of the hotel, just magnificent. The hotel really is a chance to experience a bygone era, with old world charm, furnishings and a touch of faded elegance. The perfect place to unwind and get us into the mood for the final part of our trip.
The final part of our journey was a three night rail trip from Victoria Falls Hotel to Pretoria on Rovos Rail. After check-in at the hotel we were escorted along a red carpet to the fabulous train and shown to our cabins, all fully refurbished and well equipped with storage space, comfortable beds and lovely en suite facilities. The carriages, including the two wonderful dining cars have been lovingly restored to their former Victorian and Edwardian glory. You truly are transported back in time. The food and service are exemplary. The journey took us through Hwange, a large national park in Zimbabwe, where we had a wonderful game drive followed by brunch in the bush. We then travelled onwards through fabulous changing scenery to Pretoria to the amazing station at Capital Park that has been fully restored and rounds off the experience of a bygone era. The station hosts a museum, small shop and wonderful furnishings. The perfect way to end your trip.
From the station we travelled to Johannesburg and our final night at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton. The hotel was chosen for its location, space, comfort and setting on the edge of a super shopping mall that hosts an excellent range of restaurants and cafes. The hotel is the perfect touch of final luxury for the end, or indeed start of a holiday in South Africa. Our final morning provided time for a fabulous breakfast at the hotel before our transfers to the airport and flights home. Each couple was flying a different route resulting in three separate transfers needed and seamlessly coordinated by Somak Luxury Travel.
This truly was a trip of a lifetime. Grateful thanks to all at Somak Luxury Travel and their partners in Southern Africa. Special thanks go to Meeta, our Somak Luxury Travel agent, who was so patient with our many changes and requests, she truly is wonderful. Thank you.
All photos are credited to Elaine Clinton.