April 2015  I attended a tradeshow in Cape town, so I used this opportunity to see Africa. It was my first trip to Africa below Sahara. When I told my African colleagues that I’ve been in North Africa, they said it does not count! Hence, I can tell it is my first time to Sub-Saharan Africa.

I flew on Emirates airline and splurged on business class since I wanted to check out that A380. Service and aircraft was amazing.  Comparing to Boeing 777 when they just give you a seat convertible into bed, this one was like a little cubicle with some table space. Food was excellent, toiletries was nice Bulgari bag, even toilet napkins were cloth. I specifically liked lounge with a bar where you can sit or stand and congregate with other fellow passengers.

I arrived Johannesburg in the evening and stayed my first night at airport Citilodge hotel. It was comfortable enough for one night sleep. Although internet as advertised – free wi-fi was only free for 2 hours per day. I gave up anyway on internet and went to sleep. After breakfast, a porter carried my luggage to the terminal (short walk) and gave me to another porter who helped me to check in. Usually I do it by myself however due to safari light air regulation, I could not bring a bag with wheels, so duffel bag was hard to carry. I checked it, spent some time in airport lounge (free internet!), did some work and soon boarded a plane for Salink short flight to Skukuza. Skukuza was new (only 8 month old), airy, cute, small airport. You can tell it is Africa when you get to Skukuza, it has this feel. I met my fellow travelers who signed up for this pre- ILTM show trip. 6 people, All of them were from different countries.  Skukuza has no carousels, but luggage was quickly unloaded and safari jeeps were departing with passengers. Once all our luggage was packed, we got into 6 seater jeep and were on the way. The driver pointed to some impalas on the way and I got a photo of my first animal in Africa! My fellow travelers were from UK, Canada, Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil.  Were bound to Mala Mala, private reserve which borders Kruger National park and were looking to our adventure there for 2 days.

Next 2 days were spend in Mala Mala. We saw most big 5, except Lion. Lion was also there but for some bad luck we missed it. Lion even came to Mala camp! This private reserve owned by Mr. Rattray (the owner was also visiting camp at this time and he is very nice, down to earth gentleman). Mala Mala is known for great service and sound conservation management policies.

The reserve owns approximately 12 miles unfenced boundary with Kruger National Park. The Sand River flows through the property for approximately 13 miles and assures plentiful supply of water at all times.  Mala Mala and its sister camps, Sable Camp and Rattray’s, are located on western side of the river, assuring direct access to the animals approaching from Kruger Park.

The property is designed to appreciate the view of surrounding wilds. There are 10 suites, 8 rooms . I stayed in luxury room which faced the river. The room was very nice, with a deck facing the river where I saw occasional elephants. In addition to nice appointed shower and bath tub, there also was outside shore. The room was in stand alone house with architecture of traditional African architecture (thatched round roof). It was air conditioned and had internet. No TV , this is the way I like it. We were introduced to our ranger who is assigned to each guest and stays with guests all the time serving as host, ranger and educator.  We had one ranger for our 7 people (another member was arrived from Russia later on). The Range Ron was great, he told us a lot about area, plants, animals, and was very knowledgeable. The resort had nice bar where people congregated before meals. Meals were good. One night out of two was a traditional BBQ at the fire with African music.

Safari drives with Ron were amazing, in the morning and at night. Mid days were for resting – nap or lingering by the pool.  We saw Elephants (even from dining deck and room’s deck), Rhino, Leopard, Cheetah, Wild Dogs, Giraffes, and many others (Impalas, etc).  As I said above, we missed Lion by minute.

I enjoyed Mala Mala, it was a great experience. The owner also owns Sable Camp (no children under 12) and luxury, colonial style Rattray’s (no children under 16, couples mostly, all king beds). We visited them all. It is various lodges suitable for different clients. Resort also has its own air strip, so it is easy access. Otherwise trip from Skukuza airport is 45 minute ride.

On third day, we left Mala Mala, for Skukuza airport and flew to Cape town where We started our 3 day ILTM (Luxury Travel Mart) Africa. I was staying in Cape town at Table Mountain hotel on V&A waterfront. It is a luxury hotel, member of Luxury Hotels of the world, very nice, great service and comfortable. Breakfast was amazing, the most varieties I’ve ever seen. I wish I can sample it all. Location is excellent adjacent to shopping and restaurants. I enjoyed my half day there. Meanwhile my Mala Mala travel friends who were stayed at Taj, came for dinner in V&A waterfront, left me a message but I missed them by 30 minutes. I’ve done some shopping and had dinner with Asian fusion and watched people on waterfront. Very relaxing.

Next 3 days went quickly with meeting with African suppliers, looking at interesting products, networking and parties. We had one party in Aquarium which was very interesting. I highly recommend to visit it when in Cape town. Other parties were at One and Only – great location, good hotel – set up on canals (like in Venice only contemporary!), and in beach club. The event coincided with WTM Africa (world travel Mart), so I’ve meet some other interesting people and colleagues. Great connections!

3 days later, I left early in the morning to fly to Victoria Falls. Another agent Heidi was going to the same lodge so we traveled together from our hotel. We connected in Johannesburg and flew to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Immigration was very slow and by hand. They take $35 for visa, write receipt and write visa and glue to the passport – all hand written. Took forever.

On exiting airport, we were met by African band who were dancing and singing. I took a photo with them. A driver took us to our next place to stay, Stanley and Livingston.  It is located about 10 minutes from the town and located in the 6000 acre  – colonial oasis of Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve, in  a tranquil, serene setting and an exclusive Victoria Falls safari lodge reminiscent of a bygone era. It was very nice elegant beautiful hotel/lodge. We took 2 drives there and also saw big 5 (except Lion).

First day we took Zambezi river cruise, very nice, romantic, relaxing where you can enjoy sunset and see hippos in the water. In hotel food was great and I got to taste crocodile meat. Tastes like chicken. We also inspected Victoria Falls hotel – best in town. Vey nice.  Next day we went to the town and saw falls, impressive, awe inspired! Take poncho and maybe waterproof shoes since depending on wind, prepare to be soaked wet. We went for some shopping on the market and while souvenirs were nice, the stress of bargaining and vendors pulling us to different  stalls was too much.  However, we enjoyed our stay at Stanley and Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

My next destination was Botswana. I loved book and show by Alexander McCall Smith “Number 1 Lady detective agency” and looked forward meeting Botswana People. I was going though, to Okavango Delta where mostly animals live in the wilderness. To get there, I had to take few small plane flights. A driver took me to Victoria Falls airport where I went to Wilderness Air counter. There are no scheduled flights, they tell you “departure in late morning” and then call your hotel to tell you when to come. So Wilderness air rep took my luggage and said plane arrived. It was a small plane, pilot introduced himself, his name was Michael , I was the only one in this 4 seater and were off for 20 min flight to Kasane, Botswana. By the way, in Zimbabwe you also pay $50 exit visa. So make sure you have cash. In Kasane, while small airport, I still needed to go through immigration. I was the only one and ported for Mack Air (my next airline) went together with me through security (small metal detector LOL). Then I’ve met other passengers, 10 altogether and we went on another flight Mack air into wilderness. The plane served like a shuttle – was picking up and dropping off passengers from different camps. Myself, and 2 Australians were bound for Stanley Camp, but it was last stop. So we got to see almost all of Delta, the pilots announced stops and there is a map in seat pocket. Very interesting mode of transportation!

The “runways” in each stop had a jeep with driver waiting for people, they also served as traffic controllers to clear airstrip from animals (chase giraffes, impalas, etc). The plane lands, quickly disembarks people, driver takes people and leaves. Plane continues.  Our Stanley camp was about 45 min drive from air strip. On arrival, as usual, we were met by staff. It was classic safari camp in a wilderness. You cannot walk in the dark. Surprisingly, they had electricity and wifi (not in the main area to discourage anti-social behavior).  No phones and TV,  So I spend next 2 days there, going into wilderness, I was grouped with Australian couple and next day with Italian. I also visited neighboring Bangs luxury camp to inspect it.  You cannot walk alone in the dark , the staff walks you to the room.

One day I attended “Elephant experience” where you interact with 3 elephants. These orphaned elephants are taken by naturalist couple Sally and Doug and they tell you about elephant you go to walk elephant, touch, and interact. It was amazing experience, highly recommended. They are in the wild, not fenced..

After Stanley Camp, I flew again, on Mack Air to my last destination, even smaller camp. Chitabe Lediba  . This was the most secluded camp, only 6 cabins. We saw the most wilderness I saw on my trip in this camp.  Rangers also were excellent, they taught us and educated on everything in the bush. We saw lions every day, especially with their daily chores (eating!) , got chased by Hippo, observed different animals.  While this was more rustic camp ( no wifi even), it was amazing experience. The guide presented and got my attention to drama in the bush which opened to our eyes. It was great.  Botswana people and staff were very nice. I enjoyed my stay and experience in Botswana a lot.

On return to Johhanesburg, I spent last day ther wit my friend and collegue explored the city.

Last night I stayed in Emperor Palace near airport,  very comfortable 5* but a bit more Las Vegas !

That concluded my trip.

Africa is amazing and has a lots to offer, different countries with different personalities. I definitely return in next few years to explore more and hopefully bring my groups of clients.

I hope this review of Africa will want you to visit it!

Contact me with any questions at info@mytravelfind.com

Disclaimer: this report presents just an opinion of individuals who’ve been there…. Tastes Differ…

Copyrights Sophia’s Travel Agency, division of EMCO Travel, LLC…@2015