Dan and I ended our South African trip with a four-night safari in Northeastern, South Africa, at a small safari lodge about 20 miles from Kruger National Park. I had planned to blog our trip in order, but since so many people have asked about the safari, I decided to start with it!
A friend recommend that we “save the best for last,” and she was totally right! We absolutely loved the safari and cannot wait to come back to Africa and do it again!
For planning purposes, if you want to do a safari in South Africa the most famous area is that around Kruger National Park (one of the largest national game reserves in Africa and by far the most popular place to take a safari in South Africa). There are three main options for “booking” a safari in or near Kruger: (1) stay on a private game reserve; (2) stay in a national park, such as Kruger; or (3) take a pre-planned tour, where you move about for several days and see different parts of Kruger. There are a number of price points ranging from budget to 5-star.
We went back and forth between the three and ended up choosing to stay at Vuyani Lodge in Hodespruit, South Africa. Vuyani is one of several properties and private homes in the Moditlo Game Reserve. Vuyani is a small lodge, catering to only fourteen guests (but expanding), located about 30-driving minutes from the closet entrance to Kruger. We ended up choosing Vuyani because it was on special through Jetsetter!
The Game Drives!
So you’re probably reading this post to hear about the game drives (i.e. the “safari”) so here you go! Vuyani offers two included game drives a day – one at sunrise (read: early wake up) and one at sundown, which is pretty standard. Each lasts between 3 and 4 hours depending on what you see! The drives are done in open-air jeeps (acutually Toyota land cruisers) with a driver and a tracker.
They make one stop during each drive in which you can disembark from the jeep – a coffee/tea/biscotti break in the morning and a “Sundowner” and bar snack break in the evening! (A Sundowner is an adult beverage = ))
wildebeest: BLACK-BACK JACKAL (my favorite!)
I was really happy with our game drives and we saw a lot of awesome animals! The reserve has many animals and all of the big 5 except for Cape Buffalo (which they may be introducing). I was somewhat concerned when booking as the reserve used to be a hunting lodge and some reviews claimed the animals were skidish, but I did not find this to be the case… They were not as calm as those in Kruger, but seemed more wild!
While most people concentrate on the game drives when booking a safari, the lodge is possibly more important as you will spend most of your time at the lodge! So do not skip over it! Many lodges are somewhat remote so guests should plan to spend the majority of their time there. As I mentioned Vuyani is small, and the main lodge is the heart of the resort It consists of a main lodge building with a kitchen, dining area, star gazing area, and an outdoor infiniti pool.
Above is the indoor and outdoor common areas. This is where most meals are served in a communal fashion. There is no bar per se, but the staff will bring you a drink whenever you ask! Another point, Vuyani is all inclusive, meaning that all food and beverage (including alcohol) are included in the cost. Contrary to many Carribbean all-inclusives, the food here was excellent and freshly prepared before each meal. Definitely check the level of inclusiveness in your safari – it can make a huge difference!
Through the Jetsetter deal, we stayed in one of the honeymoon suites, which is a private bungalo connected to the main lodge by rock path. The room was circular in shape and really big! It included a king bed, a sitting area, a mini bar with water, beer, cider, wine, soft drinks and chips (all inlcuded and continuously restocked), a large bathroom with a tub and shower, an outdoor shower (!) and a private deck with a jacuzzi! So much goodness in one room! My favorite part was the outdoor shower, which is so suprising because I thought that I would hate it. I definitely need one of those! My only complaint is the jacuzzi – it took about 5 hours to heat up and never got as hot as I am used to, but then I guess that’s Africa!
1. Getting to your safari: Vuyani is about a 5 hour drive from JNB airport and the cost to pick up roundtrip from the airport is about $500 RT for two people with luggage. The drive wasn’t terrible and it was pretty:
But be sure to figure this time and expense into your travels! Other options include renting your own car or flying into a closer (but usually more expensive) airport.
2. If you want to do a self-drive safari (one where you drive your own car through the reserve…very popular in Kruger), find out before booking if your lodge allows it, if its extra, and if you need to bring your own car to the property.
3. The lodges could be a bit dull and somewhat confining, especially if the weather is bad. Most are remote and there are not towns, bars to walk into, etc. For example, at Vuyani at night you can only walk to and from the rooms and main lodge when accompanied by a guide (to protect you from the animals…). This being said, I didn’t find it confining at all! And I am one to get out and see the town!
4. Getting off the reserve – If you tend to feel confined, check and see what day trips your lodge offers. Most offer at least a few. We did a day trip to Kruger National Park. And our lodge offered a number more, including trips to animal recovery centers and local townships where true locals live and make a living.
5. No guns – Vuyani guides do not carry guns on the safari, although they do cary a machete (see below) that seemed more useful for cutting through the bush than defending against animals…this could make some people uneasy!
STEAL OUR TRIP
The Vuyani Safari Lodge