Real Non-Honeymoon: South Africa (Part 1)

My sister Elisa wrote a really great blog post about her Los Cabos trip last year, so I asked her to write another one about her amazing recent vacation in South Africa. (I also just want to live vicariously through her travels.) Elisa had so much good stuff to say this time around that I decided to break her post into two parts. Today’s post covers her incredible safari experience, and on Wednesday I’m going to publish her Cape Town (and surrounding areas) recs.

View from the top of Table Mountain

View from the top of Table Mountain

When and where did you travel?

My boyfriend and I traveled with his family throughout South Africa in April/May 2014. (Johannesburg, Phalaborwa, Kruger National Park, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Dinokeng Game Reserve, and Cape Town).

Safari sunrise group shot

Safari sunrise group shot

How long was your trip?

Our trip was 16 days.

Safari sunset

How gorgeous is this safari sunset?

How did you decide on your travel destination(s)?

My boyfriend and I wanted to plan an international trip in 2014 and South Africa was always at the top of our wish list. My boyfriend’s dad was born and raised in South Africa, and the majority of his relatives still live there.  Our decision was solidified when we were invited to his cousin’s May 2014 wedding in South Africa!

The best part of our trip was…

Exeter River Lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and Cape Town.

Main Lodge at Exeter

Main Lodge at Exeter

Exeter River Lodge:

Exeter River Lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve was unlike anywhere I had ever been, and we had the most incredible experience. The grounds were immaculate, the safari drives were remarkable, the meals were outstanding, and my boyfriend and I had the most stunning private rondavel along the Sand River.

Deck of the private rondavel

Deck of the private rondavel

We took two game drives per day; one in the morning at sunrise and the other in the evening at sunset, with each drive lasting approximately 3-4 hours.  Our Guide and Tracker were extremely knowledgeable, professional, resourceful, personable, and fun! We saw all of the “Big Five” (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo) plus more! Two of my favorite moments included observing a Lioness roar and her 8 cubs cuddled together at sunset and a herd of approximately 30 elephants (including a baby) crossing a riverbed directly in front of us. It was amazing how close we would get to the animals!

Animals of Africa

Animals of Africa

During the morning game drive we stopped for coffee, tea, and biscuits. During the afternoon drive, we stopped at sunset for cocktails and light appetizers at different scenic destinations. Safari afternoons consisted of relaxing on the deck of our rondavel with various spa/massage options available. (One afternoon I got a massage and it was amazing!) One of my favorite surprises from the staff at Exeter was one night after sunset as we were driving back to the lodge, we stopped along a tree decorated with hanging lanterns, a tray of champagne flutes, and champagne on ice waiting for us! We sipped champagne and star gazed as our Guide taught us about the constellations overhead.

Simba sighting

Simba sighting

Each day at Exeter included a light meal in the morning before our first game drive, a full cold and hot breakfast in the main lodge with a panoramic view of the Sand River as the backdrop after the first game drive, a 3-5 course lunch on a lower deck along the Sand River, afternoon tea, and another 3-5 course meal for dinner. Another special touch and example of the detail that Exeter provided us with was that each night our dinner was hosted in a new location on the property. The staff always referred to us by name, remembered our drink and meal preferences, and greeted us with a warm towel every time we arrived back to the lodge. The staff at Exeter went above and beyond, and highly exceeded my expectations in every way.

Dylan and Elisa

Dylan and Elisa

_____________________

Come back to the blog on Wednesday to read about Elisa’s favorite things in Cape Town!

 

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