Luxurious Africa – It’s The Little Things
As a South African, I am fortunate to say that I have often taken the African bush for granted. Without too much effort, opportunities have come my way. A wedding invitation at a game lodge, a family trip to the Kruger Park, a weekend in the Pilanesberg – all on my doorstep. And while I will never get over the thrill of happening upon a herd of grazing elephants or a pride of lions feasting on their latest kill, I didn’t realize how much more the African wild had to offer me.
Enter my mother-in-law and a gifted getaway at a luxury safari lodge near Phalaborwa, South Africa. The luxury safari experience has always been on my bucket list, so we were thrilled to take her up on her offer at a top-rated luxury lodge. It was here that I realized what I was missing.
And yes, the luxurious tent with a water hole view was exquisite, and the gourmet meals prepared by a skilled chef were delectable. But the little things made me fall in love with my country all over again.
“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.”John Hemingway
There is something unmistakable and truly magnificent about the smell of the African bush in the early morning. And when you wake up in an isolated luxury tent, the silence is broken only by the sound of the wild. I would spend my mornings sipping coffee, watching a mother warthog march her young to the waterhole for a quick drink before disappearing into the bush – somewhat resembling a remote-controlled car – their tails upright like an aerial. I listened to the birdlife greeting each other and played peek-a-boo with young vervets frolicking in the trees beside my porch. The only word to explain it is ‘peace.’ The purest peace I have known.
One evening, I cooled down in the beautifully designed swimming pool, sipping a drink and gazing out at the watering hole. I had an incredibly intimate encounter with two young elephant bulls. It was the sound of their tusks clashing that caught my attention. I looked to see them engaged in a scuffle, each trying to tell the other who was boss. Oblivious to my presence, they hashed it out for about an hour before agreeing to disagree and enjoying a refreshing drink. I would meet these two youngsters again the following morning.
My Private Slice of Heaven in Africa
Before I relate my subsequent encounter, I have to give context. My big-5 game drive experiences have always involved an overcrowded vehicle and a strict, predetermined route and schedule. Searching for a fleet of cars was the only way to tell where something interesting had been spotted, and I’d have to crane my neck or raise my camera above my head to get a decent photo. The luxury private safari experience was something entirely different. It was life-affirming. Not only did we have the vehicle to ourselves, our guide, Thomas, was incredible. I have never met someone with such an innate knowledge and understanding of the African bush. We were not on a clock. We weren’t following a pre-determined route. We went where the land took us. Thomas could spot a spoor from 10 meters, know the species, gender, and age of said spoor maker, and knew exactly where it went. I saw things I could never have imagined.
And that’s where my two young bull elephants reenter the scene. They had put all differences aside and were casually strolling along when they found another young bull. We were already watching him bully a pair of rhinos at a watering hole. He was in musk, and highly agitated, furious at the audacity of the rhino brothers’ attempt to drink beside him. The rhinos were having none of it and put the youngster in his place, causing him to sulk on the other side. The two young elephants approached the watering hole and sensed their fellow pachiderms’ distress. They walked over to him and placed their trunks around him. I could almost hear them whispering reassurances and talking him through some breathing exercises. Like magic, he relaxed completely, and sipped at his morning refreshment in quiet companionship. It was indescribably beautiful, and I felt so privileged to witness such a private moment between these sentient beasts.
“In Africa, you have space… there is a profound sense of space here, space and sky.”Thabo Mbeki
As we drove away, Thomas told us of a secret spot we could travel to, to enjoy our morning coffee. He took the Land Cruiser up a steep incline to a clearing that looked out over the reserve, all the way to the Kruger Park. I felt like Rafiki in the opening scene of the Lion king, standing proudly, gazing down on the splendor. And still, all I could hear was peace. A city girl doesn’t get much of that. It brought me to tears.
I could write a book about all the fantastic experiences Thomas shared with us. Everything was unique and intimate, from slowly driving alongside a pride of hunting lionesses to watching the young Impala practice their morning pronking (it’s a word). I never realized the stories one could tell just by looking at a tree trunk or an abandoned anthill. I didn’t know birds knew how much rain the season would bring long before any weatherman. They would build their nests exactly above where they anticipated the flood line. I saw a giraffe fetus wriggling in its mother’s belly and knew, thanks to my guide’s incredible knowledge, that she would be a mother by the following sunset.
And after each morning and evening adventure, my luxurious peace of heaven awaited. That perfect haven where I could put up my feet and absorb the peace. My soul awakened in a way I never thought possible, and I saw the world through new eyes.
If you are looking for a similar experience and want to absorb the sights and sounds of Africa in a way that cannot be matched, a luxury safari lodge is a perfect way to experience the beauty of the African continent. Stop imagining it. See it for yourself. Choosing a specialized tour operator to plan your luxury safari is the best decision you can make, guaranteeing an authentic and immersive encounter. If you’re ready for a custom-made, luxury experience in the magnificent African bush, contact Jewel of Africa Safaris to start designing your dream adventure today.
“There is something about safari life that makes you forget all your sorrows and feel as if you had drunk half a bottle of champagne — bubbling over with heartfelt gratitude for being alive.”Karen Blixen