Tag Archives: Africa

Kaingo: Where Time Stands Still

Time doesn’t seem to exist here.

Out here in the bush, in the middle of the remote African wilderness, time seems to melt away. The wall clocks and wristwatches and phone screens that we use to chart our every activity become irrelevant. The sun’s movement across the sky becomes the gauge with which to measure time- the way nature intended.

Things move more slowly, more purposefully in the bush- time is stretched, somehow. Perhaps it’s the absence of tall buildings, of traffic, of crowds, of unpleasant smells, of rubbish strewn everywhere, of the endless tooting of car horns…

In the bush, you notice things you simply wouldn’t elsewhere. You feel the relentless beating down of the midday sun, you welcome the cooling breath of a breeze, you hear every strange call of birds and animals to each other. There’s no chaos, or rush, no inexplicable “go, go, go” mindset you always seem to find yourself in in a city. Here, you can relax. And the Kaingo team makes sure that you do just that.

Kaingo Game Reserve is located in South Africa’s Limpopo province, within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. This is a stunningly beautiful part of the country, made up of rolling hills, open plains, vegetated valleys, and montane grasslands. Kaingo is approximately 9000 hectares in size, and features massive cliffs, sandy beaches, natural causeways, and potholes and waterfalls. Over 50 mammal species call the reserve home, including 4 of the iconic African Big 5, as well as over 300 species of birds. Kaingo employs a genuine conservation-focused philosophy, and bases its management and operations on this ethos.

There is just one safari lodge found inside Kaingo Reserve. Elephant Lodge is designed in a style that is reminiscent of a traditional African safari camp, while still offering complete luxury and comfort. The lodge is built from natural stone with thatched roofs, with nature-inspired décor. Only 28 guests are accommodated at Elephant Lodge, ensuring personal attention and superb service.

The staff at Kaingo are incredible. It sounds clichéd, when describing a luxury establishment, but they genuinely go out of their way to make sure that you have everything you need. From the minute you step out of your car at reception to the minute that you leave, they are ready to pamper and spoil you. The chef will change her menu to suit your dietary requirements. The lodge manager will welcome and greet you personally. The reservations manager will show you around, make sure you have everything you need, and even accompany you on the game drive. And the guides and rangers are the stars of the show. Their knowledge of the bush and passion for what they do truly shines through.

The Safari Index team arrived at Elephant Lodge in the early afternoon. After a warm welcome, a refreshing dip in the pool after the long and dusty drive, and a refueling bite for lunch, we headed out for the afternoon game drive.

Don’t expect a typical safari experience when you go on a game drive at Kaingo. The reserve’s unique conservation policy means that the emphasis is on experiencing things as they are, instead of heading out on a crazy high-speed search mission to tick the Big 5 off a list. Instead, you drive through the reserve at a leisurely pace, stopping to appreciate whatever happens to cross your path. Andre, our guide, stopped frequently to point out interesting or unusual trees, take note of a rare bird-call, and relate stories about the animals we encountered. Since there are no other lodges in the reserve, you encounter no other vehicles when out on safari. This is a major plus- it’s something that is a rather frustrating problem in many other safari areas.

Andre drove expertly through the reserve’s maze of roads, appearing to know exactly where he was going, even though there wasn’t a single signpost in sight. At this point, the sun was sinking rapidly, and the bushveld was suffused with the magical light of “golden hour”.  We saw impalas and kudus aplenty as we drove- but it was as we arrived at a clearing that the most delightful sight greeted us- a baby giraffe and its mother! Andre moved the vehicle as close as was possible, warning that the protective mama giraffe could possibly charge if it detected any potential danger. We learnt with delight that the little one was just a week old, and spent some time watching as it went from tree to tree, stopping now and then to observe us curiously.

After spending a while with the baby giraffe, we headed on. We moved further downwards into a valley, towards the Mokolo River. Sunset had arrived as we stopped on the most beautiful spot on the riverbank. Andre set out the sundowner drinks and snacks, and we enjoyed them in the most magical setting imaginable: the myriad colours of the sunset sky and clouds reflected in the river, slowly darkening as the sounds of nocturnal creatures started to amplify.

It was fully dark by the time we started to head back to the lodge- so were treated to a nighttime safari en-route! Andre cast an enormous flashlight into the surrounding blackness as he drove, now and then catching the glowing eyes of various creatures in the beam. Back at Elephant Lodge, a delicious three-course dinner was waiting for us. The first course included warm bread baked in the shape of a crocodile- another quirky little touch!

After dinner, we enjoyed some time around the campfire. The campfire deck is wonderful place to sit and swap stories of the bush, out under a multitude of stars, which shine much more brightly without a harsh city glare to diminish them. We then retired gratefully to our luxurious rooms, where amenities like tea-and-coffee stations, bathtubs, and soft beds (with little chocolates on the pillow!) were most welcome after a thrilling day.

We were woken early the next day. Early mornings are one of the best times for going out on a game drive. The unpleasantness of an early morning is almost unnoticeable in a place like this- sunrise in the African bush is definitely something worth waking up for.

After tea/coffee and biscuits, we set out on safari once again.

An unexpected and wonderfully special treat awaited us on our safari today. After driving for a while, Andre stopped the vehicle in a small clearing. We were then asked to disembark. With excitement (and a little trepidation), we followed him along a path. He stopped to point out interesting plants and trees, and, thrillingly, some lion prints! A short way away, a spectacular view over a dry riverbed greeted us. We followed Andre down the path into the ravine, where, under an overhang, we came to a rock art site.

Many times, when you visit a famous or important historical place, the experience can sometimes be diminished by the presence of newer, more modern developments that have appeared or been built around it. This isn’t true of the rock art sites in Kaingo Reserve. Out here in the wilderness, surrounded by the pristine bushveld that has remained unchanged for thousands of years, you are easily transported back in time. You can see the Bushmen painting the art without even closing your eyes. You can imagine the Khoisan standing right in front of you, conducting a religious ritual.

We spent a long while at the site, Andre explaining the various stories and meanings behind the incredible artwork. We visited two beautiful sites on our drive, but Andre informed that us that these were just two of many on the reserve. Kaingo can arrange specialised rock art safari packages for anyone who is interested in this fascinating subject.

The second notable experience on our morning safari was seeing a large herd of sable antelope. These are stunningly graceful creatures, with rich black-and-brown coats and formidable horns. They are also endangered, and it’s a special privilege to be able to see them in the flesh. We were introduced to Prince, the patriarch of the herd, whose distinctly large horns and unmistakably self-important expression showed that he knew exactly who the boss was.

Much to our delight, a giraffe ambled over into the midst of the antelope, who were supremely unconcerned by the arrival of their tall visitor. As we sat in the vehicle with this extraordinary scene in front of us, it felt as though we were sitting at a drive-in theater watching a National Geographic documentary- with the smells of the bush as a bonus!

We returned to the lodge in time for a hearty breakfast out on the deck, before getting ready for a reluctant departure. The end of our stay had arrived all too quickly. Our bags were packed, our car was waiting. But Kaingo had one last parting gift for us. Just as we made our way through the garden to reception, our farewell party arrived: two enormous elephants, with a young bull in tow! The magnificent creatures had come right up to the lodge’s perimeter fence. We were able to stand just metres away from them as they munched away on the grass, completely oblivious to the awestruck humans ogling them. We were utterly delighted; there is nothing quite as breathtaking as being so close to such majestic animals. A truly wonderful send-off!

They say it’s the little things that make a big difference- and this is certainly true at Kaingo. From the fresh warm towels waiting for us when we arrived or returned from a game drive, to the personalized water flasks that we were allowed to keep, to the welcoming postcards with our names added by hand, to the adorable elephant-shaped towels on the beds- it was these original and personal touches that put the cherry on top of an already incredible experience.

As we got ready to start our journey back home, the sense of time being warped was palpable again. We had only arrived at Kaingo the previous day, but in less than 24 hours, we had been treated to a wealth of sights and experiences. And while it felt like we’d been there for ages, it also didn’t feel like enough.

Visit Kaingo. You won’t regret it.

The Okavango Delta: A paradise surrounded by the parched Kalahari

One would be forgiven for being completely and utterly awed by the Okavango Delta. This  unique wetland spans between 6000 to 1500 square kilometres, depending on the season. Situated in the northern reaches of Botswana, the Okavango Delta is a lush paradise made up of islands, woodlands, and floodplains, surrounded by the parched sands of the Kalahari Desert.

This natural masterpiece is the largest inland delta in Africa, and hosts hundreds of bird and animal species. This includes red lechwe and sitatunga. The area provides excellent safari opportunities, with not only a variety of wildlife to observe, but also several ways of going on safari. These include mokoro canoes, hot air balloons, and boat cruises- you are spoiled for choice. With Moremi Game Reserve situated on the eastern edge of the Okavango, even traditional game drives are on offer!

There are dozens of Okavango lodges to stay in, allowing for a unique experience when visiting different parts of the delta. These Okavango lodges strive to provide the best experience for their guests, making sure they enjoy this stunning World Heritage Site to the fullest.

Gunn’s Camp is one of the last few remaining luxury vintage safari camps, and maintains a fine balance between comfort and a true bushveld experience. Overlooking the legendary Chief’s Island, this Okavango lodge is set on raised platforms, giving it superb views over the delta plains. The dense wooded island on which it is situated gives Gunn’s a discrete and intimate atmosphere, perfect for honeymooners and couples.

Xugana Island Lodge is situated on a private concession. This Okavango lodge takes full advantage of its majestic location. Xugana has an expansive deck, which allows guests to dine under the stars while overlooking the pristine waters of the delta. Xugana is a wonderful place to relax. The swimming pool and garden are perfect for cooling off after a long day on safari.

Camp Okavango is our next Okavango lodge on offer. It is an authentically African safari camp, situated on the remote Nxaragha Island.  This Okavango lodge is a hidden gem, offering individual safari tents raised on platforms. They all enjoy private open-air viewing decks.

There are a plethora of Okavango lodges to choose from, each offering something unique and wonderful, just like the Okavango Delta itself. Visit this luxurious location for yourself- contact us to book your stay at one of our Okavango lodges.

Zambia Lodges

The Southern African country of Zambia,  named for the mighty Zambezi River that flows through its borders, is a safari and nature treasure. It is home to 19 incredible national parks and reserves.

The safari accommodation found in the country is not only affordable, but are some of the best on the continent, each offering a unique experience, tailored to reflect the park or reserve they are located in.

These are some of the best Zambia lodges on offer:

 Gorges Lodge

As far as Zambia Lodges go, Gorges Lodge, located in the Victoria Falls National Park, is one one of the best. It offers stunning vistas over the Zambezi River from its perch above Batoka Gorge. Not for the faint of heart, the main lodge is set on the very edge of the gorge, 250 meters above the raging waters below.  The accommodation, ten stone and thatched chalets, is set against an indigenous garden backdrop, and each has a private deck from which to take in the stunning surrounds and wildlife.

Gorges Lodge is perfect for those with an adventurous spirit. Its location in the Victoria Falls National Park allows guests access to activities such as elephant back safaris, white water rafting and bungee jumping.

King Lewanika Lodge

For those looking for Zambia Lodges that offer something a bit more on the wild side, one need look no further than King Lewanika Lodge, right in the heart of Liuwa Plains National Park‘s vast grassy floodplains.

King Lewanika Lodge is the only fixed lodge in the park, and is made up of 6 luxurious villas. Each villa is raised above the surrounding plains, allowing for magnificent views of the plentiful wildlife of the area.

Mfuwe Lodge

If you would prefer a Zambia Lodge a touch more on the luxurious side, look no further than Mfuwe Lodge, the jewel of  South Luangwa National Park. It boasts every luxury one could wish for, and more. 18 bespoke chalets have private decks that look out over the banks of a lagoon.

The lodge features top-notch facilities that include a spa, outdoor gym, and excellent dining facilities. Also on offer are superb safari activities, such as thrilling night drives and guided walking tours.

Mfuwe Lodge is also known for its four-footed guests- a herd of elephants has tried checking in at reception before- a uniquely African event!

There are many more Zambia lodges to choose from, each with their own unique surrounds and offerings. Contact us to experience one of these magnificent lodges and enjoy the beauty Zambia has to offer.

The Great Wildebeest Migration

Africa’s annual Great Wildebeest Migration is the world’s largest overland animal migration. This spectacular phenomenon occurs when approximately two million wildebeest, zebra and other indigenous antelope undertake an incredible journey across the African plains, from Tanzanias beautiful Serengeti to the world-renowned Masai Mara in Kenya.

The Migration does not just consist of one large herd, but rather thousands of smaller ones that branch in and out of the main bulk, depending on the availability of food and water. The sizes of the herds fluctuate, as some wildebeest do not travel, choosing to stay in specific areas.

It is also interesting to note that during the Migration, the wildebeest and zebra travel harmoniously together. Though both species are herbivores, their feeding preferences differ greatly, as they prefer different parts of the same grasses. This means that while they inhabit the same space, they are not in competition for the same resources.

The thrill of the Migration is also enhanced by the presence of predators. As the herbivores cross the plains in their thousands, they are closely pursued by fearsome carnivores. More than 3 000 lions prey upon the herds, bringing down thousands of wildebeest each season. These losses are replenished during the rainy season between January and March, as the herds roam the Serengeti. It is speculated that over half a million wildebeest are born during this period.

Other predators can also be spotted preying on the herds, including hyena, cheetah, and leopard. These predators do not migrate with the herds. Rather the herds move through their territories, making them ideal prey. However, some predators have become nomadic and spend their lives in pursuit of these herds.

Crocodiles also lie in wait as the wildebeest and zebras attempt to cross over the Mara and Grumeti Rivers, ready to prey upon any who are not strong or quick enough. These crossings typically take place during the dry season when the animals make their way to the greener grazing fields of the Masai Mara.

While herd movements depend on the availability of food and water, the animals can be seen to travel in a general clockwise direction during the Great Migration. This gives the discerning traveller ample opportunity to witness the incredible phenomenon all year round. Several well-appointed lodges and camps cater to the seasoned as well as first-time viewer of the Migration. One can easily find accommodation that will suit your particular needs and provide the perfect opportunity to see this awe-inspiring spectacle.

The Great Migration Pattern

The Great Migration takes place annually, spanning the whole year. This allows for a Migration safari trip at any time of the year, depending on where the herds are. Don’t you think that this is an experience that should be on your bucket list? Chat to one of the Safari Index team of experts today to plan that dream Migration safari now!

 

Timbavati Lodges

Timbavati Nature Reserve is found in South Africa‘s Lowveld region, bordering the world-famous Kruger National Park. This private reserve comprises 53000 hectares of open woodlands, mopane tree belts, rocky outcrops and dry river beds that teem with an abundance of wildlife and birdlife species. The reserve is also home to the iconic African Big 5. Large herds of buffaloes and elephants are seen regularly, and it is a good place for spotting the elusive leopard. The Timbavati is also home to a rare and unique specie: the white lion. These stunning animals have been the subject of many books and documentaries.

A major advantage of visiting the Timbavati is that the reserve has a much lower density of lodges and camps than most other reserves and parks in the Lowveld. This means that there are much fewer safari vehicles on the roads, allowing for a more exclusive and less crowded safari experience, especially around game sightings.

The is a small selection of lodges found in the reserve, offering accommodation options to suit various budget types, from super luxury to mid-range to more affordable. These are some of the best lodges and camps to stay at when visiting the Timbavati:

Walker’s River Camp

This self-catering camp is set on the banks of the Klaserie River, and is the perfect option for families and groups. It accommodates a maximum of ten guests in en-suite chalets. Each chalet has its own private outdoor shower, as well as mosquito netting on the beds. The kitchen is fully-equipped and has a gas stove, fridge, freezer, oven and microwave. The lodge has to be booked out it its entirety by one group, making it perfect for those a budget. Guided game drives and bush walks are offered to guests, providing thrilling encounters with wildlife in the reserve. Relax with family and friends after an exciting day of game-viewing: enjoy a drink around the pool or a braai in the outdoor boma.

Umlani Bush Camp

Umlani Bush Camp is a charming, rustic safari camp set in the heart of the Timbavati. This delightful camp provides a genuine wilderness experience and the chance to truly reconnect with nature. The accommodation is made up of traditional-style round huts. Each hut is constructed from reed and thatch, helping them to blend wonderfully with the surrounding wilderness. The huts have en-suite bathrooms, open-air bush showers, comfortable beds with crisp white linen, draped mosquito netting, and soft towels- all ensuring comfort in the bush. Enjoy waterhole views from the bush bar and deck, cool down in the sparkling pool, end enjoy award-winning meals in the outdoor boma.

Kings Camp

This ultra-luxury lodge is the perfect destination for those who want to experience their African safari in the ultimate style and comfort. It is designed in a colonial style, with lavish decor and classic, antique-style furniture. The lodge is set among beautiful gardens and overlooks a busy waterhole- you can watch the wildlife come to drink while sitting back and enjoying a cold drink or reading a book. The service is exceptional and the staff cater to guests’ every need. The spacious rooms are air-conditioned with en-suite bathrooms, as well as secluded outdoor showers. Facilities include a pool, gym, spa, library, business centre and WiFi connectivity. There is also a private 4-bedroom luxury villa, where guests can enjoy the services of their own personal butler, chef, game ranger sand game-viewing vehicle.

Uganda Safari Tour

Uganda is a small landlocked country located in East Africa. It is one of the continent’s top safari and wildlife destinations, and is known as “The Pearl of Africa”, due to its breathtaking beauty and diverse habitats. These include everything from vast savannah plains, to snow-capped mountains, to dense rainforests. The country offers a host of unique attractions and experiences that will delight even the most experienced safari-goer.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the country’s most well-known destinations. It is made up of thickly forested slopes that are home to one of the most fascinating creatures in the world- the endangered mountain gorilla. In Bwindi, you can hike through the forest to track the gorillas and see these incredible creatures in the flesh in their natural habitat- an awe-inspiring experience. There are a number of well-established lodges, camps and tour operators that offer excellent accommodation and guided treks in the park.

Wildlife lovers can enjoy a big-game safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. This stunning park features rolling hills, grasslands and acacia woodlands, and is home to an incredible diversity of big game species, as well as over 600 species of birds. The Ishasha region of the park is famous for its population of tree-climbing lions, a fascinating species.

Visitors to Uganda can also stop by the town of Jinja. It is here that the source of the mighty River Nile is found. The world’s longest river, the Nile goes on to flow through eight other African countries before reaching the Mediterranean Sea.

The snow-capped mountains of Rwenzori and the might Murchison Falls provide fantastic photography opportunities for visitors to Uganda. Murchison Falls National Park is the country’s oldest and largest park. It offers the chance to enjoy a wonderfully comprehensive safari experience: go on traditional game drives or walks to see the big game species, while also getting the chance to enjoy unique boating safaris on the river. Visit the spectacular Falls, and take part in adventure activities on the river.

Another unique destination in Uganda is Kibale National Park. It is found in the south of the country, and is home to one of the richest diversities of primates in Africa. Here, visitors have the unique opportunity to go on a chimpanzee-tracking safari, to see these these wonderful creatures in their natural habitat.

Uganda is also an excellent destination for birders, with over 1000 species recorded, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Try out a special 10-day overland Uganda birding tour, on which you will visit all the main destinations in the country for a chance to experience its incredible birding opportunities.