Northern South Africa, unlike any other…
After a fantastic preparation of Untamed Traveling by means of an online travel description (super professional!) and an app that we could download with all the necessary parts of our trip, we traveled with great pleasure with KLM from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. After a flight of about ten and a half hours, we were met there by a local employee who escorted us to the shuttle that took us to the first hotel for the night, the African Rock Hotel.
The African Rock Hotel is a small-scale boutique hotel of a Dutch owner in a safe compound in a quiet part of Johannesburg. They had recently added two garden rooms and we got one of them. What an unprecedented luxury and what a spacious room! Everything was very neat and especially the bathroom was marvellous. After a nice drink to end the long day, we fell asleep in a very comfortable bed. In the morning we were surprised with a nice breakfast. We enjoyed the wonderful ambiance of the beautiful hotel and had a nice conversation with the owner. Our rental car was delivered that morning (Volkswagen Tiguan) and we set out for a four and a half hour drive north to Tzaneen.
After a beautiful drive through the province of Limpopo , including the Magoebaskloof mountain pass, we arrived at our next hotel, the Kings Walden Garden Manor Hotel . After a pleasant welcome drink we went to rest in the beautiful garden. The eye-catcher of this hotel? The view! From the garden you have a phenomenal view over the valley. The light and tranquility make this a magical place, partly due to a large bare tree that gives the whole an extra dimension. A drink tastes even better here! After our check-in in the great room with fireplace and spacious bathroom it was already time for dinner, which was served by passionate people with a generous smile. Unfortunately we only stayed here for one night. After enjoying a nice breakfast in the morning, walking through the fantastic garden and photographing the many monkeys, we continued our journey north, to our next destination; The Outpost Lodge in the most northern part of the Kruger Park.
After another beautiful drive of about four hours we arrived at the most northern gate of the Kruger Park , the Pafuri Gate. From this entrance it was about 20 minutes to The Outpost Lodge . We were welcomed there by the extremely friendly staff with beautiful wide South African smiles. After another welcome drink, we were escorted to our room. All superlatives fail to describe this room, so beautiful! We had been assigned the honeymoon suite. What a luxury, and what a view!! This highest room offered a phenomenal (open!) view over the Levuvhu River and the valley around it.
We were in time for the first (afternoon) game drive with Samuel (Sam), our driver/spotter who would take us during our two night stay. He turned out to be a walking encyclopedia of all the flora and fauna that this part of the Kruger Park has to offer. What an enormous passion this man has and how fantastic can he tell about it! After a nice sundowner (drinks and some snacks half way through the drive) at a spot with a great view over the river and valley, we went back in the twilight where Sam looked for animals that we hadn’t already encountered with his searchlight. But how much we had already seen! Zebra, impala, wild boar, kudu, elephant, etc. Sam’s extensive knowledge of birds was certainly an extra ‘touch’ on the beautiful drive.
When we got back to the hotel, a delicious dinner was waiting for us. What an excellent cuisine The Outpost serves! Dinner would not be out of place in a star restaurant. The cook’s passion was evident. After another wonderful but short night we were woken up at 4.30 am by Sam for our morning game drive . Many animals are most active at this time of day. During our coffee with liqueur – a delicious Amarula – we stopped at the river with the border triangle of South Africa , Mozambique and Zimbabwe . Here, in the eastuary, we saw crocodiles and a very large group of hippos. That was a real early morning present. After a nice drive we arrived at our hotel where a delicious à la carte breakfast was waiting for us. After all the impressions we decided to relax that afternoon with a massage in our room. What a luxury and relaxation. While the elephant herd passed under our room, we were able to get ready for the next afternoon game drive and Sam showed a completely different side of the area. The Outpost Lodge offers unprecedented luxury and service where everything is done with an enormous passion for the guest. What we enjoyed here. After a last (early) morning safari in which we once again thoroughly enjoyed Sam’s passion and knowledge, we unfortunately had to continue our journey. With an overnight stopover in the town of Louis Trichard, we continued on to the Waterberg region, to the Zebra’s Crossing Very Private Bush Lodge.
On arrival at Zebra’s Crossing Lodge we were warmly welcomed by the lodge staff, led by Promise , the manager who has been working there for 25 years. Well that indeed ‘promised’ something for our stay in this lovely lodge and ditto environment. After checking in to our once again fantastic room that had a very authentic South African atmosphere (with an outdoor shower!), we went for a drink and together with Promise we went on a safari ride over the domain of the lodge. Because the domain is fenced – you don’t notice it because it is so big – there are no predators here and the giraffes, impalas, zebras, etc. have all the freedom and space to move. The nice thing about this is that they regularly come to drink in the waterhole of the lodge. The giraffes and zebras in particular feel very much at home here and come close enough to make beautiful pictures. After the ride we had a chat with the new (Dutch) owner of the lodge, Thijs, who had bought the lodge only three weeks earlier, together with his wife, sister-in-law and brother-in-law. Since we were his first Dutch guests, he asked us what we would change about the lodge and rooms. Well, our answer was very clear… Nothing at all! Everything is really right here. The decor, the service, the location.. In short, a fantastic place! Unfortunately our stay here was only one night and with a heavy heart we said goodbye to the staff. How much we enjoyed it here!
MADIKWE GAME RESERVE
After another long but beautiful drive through the amazing South African landscape we drove west, to the border with Botswana, to Madikwe Game Reserve, where we had our last two hotel nights at Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge.
It’s clear that Untamed Traveling had saved this last sojourn for the best! The welcome alone by Hannes Kruger, the manager of the lodge, was very warm. This lodge is the ultimate in what makes a stay in a wildlife park beautiful: the Big Five nearby, excellent service and luxury and everything with a smile. What a prime location! Our room was also one out of a fairy tale book. 150 square meters of pure comfort with a separate living room, bedroom and mega bathroom. Also an outdoor shower on the terrace with a plunge pool . The best thing about the room, however, was the view of the animals that regularly passed by to have a drink or refresh themselves in the waterhole that was right in front of our terrace. The elephants, impalas, giraffes, buffalos, kudus, boars, yes everything passed by regularly and in large numbers. Also here in Madikwe we had two nights with afternoon and morning game drives. This time also with a spotter in front of the car who was able to quickly track down all the beauty this park has to offer. Within 24 hours we had seen the Big Five ! From imposing rhinoceroses and a group of lions to impressive buffalo and large and small (baby) elephants.
To top it all off, we saw a beautiful leopard, an animal that is not easy to spot. What an experience. The unprecedented luxury of this resort and the animals you encounter in every morning and afternoon game drive makes this lodge a unique one of its kind! By special request we skipped lunch the second day and asked if we could have it in our room. Well, nothing was too much trouble for the staff and they packed a delicious picnic including blankets and cushions on our patio with a view of the animals. We were also offered a romantic dinner for two on our terrace to end the last evening in South Africa in a beautiful way. Of this too the staff made a real feast, from rose petals in the bathroom to a beautifully set table on our terrace where the personnel came to bring every course. How we enjoyed this ultimate service. After this last night we drove back to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in about four and a half hours to return our rental car and take the night flight back to Amsterdam.
Enjoyment is the word that best describes our trip in this part of South Africa. We enjoyed the beautiful untouched nature that this (not yet touristic) part of South Africa has. Enjoyed the wonderful accommodations that Untamed Traveling arranged for us. Enjoyed the people and their culture which is different in this part than in the southern part of South Africa. In short, enjoyed everything! We have fallen in love with this part of South Africa and will definitely come back here, no doubt! Thank you Untamed Traveling for this unforgettable trip!