Anouk’s Trip Report – Timbavati, Sabi Sands, Vilanculos and Benguerra, April 2018
Anouk recently returned from a 12 day trip to South Africa and Mozambique. Her mission was to visit as many Kruger area lodges as she could, and then spend a few days exploring the Mozambique coast around Vilanculos and the island of Benguerra. She managed to visit over a dozen of our favorite safari lodges throughout the Timbavati and Sabi Sands private reserves. Here’s the trip report in her own words…
I learned so much, met so many great people and despite being “on the go” managed to have plenty of fun too! My first stop was Makanyi for two nights, in the Timbavati, a private reserve adjacent to the Kruger National Park. This lodge is just gorgeous and did not disappoint with regards to amenities, food, drinks and service. We had wild dog playing at the waterhole on arrival and saw plenty of lion, buffalo as well as giraffe, zebra, warthog and a gorgeous leopard lounging in a tree (as they like to do in these parts). It had recently rained for a few days, so everything looked lush, healthy and green. While in the Timbavati, I also managed to look in at Tanda Tula (always a favorite, and great for those interested in walking), Kamabaku River Sands in particular was looking superb, and Kings Camp another long-time favorite of ours. Wildlife sightings even from the main road between the lodges was abundant.
I had a wonderful Ilios guide pick me up to do the intra-camp transfers, he was professional and courteous and also knowledgeable about the wildlife we saw along the way, which is a nice bonus for our clients doing similar transfers. The drive from Timbavati to Sabi Sands on the route I took has not improved over the years, with regards to the somewhat depressing and trash filled towns along the way. So we will start to encourage more of our clients to use a “lodge hop flight” between certain camps that need to utilize this particular road.
My next stop was Dulini Leadwood in the Sabi Sands, which is a wonderful intimate lodge with heated plunge pool (much needed after all that driving!). We had a wonderful guide and tracker team, lots of special surprise touches are in store for clients which I won’t give away, but really enhances the experience of all who stay. The same can be said for Dulini Lodge, as well as neighboring Savanna. I popped into both lodges to say a quick hello and check on the various re-furbishments that have taken place since my previous stays. Savanna continues to work on its already excellent service, finding new spots for dinner, and lovely guest-friendly touches that always sets it a little apart from others! Unfortunately I did not get to see Dulini River Lodge, but from all accounts the re-build is going to be spectacular, and the lodge will re-open mid May 2018.
Londolozi was next on my list and I spent a supremely comfortable night at Varty Camp. I could not fault a single thing at Londolozi (and I tried to be critical!). From our guide and tracker team, to the management, and house staff – everyone was at the top of their game. I really like the set up here, so despite the property being four camps in a row, you really feel attached to your spot, your communal areas and you can be oblivious to the other camps. The decks, the rooms and the whole “being part of the Varty family-history vibe” really feels genuine, it works. The game drives here were also a bit less crowded than in other parts of the Sabi Sands. Although I must say all the private lodges here do an amazing job of controlling the amount of vehicles at any major sighting. I never felt rushed, or that any one was blocking my view of leopard, lion, wild dog or other big sightings.
After being thoroughly spoiled by this time, I headed to Lion Sands Ivory Lodge. I have been looking forward to seeing this high-end designer lodge ever since it re-opened last year. I was not disappointed. The suites are enormous, filled with light and modern to the core. We always encourage our clients to book a Tree House when staying at any Lion Sands properties, and I had a quick look at Kingston and what an incredible set up that is! Unfortunately the River Lodge was still being re-built, but I did swing by Narina and Tinga, both a little different from one another, but each with the great Lion Sands touch. The reserve is really very beautiful and their sundowner spots are quite special!
My last stop in the Sabi Sands was a night at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, which may be the most amazing looking lodge I have ever had the pleasure of staying at. I know you can either love or hate the modern, almost Star Wars type look and feel. But I believe if you have a pulse, you can’t not love this place. I didn’t want to leave, and luckily we were again paired with an awesome guide and tracker team, so I was pried out of my room with the promise of some wonderful wildlife. I’d say seeing a huge male leopard walk right into the private patio of our room, certainly confirmed that! I decided using the outdoor shower before dinner, was probably not on the cards anymore. I peeked into the other Sabi Sabi properties, and must say the Bush Lodge and Sabi Sabi Little Bush still pull at my heartstrings. Both are perfect in their own unique ways.
A quick flight from Kruger to Vilanculos brought me to a totally different scene, of swaying palm trees, bright blue ocean and a vibrant seaside town, so different from
South Africa. I enjoyed the drive through Vilanculos en route to Santorini, it reminded me of growing up in Malawi and the lakeside towns we always spent a lot of time in. Poor, but colorful with lots of open market stalls, kids off to school, and mothers with babies on their backs and heavy goods on their heads. Santorini was an oasis, lovely buildings, many private nooks and crannies to enjoy meals, and excellent service. I stayed in the new family suite which was huge. It took the 18 hours I was there to sit on all our patios, lie down in the various day beds, and try the pool! At first I wasn’t so sure how to relax after being so busy the past week, but soon got in the swing of things after a delicious cold beer and some peri-peri tiger prawns. The beach here is very tidal (as it is throughout Mozambique), so definitely count on adding some excursions like snorkeling and dhow cruise during your stay here.
My final two nights was spent in even more relaxed fashion, at Azura Benguerra. The helicopter ride over is worth the stay in itself, unbelievable views of the islands and sand banks below. I loved this laid back resort, it just kept growing on me over the next couple of days. The beach was beautiful, the tides are significant but easy enough to time around activities. The current is quite strong though, but luckily not out to the sea, but rather along the shore. Our butler was charming, dinner was served at a different spot each night. I swam in the warm waters of the ocean as well as my pool. I paddle boarded, and also took a drive around the island which was very interesting. I thought the snorkeling was the best I’ve ever experienced, just amazing. Peter and Jenny are fairly new managers and they were particularly wonderful, as was the chef. I absolutely did not want to leave and that sentiment was shared with everyone else staying at the resort.