Santiago – Via Australis Wild Patagonia Cruise The Singular Patagonia…
My journey to Botswana started off with my flight from LAX to Johannesburg on Virgin Atlantic with a connection thru London Heathrow. I was lucky enough to be upgraded to Premium Economy, so that was a nice treat. In Premium Economy you get leather seats, more legroom, wider seats, an amenity kit, plenty of drinks and two tasty meals. Upon my arrival in Johannesburg, I took a flight to Maun/Botswana (about 2 hours) and then went on a small plane from Maun to the Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge (about 50 minutes) located in the Chobe National Park for my two-night stay. The 12 Luxury rooms are housed on raised wooden platforms with great views and a traditional African thatch roof. The room interiors are very large with en suite bathroom, an outdoor shower, four poster bed with Mosquito netting, in-room safe, mini-bar, hair dryers, bathrobes, slippers and complimentary Wi-Fi. The lodge has a large central indoor lounge, dining area, outdoor BOMA (local feast), swimming pool, curio shop, small spa, small library and same day complimentary laundry.
The daily routine started about 5:30 am for breakfast. Around 6:00 am or so, the early morning game drive (about 3 to 4 hours) would begin. After the morning game drive, it is back to the lodge for brunch, followed by an hour or so for resting. Around 3:30 pm, afternoon tea is presented with another game drive (about 3 hours or so) starting at 4:00 pm or so. Dinner is served around 7:00 pm and then a good night’s sleep for the next day’s adventure. The food was delicious and there were many options to choose from.
After the two-night stay at Savute, we then took a small plane to Khwai River Lodge (about 20 minutes) located in The Moremi Wildlife Reserve for my two-night stay. The 14 Luxury rooms are housed similarly to our previous night’s stay, with all the same amenities.
We were able to experience both a bush breakfast and bush dinner, a sundowners in the bush with stargazing, a walking safari and a 20-minute open helicopter ride in the Chobe National Park, which was an unbelievable experience. We were able to see part of the Big Five (lions, elephants, buffalos, leopards) plus giraffes, wild dogs, hyenas, zebras, all types of birds, baboons, hippopotamuses and so, so much more. The two guides, Mighty and Richard, were from Botswana and they were unbelievably knowledgeable, gentle, kind, and made the safari such a memorable one.
After my amazing four-night safari in Botswana, I then flew on an afternoon flight to Cape Town, South Africa for the ILTM Africa Show. I was booked for a four-night stay at the Table Bay Hotel, which is located at the V & A Waterfront. The hotel is of contemporary Victorian design and situated between historical Robben Island and Majestic Table Mountain. My room was large with all the amenities one could wish for and an amazing view of the harbor, too. A nice feature is that the hotel is attached to a very large indoor mall with a variety of stores and restaurants. Lastly, the buffet breakfast had a wide variety of foods to choose from and everything was very tasty.
The ILTM show was a great opportunity for me to meet other Travel Agents from around the world, DMC’s and local tour operators, plus it gave me the opportunity to network and share ideas with them too.
After the ILTM Africa conference, I then flew to Victoria Falls/Zimbabwe Falls for a two-night stay at the Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve, which is tucked away from the touristy town of Victoria Falls. It is a luxury safari lodge with intimate Victorian charm and 16 private free-standing suites which overlook the reserve. The main building is set up like a private home with a small dining room, a cozy living room, bar and lounge downstairs, outside patio where you can opt for breakfast and an intimate reception area. I loved being away from the crowds of people/tourists and the remoteness of the game reserve was ideal for me.
On my first day, I took a Zambezi Sunset River Cruise, which was very serene and amazing to be in tune with nature. The following day, I had a private tour to Victoria Falls with one of the guides from the game reserve which is one of the greatest attractions in Africa and one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world. Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, the fourth largest river in Africa, which is also defining the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There was also a morning game drive, plus an unexpected breakfast in the bush, and an evening game drive, with dinner also in the bush. We saw a few elephants, zebras, giraffes and we were lucky enough to see both adult and baby rhinoceroses, which I hadn’t seen in Botswana, so this completed my task of seeing the “Big Five”. I enjoyed my last day sleeping in, having a nice breakfast on the patio and just taking in the beauty of Zimbabwe.
I feel so fortunate that I was able to take this opportunity to experience what I do for both pleasure and business. I was really sad to leave this wonderful place and will miss the soft spoken, kind-hearted people of Africa!
“ The only things I regret, and the only things I’ll ever regret are things I didn’t do. In the end, that’s what we mourn. The paths we didn’t take. The people we didn’t touch’
Blog by Heidi Andreas