With the heights of The Silo and the gardens of Babylonstoren behind them, it was time for Angama’s General Manager Azei and Head Chef Collins to leave the Cape and set off on Part II of their quest across South Africa to answer that big question “What does world-class look like?” So where does one head to next when looking for inspiration? Where else but the world-famous Kruger National Park.
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to tick off both the Mara and the Kruger within their lifetime would surely agree that in many ways, the two destinations couldn’t be more different. From his South African guests and colleagues, Azei had heard much about these differences – tarred roads, fences and of course most intriguing of all, the tracker perched at the front of every safari vehicle. He couldn’t wait to experience it all for himself.
After a short flight to Hoedspruit, during which Azei was surprised to find full in-flight service, they landed at their airstrip and were met by their driver guide from Sable Tours, who Azei described as a lovely and friendly “Afrikaans mzee”. Expecting to be surrounded by the unfamiliar, straight away, Azei was struck by a sense of nostalgia as they drove. “The landscape reminded me so much of childhood holidays, driving down to Mombasa with the Tsavo East on one side and Tsavo West on the other,” he said, although admittedly, the thick bush was a stark contrast with the vast open plains of the Maasai Mara.
Mid-afternoon, they arrived at Singita Lebombo and what followed was a whirlwind two days of game drives (where their guide, Gary, made use of an earpiece to avoid the distraction of radio chatter), a back-of-house tour with Manager Andrew, and even a personalised wine tasting for good measure.
Out on safari, Azei quickly came to understand the importance of the tracker. Through thick bush in Singita’s 33 000-acre private concession, their tracker spotted a rhino within the first few moments of their drive. A short while later, again the tracker signalled for the vehicle to stop, as he had spotted a snake popping its head out of a hole in a tree. At every sighting, he would inspect the ground for tracks and the natural chemistry between guide and tracker, the kind that comes from years of working together, was a delight to witness.
Moments of delight at Singita Lebombo included discovering all the impressive gadgets in the room, from the electronic key system to the fridges (yes, there’s more than one), and the irresistible outdoor ‘star bed’ complete with mosquito netting which Azei made use of, waking up to a perfect lowveld sunrise on his final morning at the lodge. And the cherry on top? At dinner (beef for Azei, and always lamb for Chef) a perfectly prepared side of ugali made from South African maize for a surprising little taste of home.
Next it was time to say farewell and head to their final stop: Lion Sands River Lodge, set on a 25 000-acre private concession in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Welcomed with the traditional scented hand towels and a quick briefing, Chef and Azei were then led to their vast (and importantly, air-conditioned) rooms, complete with private swimming pool looking straight onto the beautiful banks of the Sabie River. Here, it was the little personal touches that really stood out. Each morning’s wake-up delivery of coffee, muffins and smoothie was accompanied by a little informational note with interesting facts on the ingredients used, making that 5:00am start a little easier to bare for Azei, who admits to not being a morning person. Also adding a fun and playful touch was the hand-written note from housekeeping on a chalkboard by the bed.
Again – game drives were exciting and in no small part due to the skills of the tracker and guiding team. It was particularly encouraging to learn that through the great work of the More Community Foundation, their tracker had recently sat for his field guide examinations, making it possible for those from the community to take the next step in their careers in ecotourism.
And with that, it was time to say farewell to South Africa – at least for now – brains buzzing with inspiration, a stomach full of Chianina beef and hearts full of memories.
To the world-class teams at Singita Lebombo, Lions Sands River Lodge, and Sable Tours, we cannot thank you enough.
Filed under: Inside Angama
Subscribe for Weekly Stories