Escape On Safari In South Africa
There's never a better time to experience a safari game drive in South Africa.
Shamwari Game Reserve
If experiencing a safari game drive in South Africa is on your travel ‘bucket list,’ there’s never been a better time to do it. From the elephants to rhinos and lions to the monkeys and warthogs, observing the wildlife in their natural habitat from such a short distance can be an incredibly surreal and once-in-a lifetime experience, one that any avid traveller would likely rate as unforgettable.
South Africa is also a destination becoming increasing popular with the LGBTIQ community. Post- apartheid, it’s a country that was among the first to outlaw sexual discrimination as the fifth country worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage.
And while the country has much to offer with cities just as Cape Town, Sun City, Durban and Johannesburg, the main attraction of the country has been by far, visiting safari game lodges. In partnership with South African Tourism, I was fortunate enough to join a variety of international media representatives for a safari experience at Shamwari Game Reserve (Sarili Lodge) in Port Elizabeth.
It’s a ‘must-do’ experience and most safari lodges are easily accessible via short flights from most major cities. Located just over an hour drive from Port Elizabeth airport; our lodge is set within more than 25,000 hectors of land with 6 separate (and equally stunning) 5-star lodges, animal education and rehabilitation facilities and an explorer camp. And while it’s an indulgent experience for solo or couples travelling together, it’s also family-friendly so everyone can relax and explore. The lodge is also a safe and friendly environment for all individuals and at no point in my stay did I feel anything other than completely welcomed.
The rooms at Sarili Lodge are stunning with ample space to stretch out, high-end (and very comfortable) furnishings, all of your TV/Wi-Fi and tech access and little touches to make your room a welcomed retreat when it’s time for bed. You’ll also find a deep bath and rainwater shower to take that relaxing holiday to the next level.
Your safari game drive experience generally begins with a 5:30am wakeup call followed by an often much-needed 6:00am coffee and a small bite to eat to keep your tummy grumble free for the three hour dawn drive which allows you to experience the wildlife during one of the most active parts of their day. Some of the best wildlife encounters happen in the morning as temperatures are cooler and most animals are returning to slumber after a night of hunting so it’s an ideal time to see some big cats.
Once the morning drive is complete and you’ve taken thousands of photos, it’s back to the lodge for a filling breakfast of both continental and hot options. As the day reaches its peak temperature the heat sends most animals into shade, water and out of the sun and humidity so it’s a perfect time to take advantage of the break between game drives to book yourself into an indulgent spa experience, going for a swim, relaxing in the sauna, visiting the animal rehabilitation centres or just simply catching up on a bit of rest and relaxation with some of the most outstanding views imaginable from your balcony.
A note to the wise: keep your rooms doors securely closed as monkeys are never too far away and always ready to invade your goodies and make off with your belongings.
Afternoon tea is also served in the lounge, usually consisting of a decadent cake with chocolates, teas, coffee and other South African desserts so put calorie counting aside for this trip.
Shamwari Game Reserve
Evening game drives (generally commencing around 4pm) are the perfect time to witness predator animals rising from their siestas and seeing (what could be) their prey awake and on the move as the sun goes down. It’s at this time wildlife becomes active again. Photo opportunities are frequent on all drives with game drivers making regular stops along the way ensuring guests are able to capture as much of the animals and landscape possible. For those wishing to capitalise on up-close photos, come with solid zoom lens for your camera. Whilst it might be heavy to travel with, it’s worth its weight in gold when you see what you’ve captured.
Each game drive, morning and sunset also include a stop to get out of the jeep, stretch your legs and take some photos whilst coffee/tea (AM) or your alcoholic drink (PM) of choice is prepared and served by your game driver. As a sun-downer, a gin with the South African ‘dry lemon’ in the evening comes highly recommended.
Shamwari Game Reserve
These casual stops are perfectly placed among the picturesque landscape, allowing you to stand back and soak it all in. It’s also a great opportunity to ask your game driver any questions you may have about the animals that live in the reserve and fear not all stops are in secure areas so you’re never in danger.
Evenings at your lodge allow for you to freshen up with a quick shower or outfit change(it can get dusty on the drives) before pre-dinner drinks are served. Dinner consists of buffet style traditional South African food with meats, salads, lentils, curries and more on offer for mains (with the meat prepared in front of you) and cakes, chocolates and fresh fruit to finish off your meal.
A safari experience is like no other holiday. It is full of excitement, anticipation, indulgence, relaxation and conservation education with each game drive and staff member allowing you the opportunity to get the most out of your experience.
So, if you haven’t considered doing it before…now’s the time!