Arriving in Johannesburg
This review is a bit overdue since we went on our trip in July, but I really do owe to Andre to recommend his company, since everything went off exactly as promised.
Our family of five, two adults and three kids (8,13,15) traveled to South Africa mainly to go on safari. My wife and I had been on safari in Tanzania in the past, so had an idea of what we wanted to do, but had no familiarity with South Africa. We relied heavily on Andre to make recommendations on our itinerary, game parks, drives, and accommodations. We were very pleased with what he suggested. Thabo, who accompanied us on the entire trip, was a very considerate, friendly and safe driver. We appreciated how attentive he was to our needs and the plan.
After arriving late in the evening in Johannesburg, Thabo picked us up to the airport to stay at Andre’s Safari Manor. Safari Manor is a very simple yet comfortable and clean little villa in the suburbs of Johannesburg. It’s where Andre lives. I think it’s mainly intended to be a place to overnight before you start your trip to the the parks or other destinations. Anyway, it’s nothing fancy but perfect for a short overnight after arriving or before departing Johannesburg.
Visit to the Apartheid Museum
The next morning we left Safari Manor and stopped at the Apartheid Museum for the morning. It’s worth a visit as it is very well done and interesting. We vastly underestimated the amount of time needed to really explore the museum in detail. There is so much more to learn than we were able to do in a morning.
Transferring to Pilanesberg
Anyway, we then left to spend the day heading to Pilanesberg game park. We stayed in a villa at Kingdom Resort. Although it didn’t have the authentic “bush” feel of lodges where we’ve stayed on safari in Tanzania, it was just the perfect place for our family with three kids. The villa was very well-appointed and modern. Trust me, it’s really nice. Much better we expected. Food was excellent in the restaurant.
Andre booked us private game drives in Pilanesberg. We started with our first drive on the evening of our arrival, followed by several more game drives over the next couple of days. Our driver, Elvis, with Mankwe Gametrackers, was excellent. He was knowledge and motivated to find us all the animals we were hoping to see. In Pilanesberg, we were very lucky and ended up seeing cheetahs eating a kill, a leopard, lions, elephants and more. We couldn’t have had a better few days in Pilanesberg.
Off to Kruger National Park
After Pilanesberg, we travelled to Hazyview. It was a long drive but that’s how it goes in Africa. We stayed at the Pilgrim’s Boutique Hotel. It was really a very cute place. Nice rooms. Great restaurant. And a cute courtyard. It was only for one night, as the next morning we did a private sunrise/morning safari at Kruger followed our trip to Kurula lodge. The morning safari in Kruger was a bit quiet in terms of animals. We certainly saw far more wildlife in Pilanesberg, but I think that’s not the typical experience. Regardless, we saw two lions eating a giraffe kill and another leopard. That’s actually pretty amazing. So, maybe we were already getting spoiled by our luck.
Private game lodge in Greater Kruger
The real gem of our trip was the time spent at Kurula Lodge. This a private game lodge in the private game preserve region of Kruger. It’s amazing. Our family had the lodge to ourselves. The lodge is simply beautiful. It’s basically a luxury home with most rooms open to air during the day. The animals come right up the lodge as it’s basically a home built right in the bush. The staff are clearly focused on making your stay as perfect as possible. We had multiple private game drives with Jaco, probably one of the most intelligent and worldly guys you’d ever meet. He know practically everything about the local environment. I mean everything. His knowledge of every plant, animal, and insect is impressive. He’s super fun and informative. Every game drive was a captivating lesson in the whole ecosystem. The vehicle is a completely open top land cruiser. We were in the thick of elephant herds (who just walked right around us, inches away, without any suggestion of aggression or territorial behavior), saw two leopard with their kill in a tree over several days time and Cape buffalo herds we didn’t see anywhere else. It was awesome. Lions roaring loudly right outside our windows. We had a spotted hyena slowly walk into the deck(!!) while we were eating dinner. He thought he’s sneak up to look for a bite. Not a good idea, but it show how “ in it” is this lodge. Again, Kurula Lodge is awesome. Don’t miss it.
Returning to Johannesburg via the Panorama Route
Finally, we returned to Johannesburg to fly home via the Panorama Route. It’s a long drive with numerous scenic vistas and hikes. It’s totally worth it. Check it out online. It’s exactly what you see.
Throughout all of this, Andre kept in touch to make sure everything was going as planned. Thabo was always available with us throughout the trip. He spent the days checking in with us periodically and driving us from park to park or the next spot on our itinerary. He was flexible enough to accommodate our wishes, but was very good about making sure that we were able to stay on schedule and do what we intended to do.
I highly recommend Safaris With Us.