An African safari tops most travelers’ bucket lists for its once-in-a-lifetime appeal, the thrilling adventure of witnessing Africa’s wild animals in their natural habitats and the stunningly exotic scenery. Senior Manager of Destination Services Christine Andrusyshyn is our resident expert in all things related to land tours and has a special passion for safaris. Christine recently had the chance to experience two of our African safaris first-hand, and we sat down with her to get an inside look at what they were like, what types of African wildlife she saw and much more.
Pumba Water Lodge, South Africa
Tell us about the ambiance of the lodge: From the moment we arrived we were welcomed with open arms and friendly smiles. All of the beautifully appointed chalets overlooked the huge watering hole where animals come throughout the day to drink – and at night we could hear the hippos in the water! The 12 stone-walled, thatched chalets were all very spacious with viewing decks and plunge pools, fireplaces and complimentary port wine. We were there during their winter so they even put hot water bottles under the covers at turndown – this was a lovely touch. The décor was very British colonial safari, completely done in dark, exotic woods.
What wildlife did you see? So many different types — we saw a herd of lions with cubs and white female lion, impalas, giraffes, elephants, warthogs, so many species of birds, hippos, Cape buffalo and much more! Most exciting for me was when a herd of elephants wandered right past our vehicle and stopped to eat right next to us as if we weren’t even there. We also spotted a white female lion sleeping on a rock and little lion cubs that came out from the trees to play next to our jeep. Our ranger was extremely knowledgeable about everything we saw.
Evening safaris include sundowners at sunset which was an amazing experience. Our ranger stopped in a clearing in the bush and set up drinks and snacks behind the vehicle. It was so peaceful until a massive heard of some impalas stampeded by us at top speed, obviously spooked by something. We didn’t take any chance. We high-tailed it out of there – it was exhilarating!
What were meals at the lodge like? An early morning spread of biscuits, toast and coffee and tea is served before going out on the morning game drive. After game drives, breakfast is buffet style with both hot and cold options as well as menu selections for eggs and other à la carte items. Lunch and dinner are both served at the lodge’s restaurant with several selections for appetizers, main dishes and desserts. All drinks Every meal was served like a work of art – beautiful presentation, gourmet quality and absolutely delicious. Afternoon tea included refreshments and light snacks before heading out for the evening game drive.
When can you experience it? As an overland tour on Nautica in 2019 and on Insignia in 2020. Here are a few options:
Shamwari Bayethe, South Africa
How did the feel of this lodge compare to Pumba Water Lodge? While Pumba was quite British Colonial, Bayethe was much more modern. This lodge is set on a game reserve that houses 6 lodges and 3 education and rehabilitation centers on more than 60,000 acres – it’s massive. At Bayethe, you stay in a tent but each tent is truly a luxury tent. Nothing is spared and we actually felt like we were in a cabin or lodge. Each luxury tent is surrounded by the forest so you feel like you are completely on your own. It’s very private with long walkways to each tent. Our tent had a king-sized bed, seating area, coal-burning stove, separate bathroom area with tub, an outdoor private shower, a beautiful viewing deck and a plunge pool. The main lodge area houses the cozy dining room with two fireplaces, plus a swimming pool with an outdoor seating area on the deck, all overlooking a watering hole. The staff here was incredibly warm and welcoming as they were at Pumba.
What wildlife did you see? We saw so many amazing animals here and in so many different landscapes – jungles, wetlands, mountainous areas, open and arid regions. Two separate herds of lions casually walked by our jeep as if we weren’t there. We also had a face-off with an elephant – he came right up to the jeep and stared at us. We didn’t move a muscle and then after about five minutes, he calmly walked away. We also saw plenty of zebras, several varieties of antelope, pumbas, hippos and much more. The sunsets were spectacular here…the sky was filled with every shade of orange and pink. Our ranger here was also very knowledgeable and helpful.
The safari jeeps were especially great here, seating two people per row and in the middle of each row was a console with blankets inside if needed. The jeeps are covered and there’s a pull-out platform that makes getting in and out much easier. Plus, each row was higher than the row in front of it.
What were meals at the lodge like? They were very similar to Pumba Water Lodge. There’s a large breakfast buffet and a lovely restaurant for lunch and dinner with a wide selection of gourmet dishes. Afternoon tea was particularly amazing here – all types of cakes, sweets and coffee and tea. The wait staff even had jars of candies and nuts with scoops and small bags so that guests could take the snacks on safari.
When can you experience it? As a post-cruise land tour aboard Nautica in 2019 and Insignia in 2020. Here are a few options:
Inspired? Start planning the African safari of your dreams.