Africa has always been, and continues to be, a land of great intrigue for me. So when I found out I was chosen from a large pool of Virtuoso Travel Agents to join their coveted South Africa familiarization trip, I was ecstatic! Here’s a brief look at the amazing experiences and wildlife sightings I had while spending almost three weeks in this truly “wild” place.
Arriving South Africa
I started my journey by flying into Johannesburg, South Africa (our most common “gateway” into that region) in business class on South African Airways so the experience started before I even left US soil. We transferred down to Cape Town – one of my new found favorite cities in the world. The entire region around Cape Town is so diverse and beautiful. We spent time at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, visiting the Winelands just north of the city (beautiful rolling hills and completely serene to me) and enjoying a Cape tour that included Chapman’s Peak and Boulders Beach (home to the African penguin!).
We then spent a couple days on safari where we visited Singita Lebombo and Lion Sands, two well-known safari lodges. In fact, Lion Sands Ivory Lodge was quite possibly my favorite lodge during my entire trip (it just went through a complete renovation and it’s beautiful). The game viewing throughout our time was spectacular. I saw the “big five” twice in one day! Not a common feat. (The big five consists of rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and cape buffalo.) I’m an absolute animal lover so to see that many notable animals in such a short amount of time and in such a beautiful setting was truly amazing. I also saw a leopard in a tree feasting on a kill – a bitter sweet, circle of life kind of moment.
After touring throughout South Africa, my Virtuoso counterparts headed back to the States. However, I was fortunate to fly up to Zimbabwe to see Pique’s long-time friend and partner in Southern Africa, Blessing Munyenyiwa.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are very different from each other and we often tell our clients that while Africa in general is a “trip of a lifetime,” once you go there you realize how diverse each area is and how each warrants a visit. Game viewing, lodges, terrainand many others aspects are different from place to place.
I enjoyed my time in Zimbabwe visiting Victoria Falls and several safari camps within Hwange National Park (home to the great Cecil the Lion, who’s pride has been in part taken back over by his son, Xander, since Cecil’s death a couple years ago). Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River, which serves as a border to Zimbabwe and Zambia. A highlight for me was a sunset cruise on the river one of my first nights in the area. It’s hard to imagine describing it as peaceful and serene while hippos, crocodiles and elephants used it as their bathing and hunting ground, but it truly was.
I love Africa and am always in awe of what it has to offer to travelers. The culture runs deep, the people are friendly, the scenery is like nothing we have in the United States and the wildlife exceed expectations time and time again.
By the way, I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday while there. Check out this welcome!