Cdnpearly's Blog

Pearl's musings

Safari: Trip of a lifetime, Africa Part 1 October 23, 2012

SCRATCH!  That’s the sound of a biggie being scratched off my bucket list.

Safari!  Africa!  Destination I’ve only dreamed about…until last week!

A trip this epic requires several blog postings, so be prepared to be amazed for the next couple of updates!

My sister Barb (see Santa Cruz Island post) and I travelled to South Africa recently.  It’s a long haul to get to Johannesburg from North America.  For me, it was a 29 hour ordeal, including a 7 hour layover in Heathrow.  I arrived at JNB, red-eyed (having taken 2 overnight flights on the journey) and exhausted.  After the disappointing setback of discovering my luggage was still in London(!), I met my Hyatt Shuttle driver and was quickly in the hotel enjoying lunch with Barb.  A quick shopping trip to Woolworth’s for some essentials, and we were off to meet Greg–a high school friend, who happened to be in Joburg on business–for dinner at the Butcher’s Shop & Grill in Nelson Mandela Square.  A tasty meal and lively conversation ensued–catching up with each other  since we last met:  high school graduation!!

Sidebar: Thankfully I had packed my malaria meds and other essentials in my carry-on luggage AND I purchased travel insurance.  Both these precautions paid off during this trip, since my suitcase was MIA for 4 days!  Also, if you are planning to fly into Johannesburg, I recommend pre-arranging a shuttle pick up, rather than trying to arrange transport on the fly.

Back to Adventure:  The next morning, Barb and I flew to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.  This region borders on the famous Kruger National Park.  Fences between Kruger and the private game reserves have been removed, so animals can move freely around a vast area.  Nice!

We were met at the tiny airfield by Rob the Ranger.  Unfortunately, it was pouring rain (55mm total accumulation)cue the TOTO  Africa song.  Thanks to the jeep’s awning, we arrived at Idube Game Reserve in pretty good shape.

Sidebar: Selecting a safari can be overwhelming.  I started my search by googling 5-day safaris in Kruger.  My requirements were: safe, comfortable, affordable; meals and game drives included.  I checked each possibility on TripAdvisor for reviews.  Barb and I eventually settled on Idube Game Reserve through Africa Dynamics’ Sandra Collier.  Sandra is based in Washington State, so we were able to communicate on the phone easily.  She answered every question and made booking our trip so easy.  Her colleague in Canada met with Barb, as well.

Additionally, I was able to save thousands of dollars on my flights, thanks to YAPTA.  This website tracks flights that you select.  When/if the price goes down, they send you an alert email.  My airfare went from $4000+ to $1600, round trip.  So, it’s definitely worth looking into!

Return to adventure:  Idube offers 2 game drives daily (early morning and late afternoon/evening) as well as an optional safari walk.  Rob was our fearless leader for these outings.  I didn’t know what to expect in terms of animal viewing, safety, comfort, etc., but Rob has set the bar hopelessly high for future safaris.  This man knows flora, fauna, stars and more.  Rob has an uncanny ability to predict what an animal will do, and as a result, each guest is completely safe even while in the presence of “dangerous” animals.  He has such an affinity with his surroundings–I actually observed him carefully drive around a dung beetle on the road!  Every question we had, regardless of how many times he must have heard it before, was answered promptly, thoroughly and thoughtfully.

Ronald, the keen-eyed tracker, worked in tandem with Rob.  Sitting out front of the jeep, his sharp eyes picked out tracks on the trail, or animals in the distant bush.  He astonishingly spotted a tiny chameleon on a bush as we drove by it at night! Ronald prepared the jeep prior to each drive–including cozy blankets for the cool nights and rain ponchos for the damp excursions.

Every drive included a refreshment break.  Think safaris are “roughing it”?  Think again!  Part way through the morning, Rob and Ronald selected a picturesque setting, hauled out a table with a table-cloth(!), hot drinks and fresh-baked muffins for our nourishment.  In the evening, our repast usually took place in a wide open space that showcased the planetarium-like night sky.  Very civilized, indeed.

I cannot miss the opportunity to rave about the food at Idube!  Chris, the chef, is impressive.  Her culinary creations were so tasty and beautiful.  Fresh baked bread and croissants; tantalizing entrees and the desserts must be seen to be believed.

The wait staff:  Auphrey, Constence and Mavis were lovely and attentive.  Patrick was our safety escort.  Since Idube is a small lodge that allows all creatures to roam freely (except elephants), guests are escorted to and from their rooms at night.  That extra layer of security was comforting…especially given some of the interesting noises we heard through the night!

Finally, Andrew and Lauren! Idube’s team leaders.  This dynamic couple sets the tone for the lodge.  They are bright, enthusiastic, professional, genuine, caring, positive, funny–you get the picture!  Lauren singlehandedly wrangled my lost luggage from Heathrow to Zebrawood chalet.  I was so delighted to be reunited with my bag (cue Peaches and Herb:  Reunited song) I burst into tears!  Thank you Lauren!!

So, that’s the background and personnel for our adventure…next up?  The Big Five!  Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come…

Finally, completely unrelated…recently I have been asked for my coffee steak rub recipe.  With pleasure, here it is:

Mix 1/2C coarse ground coffee beans, dark roast (I usually use decaf for the lightweights in the group) + 1/4C kosher salt + 1/8C coarse ground black pepper + 1/4C brown sugar.  Rub onto steaks, both sides.  Allow to melange for at least an hour.  Barbecue.  Steak should rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Incidentally, this recipe makes enough for several meals–I store it in a sealed container in the fridge for easy access.  Bon appetit!


2 Responses to “Safari: Trip of a lifetime, Africa Part 1”

  1. Cheers for the well researched information in your write up
    on Safari: Trip of a lifetime Cdnpearly’s Blog..

  2. silver price Says:

    This 65 000 hectare (153 000 acre) wildlife sanctuary forms part of the greater 2,3 million hectare (5,7 million acre) Kruger National Park game preservation area.

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