Africa brings out the childhood dream in all of us. Immense grasslands where animals of all sizes roam for thousands of miles. If you have seen the Lion King, you can only wonder how to make it a reality. Think of the largest zoo you could ever imagine. Africa is like a giant zoo to the umpteenth power. Lions, leopards, and elephants, oh my! Needless to say, this continent was surreal. It literally brought tears of joy on arrival and tears of sadness on departure. This trip should absolutely be on everyone’s bucket list. Young, old, family, honeymoon…it doesn’t matter. Africa has something to offer for everyone. Be prepared to experience pure joy in the African bush.
There are many options to chose from for a safari in Africa. We chose South Africa for our honeymoon based on the excellent reviews of Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands, and our lodge, Lion Sands Game Reserve. You can access the park via a short 45 minute South African Airways flight from Johannesburg airport. You fly into Skukuza, a single terminal, outdoor airport. Probably the cutest little airport we’ve ever seen! Once you arrive, you will be shown by the staff to the baggage claim where you will be picked up by your Land Rover. This was one of the most exciting parts of our trip. We were like kids in a candy store driving through the bush. A quick 10 minute ride brings you to the Tinga lodge. We were greeted by the loveliest host, Danielle. We enjoyed cool cocktails while waiting for our room. To our surprise, there were monkeys, kudu, and impalas hanging out on the property. We were in heaven enjoying their company.
The lodge is composed of one main building with the lobby, bar, gift shop, and restaurant located in the main area. Around the main building are about 10 individual villas. The smaller villas are located along the river, while the larger family villas are facing the bush. You really feel the African vibes with the lodge architecture and design. The main building is open to the outside. It gets warm in the summer (Nov-March), so keep that in mind when planning your trip. On our first day the temp was about 100 degrees F. It definitely was toasty sitting outside mid-afternoon. We spent most of the time relaxing in our villa during the hottest parts of the day in between game drives.
A typical day in the African bush:
- 5 am – wake-up call; tea, coffee, light breakfast
- 5:30 am – morning game drive
- 8:30 am – return for breakfast
- 12-2 pm – open for lunch
- 4 pm – high tea and snacks
- 4:30 pm – night game drive
- 7:30 pm – return to lodge; pre-dinner drinks or freshen up
- 8 pm – dinner
The game drives were the highlight of the trip. We were fortunate enough to take go on drives the day we arrived and morning that we left. The first day it rained and we saw more common animals such as impala, kudu, giraffes, etc. The summer months are the best time to see baby animals and greenery as it it the wet season. We were fortunate that it hadn’t rained much and it was easier to find animals since there wasn’t many plants in full bloom. However, the terrain was not as green and pretty.
The next few days we saw almost every animal we wanted to see. We even saw the Big Five all in one day! The Big Five game are lions, elephants, leopards, cape buffalo, and rhinos (black & white). The rhinos were bashful and we didn’t get any post-worthy photos of them. The white rhinos are near threatened and are rare to see. We were lucky to see two of them on one drive!
The game drives start around sunrise/sunset when the weather is cooler and less humid. Although I’m not an early bird, I was eager to wake early and get to the bush! The coffee and snacks in the morning were much appreciated. Everyone congregates and discusses what they hope to see this time. We were fortunate to be paired with an amazing Canadian couple on our game drives. There’s an extra charge option to have a private drive, but we enjoyed their company so much, that we wouldn’t recommend the private one. We were with the same guide and trekker for the duration of our stay. It was nice how intimate the setting was. We really got to know everyone in our group. Our guide Ben aka “Big Ben” was extremely knowledgeable and his colleague of 20 years, Collence, was our incredible trekker. Their communication when searching for specific animals was impeccable. Collence could find any creature you asked of him and Ben could tell you all about it. They were a dynamic duo.
Our favorite night by far was the BBQ bush dinner under the African sky. On the clearest night by far, we sat amongst the stars in a giant pit and ate the best meal of the trip with Ben and our new Canadian friends. We learned about Ben’s life and how he got to work in Kruger park, all of our favorite animals, and what we hopped to find the next day. It was a genuinely amazing night with fantastic food, drink and great company.
All of the staff were so thoughtful through out our entire honeymoon. We came home to little decorations and sweet notes each day. Lion Sands and the staff, especially Danielle, made us feel very welcome. The little things made our honeymoon experience so special. One night we came home from dinner to a candlelit bubble bath with chocolates, champagne, and rose petals. It was such a nice surprise after a long day.