Goway Africa destination specialist Jodi Hartnell recently returned from a trip to South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Here, Jodi shares her insights into these incredible destinations and what she learned from this once in a lifetime experience.
Where did you travel in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa?
I spent time in Zimbabwe at Mana Pools at Nyamatusi Mahogany, Lake Kariba at Bumi Hills, and Hwange National Park at Somalisi Acacia. Then it was on to Zambia, staying at Thorntree River Lodge before finishing in Stellenbosch, South Africa, staying at Lanzerac Hotel and Spa.
What did you see and do on your trip?
I saw the most incredible things all throughout my journey. I saw a wild variety of game that seemed to include everything except for the elusive leopard. I had to save something for next time! I experienced canoeing with hippos, an elephant breach one of our tents (more on that in a bit!), an incredible terraced crop of grape vines, lions just 10 feet away from our safari vehicle, a baby elephant rubbing her little bottom on our safari vehicle, the most amazing food including a real Zimbabwe braai with boerewors (simply delicious), wine tasting in Stellenbosch, and so many more things. It was just like a dream.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about travel in Southern Africa?
That it isn’t safe!! I’ve had a few people ask about the political situation in Zimbabwe and if I felt safe in South Africa. The answer is, I felt absolutely fantastic and had no trouble at all. The people were lovely and engaging, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for a second.
What was your favourite hotel / lodge and why?
This is such an unfair question, because I have a few! I loved them all and will not hesitate to quote them and book them. Forced to choose though, I would have to say that my favourite was Lanzerac. In all my years in travel, this is the first property I can honestly say is PERFECT. Not one thing I could suggest or recommend would improve this property. From the rooms to the grounds, to the food to the staff, it was overwhelmingly perfect and since returning, I’ve already quoted it a few times.
What was your favourite highlight of the trip?
I believe that it would have been our near elephant breach on night 2 at Nyamatusi. This is a very new camp and the animals are still getting used to tents being there. We had a very curious fellow come over for a good scratch on the side beams of our tent in the middle of the night. We woke up and heard things creaking and then huffing and we had no idea what was going on, until we saw him meander to the front of out tent, step up onto the deck, and help himself to the water in our dipping pool. It was a bit scary for a city girl to be woken up by a big bull elephant at 2am. I later found out they have named him Big Boy because of his size! Still, it’s an experience that I would never trade, nor will I ever forget it as long as I live. Only in Africa! I loved it!
As a Goway Africa destination specialist, was there anything that surprised you?
The skill of our guide surprised me the most. We had a gentleman named Madison in Bumi, who was the loveliest person, as well as an incredibly knowledgeable guide. He knew everything! He even spotted a dwarf mongoose going home from sundowners one night, and who sees that? He found civets and small cats in the bushes while we were going back to the camp, and knew the trails like the back of his hand. He had the best sense of humour as well, and had us all laughing and interacting throughout our visit.
What area would you recommend if clients wanted to extend into another country?
Hands down, ending up for a few nights at Lanzerac Wine Estate would be the perfect ending to any safari vacation. It’s fairly easy to reach from Cape Town, so you can add it on from any of the neighbouring countries.
Are there any tips for travelling to Southern Africa that agents might share with their clients to make it even more enjoyable?
I think I would tell them to be prepared for early morning game drives, and to get ready to be amazed every minute that they’re there! For us, it was early to get up and early to bed, and it was fantastic! We saw so much in a day that I was overwhelmed in just about every way by the end of the day. Then, after a beautiful dinner, it was so nice to crawl into clean, rich sheets and sleep like a baby!
Do you have a favourite local dish?
Actually my best discovery was a drink at sundowners called Pims. It was fruity and light and so refreshing! We had two South Africans on our safari group and they introduced us to so many things. I really enjoyed the boerewors sausage at all of the braais as well. We also had wonderful fresh fish at Lake Kariba that was amazing.