If you’re imagining the three of us huddled under a mosquito net in our canvas tent, slurping bush pig and plantain stew out of a communal pot, you’re somewhat off base. Safari vacations come in a wide range of comfort levels and after discussing the options with my family, we went with the luxury lodge variety. We love Ethiopia but there are certain privations that have made the adjustment period a little rocky. I think we all felt we could do with a little pampering.
Kapama River Lodge, a private game reserve attached to Kruger National Park, is a great place for pampering. Here’s our daily schedule:
5 am – wake-up call from our ranger
5:30 am – continental breakfast (croissants, Danish, fruit, toast, tea, coffee, choice of juices)
6 am to 9 am – morning safari. A safari here involves riding around in big open-topped Land Cruisers. The ranger drives and tells you what you’re looking at. Our ranger is very knowledgeable, with a college degree in environmental science and many years of experience as a guide in South Africa and Mozambique. He is assisted by a tracker riding in a seat mounted on the front of the vehicle; the tracker’s job is to watch for animal tracks, poop, broken branches, and all that kind of thing. They have a radio connection with other rangers and trackers, so if someone sights something especially interesting, everybody can race over there to look at it. Our job is to take lots of pictures ( but I did find the leopard!)
9 am – full buffet breakfast – everything you might imagine for an African, American, and/or English style breakfast.
Between breakfast and lunch you can book special activities and tours (balloon ride, endangered breeding program tour, elephant visit, bush walk, etc.) or spa time (mineral baths, facials, etc.). You can also work out at the gym, lounge by the heated pools, or use the wireless Internet.
1 to 3 pm – giant buffet lunch (didn’t we just have two breakfasts?)
4 pm – cream tea (sandwiches, deviled eggs, scones, cakes, tea, coffee, lemonade)
4:30-7:30 pm – evening safari (while housekeeping does their turn-down service thing, including placing candies on our pillows). The sun goes down at 6:30, so the last hour is for seeking out nocturnal animals like hyenas, leopards, and chameleons.
8 pm – giant buffet dinner, with braai (barbecue), game specialties, and plenty of other exotic and not-so-exotic choices washed down with a good South African wine. We sit at long tables together with our ranger so we can discuss the plan for tomorrow. Then back to the room for a long soak in the oversized tub and a sound sleep in the super comfy bed.
Life is rough out here in the bush.