Moditlo River Lodge- Impressive

We recently discovered this luxurious South African  lodge when looking for a new alternative in the Hoedspruit region.

Hoedspruit itself is a bustling town, home to many private lodges and estates bordering the world famous Kruger National Park. Moditlo River Lodge part of the Blue Canyon Conservancy is situated on 36000 acres of African bushveld bordering the Nbesi River – 16 kms from Eastgate Airport and no more than a ten minute drive from the centre of Hoedspruit Shopping Village. All this means its well located & easy to get to from Johannesburg. Moditlo means place of the elephant and we certainly saw plenty of these beautiful animals whilst there.

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Morning Drive we  watched a lovely herd of elephants feeding and doing what elephants do well

We were extremely impressed by the standard of accomodation,  relaxed ambience, contemporary style, engaging staff and mostly the fact  that our game drives delivered some great  sightings including the elusive and endangered Wild Dog.

Our room number 9
Our room number 9 – there are 16 rooms spread along the river bed insets of two
Common area was decorated in safari chic
Common area was decorated in what I call safari chic
Bar area - loved the colour
Bar area – loved the colour

We drove ourselves to Moditlo and were  appreciative of our warm welcome.  The  refreshing drink on the deck was a great beginning to 24 hours of enjoyment. Room number 9 was our haven. The pool, restaurant, spa, bar and shop are all on one side of the Nbesi river bed whilst the beautifully decorated rooms are strewn out on the other. Raised wooden walkways connect each side. Our room had an interconnecting door which would be great for families when closed though it was soundproof.

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View of the river which due to the drought had not a trickle of water evident
View of the river which due to the drought had not a trickle of water evident

Lunch, dinner and breakfast were absolutely delicious and very well presented. The chef came and spoke to us personally to  make sure our son would be happy with the dinner selection . Great selection of wines to accompany your meal. As we were in South Africa  for my special birthday the Lodge surprised me with a lovely cake and singing/dancing over breakfast. Loved it! Charlie the Manager brought a spotted tree snake to the sing along!

Birthday surprise
Birthday surprise

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Game drives were great. Wild dogs on an impala kill returned to their den to regurgitate food for their pups.  Also saw rhino, elephants, cheetah and enjoyed the stunning landscapes of the Drakensberg over gin and tonics and coffee laced with amarula. Perfect.

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Would thoroughly recommend a 2-3 night stay so you can really relax, treat yourself to some spa treatments and connect with the nature which is all around you. We booked direct with Moditlo but you can also book through booking.com or  contact a travel agency like Swagman Tours who specialise in safaris to Africa.

Johannesburg – Gateway to South Africa

I love spending time in Johannesburg-Jacarandas scenting the air in November, Summer thunderstorms, Affordable shopping, Great restaurants and ultimately  for me it’s the Gateway to the country I love. When I step onto African soil I feel like I’ve come home.

Immigration can be a little challenging at times  but once you burst forth into the arrivals hall all is forgiven. My tip when arriving from Australia is emphatically do not connect to any other flights. Even if you have travelled up the pointy end of the aircraft you will be exhausted after being in an enclosed tube without fresh air for over 14 hours. Do yourself a favour and stay the first night stay at one of the Hotels close to the airport.  I favour Southern Sun O.R International as it has a complimentary shuttle every 15 minutes, facilities are excellent and rooms comfortable and sound proof. I always look forward to enjoying some Kingclip at their in-house restaurant  Bernoullis accompanied by a glass of crisp white wine and falling into a much-needed slumber.

Jetlag is a fact of life and an evil which can not  be underestimated. You will wake up bright-eyed around 3.am and be unable to go back to sleep, so use this time to get organised and catch an early flight that morning to your onward destination, set out early for the Kruger National Park or acclimatize yourself over a few days in Joburg to African Time.

On my recent trip in October I planned  4 nights in Johannesburg. We  took  a tour to  Soweto and were awed by how much it has changed in recent years – it is now a thriving city in its own right and definitely worth a visit to educate yourself about how apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison shaped the present South Africa. Swapped our accommodation to  the Balalaika Hotel at Sandton which is an oasis in a busy city with friendly staff and a great location. (You can read my in-depth) review on trip advisor).

Over 4 days had so much fun shopping at Sandton City for clothes, Rosebank for African curios, Hyde Park Square for Halsted fabrics/ Ardmore Ceramics and Parkview which is home to my very favourite store Art Africa.  With the current exchange rate of 10.8 Rand to the Australian Dollar you really can not go wrong.

Balalaika Hotel
Balalaika Hotel
Pool Balalaika Hotel
Pool Balalaika Hotel

If you like your food I recommend you visit The Grillhouse at Rosebank, Moyo at Zoo Lake for the atmosphere, Bukhara at Sandton and the in-house restaurant Flames at Four Seasons The Westcliff.

Jacaranda blooming
Jacaranda blooming
Nelson Mandela's Home
Nelson Mandela’s Home

Give Johannesburg  some of your time – it’s definitely worthy of it and dare I say I think it will surprise and delight you. 



 

Shaun Smith – Tribute

This week I returned from Africa to the extremely sad news that one of the finest people I have ever known succumbed to his 2 year fight against cancer.

Shaun Smith was one of a kind. At his farewell yesterday his “African Herd” sent him off with a tremendous trumpet. There was not a dry eye as his family and friends expressed their love for this man and their regret that he was taken down in  his prime at 55 by an unseen enemy that crept up on him and then would not let him go.

I personally first met Shaun when he joined the SAVE Foundation several years ago. When he walked into the room we were all captivated by his smile, can- do attitude and unwavering enthusiasm. Shaun went on to become a pivotal member of the team raising funds to fight the scourge of rhino poaching within Africa.

Shaun became a great friend to many of us and was always the voice of reason and the rock we could share our frustrations with as rhino poaching in South Africa escalated. His wife Ally actively encouraged her husband’s mandate to help these beautiful animals survive into the future.  Shaun increased his involvement actively with rhinos in 2014 by joining forces with the Australian Rhino Project.

Shaun I will miss you. I never thought you wouldn’t win this fight. Hamba kahle Rhino Man.

Shaun and myself at SAVE Fundraiser 2013
Shaun and myself at SAVE Fundraiser 2013

 

Nyathi House – Kruger National Park

I absolutely love South Africa’s Kruger National Park -so much I will probably end up living along its border one day. Every experience past the gates is new and exciting , no day is ever the same in the bush and being amongst nature is spiritually rewarding. For visitors wanting to see animals in their own environment, in my opinion the best safari is a combination of a few days driving yourself around Kruger ( see my post Embracing The Kruger Experience) then 2-3 nights in a Private Lodge close by in either the Sabie Sand, Timbavati or Makalali Concessions. Many of these Lodges have been featured on my blog but this post is about a house I love at Skukuza Camp called Nyathi.

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Skukuza Camp layout
Skukuza Camp layout

The large houses in Kruger are absolutely perfect for 4-8 people. Nyathi at Skukuza has  4 twin bedrooms each with own ensuite, large well equipped kitchen, lounge and piece de resistance private outdoor area with brai.  Nyathi has private river frontage along the Sabie River in an otherwise quite busy camp. In the summer months from November  when temperatures can reach the mid forties  the air conditioning gets a good work out.

Recently we braaied under the stars to the sounds of hippo disputing their territory and saw a leopard hunting in the moonlight  just on the other side of the fence. Amazing sighting from the safety of our house! Leopard actually had a stand off with one of the hippos but then disappeared as quickly as he had appeared melding  into the bush.

Wild dog - endangered. just outside the camp gates
Wild dog – endangered. just outside the camp gates

Skukuza is a busy camp but the sightings there are for me  always phenomenal – just recently  we saw wild dog 3 times during our stay very close to camp, lions, leopards and  rhino – in fact all the Big 5. The library/museum is interesting, the shop well stocked with all manner of goods and the restaurant also handy to utilise. The swimming pool is very clean although it could do with some shade.

SA-222A very pleasant experience and of course value for money – your in the Bush. If you want 5 star go and pay for it at a Private Lodge.

All bookings in Kruger can be done easily either online or by contacting reservations at www.sanparks.co.za costs are detailed on their site

The Red Centre – Australia’s Heart

I recently travelled to Australia’s Red Centre with my son who wanted to learn more about Australia’s indigenous people. We flew  to Alice Springs on  Qantas savouring the view of the thirsty land below.

Excited to see what Alice Springs had to offer we discovered that on a Sunday afternoon – not much. The Kangaroo Sanctuary was closed so alas, not our time to meet the famous Kangaroo Dundee . Took the time to walk around the Town Centre  and photograph the puddles in the normally bone dry Todd River before retiring back to our Hotel which did have views of the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges from some rooms. Alas, not ours.

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Next morning hopped into our SUV for what I had calculated would be an easy 4 hour drive to Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge using the sealed roads. I erred in my calculation by 2 hours but it didn’t really matter we enjoyed the drive. Was surprised at the lushness of the countryside for I had expected a barren landscape of red sand .It seems the rains have been unusually plentiful this year. Stopped a couple of times to take a breather and along the Luritja Road were rewarded with a lovely herd of  wild camels , a dingo and a majestic wedge tailed eagle. I found myself very much in “African bush mode” looking through the bush and scanning left to right as we trundled along what seemed to be “the road to nowhere”.

Six hours after leaving Alice Springs I was very pleased to see the sign for Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge  – our home for the next 2 nights.

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Warmly welcomed we were shown our luxury tents and told to relax until drinks and nibbles by the fire at 6.30pm. Meals throughout our stay were delicious, prepared by talented in-house chef  Gunther and as an added bonus we met interesting  people each night as we dined on  multiple courses by the roaring fire. Tough nights in the wilderness for sure!

The reason for our stay was to attempt the 7 km Kings Canyon Rim Walk which I had read was an absolute must when visiting the region. The difficult part it seemed would be the ascent of around 1000  steps hewn into the rock which takes you to the rim.

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Sensational scenery all around  – just take your time and my strong recommendation would be to stay at least a night if not two in the immediate vicinity to really enjoy being in the wilderness. Dingoes howling in the early hours of dawn breaking the solitude was music to my ears.

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Next stop was Yulara Ayers Rock Resort  – a mini town with a number of accommodation options all in close proximity to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Drive from Kings Canyon took 4 hours with a stop at Curtin Springs for lunch. I booked a deluxe room with a view of Uluru at Desert Gardens Hotel and was not disappointed. In fact we could see the magnificent monolith from our beds .

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Our experience at Desert Gardens was only positive – beautiful room, friendly staff and lots of activities to pursue. Three nights was probably the perfect amount of time to spend in this area. Spent a day walking around the base of Uluru and dined that night under the stars at a Night At A Field Of Light – perfect.

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Next day braved the Valley Of The Winds walk at Kata Tjuta which was the most challenging walk of our trip and that was without any wind or high temperature. The surface for this walk is quite uneven with lots of pebbles so you really have to watch where you are going.

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It is amazing how much the beautiful landscapes affect your soul. Immersing oneself in the natural world is always very special. Looking back we certainly saw more of Australia and achieved our goal to learn more about the Anangu people who call this arid region their home.

Reach Out and Embrace Africa