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.
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.
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.
A 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
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.
On leaving Etosha National Park Namibia in 2009 after a wonderful 5 days we came across a small group of zebra at Ombika waterhole. Nothing rare about that right? Except …..one zebra looked like it had been burned! In fact zebra is melanistic – extremely rare and opposite of albinism. Every day in Africa is truly a treat – no two days are ever the same. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Namibia and would love to return in the not too distant future.
A highlight of any journey from Sydney to Johannesburg on Qantas is having the chance to see parts of the Antarctic ice sheet from 35,000 feet. The Antarctic ice sheet is actually the largest block of ice on earth covering more than 14 million square kilometres and is about 2 kilometres thick. If it melted, sea level would rise by about 60 metres.
I have undertaken this journey on the QF63 annually for many years and it is always uncertain as to whether you will see the ice through the clouds, but when you do- the view is absolutely overwhelming. The photo enthusiasts like myself are falling over themselves to gain a birds eye view as you never know what formations you will see and sometimes nature teases you with just a glimpse, whilst on other days you can see clearly for miles. Hard to believe you could fly over nothing but clouds for 11 000 kilometres.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to chat with Qantas First Officer Adam Susz about this route as his view from the flight deck is of course all encompassing – so, over to you Adam.
“On the SYD-JNB flight, which is typically 13 hours, we head south over Melbourne and sometimes Launceston or Hobart. It’s a strange feeling heading south over the ocean leaving the Australian continent well behind, but that’s how the great circle track works – a curved line concave to the equator which joins any two points by the shortest distance”.
“On SYD-JNB flights we usually fly even further south (e.g. 60-65 degrees) than the great circle track to avoid the jetstreams, or headwinds, that are typical in the 40-50 degree latitudes (also known as the roaring 40s). We use these winds to our advantage coming home on the QF64 and usually that involves flying around 45-50 degrees south all the way. This reduces the return flight time to 11.5 hours”.
Cheryl, in answer to your specific questions:
“No we don’t ever see polar bears from the air, firstly because they would be too small from 35,000 feet and secondly they’re not found in Antarctica. There are penguins which are even smaller again and so impossible to see with the naked eye. Qantas operates Antarctic charter flights around New Year and the flights are not allowed directly over penguin colonies”.
“Pilots love flying Qantas B747s anywhere in the world and the more popular routes over the years have been Europe and North America. Europe is a really interesting journey because we fly mostly over land . The views are often stunning, for example the Himalaya, the Hindu Kush, Caspian Sea, major European cities (especially beautiful at night). Speaking to air traffic controllers in such a variety of accents and cultures is quite interesting. ”
“Johannesburg is a interesting route & certainly not the least popular. It involves a large time change (8 hours) which causes quite a bit of jet lag, especially coming home as eastbound travel is always harder for the body to adjust to. It’s a very isolated route, again mostly over water, and we can feel very alone in the southern Indian ocean. For about eight hours our closest landing point is probably Antarctica, and this would not really be an option in any situation. Thankfully nothing ever goes wrong and the B747 with four engines is as reliable as it gets, but we always have to keep in mind where our nearest airport is just in case”.
“The image of the Circle route illustrates the isolation of the route, you can see that it passes a small island about halfway along the journey. This is the Kerguelen Islands, a French territory. There are no real facilities there and certainly no airport, but I believe they station about 50-100 researchers there. Many years ago it was home to fishermen engaged in whaling and sealing. Occasionally we will pass close to Heard Island which is south of Kerguelen, and it’s quite stunning. I find it fascinating that this massive volcanic, snow-covered peak sticks out in the middle of nowhere”.
“One of the less enjoyable aspects of the QF63 is having to look into the sun for 13 hours straight. I don’t particularly enjoy that aspect, in fact that’s why I prefer flying at night. Flying west means we are chasing the sun so it never sets. Makes for a long day!”
“Once we arrive in Johannesburg, the airport is at high altitude (over 5,500 feet) and higher than any other airport in the Qantas network. This causes some unique operational differences but nothing we can’t handle with ease. Thunderstorms are common in the warmer months so we ensure that the aircraft avoids bad weather, keeping it safe and comfortable for the passengers and crew. Occasionally this means delaying a takeoff or landing until the weather passes.”
“As good as the journey is, the destination is where the real experience is. I haven’t been anywhere like South Africa. The land is so beautiful, the animals are amazing and the people are warm and friendly. I’ve done a couple of safaris, all have been memorable and I look forward to doing it again”.
Readers I hope you have enjoyed reading this post about my favourite flight in the Qantas network. Big thank you to Adam for sharing his thoughts and knowledge with us and I do apologise for asking if they see polar bears. Another blog I read had intimated that it is possible so thanks Adam for clearing that one up!
I love elephants and so it was inevitable that on one of my trips to South Africa I would find myself in the thick of a mighty breeding herd at Addo Elephant Park just 72 km’s outside of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
ADDO is the third largest national park in South Africa expanding rapidly since 1978 when it first opened to the public . As of 2016 this finely tuned ecosystem is sanctuary to over 600 elephant, lion, buffalo, black rhino, spotted hyena, leopard, a variety of antelope and zebra species, as well as the unique Addo flightless dung beetle. In fact there is some exciting news on the lion front with Sylvester the Karoo lion being relocated to Addo . Sylvester recently made headline news when he escaped from the Karoo National Park.
Addo can exclusively claim to be the only national park in the world to conserve the “Big 7” – the Big 5 as well as the southern right whale and great white shark off the Algoa Bay coast.
Driving around Addo was very easy with tar and gravel roads in great condition. We enjoyed the lush surroundings, saw two of the Big 5 plus lots of ostrich, antelope and plains game. The elephant herds are very habituated to vehicles and seemed at ease with the passing parade. We drove ourselves but you can easily organise to take a guided drive in an open vehicle. Main Camp offers a variety of accommodation to suit various tastes and pockets whilst other concessions within the National park offer upmarket lodges.
We chose not to stay in the Park itself but at Elephant House in the sun drenched Sundays River Valley just 8 kms from Addo. This meant we could do a morning self-drive after breakfast, return to our beautiful cottage for lunch and a siesta and then head back to the park for an afternoon drive. Enjoyed an early dinner at Main Camp which was very pleasant as the food was good and we enjoyed the scenery for the restaurant is surrounded by trees
Elephant House was fantastic – The Stables Cottage which we had booked for 2 nights was huge with its own kitchenette, separate room for our son and a large bathroom. Grounds were divine with 2 swimming pools, waterfall, playroom, & verandah by the bar stocked with a vast array of books and magazines. I enjoyed a manicure and felt totally at peace with the world. Recommend it as a must stay.
Directions: Take the N2 from Port Elizabeth towards Grahamstown, then turn left onto the R335 towards Addo Elephant Park. You will reach Elephant House 8km before Addo National Park, on the left hand side.