Travel Destination: South African Safari

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It’s the dream holiday of a lifetime – close-up encounters with the world’s most majestic wildlife on an African safari. The thrill of spotting “the Big 5” in their natural habitat – elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo (so named by colonial white hunters as being the most dangerous and sought after to track) –  and zebras, giraffes, hippos, springboks, wildebeest, antelopes, aardvarks, jackals, cheetahs, hyenas, monkeys, baboons …

even astonishing bush pigs, warthogs and hedgehogs. A number of African nations host big game parks: best known are Kenya’s Masai Mara and South Africa’s Kruger National Park, bordering Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Masia Mara is a day’s drive from Nairobi; Kruger and other South African, private, reserves are the most easily accessible for Aussies, flying in to Johannesburg. You can self-drive if you’re brave or silly enough … or take an organised safari with knowledgeable guides – bushwalking, on horseback or by 4WD, camping or in lodge accommodation … and a ranger at front and rear, with a rifle! South African Tourism cautions: You’re not in a National Geographic documentary! See leopards dozing, spot rhinos, find a pride of lions resting after a kill, watch a herd of elephants lumber by. “Be exhilarated, awed – maybe even terrified!” they boast.

Choosing the right safari to satisfy the lifetime dream and fit a budget is the challenge. We’re fortunate in Port to have a local resident who’s a true safari specialist. South African Anina Kok, a former travel agent, grew up in South Africa but has lived in Emerald Downs with her husband and family of four for the past 10 years, spending her time between here and her homeland: for the children’s education locally, and at her family’s own Kings Camp within the Timbavati private nature reserve, sharing its unfenced border with the Kruger park. Kruger covers an area the size of Wales.

“The animal viewing is spectacular! Your interaction with the animals is extraordinary!” is just one of Kok’s exciting enticements: thrilling meetings with animals – and expert guides, ultra-luxury lodge accommodation, magnificent architecture and decor reflecting the African bush atmosphere  and grandeur, sumptuous dining  (including under the stars, fireside, by candlelight), bush breakfast buffets, and spa, swim and gym rejuvenations.

On one 8-day package, for example, guests fly just 90 minutes from Jo’burg for a three-night stay at Madikwe Hills private game lodge and reserve near the Botswana border, then on for three nights at Leopard Hills, in the Sabi Sand reserve (like Kings Camp, also abutting Kruger). On Day 7 it’s a road transfer via Anina’s sister’s Elephant Whispers compound for two overnights at Kings Camp. Embark on morning and evening safaris daily, in groups of not more than eight, each with its own ranger for individual attention – prey caught by lions in the mornings, animals on the hunt in the evenings – and enjoy elegant alfresco drinks and canapés at sunset on dusk excursions.

There are other adventures to be had on the continent, too – trips to Zambezi power-boating and rafting, microlite flights and heli rides over Victoria Falls, quad-biking to villages, traditional dance and music experiences, tobacco and macadamia farm visits, river-borne safaris on the African Queen paddle steamer: Kok’s the one to talk to. Don’t be deterred by costs until you’ve spoken to her: she mentions budget rooms from $140 a night. I suggest: roam the internet for background, look at the best seasons (autumn/spring), talk to your local travel agent, seeking a consultant who’s been there, and contact Kok for advice, options and brochures. Anina Kok 6582 1344, 0415 488 922 anina@bigpond.net.au and www.anafricadream.co.za  There’s also an idyllic Seychelles add-on but, tantalisingly, more of that later. For now, get ready to don your pith helmet, jungle greens and thirst for adventure!

This article can be found in issue 87 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus

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