Signature Travel Network’s Educational Journey to South Africa with Rose Gray: Part 2

Rose’s adventure continues as she visits a luxury cliff top resort, goes on a bushwalk through Krugar National Park, sights a feeding leopard and much more.

 March 7 – After a fabulous breakfast, we departed for Hermanus, known for its scenic natural beauty, endless adventure options and the best shore based whale watching in the world (this is seasonal – June through November). Then on to Birkenhead House.  This luxury resort sits high atop a cliff overlooking Walker Bay and is perfect for guests looking for a sea-side experience. Just like La Residence, her sister property, Birkejcnhead’s rooms are all unique and offer eclectic art and furnishings.

After a fabulous lunch, we were on to the Hemel en Aarde Valley for a wine tasting at Creation Wines. This was absolutely delightful and a real treat.  Carolyn Martin, one of the owners, conducted our wine tasting and her stories and insights were an unexpected and very welcome enhancement to the experience. We returned to La Residence where Edward, the general manager, arranged dinner for us even though it was not listed on the itinerary.  He insisted that as guests of the hotel he would never allow us to “purchase” dinner….what a guy.



March 8 – This morning after an early breakfast, we were transferred to CPT where our group of eight plus the SA representative was split into three groups and continued on to our respective safari lodges. My party of three flew on South African Airlink to Mpumalanga (MQP – Krueger Mpumalanga International Airport). Upon arrival at MQP we were met by a representative who escorted us to our connecting Federal Air flight, a twelve passenger Cessna.

We were welcomed at the bush airstrip by Nico, our guide and Solly, our tracker who were waiting with beverages and snacks and then transferred to our lodge, Singita Lebombo.

Resort 1This lodge offers 15 one bedroom suites which are situated on Singita’s private concession in the Kruger National Park.  This exclusive concession is 33,000 acres and is located on South Africa’s border with Mozambique. The architecture is wood, steel and organic materials, all encased in glass.  The loft-style suites are perched along the cliffs of the N’wanetsi River and offer spectacular views and complete privacy. Amenities at the lodge include a swimming pool in the main area, spa and fitness facilities as well as a boutique and gallery.  My words cannot do justice to this remarkable lodge (please check out link to website provided).


March 8, 9 & 10 – Game Drives.  We had four game drives while at Singita; one the evening of March 8, a morning and evening drive on March 9, and a morning drive before our departure on March 10. The morning drives started bright and early with a 5:00am wake up call.  We met our guide, Nico for coffee and some light breakfast snacks and headed out by 5:45am. We met for the evening drives at 4:00pm and departed by 4:45pm. Our open air, eight passenger Land Rover was perfect for wildlife viewing.  There was a “flip down” seat on the front of the vehicle for the tracker but he could easily jump into the front passenger seat, should the need arise (and it did on several occasions).

We had very good luck when it came to wildlife viewing; sightings included elephant, giraffe, Cape Buffalo, impala, baboon, warthog, kudu, hyena, lion, hippopotamus, zebra, waterbuck, wildebeest, and numerous birds. But the most exciting and special sighting for me occurred on the morning drive on our last day. Everybody who travels to South Africa is hoping to see the “Big 5” – lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant.  By the last day, we had seen three of the Big five: lions, elephants, and buffalo.  Nico told us that a rhino sighting was probably not a possibility based on reports from the other guides, but that a leopard sighting was not impossible.

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As we boarded the Land Rover for our final game drive on that last morning, we could sense the determination of our tracker, Solly.  He spoke very little during our three previous game drives, choosing instead to communicate with Nico via hand signals. And when he did speak to Nico, he used his native language, Sotho. But today he was more talkative and spoke in English. He let us know that he had been talking to some of the other trackers and he had a good idea where to look for the elusive leopard.  We drove the perimeter of the reserve and then ventured into an area where a vehicle like the Land Rover was essential; this was a true off-road experience. Solly’s eyes were glued to the terrain in front of us. As we slowly descended into a dried up creek bed, Nico gave us the “keep quiet” sign, stopped the vehicle about ten yards from a tree and pointed up.  There, somewhat concealed by the branches and leaves, was a female leopard, enjoying her previous night’s kill.  We stayed and watched her for about twenty minutes and it was one of the most amazing things I have seen in my life. 2

March 10 – We returned to the lodge after our morning drive, finished packing, had a hearty breakfast and then it was time to say good bye to Nico, Solly and all of the wonderful staff at Singita.  We were transferred to the airstrip and boarded our Federal Air flight back to MQP and our South African Airlink connection to Johannesburg. Upon arrival we were transferred to the Saxon Hotel Villas and Spa, our accommodations for our last night in South Africa.

This all-suite hotel is set on ten acres of land in a residential area of Johannesburg but is fully shuttered to provide total privacy. Each suite features HD satellite TV, Blu-ray DVD players with a movie library, lap tops with complimentary WiFi, and a high quality surround sound music system.

We had a great time at dinner that night trading safari stories and exchanging information about the lodges that each group was assigned to.

March 11 – breakfast this morning was followed by a Business Forum or “Educational within an Educational” as Signature Travel Network calls it.  This was a very informative three hour session where hoteliers and other suppliers had fifteen minutes to share their information with us. After lunch we visited the Apartheid Museum which gave us one final opportunity to share in and experience South African’s history and culture.

We said good bye to our wonderful African Travel guide, Michael, checked in at the South African Airways ticket counter, spent about three hours in their Business Class Lounge and then boarded our non-stop flight to JFK.  This trip was truly outstanding and ranks in the top three trips of my life!!

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