O.K., after a quick update in the last post, our Africa trip continues. (I’m in Washington D.C. now on business this week.) And now back to the vacation of a lifetime, from Johannesburg:
Our day started with an early morning farewell breakfast at our Fairwinds Boutique Hotel in Johannesburg, where we’ve stayed the last two nights. Although our flight to Hoedspruit was not until 10:15am, with Johannesburg traffic we needed to leave by 7:00am, in case of heavy traffic. The Fairlawns was a gorgeous boutique hotel getaway, and as always with nice places, we wish we could have stayed longer.
We made good time getting to the Johannesburg Airport, taking less than an hour, even with some stop-and-go traffic due to an accident.
Once at the airport, we checked in for our flight on South African Airlines once again; although this time it was on their subsidiary Express carrier. We had arranged for a service to pick up our heavy luggage and store it for us until our return in five days, where we would have one final night’s stay in Johannesburg. The company we used was Tour With Ease, and I can’t recommend them enough should you need your luggage securely stored, and/or transfers to your hotel – we did both. The problem with the intra-Africa flights is one of luggage limitations and weight, and while we could take 4 bags each on the International flights home, we were limited to a single 42 pound bag each on these intra-Africa flights. Alex and his wife Rachel met us at the ticket counter and took our two heavy bags for us to store, and said they would meet us back in the airport in five days, for transfers to our Hyatt Hotel. While we were skeptical at first, they had gotten outstanding reviews on Trip Advisor, and I gave them a thumbs up myself on our return trip – they were not only efficient, but super friendly and knowledgable of the area as well, as they also arrange tours. We left our luggage in confidence with Alex and Rachel, and then checked in for our flight.
Once checked in, we were surprised (and pleased) not to have to pay for a third bag, which we expected to do – that’s even with offloading the two heavy bags to Alex and Rachel. We then went thru security (a little slack compared to the US; no shoes off, liquids out,and didn’t seem real thorough), but was fairly quick. We waited in the gate area for a while, while DOS walked around a bit for some souvenirs.
Our plane was a big Dash-8 plane, and although propeller-driven, was fairly comfortable, and surprisingly had better leg room than the jumbo-jet Airbus 330 we had been on earlier in the trip.
We flew the short hour plus flight from Johannesburg to Hoedspruiet in relative comfort, if not for some yacketie-yack-yack college girls three rows behind us. At first I thought it was just me that was annoyed, but everyone within site distance was ready to tell them to STFU! These girls reminded me of the Valley Girls of the late 70s/80s with their constant blabber about absolutely nothing. They talked nonstop about NOTHING and they might has well been sitting next to me instead of three rows back as they were that loud. Anyway, living in Orlando I’m used to yack-yack and crying babies, but it is annoying never-the-less. When we arrived I snapped a couple photos of the guilty going to baggage claim.
The airport terminal itself was quaint, but that added to the charm of the remote African location. We snapped a couple photos as we got off the plane with our friends Kevin and Allison before heading into the terminal to get our baggage.
And once at baggage claim we retrieved two of our three bags from the tiny baggage area, only to soon realize our third bag didn’t make it to Hoedspruiet. We were immediately welcomed by a driver who would take us to the Makanyi Lodge, and we waited around while the baggage people searched for the bag that was ultimately still in Johannesburg; thanks to baggage tracking.
Standing outside the small terminal, we said our good-byes to the rest of our AMA Waterways family of friends we had spent the last couple weeks with. The others were going on to a different safari lodge together, while DOS and I would be the sole people at the Makanyi Lodge, perhaps because we were staying for five nights, instead of the three nights the rest of the group was staying, and there wasn’t availability for the other couple nights.
We then went inside, and filled out a baggage lost form, with little hope of seeing the bag (DOS’s) again. As there were only three flights a day and we were on the second one, the airline agent said our bag should be on the next flight and they would deliver it to our lodge.
We then went with our driver on the hour’s drive to the Makanyi Private Game Lodge. Our driver was quite conversational, and he was actually a safari guide as well, although he works at the resorts closer to the airports, and does an airport pick-up or two to supplement his income. We had a nice talk along the way, and he told us he wouldn’t tell us too much, so as to not take away from our safari driver we would have for the next few days, but he did give us a teaser taste of what to expect on our stay. As we drove along, the road changed from paved road to dirt road, and became quite bumpy at times, but that was all part of the adventure to come!We stopped at the gated checkpoint for the Private game reserve area, and then continued on for a few more miles. I kept thinking, how in the heck is the luggage delivery driver ever going to find our lodge – it’s literally out in the middle of nowhere, and as we went on the signs were literally signs posted on rocks! Even the driver wasn’t entirely sure where it was, and on the dirt private roads, a GPS isn’t a big help.
No worries; we eventually arrived at the Makyanyi Private Game Lodge, and were warmly welcomed. We had a leisurely and informal checkin in the living room front office area, and explained we were waiting on a lost bag to arrive, hopefully on the next flight from Johannesburg.
Our Concierge hostess explained the property layout, dining and safari times, and pretty much in between, before showing us to our Suite – Room number two. As there were only seven suites here, the Makaynyi Lodge is quite exclusive and private, sitting on several hundred hectares of land with all types of wildlife.
We didn’t really get settled once in our room, as we hadn’t had lunch, and it was served until 2:30pm, several minutes away. We walked back to the main building, and had our first lunch in the outdoor seating area, meeting a few of our fellow guests who were already seated.
At the Makanyi Lodge, everything is included; drinks, meals, safaris, and awesome accommodations. At checkin, you are assigned a safari guide and vehicle, which will be your touring mode for your entire stay. Our first day was a bit of an oddity, as it was the last day for everyone staying at the resort (typical stay is 3 days), but we were assigned with two Australian couples traveling together, and met several of the other guests, who gave us pointers on what to do, dress, and look out for.
Our lodge suite itself was HUGE! It had a large king-sized bed complete with bed netting for the bugs (it was dry season, so not a problem, but we still used the net – kinda romantic actually!). We had a stand-alone soaking tub just outside the shower and separate toilet area, and a huge double vanity nearby. There was a desk sitting area, and a ‘den’ or relaxation room towards the aft of the suite, complete with a couple huge lounge chairs, sofas actually, and a nice gas fireplace.
There were three separate sliding doors that let out to a private wrap-around deck, which was elevated a foot or so from the ground; probably due to critters out in the wild. We had a nice sitting area on two sections of the balcony, and even had an additional outdoor shower – totally private! From the distance we could see the watering hole complete with Rhinos topping over the surface. We would occasionally see monkeys and Impala strolling past our yard, and the Concierge had told us at check-in to make sure we locked our sliding door, lest the monkeys break in and cause havoc!
Anyway, we just finished lunch, but have little time to settle in to our luxurious accommodations, for we have a 3:30pm coffee and snacks perk-me-up before our 4pm evening safari! More to come! Welcome to Makanyi Lodge!