After a two night’s stay at the Hyatt Regency in Johannesburg, Steve (DOS) and I flew from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit, South Africa. The flight was less than an hour aboard an Embraer 140 jet, and as the flight wasn’t full DOS and I had the exit row to ourselves, with each of us taking a window seat.
While it was a short flight, the Flight Attendant even served a snack along the way.
Here’s a photo of the runway at Hoedspruit as we were preparing to land.
Once at Hoedspruit we took a couple photos of the tiny airport while waiting for our luggage. The luggage at Hoedspruit is delivered in the front parking area via a couple carts which are driven up for the passengers. We were met at the airport by a private driver, who assisted us with our luggage before heading out for our lodge. Our driver, Rod, was a retired ranger and property manager of a nearby resort, and now drivers tourists like us to the various resorts. Unlike other drivers who hate driving the hour and 15 minutes to Makanyi Lodge, he really enjoys the trip as it keeps him in touch with nature. We actually saw quite a few animals on the way to our lodge, which he stopped for photos of them, such as this giraffe, and a herd of wildebeests.
We are staying at Makanyi Private Game Lodge which is a boutique luxury lodge with all suite accommodations, and only 7 rooms with two additional villas. We stayed at Makanyi Lodge last year at the end of our AMA Waterways tour, and had such a wonderful stay we are repeating the five night stay on our own this time.
Upon arrival, we received a very warm welcome back, and had a glass of champagne while we registered in the open air tiki-like reception living room. Makanyi is an all inclusive resort, with three daily meals, two daily three hour safaris (morning and evening), complimentary laundry service, internet, and unlimited waters, sodas, and alcohol.
We were thrilled to get our same safari guide and tracker as last year, Warren and Sullie respectively. The daily routine starts with a wake-up call at 6am from Warren, followed by the morning safari which leaves at 6:30am. Our fellow guests meet in the dining area for a quick cup of coffee, warm muffins, and yogurt before heading out at 6:30am for the day’s safari discovery.
Once on the three hour safari, the real adventure begins! Each safari is unique as you never know what you’re going to see, although our driver/guide Warren tries to break up each safari run in search of specific animals; i.e. one day lions, another elephants, giraffes, and zebras, buffalo, birds, impalas, etc. As we’ve seen so very much so far on our safari (it’s day four of five) I’m going to post a gallery at the end of this post instead of trying to place individual photos within this post.
About two hours into the morning safari, we stop at a scenic spot, and then exit the vehicle for our morning coffee and Amarula drink. There are also some snacks served on the table-like hood of the Land-rover safari vehicle. The photo below is Warren and myself (Steve UNO). Each vehicle seats up to six passengers, plus the driver guide, and tracker. The vehicle has 3 passenger benches which are each elevated from each other providing fantastic views from any seat. Our driver and guide Warren sits in the front seat (equipped with radio for communicating with other drivers), and our tracker Sullie sits on an extended seat on the front left of the vehicle.
As we roll along the dirt and sandy paths, Sullie signals to Warren which way to go depending on what animals are in the area. Sullie is a 3rd generation tracker, and as we were told last year while here, he is a legend among trackers, having done this for some 18 years.
Likewise, Warren, our driver and ranger guide operates the vehicle and provides us commentary, thru all types of terrain, including off-roading where appropriate to get a better view of the animals. Warren has also been guiding for many years, and like all guides must be certified to be a ranger having passed rigorous tests and field training. Warren might stop in the middle of the road to identify a rare bird species or owl, or drive by a watering hole to see giraffes or elephants having a drink. You never know what you are going to see on a safari, so you should always have your camera ready!
After the morning three hour safari, we arrive back at the lodge around 9:30am and have breakfast together with Warren. Makanyi Lodge breaks up the guests staying at the hotel into small groups of two or three couples for the safari runs and breakfast, and you stay with your designate group and driver for your whole stay. As people are coming and going (the average stay is three nights), you may have two, four, or a maximum of six people in your vehicle, and this may change daily as people checkin and checkout. It’s nice having the small groups, and you quickly meet everyone staying at the lodge, even in the other vehicles, due to the shared lunch, dinner, and pre-dinner cocktails in the lobby.
After breakfast until 1pm, you are on your own to relax and do as you please. As I write this it’s 11:30am, and I’m sitting by the pool with Steve (DOS) catching up on the blog, in between little naps. The weather here is absolutely gorgeous, and today (Sept 1) marks the official Spring Day here in South Africa. The meals are also served outside (although there is an indoor dining table should it rain – it never has when we’ve been here as it’s dry season), and are on the raised wrap-around deck. The pool and outdoor dining area overlook a watering hole/small lake in the distance which has hippos showing with their backs raises slightly out of the water.
As Makyani is a Private Game Lodge, the only people you see here are the maximum of 14 guests and the staff, which easily outnumbers the guests. The place is a private luxury resort, and you feel like you are guests in someones home, rather than staying at a hotel.
As I write this, DOS and I are matching some monkeys playing in the field, while Impalas are drinking down by the watering hole. Yesterday there were elephants down by the drinking hole as well.
Our lunch is open-seating and served from 1 until 2:30pm outdoors, with a choice of entrees which changes daily. Sodas, water, wine, beer etc are complimentary as well, but usually we don’t partake of alcohol until the evening safari.
After lunch, there is again some free time until the afternoon/evening safari leaves at 3:30pm, with a quick coffee and snack break offered pre-safari at 3pm if you like. Like on the morning safari, the afternoon/evening safari is also three hours, but unlike the morning safari, instead of coffee at the two hour mark, we again stop but have cocktails, beer, or wine out in the bush, along with some snacks! The evening cocktail hour (typically a half hour or so before heading back to the lodge) is normally a highlight of the day as it’s right about sunset time, and offers a chance to have drinks and chat with your fellow safari guests and driver and tracker, all out in the open of God’s country with breathtaking views. Like the breakfast stop, each day we stop in a different place, so the views are always changing.
After the cocktails, we head back to the Lodge, but by now it’s dark outside, so we have 1/2 hour or longer drive back, with Sullie spotting with a large and portable light. At night it’s an entirely different perspective, as you see nauctornal animals, or even day animals in the dark of night such as elephants. I much prefer the day time safaris as it’s better for viewing and photos, but the night safaris offer a bit of fun with the drinks, romance of the evening, and anticipation of the dinner meal to come.
Back at the Lodge after the afternoon/evening safari by 6:30pm or slightly later, we have a quick trip to the room to freshen up, and then cocktail hour fun in the main Lodge,with our fellow guests and driver. It’s quite an exciting time, as everyone discusses their adventures of the day, and you can also chat with the other guests in different groups; all in a casual and informal meeting place, with free-flowing drinks of your choice.
The chef then comes around during the cocktail gathering and describes the even dishes available that evening, which you will order a while later when seated for dinner. Dinner is also open-seating, but mostly arranged for tables for two, one for each couple. Having dinner each night under the brightly-lit skies in the dark of night, with tables lit only by candlelight is a true romantic and tranquil luxury like no other.
After dinner, some of the guests head back to the bar area, but most nights everyone is back to their rooms by 10pm or so as the mornings start early.
The rooms themselves are all identical with some 1,500 square feet, although there are two honeymoon rooms that also have a private pool with them. Each room has a large king-sized bed with netting all around it (at least during the dry season, more for show and romance than a bug issue), a large soaking tub and separate walk in shower next to the bathroom, lots of space to store your belongs with the convenient racks and closets,
a large den-like room with two lounge chairs and fireplace, and large outdoor wrap-around patio terrace with seating in two different areas of the patio.
There is also an outdoor shower there as well, and each of the suites is arrange to afford total privacy from each other. It’s quite a stylishly modern look, built with stones and hatched roof architecture for keeping with the environment. It reminded me quite a bit of our accommodations a few years ago at Easter Island. Quite a wonderful place to stay in the middle of private bush, with some 2,000 acres of land on this property alone, bordering other private parcels of land of the same or larger size, most of which allow safari access to other properties guests creating miles and miles of open space with no crowds whatsoever. Huge safari tip: Do stay at a private game resort as opposed to a public national park, as the private game lodge is just that – private, with no other (or occasional another safari vehicle from an adjacent property), so you have unimpeded views of the animal and nature, without dozens of other vehicles encroaching on the same space.
I’m going to finish this post now with a gallery of photos taken on this stay. I will update the gallery with additional pictures over the next couple days, but not this post, so I can more readily enjoy my time here. Enjoy the photos, and as DOS said on Facebook, ‘if a Safari is not on your bucket list, it should be, and if it is on your bucket list, move it to the top of the list’. Great advice, and I’ll add to that do it while you still have your health and can navigate getting in and out of the safari vehicles, and are able to travel the long distances to get there. Enjoy!