The team at African Safari Consultants recently received this amazingly positive feedback from the McClays, for whom we’d organised their dream African safari. Donna McClay was kind enough to provide us with some excerpts of her travel diary, which we’ve included below. Enjoy!
After all the months of planning and research, I can honestly say that everything exceeded our expectations and then some! You both provided us with fantastic guidance and our final itinerary of Cape Town, Botswana and Zambia could not have been more perfect for us and our 2 adult children. Nothing can quite prepare you for the magic that is Africa. Here then are the highlights of our trip.
As you know, this trip was planned to coincide with our daughter, Mary, finishing her semester abroad program in South Africa. We arrived in Johannesburg on May 4th and met up with Mary at the airport. We spent the night in Johannesburg and left for Cape Town the morning of the 5th. Charlie, our guide in Cape Town, was just the best! He deftly arranged for us to see all the highlights Cape Town has to offer in 3 full days. Our tour of the Cape Peninsula, the Eagle and Cheetah conservation projects in Stellenbosch, and our excursion to Table Mountain were spectacular indeed. Charlie was even able to find a store in the Cape Quarter for me to buy some of the Cape Malay spices to take home. Of course, having the opportunity to meet up with Jeff at Beluga our last night in town was a special treat.
The morning of the 9th we departed for Botswana via Johannesburg and Maun. From Maun, we took our bush flight to Savute Safari Lodge in the Chobe National Park where we were met by Gee, our guide during our stay at Savute. The lodge is just fantastic – our rooms overlooked the watering hole where elephant herds would make regular visits during our stay. Our hosts, MC and Michelle made sure we had all the comforts of home. The game drives in Savute were the best viewing we had the entire time on safari. In the first two days we saw leopard and lions, which according to my daughter, is very lucky indeed! Gee’s skill at tracking wildlife made the game drives very exciting, and we loved the sundowners out in the field with our safari buddies from the Netherlands.
During our last sundowner, the call came in that lions had been spotted and we literally dropped everything and jumped in the jeep for a wild ride reminiscent of the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland! Our wildlife sightings also included elephant, zebras, cape buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe and warthogs. After 2 nights, we departed Savute for Camp Moremi in the Okavango Delta (Xaxanaka Lagoon).
Camp Moremi was a very different environment where we were able to see many avian species on the water (and kept our distance from the hippos!), including a fish eagle who had just scooped up a tilapia and was enjoying his dinner in a tree. Frank, our guide, was delightful, and even made a necklace for Mary out of a water lily during our afternoon cruise on the lagoon. We found the elusive wild dogs hanging out under some bushes during one of our game drives. BK, Hannah and Charity were lovely hosts and we so enjoyed the evening choir concerts before each dinner. After our 2 nights at Moremi, we left for Leroo La Tau in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.
Our rooms at Leroo La Tau faced the channel where we watched herds of elephant and zebra come down to the water. We even heard lions roaring during the night. Juan, Priscilla and Fred were terrific hosts, and arranged a lovely 21st birthday celebration for Mary, complete with birthday cake and candles! It certainly was a far cry from the standard Las Vegas blowout most of her friends have experienced. How many college students can say they spent their 21st birthday in Botswana? Calvin, our guide took us on a tour of his village where we visited a primary school and a clinic. We brought some school supplies and marveled at the dedication of the teachers and the politeness of the students who greeted us as we walked into their classrooms. By the end of our week-long safari in Botswana, we had seen everything but rhinos.
Our last stop was Zambia and the Isands of Siankaba, located about an hour from Victoria Falls. Our trip would take us by plane from Leroo La Tau to Kasane, where we were met by a Bushtracks guide who drove us to the Chobe River. From there we transferred to a boat to cross the river into Zambia, where we were met by another Bushtracks guide who drove us to the lodge. We were able to experience the African version of Four Corners where the countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet in the middle of the Chobe River, much like the states of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet in the southwest U.S.
The lodge is located on the Zambezi River and is an idyllic setting located in the treetops and connected by rope bridges and platforms above the river. Nothing can compare to listening to the sounds of the mighty Zambezi at night as you are falling asleep, including the occasional hippo snort! What an incredible ending to our vacation. The lodge is truly 5-star with amazing food and lovely accommodations. Graham, Brett and Claire and their staff are definitely top notch. They arranged a lovely birthday celebration for Paul’s 60th birthday. Matthews took us on a tour of his village which included a stop at the preschool where the children entertained us with songs and imitations of Zambian chameleons! They were thrilled to line up for happy face stickers which we brought along with more school supplies.
The highlight of our stay was the trip to Victoria Falls escorted by Lucky, our guide. He took us on all the trails for the best views of the falls, and gamely carried 5 sets of rain gear for us to put on! Needless to say, I was a bit nervous listening to Jeff and Mary talk about swimming in Devil’s Pool and white water rafting (both of which were closed, thank goodness!). When they decided on the zip line across the gorge, I felt my stomach turn as I realized they expected me to do it too! Well, there was no way I was going to wimp out, and on the video you can hear Jeff say, “I can’t believe she actually did it!” The falls was truly awe-inspiring and like nothing we’ve ever seen. We left Zambia on the 18th for our marathon flight home to San Diego.
Jeff and Liesl, every aspect of our trip was spot on – no delays, missed connections, late flights or missing transfer drivers. We came home with thousands of pictures, some of which I have included here, and many incredible memories. Thanks to your expert consultation, we had the trip of a lifetime and have been smitten by the people and places we’ve experienced. We hope to plan another adventure to Africa – perhaps Namibia next time and will be sure to call you!
Many thanks to the McClay’s for the kind words and awesome pictures! If you’d like to see more of the McClay’s pictures, check out our Client Submissions pin board on Pinterest.