Africa on Foot: a boutique safari lodge in review

Back home, I’m used to waking up to find my cat using me as a mattress. But, as I stirred from my bed deep in the South African wilderness, I was pleased to find the local big cats hadn’t had the same idea. I had just begun a three night stay at Africa on Foot, and I wasn’t ready to be eaten just yet.

I had dreamed of going on safari for years. My rose-tinted glasses conjured up visions of me staying in a comfy room, meeting friendly staff and encountering wildlife galore (only not in my bed). With such high expectations, whichever lodge we chose would have a lot to live up to. Luckily, this little gem in the heart of Klaserie Private Nature Reserve came up trumps on all counts. Read on to find out why.

Warning: This post contains a pretty graphic image from a game drive. Don’t look if you’re at all squeamish or an impala-lover.

Bush Walks

Of course, the main reason most people stay in a safari lodge is to spot wildlife. The opportunities to do this at Africa on Foot are second to none. As well as the traditional game drives that all safari lodges offer, Africa on Foot does what it says on the tin. The guides are trained to take you on bush walks, giving you a completely unique and close-up perspective on the wildlife.

Africa on Foot: Bush Walks

On our first bush walk, we learnt how to tell the difference between animal tracks, and all about the plants and trees around us. But of course, it was the animals themselves that we were desperate to see.

A close encounter

After about half an hour of walking through makeshift pathways and around stale elephant dung, we spotted three silhouettes moving in the distance. As we drew nearer, our tracker ducked down behind a tree and, in complete silence, encouraged us to do the same. We peered through gaps in the leaves, all vying to catch a glimpse.

And then the silhouettes came towards us.

Two young white rhino and one very pregnant mother crept up on us as silently as we had stumbled across them. We knew their eyesight was poor, but their strong sense of smell alerted them that there was something (us) hiding behind that tree. And they were determined to find out what it was.

So they came closer still.

Africa on Foot: Safari

My heart was beating faster than a cheetah can run, and I was ready to launch myself in the opposite direction. Only I couldn’t. Our group was completely surrounded by the three rhino, and there was no escape, even if I wanted to.

So I gave up worrying and decided to watch as the magnificent beasts sniffed and plodded along around us. They still didn’t know what we were, so our guides clicked their fingers to give them a clue. Yet, this seemed to intrigue them more than anything, so they took another couple of steps closer. Our guides had grown wary of how close they were, so they tapped their rifles to make an unfamiliar metallic sound.

And then they ran away.

Game Drives

That same day, we had another unforgettable experience on a game drive. Our guides had tracked a pack of wild dogs close to our camp. We followed them as the pack reunited and set off on the hunt for food. They were too fast for us to keep up, but the vultures circling overhead told us the dogs’ efforts were successful.

We caught up with them as they dragged their meal to a clearing and then let the vultures take over. Even for a vegetarian, that was a pretty special moment and one I’ll never forget.

Africa on Foot: Safari

Thanks to the abundance of wildlife in Klaserie Private Nature reserve, we managed to see all but one of the Big 5. It was only the elusive leopard that kept us guessing. That said, I know that lots of lucky Africa on Foot guests have seen one since.

Africa on Foot: Safari

Africa on Foot: Safari

Africa on Foot: safari
Africa on Foot: safari

Africa on Foot Staff

They say it’s the people that make a place, and the staff at Africa of Foot certainly made us feel welcome.

We got to know our tracker, Enoch, and guides, Luane and Chade, pretty well throughout our stay. They knew absolutely everything about the bush and the animals that called it home. Their ability to drive and spot wildlife in the distance, all while answering our questions and listening out for signals over the radio is incredible.

Africa on Foot: Staff

Unlike many other safari guides, they wanted us to have the best experience possible. They preferred quality sightings over quantity. This all helped us to see some truly incredible things rather than ticking all animals off our list. Each sighting was accompanied with an in-depth description of the animal – what they eat, how they live and how to tell the difference between male and female. I’m positively an expert now!

Africa on Foot: Staff
Africa on Foot: Staff

One of my favourite moments in the camp was when the guides joined us for dinner. They kept us entertained with their stories around the campfire. I could have listened to them for hours!

Africa on Foot: Drinks around the campfire

JD and three lovely ladies took care of everything back at the lodge. They greeted us with hot face towels and aperitifs after a chilly winter game drive. It was this attention to detail that we loved most.

Delicious Food

The food was just too enticing for me to take any photos. You’ll have to imagine the tasty, home cooked meals all served up from a tiny kitchen hut. The food is different every day, and the cooks will start the meal by explaining the menu first.

Africa on Foot: Food

After the morning bush walks, the lodge serves up cereals, fruit and yogurt, before a hot breakfast if you can manage! At about 2pm, the cooks provide a buffet lunch with salads and a yummy dessert. For dinner, there is a three course meal on offer every day at about 8pm. How they managed to find enough food to cater for a pescatarian, two vegans and a coeliac in the middle of the bush is beyond me.

Rooms & Accommodation

The majority of rooms at Africa on Foot sleep two people in rondevels: traditional African huts with thatched roofs. Only they’re a little more luxurious than that, with four poster beds, mosquito nets and little wardrobes.

I adored our room, Tjankbos. At first, I dreaded the outdoor shower, but this became its charm. We could watch the world go by while washing our armpits, and the beating sun made up for the shower’s very occasional lapse in heat.

Luckily, however, the toilet was indoors.

Africa on Foot: Accommodation

Africa on Foot: Accommodation

Each night, the lodge staff would make the bed and hide hot water bottles under the covers. They would also leave traditional African fairytales on the pillows to make going to bed even more enticing. The little touches were just adorable.

Lodge Facilities

Beyond the safari, there is plenty to keep you entertained in the lodge itself. Guests can swim in the pool (not recommended in winter!), drink at the bar or read books in the lounge. You can even head up to the treehouse for unrivalled views across the national park.

If you’re brave enough, you can even spend the night in the treehouse. Other guests raved about their experience up there. They were able to hear the animal calls throughout the night and sleeping under the stars.

Africa on Foot: Treehouse

Africa on Foot: Treehouse

Overall, our stay at Africa on Foot was the best three days of any holiday I’ve ever been on. People often ask me where I’d most like to go back to. I can hand on heart say this is it. And no, they haven’t paid me to say this. Africa on Foot is an incredible place to stay, and I’m delighted to be able to recommend it.

This visit was just the start of my 2 weeks in South Africa. Read my recommended itinerary to find out what else I got up to!

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Now tell me, what’s the one place in the world you wish you could go back to? What made it so special for you? Let me know in the comments!

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Africa on Foot - a boutique safari lodge in review

2015: The year I became a travel addict

There were a few things that led to my travel addiction. A stressful job, settling into married life and my complete non-desire to have children led me to think, ‘what next’? I’ve always been a fan of going on holidays, but 2015 was the year I made it my hobby. I dedicated all my spare time to day trips, weekends away and saving money for bigger trips. It’s also the year I started blogging.

Now I know my list of places visited in 2015 is not in the least bit impressive compared to every other travel blogger out there, but this is just the start. I already have plans to double my travel plans in 2016, and I can’t wait to write my 2016 travel highlights this time next year to see how far I’ve come (quite literally!)

I haven’t had a chance to write about each and every thing on this list yet, but I will! For now, here are my travel highlights from 2015.

January

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea

I started off the year in style, with a visit to The Chesterfield Hotel in London. To celebrate the release of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical in the West End, they had designed an afternoon tea in the style of something out of the factory itself! My friends and I were treated to staples including scones and finger sandwiches, as well as Wonka bars, popping candy drinks, Oompa Loompa cupcakes and even a golden ticket at the end! It was a really interesting twist on afternoon tea, as they all tend to offer the same thing nowadays…

February

Day trip to the Shard

Another day trip to London! This time, we took a trip up the Shard for a fabulous view of the city. Even though the weather wasn’t great, we could still see for miles. This might sound odd, but my favourite part was actually the toilets! Each cubicle has a floor to ceiling window making them the toilets with the best view in the whole of London. While in the City, we also visited the West End to see Les Miserables. It was fantastic!

March

Cardiff castle

For our first trip ‘abroad’ in 2015, we decided to have a bargain weekend away in Cardiff. We hopped on a train, booked ourselves into a hotel and explored the city. It’s home to some wonderful restaurants, bars and things to see. We took a tour around the castle and wandered down to the coast to see the bay and the Millennium Centre. It was a lovely weekend and we were really lucky with the weather – just look at that blue sky! But ignore the clouds…

April

Jersey hen do

In April, I finally made it out to Jersey to visit my friend Jo for her hen do. We not only wanted to send her off into married life in style, but also explore the island that she has made her home for the past few years. Jo’s bridesmaids had organised an open top bus tour that took us to the German war tunnels, the beaches, La Corbière lighthouse and the capital of Jersey, St Helier. Now that’s my kind of hen do!

May

May was relatively quiet on the travel front, but we did make it over to Cheltenham for a weekend to celebrate the wedding of our friends, Aysha and Tom. It was on one of the hottest days of the year so they were able to have their ceremony outside in the sunshine. It was just beautiful!

June

Valencia

In June, I had one of the best experiences of my life. I packed my bags and headed off to Valencia to spend a week in a Spanish language school. I had no idea what to expect. At best, I thought my Spanish would improve a bit and that I’d get some much needed Vitamin D. In reality, my Spanish became a whole lot better, I made some wonderful friends from across the world and I fell in love with Valencia. It is the most beautiful city and has absolutely everything you could ever need – sunshine, history, culture, beaches, delicious food and nightlife. I can’t wait to go back.

July

Glamping near Bath

I find it really difficult to pass up a deal, so when I came across a Groupon for a glamping trip to Warminster, I grabbed my friends, packed my wellies and asked Tim very nicely if he would drive. We spent the weekend in a bell tent with proper air beds, duvets and marshmallows roasted on an open fire. As the ‘glam’ is supposed to mean ‘glamorous’, we had expected decent toilets and hot showers, but were met by a hole in the floor and ice cold water. Still, you can’t have it all, so we held our noses on both counts and made do. While in the area, we enjoyed day trips to the beautiful city of Bath (above) and Longleat Safari Park. A great weekend after all!

August

Cuba

Cuba has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and, in August, we finally made it! Drawn by its charm, scenery and, of course, the mojitos, we spent two weeks in the summer on a G Adventures tour of Havana, Vinales, Maria La Gorda, Saroa. The tour itself was a bit hit and miss – some of the towns we visited didn’t seem worthy of a visit, but there were also some gems, like the bright and bustling city of Havana and the lush, mountainous scenery of Vinales. The people were also wonderful, and the mojitos really were the stuff dreams are made of.

September

Morocco

To celebrate our first anniversary, we spent a long weekend in Marrakech with Tim’s brothers and their significant others (including fellow bloggers, Simon & Hayley). It was our first ever trip to Africa, so we were determined to do it to the full. We visited all the major sights, including the Jemaa el Fna, Bahia Palace and Majorelle Garden, all the time with our bellies full of tagine and the sweetest mint tea. Being the only guests in the whole place, we were spoilt in our riad with the most delicious full breakfast cooked every morning. We felt like Moroccan royalty!

October

STA Travel Show

In October we had yet another day trip to London. But this time, we weren’t drawn by any sights in particular. Instead, we went to the TNT/STA Travel Show in London to pick up some 2016 travel advice and see what deals were on offer. Not able to settle on a 2016 destination, we left empty handed apart from a very large number of free pens. Read more about that and the 10 things we learnt at the TNT/STA travel show.

November

Bristol Christmas Market

When you love Christmas as much as I do, you need that festive fix as soon as possible. November seemed like a great time to start, so we decided to spend a weekend with our friends seeing what Bristol had to offer in terms of festivities and good food. Lots, it turned out. We spent hours wandering around the Christmas market and even longer in restaurants to end up with shapes that would even rival Santa. Read more about our 24 hours of Bristol foodie heaven.

December

Winter Wonderland

Yep, you’ve guessed it… London again. I should make a 2016 resolution to visit it less! In December, I spent a day at Winter Wonderland. Though it’s incredibly commercial and always busy, I love Winter Wonderland. It makes for a great day out with food, drink, shops, rides and various other attractions. My friends and I mixed with snow leopards made of actual snow and ice queens made of actual ice. It may have been cold, but it sure was fun.

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2015 has been a great year, with so many travel dreams under my belt but even more travel dreams in my head. I can’t wait to get my 2016 travel on, because I know it’s going to be even better…

How was 2015 for you? What are your travel plans for 2016?