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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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