What you might not know about me, is like most from Canada, I am a first generation Canadian. Both of my parents are originally from South Africa. As a young girl, I would go back to visit every other year. Yet as I grew older, life got in the way. The trips back to visit slowed down and eventually stopped. It has been eighteen years since the last time I visited South Africa. Eighteen years since I had seen my family, eighteen years since I had experienced the beauty of Africa, and eighteen years seemed far too long.
A different way to travel to Africa
This time around though, I wanted to do things a little different. i wanted to explore parts of Africa that I had never been to before and so instead of trying to navigate this country on my own, I decided to do a group tour.
I have done group tours in the past and I feel like they are an amazing way to travel. Firstly they help you get from point A to point B safely. They provide you with excursion ideas and help you set up everything that you want to do. It is also an amazing way to connect with like minded travellers.
I decided to travel this time round with the Canadian company G Adventures. I will get more into this decision a little later on as well as in a follow up blog, but in the meantime I wanted to focus on the amazing experience.
The adventure was 9 days with stops at the Kruger National Park, a private game reserve, and Zimbabwe. During that time I had a chance to get up close and personal to a family of elephants and soar above one of the natural wonders of the world. It was truly a once in a life time trip with memories that will last forever and I am excited to share some of the top moments with you.
My top 10 moments with G adventures
1) Staying in an adorable guesthouse
Johannesburg definitely gets a bad reputation, but I had the most amazing experience there, particularly at our adorable guesthouse, Malikana. This family run spot had the most amazing wooden deck patio that overlooked a little animal farm. I watched the springbok jump around while drinking my morning coffee.
The best part of our time here was when we were treated to a home cooked South African Braai. Our host Suki cooked us different kinds of traditional meat with pup and veggies on the side and traditional desserts.
2) Driving the Panorama Route
On our way to the Kruger National Park, we drove one of the most scenic drives I have ever seen. The Panorama Route connects several cultural and natural points of interest and offers spectacular views. I was blown away by the depth and beauty of Blyde Canyon. I have seen the Grand Canyon before, and this spot would definitely give it a run for its money. I was also stunned at the amazing views from God’s Window. From this spot, you really feel like you are on top of the world.
When we went to visit the Kruger National Park, we had a chance to spend two nights at the adorable Muluwa Lodge. The moment we arrived, we were greeted by their resident giraffes. Our quaint tents overlooked the bush and we had a chance to have morning coffee with the impalas. It was absolutely stunning.
4) Driving in the Kruger National Park
As a young girl, I remember some of my most fond memories taking place at Kruger, one of South Africa’s largest parks. Now it was time to make some new memories. The first thing that I noticed during our drive was the smells. The fresh spring air lingered on the tip of my nose.
Despite some rainy conditions, we were so spoiled on our first drive. Not only did we spot the big five (lion leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) we also saw a pack of wild dogs. This is an extremely rare sighting as there are only 180 wild dogs left in the Kruger. It was amazing to see the family of dogs running around and playing with each other. A truly special moment.
5) Staying at Karongwe Portfolio
After experiencing Karongwe, I cannot suggest a private game reserve enough. Not only were we driving around the bush in an open truck, but we also had a tracker following footsteps and we could go off roading to get even closer to the magnificent animals.
We experienced some amazing moments like a family of elephants walking across our path, three cheetahs out of the hunt, a leopard munching on dinner, and drinking coffee with the hippos. Those were just a few of the highlights.
As for the actual resort, it was something straight out of a movie. Our accommodations were stunning, complete with an outdoor shower, beautiful patio to sit and watch for animals, and a gorgeous pool to cool off after a long day. I treated myself to an amazing massage during our stay and had a chance to experience a delicious outdoor BBQ .
6) Learning about cheetahs from the pros
During our stay at Kerongwe, we were treated to a talk from a researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project. We sat through a lecture learning more about cheetah behaviours as part of the National Geographic project the Big Cats Initiative. I also found out that a portion of our money was going towards this project and helping keep cheetahs safe in the wild. Just one of the many reasons I loved traveling with G adventures.
7) Experience the local culture
The second half of our trip took place in Zimbabwe visiting one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. Before even heading to the falls though, we got to experience the town of Victoria Falls. We went to visit the local market and try some unique foods.
Then we had the chance to have a local meal at a homestead. We sat down with our amazing host Flatter and met her extended family. She made us a traditional Zimbabwean dinner with produce straight from her garden. During the meal she shared with us what a daily life is like and taught us more about the traditions and cultures in Zimbabwe. It was a truly special experience.
8) Take a walking tour of the falls
Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but just walking around doesn’t do it justice. There is so much incredible history here and it was amazing to learn all about it on a guided tour. We learned all about the falls, how it was discovered by David Livingstone, how the locals refer to it as ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, and how you can hear the falls 40KM away. Those were just a few of the incredible facts. It was also amazing because we got to see the falls from sixteen different angles.
9) Experience the falls from the sky
Seeing the falls from the ground is one thing, but seeing the falls from above will take your breathe away. I had the chance to take a helicopter ride above the falls and it was a truly magical experience. You could see the entire length of the water fall and the beautiful colours of the Zambezi River.
10) Bring out your inner daredevil by living on the edge
Our last stop in Victoria Falls is not for the faint of heart. We went swimming at the very top of the falls at Devil’s Pool. After thousands of years of erosion, several rock pools formed around the falls, one of them at the very top. We were able to actually swim in a pool above the falls and even take in the views from the very edge. It was exhilarating.
Why G Adventures
This trip with G adventures was one of those that was too incredible to be true. From learning about local communities, to watching a leopard pounce at a water buck each day offered new and unforgettable experiences. A reminder of how beautiful this world truly is.
The reason I loved traveling with G Adventures, was their focus on responsible tourism. I have travelled with other companies in the past, but this was the first one that organized local excursions, worked with local companies, and helped us really learn about the places and the people we were visiting.
I later had a chance to learn about their Ripple Score program, which monitors how much of our money stays in the local communities. I was excited to find out that on my trip in particular, 100% of the money stays locally. Not only did this trip give me something incredible, but it felt good knowing that I was able to give these communities something back in return.
I will have more on G Adventures in a later blog post, but in the meantime if you would like to learn more about their Kruger and Victoria Falls trip visit their website; https://www.gadventures.com/trips/explore-kruger-and-victoria-falls/5747/
Happy traveling my friends,