Clients often ask where the best place in Southern Africa is for a safari experience, the answer is anything but straight forward. The reason for this is because there are so many different and uniquely exceptional experiences available.
The Sabi Sands takes some beating and is widely regarded as the pinnacle safari experience in the region. It is impossible to argue against this and I would not even begin to try.
Shamwari in the Eastern Cape is so incredibly special with numerous achievements in conservation and the successful reintroducton of the Big Five into the region. The Shamwari Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is unique and the TV documentary based on this has achieved global acclaim.
Chobe in Botswana is an incredible wilderness and the river is something quite mystical. The large elephant herds, hippo pods and lion prides leave you truly breathless.
The Okavango Delta definitely deserves a mention and is one of those real bucket list experiences for many people. There are many exquisite high end boutique stlyled lodges to choose from.
Along with the above heavyweights some of my other personal favourites are:
The reserves of Northern KZN particularly Phinda and Thanda with their sublime hospitality offering and amazing wildlife are both highly recommended. As a KZN boy, I suppose I have a degree of bias but the experiences I have seen many of our guests and groups enjoy over the years has given me some of the most incredible life memories, which I will treasure forever.
The Pilanesberg with the wide range of lodges and probably the best value for money is as good a natural environment as any of the very best mentioned above. The game somehow seems to have a unique wildness, you get a sense of the harsh competitiveness of the bush where survival really is a daily achievement.
In conclusion there are a plethora of options and each is unique and has it’s own individual nuances and features. The one thing that is certain is you will have one of the most incredible, authentic and memorable experiences of your life. As a motivator it is still incredibly successful as an incentive choice, achieving phenomenal success across group profiles everytime.
We have just successfully operated an exceptional inbound incentive programme for a leading Global Financial Services and Lifestyle Company.
The first leg of the programme comprised of privatising all four of the Sabi Sabi Lodges as well as & Beyonds Kirkmans Camp, in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.
The sublime experience enjoyed at this world renowned game reserve was incredible. Game viewing was the highlight with most guests seeing all of the big five, including an incredible interaction between a leopard and a hyena with the hyena successfully stealing the kill of the leopard. The hospitality, cuisine and special evening events with vibrant entertainment rounded off the experience and will leave each participant with special lifelong memories.
Then onto Sun City for the group Gala Dinner Awards evening, The Palace hotel was the base. Three venues were used including pre dinner drinks in the Elephant Courtyard with a harpist for entertainment.
Then onto a formal served dinner at the Palace Pool Deck, which ended with a massive fireworks display. This signalled the move to the after party in the Lost City Crocodile Lounge where a DJ and casino awaited the group to entertain them late into the night.
The logistics included fourteen charter flights and in total across the programme seven of The Inside Edge team were on the ground to make sure every micro detail was meticulously delivered.
We recently had the opportunity to visit the refurbished Phinda Rock Lodge, which is part of the &Beyond group of hotels. Situated in Northern Natal, just 300km north of Durban it is easily accessible, either by road or their private airstrip.
Phinda Rock Lodge is a small exclusive lodge which caters perfectly for small executive groups. The Lodge itself has 6 double suites which include private plunge pools overlooking the landscape.
Phinda Rock Lodge has had a major refurbishment which takes it into the league of the very best safari lodges in Southern Africa.
Having just returned from an amazing trip to Munich and the surrounding area, the incentive product surpassed our expectations and by a distance too.
The history, cuisine and culture of the Bavarian people, amazing technology on show at BMW, top quality hotels and the magnificent scenery. Not to forget the Olympic Tower at 198 m high as well as the tranquil Tegernsee lake with the Alps as a backdrop all combine to create a full and exceptional programme.
The sunny warm weather was perfect and the late sunsets a treat, especially when enjoyed in one of the many Beer Gardens in the city.
Our DMC Conference and Touring were brilliant, they display the efficiency Germany is renowned for but do it in such a personable and fun way.
It is easy to twin Munich with Austria and the Central European location allows for easy extension trips to a host of major European cities. My own personal favourite (which I am saving for doing on my next group) is one of the good value for money River Cruises Conference and Touring are famous for.
Incentive Event for UK Company for employees across the UK who exceeded their sales target
Kapama Game Reserve (lodges)
World class safari experience, including on an afternoon game drive witnessing the spectacular sighting of a Leopard successfully hunting a warthog
Surprise Bush Dinner for the participants
Kapama Game Reserve is situated in the Limpopo province, next to the Kruger Park, in an area renowned for its wildlife and superb safari destinations, Kapama is home to the Big 5 game as well as over 40 mammal species and 350 bird species. Hoedsruit airport is a 10 minute drive away making this a prime incentive destination for clients who are inbound from Cape Town or Johannesburg.
Please be aware video below is not for sensitive viewers.
The Beverly Hills Hotel Umhlanga Rocks (spelt Beverly like Sol’s daughters name without the “e”)
This hotel has had a huge impact on my life, it is the hotel I fell in love with when working there as Food and Beverage Manager and where I got my first taste of hotel General Management (more than 20 years ago). It is also where I first met my life’s love who later became my wife, she stayed at the hotel on business (we were both working for The InterContinental Hotel Group at the time).
The staff are what made the hotel special many from the very beginning when the hotel opened at that time in the twilight of their careers. They would regale me with incredible stories of when the Hotel opened and Sol Kerzner the hotels South African founder who later went on to develop Sun City and then after that The One and Only Group of luxury hotels and resorts. I hung literally on every word, the staff, the guests, the owner it was rich pickings for these skilled story tellers.
Stories like lowering tables over the balcony after breakfast in the Society Room to set up the pool terrace for lunch, as there was not enough money to buy tables for both and they wanted to offer guests a different venue for different meals. During my time at the hotel the eccentric “Goldfinger” who came every Sunday morning for breakfast and brought his own gold cutlery to replace the silver the hotel used as standard. He announced his arrival in one of his Cadillac convertibles with Elvis blaring as he handed the keys nonchalantly to the valet.
The passion for quality and personal service were woven into the tapestry of this hotel and it was never a place but rather a living breathing entity. All of us who worked there were entrusted as custodians to make sure it remained the same for the new people who joined and the new guests that visited subsequently.
My wife and I were also incredibly fortunate to be invited to attend the 50th Anniversary celebrations, which did this grand hotel proud. Sol Kerzner himself was present and he too shared stories from the early years, convincing investors that this project in the sugar cane fields North of Durban was not folly and fantasy. Some of the original staff attended as guests and it was incredibly special to catch up and reminisce about the times that we shared at the “Bev”.
Last Sunday I was out walking on the promenade in Umhlanga with my wife and kids and we passed this local icon, the memories came flooding back and I found myself telling the stories to the next generation. Long may the legend continue……
Pilanesberg South Africa’s most underrated Game Reserve
When most people think of The Pilanesberg Game Reserve the first thought that comes to mind is Sun City, understandably so in some respects as the two are in close proximity and both benefit heavily from having the other as a neighbor and programmes at the resort almost always have a visit to the Pilanesberg included at one or more points.
There is though so much more to this incredible reserve, which is home to the Big 5 and it is situated in a Malaria free area.
Ivory Tree Game Lodge with 60 suites and conferencing facilities.
The very exclusive and boutique Lodge up on a hill with panoramic views named Tshuduku.
Of course there is also the family friendly Bakubung and KwaMaritane Lodges. These lodges offer exceptional value for money to both local and international visitors.
For the more adventurous we can build luxury mobile tented camps like we did in May this year (150 en suite luxury tents).
Enough about the accommodation offerings though it is the game experience that makes this park exceptional. Sightings are almost always out of this world we have had a group see the big 5 plus cheetah in two drives. Most drives see at least three, on my last visit in early November, we saw elephant, rhino and lion as well as abundant giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala, springbok, warthog, hippo and crocodiles.
With my family a year ago we saw two young leopards playing on the side of the road for about twenty minutes and later a female leopard out hunting as the sun started to set, yes on the same drive. On the other drives we did (from Ivory Tree Lodge) we saw so many breeding herds of elephant, white and black rhino as well as lion on a kill (one lion and three lionesses). Amazing stuff, our ranger was rightfully hugely pleased with his performance as we said goodbye to him after delivering an outstanding and special experience for us all. Not quite so for everyone though as my young son then 8 year old son said goodbye he said “thank you so much, I had a great time, just so you know though we didn’t see any buffalo”! He was in fact correct but incredibly misguided all the same.
Having recently visited Babylonstoren for a family wedding in the Cape Winelands, I have to say I was absolutely blown away.
The setting was incredible but the truly unique proposition is the incredible solace and being at one with nature that all of the elements of the farm have successfully come together to achieve.
The leisurely walks with the kids collecting fruit and vegetables from the extensive gardens and trails are a standout memory. On returning to your suite having completed your foraging the items are skillfully sculpted into a unique salad with your very own stamp and unlike any other before or after.
Or of course just feeding carrots to the farm animals which was another big hit and there was a lot of fun and laughter breaking the tranquil silences of nature.
All in all this is an ideal setting for a breakaway from the rat race, small leisure groups or families enjoying quality time in some of the best surroundings the Wine Region has to offer or of course a phenomenal place to create and share those special family occasions, that will remain etched in your memory for life.