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martywilddog last won the day on March 31 2017

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About martywilddog

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  1. Thanks a lot for your really quick feedback @pedro maia! I also enjoy self driving so option 3 ranked high, it would just mean no snorkling because we don't have our own equipment (but we could snorkel at kosi bay). Did you enjoy the sunset tour? Or did you find it too touristy? Did you feel unsafe after dark? I don't think there is enough time on the day we go from Thanda to Rhino to do an Imfolozi drive because I don't want to miss out on the morning drive at Thanda or the afternoon drive at Rhino (and they are 2h apart).
  2. Dear all, We will be leaving on a self drive trip to kwazulu natal's elephant coast mid september and I was hoping to get a few tips from those of you who have visited the area before. To my surprise there is relatively little written on the area. Our lodges are booked, so our itinerary is set, but there are a few days where I'm not quite sure what to focus on. Any advice would be most welcome! I think our resident expert would be @Bugs, but I also saw a report by @pedro maia, by @Game Warden, I think @COSMIC RHINO planned a trip (but not sure if that took place?), and by @Uh_oh busted First for what is set: - arrival and overnight in Balito - 2 nights Hluhluwe river lodge - 2 nights Utshwayelo kosi mouth lodge/camp - 2n royal thonga lodge (tembe elephant park) - 4n thanda tented camp - 2n rhino rhidge safari lodge On day one (after our overnight in balito and going to Hluhluwe river lodge) I am a bit torn between the following alternatives: 1) Isimangaliso organised tour (pretty much a drive up to cape vidal along the scenic park roads with snorkling and a braai) - full day (until 4pm) 2) Isimangaliso organised tour but the short version (until 2pm) and then followed by a sunset boat tour on the lake (I am a sucker for sunset photography) 3) Self drive Isimangaliso and then followed by a sunset boat tour on the lake (I am a sucker for sunset photography) 4) whale watching from richard's bay and then on to isimangaliso self drive (I prefer the option from richard's bay because it's not a surf launch - I get terribly sick on a bouncy boat). 5) whale watching from richard's bay and then on to Hluhluwe imfolozi Things to keep in mind: we will need to drive up from balito which is about 2h from St lucia if I can believe google maps. We will also need to drive to Hluhluwe river lodge at the end of the day which is about 1h from St lucia and 30min from Hlhuhluwe NP memorial gate. Sunset is around 6pm. I don't know how comfortable you would be to drive in the dark in this area? (safety wise) I am not really concerned about the different price points of some of these alternatives, the best experience will get preference. Day two I plan a full day self drive into H-I to the imfolozi side (sontuli loop, etc). Is this doable time wise? Knowing we have to go in and out at memorial gate? It seems to me that with 12 hours that should be doable (though tiresome) Day three I am considering a guided 6h drive in the park, followed by a lunch and souvenir stop at Ilala weavers. Then on to Kosi mouth. I had considered a stop at Sodwana bay for this day but I am not a scuba diver so I came to the conclusion that some more time in H-I would be a better plan. Or are there any alternatives? From Hluhluwe river lodge to Utshwayelo lodge is about 2h15 according to google maps (via R22). I have read on the 4x4 community website that the area around Sibaya lake is better avoided and that one should be very careful when visiting the seclduded beaches around this stretch by yourself because there have been very many car jackings (these posts were recent). Now we don't have a 4x4, just an SUV but I don't really want to tempt my luck. So suggestions for this day or general advice on the area are most welcome! Day four will be our full day in kosi bay/kosi mouth so we will do the typical activities around here (snorkeling, canoeing, 3 lakes boat tour, etc). Day five we will continue the activities in kosi bay. From there we will continue on to Tembe elephant park where we will be staying at Royal thonga lodge. This lodge only offers morning game drives included. For a very small extra fee one can have a second drive, but for some reason this drive leaves at 2pm already so I don’t think this would be an option for this day. I think we would focus on a bit of relaxing around the beach/the lakes. Day six we would have a full day at Royal thonga and I booked the second game drive. If I’m not mistaken @stokeygirl would be the resident expert on Tembe As of day seven we would be in the traditional safari camps, first 4n in Thanda and then 2n in Rhino ridge lodge (Hluhluwe Imfolozi again) so activities are obvious: morning and evening game drive. Any and all tips and advice is most appreciated!
  3. For those of you who still followed this report or the new people planning a trip, I have finally thrown our video's together (couldn't call that editing ). You will find them here:
  4. No, we weren't told about the pax to a car but I did expect it to a certain extent @@amybatt. We definitely knew they didn't have a max 6 to a car policy. And it was all fine in the end with the nice group. But I do prefer to be with max 6 ;-) And you can also just be lucky that the camp isn't very full, but both AoF and Nthambo were full full when we were there (and I honestly don't think that it actually happens very often that a camp is at capacity - we have never had that before). Yes indeed @@Csaba, copied from an e-mail to the family, must be it! Thanks a lot @@Hads, more to come!
  5. I also noticed the font is super small @@xelas! I don't know how that happened. And I'm out of the editing window now.
  6. As I mentioned before, we really loved our stay at both camps, and we felt extremely happy with our experience. Of course you do have to keep in mind that these lodges are not marketed as and do not purport to be 5 star lodges. And this is not what we are looking for so we really don't mind. But I want to be completely frank and upfront with you guys, so I do have just a tiny few pieces of, I won't even say criticism, but lets call it useful bits of information (because you can't expect certain things when you pay so much less, just keep that in mind). One thing I did initially have an issue with was that at both camps at pretty much all times the cars were filled up to 12 people: 10 guests, a guide driver and a tracker. That really is filling them to the utter brim (including a guest next to the driver guide). Especially at Nthambo I did feel that was pushing things given how that camp is marketed. I know you can't expect a car to yourself, but this is the very first time ever for us on safari where a car was this packed up and I can't say I loved it. In their defence, the jeeps were very new (a few weeks old) and comfortable with your own cup seat (as opposed to 1 bench) so that did add to the comfort. And we always somehow had a really nice group so it really wasn't any bother, but I could see it going wrong when you don't only have easy going people (though in all fairness, these types of camps seem to attract easy going youngsters who really don't complain and who are very unfussy as to the seating arrangements - and just to be clear, i mean that in a very positive way! ) Also, I personally really disliked the continuous smoking by the guides. Every stop they would light up. It just didn't sit right given the setting. And they would also leave their buds in the bush. I can imagine it's biodegradable but still. I can imagine this not bothering others though, I just thought it felt off. We at times did feel that the sightings were a bit rushed. A lot of the camps share traverse (which is great because you don't have to worry that the animals have crossed over into the neighbouring property and you just missed it!) and there is a 2 car policy (also great!), but that did mean at times we could only stay with a sighting for about 5-10min. And if you love photography, it takes a while to set up a great shot so it was difficult and there was no more chance to also enjoy the moment for a bit. Though when we were lucky to be first "on scene" then we could stay a longer time (like with the buffalo-lion experience! ). At AOF we were a tiny bit surprised no one ever walked us to or from our rooms when it was dark, after we had just had a safety briefing from Jen (the manager) never to walk alone in the dark. I never felt unsafe at AOF due to the build of the camp (everything is really very close together - before referred to as slightly cramped), but it was a bit strange to first be told the one thing but then it was never actually done. I could imagine first time safari goers being anxious about this. We didn't really mind, we were just a bit surprised (and I think aside from our rondavel, which was the most remote, it really doesn't matter). Both Jen (manager at AoF) and Nadia (Nthambo) were great! Nadia was more present around camp, but I couldn't fault Jen for anything. I would say Nadia made a bigger effort, but then again, that makes sense, Nthambo being the more upscale option. Oh and as a totally off topic bit, if you wanted to get yourself a little souvenir, or if you needed something for someone else, I loved both their caps! They are good quality, not expensive and really nice looking! I had actually met someone in Zambia wearing an AoF cap (which is how we got to talking about the camp and how I got to booking it for this trip) so I knew I wanted one and I love it! As does the husband because in Nthambo he decided he wanted one too They look great, they are not overly expensive (around 11 euro) and are a nice memento. I'm mentioning it because at the end of our trip (when we usually start thinking of souvenirs...) I was really sad I hadn't gotten one for my dad and my brother in law (they both dog sit when we are away; and especially my dad wears caps all the time!).
  7. Next up was Nthambo! Nthambo was in terms of luxury of the rooms and common areas and especially view (of the pool and the room) a much bigger step up from AOF than I had expected from the price difference. The rooms really are as gorgeous as they look on the pictures! As are the common areas! Anywhere else in africa this camp would cost 5 times as much in terms of looks! We were of the opinion it was definitely worth it. As I said above, AOF won out on the food, but in terms of the camp it was no contest. Though in terms of sightings, they share traverse, so they are pretty much the same. Except for the fact of course that you walk in the morning at AoF, sorry, rather a big point that I missed to mention! They do offer flexibility though, if you prefer to drive they will accommodate. Or they will drive in part - to a spot or some area - from which you can walk. Unfortunately they might also not be able to walk even if you want to if the weather is unfavourable (like our first morning after the big thunder storm when there was still too much wind). At Nthambo we had an amazing lion encounter. We knew that the male lone lion Duma was in the area because we had all seen him the day before, but on our way to finding him we came across a huge herd of buffalo. And I'm not all that big of a fan of buffalo, they're mean looking (and grumpy). But when they are in a huge herd like that, you cannot but be awed and respect them and it was an amazing sight to behold, just at sunrise. So instead of going out to find Duma immediately, we stayed with the herd for the better first half of an hour. There was an adorable youngster among them, still wobbly on it's legs. At some point our guide did ask whether we were happy and suggested we go look for Duma. He turned to us in the vehicle when he said that and he sort of stopped midway: "well, I guess we found him". And we all looked back at the same time and saw Duma's head peeking out of the grass - who by the way is the most gorgeous male lion I have ever seen. We were all stunned to silence. All of us had been so focused on the buffalo herd in front of us for half an hour and not one of us had realised there was this lion sitting about 10 meters from our vehicle!!! But he had seen the little youngster just as we had. And though we weren't lucky enough to see him make an attempt, we did get to see him get up in all his glory and slowly stalk forward. There is nothing as awe inspiring in life as watching a lion in his prime stalking a prey. He resonated power. And that look in his made me double check that my legs and arms were at all time well in the vehicle ​At both camps we had amazing sightings. We saw everything and more: lions, leopards (in a tree! my 1 wish for this trip), wild dogs (twice! ok maybe that was my second wish for this trip ! ) , rhino (they even joined us for sundowners!), big herds of buffalo's, lots of general game, etc So as you can imagine we left both camps after 4 nights as very happy guests! I will post pictures soon!
  8. Hello again everyone, We just returned from our last safari, and though it is not on par with many many many reports I get to read here, I nonetheless wanted to post this (semi) trip report and give a bit of background/feedback on the most affordable Kruger private game reserve camps out there. I think most of you will agree that if you are on a budget, your best bet for safari is South Africa. The exchange rate is still very favourable to our EUR/USD/GBP and aside from that it is simply a much more affordable safari destination than most others. So for exactly that reason we decided to return to SA. In terms of private game reserves near Kruger you can not go cheaper than Shindzela and Africa on foot (if anyone disagrees please please let me know because I would be very interested to know!). I hate to throw numbers around in these public reports but if anyone is interested, feel free to send me a PM and I will be happy to share our quote (all these camps also publicise their rack rates online, by the way, so very easy to check!). So first things first, our itinerary: March 5-7: Africa on foot (AoF) March 7-9: Nthambo tree camp (Nthambo) March 9-14: Shindzela March 14-18: Umembeza We went in green season and we did very much feel the difference. So I won't go into a day by day trip report, but I will give you guys a review of all the lodges and will then post a gallery of pictures per lodge. To let you in on a public secret, we loved all the camps and lodges ! Before we left we had sent some friends of ours to AoF for 1n based on our research. And after their return they let us know they actually really didn't like the place So I slightly panicked! And so we asked if we could change our booking a bit, since at that time we had booked 3n in AoF and 1n in Nthambo (just because AoF couldn't accommodate the last night - we hadn't planned to go to Nthambo since there was a bit of a price difference). We had booked with sun safaris in SA (they partly own AoF and Nthambo) and we had already fully paid up our trip so I was a bit worried asking them, but they were really very flexible and had no problem accommodating my request to change our booking to 2-2 with 1n in the AoF tree house (that was only the first time of two where they proved to be really flexible and accommodating). Were our worries about AoF founded? No. Absolutely not, we loved AoF. Was Nthambo maybe better? Yes, in terms of accommodation it was no doubt better. It also cost more, so what do you expect ;-) ​But lets go step by step. The rooms at AOF were indeed a bit rustic, and the setting of the camp is slightly cramped (not any view from anywhere - especially the view from the pool is rather poor, you look right onto a water tower). Two of the rooms look out onto the car park, so not ideal if you are expecting something of a view, but please do check and keep in mind their rates, you will see that they are amazingly good value for money and so the expectations should be set accordingly The tree house on the other hand has an amazing view over the area and is accessible to anyone during the day. Loved that view! We had booked in advance to spend the night in there and I highly recommend it! Remember to book or you will most likely miss out (it's very popular!) Unfortunately we seem to be slightly unlucky with our tree house experiences because it was our second one and for two times in a row we got a thunderstorm overnight! (and both times it was the only storm we experienced on the whole trip). I have to admit I'm a complete chicken shit and especially this time I was quite afraid. The storm was really on top of us, the lighting was all around us, the thunder super loud, I cowered under the sheets Was that necessary? Of course not You have a horn to sound in case you want them to come and get you and they say in advance that they will come and get you if it gets to be too bad (though I wouldn't trust that too much, the idea of what experienced rangers consider to be too bad and what us wussies though is really not the same ;-) ) Did we see anything? No, because as I said I was too busy cowering under the sheets! But I'm sure there is that potential! also important to note is that it is super close to the camp itself (2min walk) and that you are not missing out on any of the game drive, you are just accompanied there by your guide after dinner. ​Should you go to AoF? Yes! Should you stay in the tree house? Absolutely yes!!! The meals, the meals were divine! We had the best dinners at AOF! And we loved the breakfast and the lunches were also great. AOF gets the top marks on the food. Sightings? Amazing! I will add pictures in separate posts below, so you can judge for yourselves (you'll just need to be a bit patient ;-) ). But I can tell you already about my favourite sighting because unfortunately, my camera was not up to the nighttime task :-( My favourite sighting at AOF was of a female leopard at night after dinner! We had asked Greg, the guide on dinner duty, to mimic a few animal calls before dinner and one of them was that of a leopard. We had just finished dinner and were all about ready to retire when we heard exactly the leopard sound right next to us. It was so close, we all got goosebumps. There was no hesitation, no questions asked, all 10 of us around the dinner table got up at the same time and ran to the vehicle! I absolutely looooooooved that! It was late (9h30ish... so in safari terms very late ) but we were all super excited and high on adrenaline. So off we went! And there she was, just a couple of meters out of camp, calling for her cubs and posing on a small termite mound for us. And we got to stay with her and follow her for quite a while, just us. We were all in awe This was an amazing experience! And I must say I greatly appreciated that Greg immediately said: "let's go!", there was no question in his mind that we would get into the vehicle and have a try at finding that leopard. He could have reacted to the leopard call very differently, and even though his job for the day had been over, he took us all out with great enthusiasm! That is what I am looking for in a camp, not the xx thread cotton sheets, the copper fittings and the 7 course meals, I want to hear a leopard at dinner and be invited immediately to go find it! This was an experience that we will remember forever!
  9. Great luck with the dogs @@deano! Dogs and leopards make my day Please forgive my ignorance, but might I just ask why the buffs are still in such a bad state when the bush looks so green and there seems to be grazing aplenty? Is it that the bush only just started to turn green and they haven't bounced back from the incredible (long lasting) drought? The skinny and weak animals are a sad sight. But the dogs and leopard(s) are certainly not!
  10. And the fun continues! You have to agree with me though @@deano that this is rather epic leopard footage/sighting !
  11. This just made my day: the return of @@deano's epic video's! I'm so excited, watching them all at once, but will have a better look from home tonight Madikwe looks like a great reserve! It surely seemed to deliver for you, wonderful sightings!
  12. A helicopter ride over the bush! That should be magical
  13. Your comment made me laugh @optig Indeed, a husband and a mortgage make holiday planning harder! (kids in the future). How are you experiencing living in Nairobi if you don't mind my asking? Kenya is very high on my wish list to visit but DH (and his family ) are opposed.
  14. I wish I could go on 3 safaris a year, I'll have to settle for 2 My other half also likes safaris but he has a very stresfull job and unfortunately the day planning of a safari does not include a lot of sleeping. There's that and there's of course the budget. So our next safari will be a return to Kruger upcoming March, more specifically to the Klaserie and Timbavati reserve. This is a very budget friendly safari! And for our fall trip (sept) I had thought of going to Namibia, but what I didn't know is that 9 months in advance, Namibia is already all booked out! It's extremely popular at the moment I am told. So I am now looking at the Kwazulu natal area of SA. This also seems to be a very good value for money destination, though I am not sure of the safari quality. Some of the reserves are small. But I like the thought behind Tembe, I love the tranquil look and feel of Kosi Bay and I'm sure there will be enough to see around Hluluwe-Imfolozi, it's huge. I would also love to add Thanda reserve as the "splurge" part - very close to Phinda, but the latter is out of my price range Where are your trips headed @@optig? You have one to SNLP and the 4 others?

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