Going on an African wildlife safari is something that I’ve been dreaming about for longer than I can remember. My mother grew up on the African continent, so I’ve been hearing tales of the wonders since I was a child and I’ve always longed to experience it for myself. But, the right opportunity or travel partner never seemed to come along. So, I decided to go on my own, which while not the economical choice, was immeasurably worth it!
I started in Cape Town, South Africa where some lovely friends offered to host me in the Mother City. From there, I flew to Hoedspruit, located deep in the African Bush where I had booked a 4-day all-inclusive safari at the Vuyani Safari Lodge. I could not have been happier with my choice, which was not made lightly. The research that went into choosing the right safari company was extensive and exhausting. But, what ultimately guided my final choice was (1) price, (2) location, and (3) size.
I wanted an intimate safari experience, but I also wanted to meet people since I was travelling alone. During my time at Vuyani, many parties came and went, but there was typically no more than 20 at a time, which is the perfect size for lively chats over our shared meals. I lucked out and arrived the same day as a lovely young couple from Norway. We became fast friends and spent the majority of our time together, to the point where people thought we actually came together. To my surprise, they also got engaged during the trip and just got married this past summer!
As a solo traveller, I also needed to be mindful of budget. I knew that going on a safari could be a once in a lifetime experience, so I didn’t necessarily want to cheap out, but I also knew that I’d be paying more for my experience. Vuyani really struck the balance of luxury and value – I felt pampered beyond compare, but still didn’t break the bank. From the moment I was picked up at the nearby airport to the moment I hugged the staff goodbye, I received world class service. Every time I left my room, someone was offering me a beverage or asking if I needed anything. They fed us extremely well with buffet breakfast and lunch and a 3-course dinner every night plus drinks/snacks in-room and in the lodge whenever we wanted. I also got to sleep in a bed surrounded by mosquito nets, which was always a fantasy of mine.
I also considered the type of experience I wanted and ultimately went with a small private game reserve. The benefits of this were that we had way more freedom with where our drivers could take us including getting out of the vehicle and “off-roading” in pursuit of hard to find animals. We also had the privacy to explore our reserve without other tourists. Some of the limitations of a smaller reserve meant that we typically saw smaller groups of animals (think 8 elephants instead of 50) and some animals (like buffalo) were not present at our reserve.
Now, I wasn’t fully prepared to sacrifice seeing the “Big 5” so I also chose a reserve that was conveniently located only a couple of hours from Kruger National Park. I was able to take a day trip there to see the buffalo and so much more. We had to leave at 3:30am to squeeze in the entire day trip, but it was well worth it. I was able to complete my Big 5 bingo by finally seeing the buffalo and also got to see a herd of elephants at the watering hole at the same time as hippos and crocodiles. Plus, we also got to see a giraffe and her newborn calf. With the combination of the day trip and my time at Vuyani, I had a perfect safari experience.
What does a typical day on safari look like?
- 5:00am – Wake up
- 5:15am – Coffee
- 5:30am – Morning Game Drive
- 8:30am – Breakfast
- 9:30am – Free-time (Nap / Pool-time)
- 1:30pm – Lunch
- 5:00pm – Afternoon Game Drive (with Sundowner or “Happy Hour” in the bush)
- 8:00pm – Dinner
- 9:30pm – Bedtime
Now you may be wondering if 4 days was long enough? And, I would say that yes, it was just enough. But, I also lucked out with perfect weather and was fortunate to see all the key animals early in my safari. It may be best to book a couple extra days (if you can) to ensure that you’re able to see everything you want. I certainly would have loved to stay longer if I had the time and budget to do so. I made new friends, lived the life of luxury, and had the most incredible wildlife experience of my life! This was by far the best travel activity that I’ve ever done.