The daylight is fading; the faint orange moon is shining sulkily. In the gloom of the evening our guide shines a red light searching for something, something not promised but wildly anticipated. “To the left”: whispers our fellow game drive companion. Creeping slowly across the savannah three majestic lionesses appear, oblivious of our quiet excitement.
Our safari is a sensory feast, with the heat, smells and sighting of the day and a wonderful climax to our South African adventure.
South Africa excites like nowhere else. Our adventure starts with the exciting cosmopolitan ‘Mother City’ of Cape Town with its backdrop of lofty Table Mountain and beautiful tablecloth of fleecy clouds. We head for the famous wine regions Stellenbosch and the Robertson Valley. Both famous for the quality of their wines and the gastronomic delights served in Dutch gabled houses. The mountains and vineyards are a delightful setting.
Travelling along Route 62 unspooling across the heart of Klein Karoo (Little Karoo) rising and falling through river-threaded valleys and dramatic mountains. This is home to dust-bowl towns, sheep farms and unpretentious places where Afrikaans is spoken more readily than English. Here is Oudtshoorn, ostrich farming country, capital of the big eyed, long legged birds. This peaceful bushland, is also the home of the much-loved creatures, the meerkat.
There is something magical about watching a meerkat greet a new day amongst the Karoo shrubs. As the sun warms the burrow a solitary meerkat pops up – the sentinel. She faces the sun, arms at her side, absorbing heat through her ‘solar panel’ – the dark patch on her belly. We see her head swivelling, her dark eyes moving ceaselessly back and forth. She is studying us, then the surrounding bush, then she gazes at the skies, on the lookout for those most-feared foes – birds of prey. Then, one at a time, the others join her, and I hear a quiet, regular chirrup, reassuring them that all is well and the day begins.
The R62 flattens out; sand and scrub roll to the horizon, and the forests. After 50 miles the road follows the coast with the crashing waves of Plattenberg Bay on the Garden Route. Here we stay in a fabulous tree house at Tsala Lodge amongst the forest and mischievous monkeys, before heading to Amakala Safari Lodge in the Eastern Cape Reserve.
South Africa is a fabulous, exciting holiday destination with such a variety of experiences on offer. It was such good value and we were made to feel like royalty by the hotels and game lodges where we stayed. We felt quite the African queen without, sadly, Humphrey Bogart.
The holiday was organised through www.trailfinders.com