EliteVoyage Travel Designer Adela Hübnerová reports on her first safari, in South Africa, for her mother’s 60th birthday.
What do you think about an African safari?
What scares you? What worries you? Exploring the African wilderness is not a normal holiday. Not with lions and elephants all around. It’s normal to have fears.
This was the first time on safari for Adela and her mother. So we asked about their feelings, before and after.
Common Perceptions of Africa
When I said Africa, some of my friends were scared for me. There is a negative perception because people don’t know Africa.
Many people are scared. They don’t know that everything works perfectly.
I didn’t know how game drives worked. Or what the all-inclusive concept means. Or what it feels like when you hear the animals from your tent.
Africa is not about beaches. It’s not like Maldives or Seychelles. It’s about exploring and experiencing.
South Africa Safari is a Relaxing Retreat
Everyone has a different perception of a retreat. Safari is a retreat. We didn’t expect this at all.
Everything is scheduled, so you can just turn off your brain. When you are doing activities you are also relaxing in nature.
But it’s not like there is nothing. You are in nature. There are animals everywhere.
For example we had a wake up call with coffee. Then a game drive. Stopped for breakfast somewhere beautiful. Returned to the lodge and relaxed. Had lunch. Did an afternoon activity.
I had no idea what we would see. I was relaxing and having an adventure at the same time.
The Knowledge & Professionalism of Drivers & Guides
After visiting Africa, Africa is still on top of my list. I was really amazed.
The game drives were incredible. Every single one was different. My highlight wasn’t any specific animal, rather drivers’ and guides’ knowledge.
You need somebody to explain what you are seeing and how the animals are behaving. You also need somebody to keep you safe.
We had one experience with a pride of lions, five of them staring at me, just as it was getting dark. I had a big adrenaline rush.
The animals always give an indication when they don’t like something, like a warning. They’re not as unpredictable as people. The guides could see these lions were stressed so we left.
A Different Approach to Providing Service
The service was better than anything I have experienced in Europe.
I’ve been working in hospitality all my adult life, like at the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental Prague. I can understand service from an employee and client perspective.
In Africa I could see that people really love their job. They want to create an interaction with guests. They provide service because they want to do it for you, not because they have to do it.
In Dubai you can find perfect service. In the USA you will have service with a smile. In Africa I experienced service with a personality.
I really got to know the personalities of the guides, drivers, waiters, butlers, guards, even the cleaners.
Such a High Level of Accommodation
I was amazed at how luxurious the lodges are.
People think Africa is dirty and poor, with nothing luxury. But these lodges in South Africa are spectacular in terms of service, design, amenities, space and of course, location in nature.
Let’s take food as an example. All safari camps and lodges have an all inclusive concept. It’s part of their culture that you, the guest, are never hungry.
But I usually skip one meal a day. Every day the chef came to see me, asking what he could make that I wanted to eat. It wasn’t like having a buffet, it was fine gastronomy made personally for us.
Jabulani & Rhino Sands
We stayed first at Jabulani. It’s a luxury lodge and the room was similar to having a beach villa in Southern Europe.
They have an elephant sanctuary and the game drives were really easy, as the animals were calm and close to each other. I think it’s perfect for a first-time safari.
I preferred our second stop, Rhino Sands. It’s a camp and we stayed in a tented suite. Even the lobby was a tent.
We heard some animal noises from the bathroom and my mother panicked a little. But the staff explained what to do and we had a walkie talkie to call them at any time.
Rhino Sands felt more in nature and we had more unique wildlife experiences.
My wildlife highlight was watching lions hunt. We saw how they hunted, how they ate their meal. It made me very emotional.
Getting Around Africa is Easy
Another surprise was the ease of getting around, especially between lodges.
The airports weren’t as crowded as in Europe and the service was excellent.
I’ve learnt that all across Africa there are good flight connections, either on scheduled flights between airports, scheduled safari flights between airstrips in the safari destinations, or air charters.
Getting around is not as difficult as people think. We also rented a car and it was very easy.
The Next Holiday in Africa
One thing people say about Africa is absolutely true. When you go on one safari you already want to go on a second safari.
I’m passing this excitement to my friends. When they see my photos on Instagram, then they know.
I haven’t decided exactly where to explore next.
Kenya is very interesting with its new camps and lodges. It’s in a different region, East Africa, and I can combine it with Rwanda for gorilla trekking.
My focus is on wildlife. Namibia looks amazing for nature, but in southern Africa I’m leaning towards a safari in Botswana.
When will you go on safari for the first time?