Welcome to the Turquoise Travel Diaries, a collection of interviews, stories and excerpts from our fabulous team, as they travel around the world. Here at Turquoise we pride ourselves on unrivalled knowledge of the destinations in which we specialise, so that we can provide honest, expert advice to all our guests and fellow travellers. This week, our interview is with Lara, who is one of our Africa specialists and wildlife enthusiasts. Lara has just returned from a Turquoise research trip where she was lucky enough to stay at one of our favourite luxury camps in South Africa– Sanctuary Makanyane.
- If you could describe the experience and style of Sanctuary Makanyane in three words what would they be? Welcoming. Magical. Indulgent.
- Could you tell us about the logistics of getting there and how many nights you would recommend staying there? It is possible to drive in an out of camp from Johannesburg in a luxury private vehicle, and the drive takes around 4 hours when there is no traffic. Don’t forget, you can also reach the Madikwe from the Sabi Sands Game Reserve as well should you want to combine two safari camps! (Chitwa Chitwa or Garonga could make a great twin centre if you’re real safari enthusiasts). To really make the most of Makanyane’s wonderful location, I would recommend a 4 night stay ideally. 3 would be an absolute minimum! You can reach Makanyane by taking a light aircraft from Johannesburg – flights leave around lunchtime in both directions, and it really is the best way to travel with the journey only being an hour long. You can relax at the start in a comfy lounge in Johannesburg with big sofas, free wifi and really good complimentary snacks and beverages. There is also a little shop there should you have forgotten your hat on the way out, or if you fancy picking up a luxury momento on your way home.
- What is the game viewing experience like in the Madikwe, would you recommend it for first time safari-goers? The Madikwe is a malaria free reserve offering the chance to see the Big 5. The huge number of different wildlife is breath-taking: elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, buffalos, lions and wildebeest. They even have a pack of wild dogs, which are becoming more and more difficult to find in other parks. Because of the huge amount of game, and diverse landscape, Madikwe suits experienced safari goers just as much as first-timers.
- What would you say are the top five things to pack when going on safari in South Africa? A camera with an extra SD card – you will be taking hundreds of photos! Layers – wrap up warm in the mornings, but be prepared for it to be hot by the time you get back to camp. If you can strip off as you go, you will be far more comfortable… and vice versa on the afternoon drives!
Sunglasses – with the vehicles being totally open, and the strong African sun, you need to protect your eyes.
A warm jacket or fleece – even in the height of summer you will feel a chill in the mornings.
Sunscreen – Makanyane vehicles are fully open, so you are in the sun all day.
- What is the accommodation like at Sanctuary Makanyane, how many rooms are there and are there any fun features you particularly loved? There are 8 large suites at Makanyane, all stretched along the riverside. The log burners are perfect for cooler winter nights, whilst the large deck outside is a peaceful spot for enjoying a glass of wine on sunny afternoons. Enjoy a relaxing bath in the freestanding, roll top tub – surround yourselves with candles, and enjoy the luxury amenities after a long day of adventure.
- Is it possible to see animals from the lodge/your room? What did you see and is it safe to walk around on your own? During the day it is totally safe to walk around the paths of camp. You may see monkeys in the trees, incredible birdlife, and even water monitor lizards! The camp is open and wildlife can come in and out, so in the evenings, you will be guided back to your room.
- How do the game drives work at Sanctuary Makanyane? Are you in a private vehicle? How many times of day can you go out? Vehicles are shared at Makanyane, so you may find yourselves with one or two other couples. The vehicles are very comfortable, with warm fleece ponchos should you need them. Private drives are possible, but half of the fun is sharing your experiences, and getting to know the other guests in camp. You will get two drives a day, one first thing in the morning, and one in the afternoon.
- What is the food like at Makanyane? Did you enjoy any meals or drinks out in the bush? Dining in camp is incredible, with so much variety. In the morning you will be able to enjoy a light bite of toast, cereal or homemade muffins before heading out on your drive. When you return, brunch is served… all I can say is wow. As well as the traditional breakfast dishes of eggs, bacon etc, you will also be able to enjoy salads, quiches, grilled meats, cheeses and more! After some time relaxing by the pool or on the deck of your room, head to afternoon tea. Both savoury and sweet treats will be waiting for you, as well as iced coffee, tea and juices. At this point you will also be asked to place your order for dinner – there are a couple of choices for both starters and main courses, followed by an option for dessert. Expect lots of local meat options such as ostrich and springbok! Drinks are served out in the bush at sunset. Make sure your consultant knows about any dietary requirements well in advance… once you’re in camp, it could be quite difficult for the team to meet these specifics without pre-warning.
- Are there any excursions or activities aside from the game drives that you would recommend to those visiting Makanyane? As well as the two daily game drives, guests can enjoy a local village tour, walking safaris, or a half day tour of Gaberone. Why not also sleep out in the Hide one night? A three-level tower with a bathroom area, living space and rooftop bedroom. Fall asleep looking at the stars, and enjoy all the night-time sounds of the bush.
- Finally, do you think Sanctuary Makanyane is more suited to couples, or families, or both? Makanyane is perfect for couples looking for a magical experience in South Africa. Families are certainly welcome too when the children are aged 12 or older, and you can all really make the most of the wonderful wildlife that South Africa has to offer.