20 Nov 2014 Top ten things to consider when selecting a safari lodge
1. Is the safari vehicle comfortable?
On a safari holiday you will spend a large proportion of your time on a vehicle looking for animals, so one of the most important aspects to consider is the quality/ fittings of the game viewing vehicle. Camp Jabulani’s vehicles have canopies, giving guests protection from the sun and rain. The canopies are made of canvas, a very strong material which makes it possible to go off-road to track animals when required. The vehicle is open on the sides, and therefore perfect for excellent close contact photography.
2. How many people will there be on the vehicle?
You will enjoy better photographic opportunities if you have a clear view of the animals. Although our vehicles can carry up to 9 guests, we usually only carry a maximum of 6 (and very often less). The whole experience is much more rewarding if you are not sitting in a crammed space for 2 to 4 hours at a time
3. Is there flexibility concerning game drive times/ National Park vs Private Game Reserve?
Generally, the larger safari lodges follow set itineraries for game drives and meals. This does make it harder to find time away from the ‘crowd’ and to share those intimate personal moments which are an integral part of a holiday. Smaller lodges such as Camp Jabulani are able to make sure that the rangers are always available to their guests as they please. For example, you can choose to go out either on an early morning game drive, or have breakfast first and then go out to look for animals. At Camp Jabulani there are many activities from which to choose, and some guests want to do as much as possible. But there are also guests who prefer to rest, and we accommodate both.
Furthermore, Kruger National Park is famous, but it is a national park so gets very busy with tourist traffic and there is no control over how many vehicles can be at a sighting. Unfortunately iphone apps showing the location of certain animals have only exacerbated the situation, making certain sections of the park extremely crowded. If you prefer an authentic safari experience then we suggest that one of the private reserves in the same region is a better bet.
4. Will the dining arrangements be to your taste?
The larger safari lodges generally offer a buffet dinner at set times, and often with all guests seated together, or with a prescribed ranger host. The smaller boutique lodges are more likely to offer private dining so that you can spend quality time with your loved ones, and have the option of being hosted by a member of staff should you so wish.
It is fun to choose a lodge that can offer different dining experiences in terms of locations (indoor/ outdoor), and also has flexibility with menus. At Camp Jabulani we try to offer guests the opportunity to experience some delicious local flavours and produce, alongside more familiar food for the less adventurous palate. Our chefs enjoy interacting with guests and are more than happy to cook according to special requirements or tastes. Cooking lessons and demonstrations can be arranged for the culinary enthusiasts.
5. Look for unique experiences.
There are many safari lodges and it can be confusing to decide between them, so look for unique experiences. Elephant interactions and safaris (for an hour in the morning and an hour in the late afternoon/ evening) separates Camp Jabulani from any other camp in South Africa. It is one of only two camps in Africa that offers elephant back safaris (not to be confused with elephant back rides). Camp Jabulani is also the only camp in the world where one can do evening elephant back safaris. Guests can also enjoy the opportunity to ‘put the elephants to bed’ during a stable tour after the evening elephant back safari. A highlight for many of Camp Jabulani’s guests is a visit to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, where they have the opportunity to interact with a cheetah.
6. What about the rooms?
We would highly recommend that you select rooms with air conditioning, mosquito nets on the beds and mosquito net screens on the windows so that you can enjoy a cool breeze without the bugs. A private plunge pool is a delightful addition to enjoy during the afternoon ‘siesta-time’ between lunch and the afternoon game drive.
7. Is the lodge easy to get to?
South Africa is a huge country, and distances can be deceiving. Look for a lodge with good airline connections to international airports in Johannesburg and Cape Town to ensure that you spend more time viewing animals and less time on the road. We are blessed to have Hoedspruit Airport (Eastgate) right across the road from the northern entrance of the Kapama Private Game Reserve, so our guests’ safari experience starts from the very minute that they land.
8. What else is there to do?
Rather than wasting your precious holiday time travelling between different lodges and venues, it is better to base yourself longer at one lodge where there are plenty of sights and activities to enjoy over and above the all-important game viewing. This way you can unpack and really unwind without having to worry about the next day’s travel plans.
Camp Jabulani is very central to other attractions, one of the more popular being balloon rides where guests can view the Drakensberg Mountains from a different perspectsive. There are also activities such as boat trips on the Blyde River Dam, panoramic tours through the Blyde River Canyon (the third largest canyon in the world, with magnificent waterfalls and exceptional views), and rounds of golf on some beautiful courses.
9. Does the lodge participate in sustainable tourism?
Look for lodges that proactively contribute to the local communities and wildlife. The owner of Camp Jabulani, Lente Roode, created the camp for the caretaking of orphaned elephants. She is also the owner of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which specialises in the breeding of endangered animal species, the adoption of orphaned animals and the translocation of wild animals to more suitable areas. All the funds gained through these activities go back into the environment to ensure that there will be a natural world which future generations can also enjoy.
10. What lodges are other people recommending?
Online review sites such as Trip Advisor can help to provide a traveller’s eye-view of the lodge. Previous guests’ complaints and compliments can be most enlightening. Over and above the comments, you can also check to see how the lodges rank in many other areas, such as cleanliness, value for money and sleep quality. The quality of service can make or break your stay, so take a look to see whether the lodge management are actively responding to online reviews as this is a good sign that they are engaged and interested in their guests’ experience. You can also look for recognised accreditations such as a TGCSA grading and Relais & Chateaux membership for assurance of a high quality establishment.