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The Travel Butlers Blog

A Mothers Love

TraceyCampbell - October 21, 2013

I watched Marley and Me last night (again), and unashamedly sobbed my heart out (again). Even my husband had a little tear in his eye.

It got me thinking about just how strong the bond is between a pet and their owner, and then that led me onto how strong the bond is between a parent and a child.  Even in the animal world, the bond is strong between a mother and their young.  True, there are some animals who just abandon their young as soon as they are born, but these species are few and far between.

We witnessed a great display of motherly love a few year ago whilst on safari in Sabi Sand, when a pride of 12  lion took down a young buffalo, and the mother came back to defend it.  Single handedly she fought the lions off her baby, and then when the rest of the herd saw that she was putting up such a fight, they all came back too.  12 lion versus 150 buffalo – not surprisingly, the buffalo won the battle, and the lions were chased off into the bush to recover.  And boy, did the 4 of us in our game vehicle cheer and clap when we saw the baby buffalo shakily get up and follow his mother closely as she led him away.  Getting all misty eyed again now just remembering it…

So just to round off this short blog, I did a quick trawl of some of my favourite images of mother/young love.  I hope you like them as much as I do.

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Which Camp to Book in Kruger at Easter?

TraceyCampbell - October 18, 2013

Thoughts are turning to the Easter holidays now, and a recent question on Trip Advisor was about the best camp/area to book in the Kruger Park over this period.

Wishful thinking, to be honest.  As much as I would love to wax lyrical about the best areas and best camps, in all honesty, over the Easter period, whatever you do will be dictated by the availability at the rest camps. Easter is a really popular time, with both locals and international visitors, so our advice to anyone thinking of doing a self-drive safari in the Kruger Park over this period is please – do try to sort something out sooner rather than later!

Skukuza or Satara may be the best camps to start with, as they are the larger rest camps so they basically have more rooms to book out.

Having said that, Berg-en-Dahl normally has availability because it is one of the furthest camps south – I have stayed there, and as long as you don’t expect to see much game in the immediate vacinity of the camp, and you are prepared to drive a few hours to get to the more game-rich areas of the Park around Lower Sabie, Skukuza and northwards, then this is a perfectly feasible place to base yourself if everywhere else is full. Ditto with Pretoriuskop – it also too generally has availability because of its location.

Alternatively, if you cant get any availability in the Park, you could look at staying outside the Park at one of the excellent guest houses in Hazyview – our personal favourites are Rissington Inn or Jackalberry Farm and Lodge.   If you asked them to pack you up a breakfast, you could be at the Phabeni Gate for when it opens or even the Paul Kruger Gate if you were happy with a really early start (in April the gates open at 6 am). Just a thought! You wouldn’t really be missing out on any game viewing time and the room would certainly be ‘nicer’!

Frequently Asked Questions – Is It Safe?

TraceyCampbell - October 17, 2013

If I had a pound for every time we were asked this, or indeed for every time this question pops up on the Trip Advisor South Africa forum, I would not be sitting here typing my travel blog, I would have taken early retirement and be living it up on my private island in the Caribbean!

Seriously, however, we do appreciate that safety is everyone’s main concern, wherever you travel to on holiday. Nobody wants to spend their much needed break constantly feeling they have to watch their backs!

We have literally just been asked this question only this morning, by a client who is about to book a 10 night self-drive trip in South Africa, starting in Cape Town and going along the Garden Route, and ending with a safari in the Eastern Cape – which has prompted me to write this quick blog.

The simple answer to the question is yes, it is safe!

This route is probably THE most popular tourist route in South Africa, and we at Travel Butlers literally send hundreds of people along this route every year.  The main road right along the route is the N2, which is a good highway – well maintained, straight and always busy.  I have driven this road and route on my own (as a female) many times, and I have driven it with just my mother, and also with just my husband, and have never had any problems whatsoever.

There are just a few sensible rules to follow when driving in South Africa, which I would say to everyone:

Don’t stop to pick up hitchhikers, however lost and sweet they may look – but then again, I would advise this to anyone driving in the UK, New Zealand or Spain and France too – anywhere actually!

Don’t drive after dark – not because of any hidden dangers lurking in the night, but purely because livestock such as cows are generally not fenced in very well, and there is nothing more scary than bombing along a road and suddenly a cow steps out in front of you.  It may make a bit of a mess of your front bumper…not to mention the rest of your car.

Don’t speed – there are hidden speed cameras plus the police have a sneaky habit of hiding in ditches and pointing speed guns at cars – a speeding fine is an extra cost that you can do without.

And finally, when you get to your destination, always take the advice of your hotel/guest house hosts about where to go in the evenings, and whether you should take a taxi to the restaurant or whether it is OK to walk – and if they say take a taxi, ask them to book the taxi for you there and back, as they will know the reliable taxi people to use.


Fenced or Not Fenced – that is the question

TraceyCampbell - October 16, 2013

A very common phrase that you will see when you are searching for your South African safari is the term ‘fenced reserve’.

But what exactly does this mean? For those not in the travel industry, it may seem like an extra word that has just been added to the description of the reserve, to fill out the page.  Surely everywhere has to have a fence somewhere?

Technically, yes, in South Africa every game reserve or National Park does have a fence, even Kruger and it’s neighbouring private reserves.  Somewhere along the border, there will be a fenceline that will act as a deterent to the wildlife, to stop them leaving the safe sanctuary of the reserve/Park and wandering off to visit local villages.

However, in Kruger, you are talking of an area that covers over 2 million hectares (for those reading this in the UK that is about the size of Wales (minus the sheep); for those in the States this is somewhere between the size of Conneticut and New Jersey; and for those in the rest of Europe, it is about the size of Slovenia).  So the chances of spending your entire game drive looking at a fence is fairly low, as with so much land to cover why would you?

Fenced reserves is a term therefore that is used for smaller reserves, and that is where it does actually have some significance.

For example, in the Eastern Cape, all the reserves are fenced, and in the Kruger area, you have a couple of fenced reserves, such as Kapama and Thornybush.  This is because these reserves are all independently owned, so therefore the owners have to firstly differentiate their land from their neighbours, but more importantly, they have to keep their wildlife on their land too!  As a land/reserve owner, you certainly do not want your larger game such as elephant, rhino or lions wandering off to visit another reserve, so that your guests who pay to stay at your reserve don’t get to see them!  How annoying would that be!  Equally, you don’t want your pride of lions deciding to go for a wander through the local village!

Fenced reserves tend to range vastly in size – anything from 1,500 hectares up to 25,000 hectares and upwards.  Obviously, the larger the reserve, the more wildlife the area can sustain, but this will be reflected in the rates charged.

Larger reserves can also play ‘home’ to more predators, as they equally have the space to keep the plains game and buffalo that the predators will naturally hunt for food.  Get the balance between predators and their ‘food’ incorrect and you will have a reserve full of hungry lions and no buffalo!

I have spent many a happy game drive in a fenced reserve, and to be honest, I have had some wonderful game drives and game viewing experiences.  As long as you go to a fenced reserve knowing that you will not see a herd of a million wildebeest wandering across in front of your game vehicle, or expect to see 20 different prides of lions, then there really is no reason not to have a great safari experience in a fenced reserve.

Lusaka is still accessible!

TraceyCampbell - October 7, 2013

British Airways recently announced that they were stopping their direct London Heathrow to Lusaka, Zambia flight – the last flight departs Heathrow on the 25 October. However, this should not deter people from considering going to Zambia for their safari holiday, as you are missing out on a wonderful wildlife experience.  Not to mention the spectacular scenery, the opportunity to top or tail your trip to Victoria Falls, one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and for the more adventurous, the chance to do a 3-4 night walking safari into the bush, sleeping out under canvas with just the sounds of the wild to lull you to sleep.

You can still fly with BA or South African Airways direct to Johannesburg overnight, and then connect with a morning flight from Johannesburg onto Lusaka with South African Airlines, which is just 2 hours.  Currently, the flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka departs at 1030, and lands at 1230.

Otherwise, you can also consider flying with Emirates via Dubai and then onto Lusaka, or Kenya Airways via Nairobi and onto Lusaka.

KLM also offer a flight schedule via Amsterdam and Harare.