Ker & Downey Luxury Travel Expert Jamie Bell has been on many safaris throughout her years at Ker & Downey. She shares her latest trip and why she keeps going back with us below.
I never get tired of traveling to Africa, no matter how many times I’ve been. Each time I am excited to learn about new places and experience new things. My most recent trip to Africa was in September, and it marked my 16th time to travel there. This time, I returned to South Africa. My journey began in Cape Town, at the exciting new Silo Hotel – one of the most highly anticipated hotel openings of the year.
In Cape Town, I had a private Cape Point Tour. I was skeptical about hiking up to the lighthouse, but pushed myself, and was rewarded with the most magnificent view of the ocean. From that vantage point, I could even see a few whales in the distance. In the end, it was the scenery and not the hike, that truly took my breath away.
I spent my next night in Cape town at Ellerman House – a property I had heard so much about. It overlooks Bantry Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean views from my room were lovely. It has a reputation for its fine antiques and art collection, with a gallery collection of pieces from local South African artists and originals representing over a hundred years of South African culture. The gallery collection is rotated every season. If you love art, this is definitely a property you’ll want to spend some time in.
From Ellerman House, I traveled to the Winelands with a private guide, stopping along the way at Oldenburg, Delaire Graff, and Leeu Estate for some tastings. Beyond the excellent wines produced in the region, the countryside and vineyards are beautiful. While in the Winelands, I stayed one night at Leeu Estate and one night at La Residence, both located in Franschhoek, and idyllic town full of Cape Dutch architecture and centuries-old vineyards.
After taking in the best of the Cape’s wine country, it was time to head out to the bush for a safari. I started in the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve – a place whose beauty is hard to capture in words, where rugged mountain terrain gives way to grasslands. Elephants are not found on the reserve so you won’t be able to check the Big Five off of your list, but the game there is wonderful regardless; oryx, rhino, cheetah, lions, black-backed jackal, and even the elusive wild dog. Tswalu Kalahari is known for their meerkats. You can usually spot the fascinating little creatures scurrying around for insects, with one keeping watch. The notoriously hard to spot pangolin even makes its home here.
The most important element on any safari is the guide. They are the ones who will make your trip truly memorable with their knowledge of the fame and their stories of sightings shared around a meal. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve been on safari, I always learn something new and come to appreciate animals I may not have spent much time learning about.
The best example of that for me is birding. I would not call myself an avid birder, but through my guide, I really began to appreciate them and the intricacies that make each bird species unique. The fork-tailed drongo in the Kalahari, for example, is a master of deception. It can mimic the distress calls of other bird species, but also the alarms sounded by meerkats! They are fascinating. And some of the bird nests I saw were truly amazing.
Before this trip to Africa, I had never seen a Hartmann’s mountain zebra or known the difference between it and a plains zebra. I discovered that the Hartmann’s mountain zebra has a fold of skin (or dewlap) that hangs from their throat and its stripes do not wrap around the belly but stop above it. Without the help of a knowledgeable guide, I might never have known the difference or have been able to spot the different types of zebras myself. My favorite experience was to see a giraffe drinking from a waterhole. If you are a photographer, you are always searching for special moments to capture, and this is definitely one of those special moments in nature.
My safari continued in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve and Kruger National Park, staying at Singita Lebombo, Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp, and Singita Ebony, with my final night spent at Jabulani in the Kapama Private Game Reserve. Jabulani is an all-time favorite property of mine because of my love for elephants. At Jabulani, they have a resident herd of elephants with the opportunity to view them in close proximity, learn about their behavior and unique traits, all while the elephants are in their natural habitat. It’s a special experience. The camp itself is pretty incredible too.
The mix of locations on my trip – from the city of Cape Town to the different game reserves of South Africa – gave me a well-rounded safari experience. People often ask me how I can go on a safari so many times. But you never know what you are going to see. The adrenaline rush you get when an elephant comes within a foot of your vehicle, or a rhino walks right by your door – it’s always exciting and new.
Start planning your custom journey to South Africa today. Contact Jamie to get started.