Lions – on and off the pitch

September 2nd 2020  |   Unique Experiences, South Africa  |  by   Richard Smith
Lions – on and off the pitch

If you’re heading to South Africa for the British and Irish Lions tour next summer we’ve some great suggestions to make the most of your time in this spectacular country.  With good infrastructure and reliable internal and regional flights you’d be amazed by the variety we can weave into an itinerary around the matches themselves.

Cape region matches 

Let’s start with Cape Town which is brilliant for foodies, shoppers, wine lovers and anyone who enjoys city sophistication.  We can arrange restaurant reservations, wine tours, cultural tours and trips to the winelands.  One of the highlights this time of year is fabulous land-based whale watching as the Southern Right whales migrate from Antarctica to give birth to their young.  Meander down the coast and stay for a couple of days in Hermanus for exceptional viewing.  Birkenhead House is a luxury choice or head a little further down the coast to Grootbos for a safari-lodge-by-the-sea vibe.

Wonderful shore based whale watching from Grootbos Lodge

If a safari is on your list and you’d like to stay in the Cape region then look no further than Kwandwe – a tremendous private safari reserve with a remarkable variety of predators, the Big Five, and excellent general wildlie.  There’s good nocturnal viewing with regular sightings of aardwolf, aardvark and porcupine.   With five lodges to choose from there’s an option to suit all tastes.

Superb wildlife at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Durban region matches 

For anyone with time on their hands near Durban, Phinda is a good choice for safari.  Another private reserve, it’s unusual in the wealth of habitat it provides, with everything from open grass plains, wetlands, mountains, rivers, forests and pans.  It goes without saying that the wildlife is just as varied.  There are six lodges, all different in style and character, but each offering the same outstanding guiding and a good range of safari activities.

Lunch with a view at Phinda Vlei lodge

Moving away from safari, but also within reach of Durban, are the famous Anglo Zulu battlefields.  You don’t need to be a history buff to appreciate the moving stories told by the guides at Fugitive’s Drift.  Stay three nights and spend a day each at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana and you’ll leave inspired and humbled at the same time.

Battlefield stories brought to life at Rorke’s Drift

Johannseburg region matches

If Johannesburg is your main hub your options are endless.  With regional flights to Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and the Victoria Falls you are only an hour or two away from some of Africa’s most fabled safari destinations.  Combining world class rugby with a few nights in the Okavango Delta or a walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park would certainly earn bragging rights back home.

Time + Tide Mchenja Bush Camp suite

Views over the Luangwa River at Mchenja Camp in the South Luangwa National Park

If you plan to stay in South Africa then the Kruger National Park would be an obvious choice.  It’s one of Africa’s finest reserves, a treasure trove of wildlife in a region of exceptional natural beauty.  Our favourite spots are the private reserves bordering the park – no fences so the wildlife is the same, but there are fewer visitors.  The Sabi Sands area is particularly good and has a healthy rhino population.  But there is, if anything,even more wildlife further north in Timbavati.  These are the regions where you’ll find the best camps and lodges, with Tanda Tula and Ngala Tented Camp among Aardvark Safaris’ regulars.

Leopard in Timbavati near Ngala Tented Camp

If your aim is to get away from the crowds then we’ve a couple of gems up our sleeves.  You know you’re heading to the middle of nowhere when the only feasible way to get to a reserve is by private plane arranged by the reserve itself. While South Africa is one of the more developed safari countries in Africa, there are still huge tracts of land with very few people, and Tswalu is one of the biggest. This model of conservation is supported by ecotourism with just two lodges, Tswalu Tarkuni and Tswalu The Motse, on the 1,200 square kilometre reserve. Guests come here for walks, rides or drives across the silent red dunes, together with bird-watching, star-gazing, rhino tracking and visits to the habituated meerkat dens.

Tswalu Tarkuni topi antelope

Tswalu’s magnificent wilderness is one to enjoy all to yourself

Northern Limpopo Province is another forgotten corner where lush bush gives way to the Kalahari sands and where you’ll find Marataba, one of South Africa’s most innovative conservation models.  It’s an area of dizzyingly beautiful views, mountains, vast plains, rich animal diversity and winding rivers.   Anyone with more than a passing interest in conservation will be interested in the two new Marataba Conservation Camps where safaris are tailored to suit each visitor.  Mix and match traditional safari activities with joining daily conservation efforts, camera trap set up, tracking and monitoring outings, census logging and rhino notching. Founders Camp is exclusive use while Explorers Camp is taken on a semi-exclusive basis, and whichever you choose private guides ensure utmost flexibility.

Stunning vistas in Marataba

If you’re travelling with children, Madikwe might be one to consider.  Within driving distance of Johannesburg, this wonderful malaria-free reserve can be split east and west, with a range of hills forming a natural barrier.   The eastern side tends to be quieter and among our top picks here is Jaci’s Safari Lodge, one of the first to offer family safaris and still one of the best for children.  In addition to lodges on the reserve itself, the Morukuru collection, hidden away on private land abutting the reserve’s eastern tip, comprises three wonderful private houses. Known as Farm House, Owner’s House and River House, each offers wonderful luxury, fabulous facilities including a pool, privacy, and flexibility, and unfettered access to the vast expanse of Madikwe. With the opportunities to walk, sleep out, do night drives, and bush meals, it adds so much to a wonderful safari for a family or friends travelling together.

Home from home at Morukuru Farmhouse

We hope that the rugby will match the magnificence of the country in which it’s set!

Post-match R&R

There are plenty of opportunities if you want to head to the beach for some post-match relaxation.  Mauritius and the Seychelles are within an easy flight away and Southern Mozambique has a number of wonderful options – including a special offer of 25% discount (proof of match ticket required) from Aardvark Safaris’ favourite Azura Benguerra.  Ask us for more details.

Mozambique Azurra Benguerra beach aerial

Azura Benguerra, the perfect spot for a post-rugby break

What Next?

Let us know if you would like further itinerary ideas and we’ll put something together for you. Give us a call, or drop us an email and  we’ll respond as quickly as we can – usually on the same day.  We very much look forward to talking to you.

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