The 411: Michael’s African Safari

In June 2017, I took the most incredible trip of a lifetime with my family to South Africa. We chose the trip because I’d gone before and I considered the experience to be one of the best, most amazing things I’d ever done—and I wanted to be with my kids the first time they saw how crazy and surreal being on safari was. Since August to mid-October is the best time to visit South Africa (when the herds have returned), I thought I’d share my list of where to stay and what to see if you’re thinking of a jungle adventure.

STAY
Located in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, The Royal Malewane is a recently renovated luxury safari lodge that offers all the amenities you could ever need or want. One of the many highlights of the trip was having dinner out under the stars, complete with camp fires, music, and dancing for the all!! We also stayed in camps that were a little less indulgent but the Royal Malewane definitely checked all the boxes.

We also took a trip to Cape Town and stayed at The Silo, an incredible, modern hotel which is in the center of the city so it makes a great home base for exploring the area. The Silo also happens to sit above the renowned Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), which provides a nice break from all that outdoor time in the wild.  It also is surrounded by great restaurants, shopping and activities for adults and kids alike.

EAT
This is truly one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten: the Kloof Street House is situated in a Victorian-style home and surrounded by grounds the twins definitely felt were gardens out of a fairytale. My favorite dishes: the pan-fried calamari, KSH caprese salad, and the most delicious osso buco on the planet.

DO
Our favorite place to see the animals was the Thornybush Game Reserve, in the heart of the Lowveld savannah, and next to Kruger Park. From our open vehicle, our incredible guide brought us closer to “the Big Five”—lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros—than the kids could have ever imagined: The elephants literally brushed up against our vehicle, and in one case, a baby elephant got sassy and head-butted one of the trucks as a warning to back up (even though the baby probably weighed about 200 pounds). We saw cheetahs, water buffalo, rhinos, and hippos. We watched a leopard catch its dinner. And the lion, which is my favorite, strolling out of the back woods to make his grand entrance like he was in a movie. It’s just amazing. You realize very quickly on safari that this is how the animals were meant to live and this is the best way to see them—not on TV or in a zoo.

Another amazing spot to visit after taking a break from animal watching is the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, in Cape Town. Kirstenbosch is set against the Table Mountains and offers 88 acres of hiking, exploring and natural beauty.  Make sure you check out the tree planted by Nelson Mandela in 1996 and also the flower named in his honor. It is one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world and will definitely take your breath away.

PACK
I don’t have to tell you that you need to make sure to pack comfortable walking and hiking shoes, clothes that can be layered for when the temperature drops at night, and lots of sunscreen and bug spray. But someone also gave me a great tip that brought me so much closer to the animals we saw on safari: binoculars. You don’t have to get fancy or pricey; a nice pair of water-resistant, lightweight binoculars are just fine for zooming in on the wildlife from a distance. For the kids, the compact Livebetter Mini Binoculars are great, and for the grownups, the RD Series Pocket binoculars and the Eyeskey waterproof binoculars are easy to bring along for the ride.

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