By Elena del Valle and photos by Gary Cox
Suite 2 at Leadwood looked out into the bush
During a visit to South Africa’s famous Sabi Sand Reserve earlier this year we stayed at three &Beyond properties, Dulini and Leadwood at the Exeter Reserve and Kirkman’s Kamp on the southeastern corner bordering http://simonandbaker.com/kruger. While each had a charm of its own, Leadwood was the most intimate and luxurious, our favorite. One of the reasons it captured our hearts, in addition to fine suites with private plunge pools, contemporary stylish décor, an emphasis on privacy and top notch service and meals, was the informal presence of art.
A necklace created by Gift
Three of the staff pursued artistic inspiration in their free time. We found out quite by coincidence and asked to see their work. Shyly, each in turn, displayed examples of his or her efforts. Gift Nyulunga, one of the cooks, made simple bead necklaces out of recycled glass. The large-bead necklaces were available in a limited variety of colors and lengths and were quite affordable starting at about $10.
One of Andre McDonald’s drawings of lion cubs
Andre Mc Donald, or “Mac” as everyone knew him, our affable guide, drew beautiful lifelike wildlife drawings of the animals in the reserve. The Cape Town native who grew up in the Eastern Cape had been selling his art for five years. We had no idea of his hobby and it was only when I overheard someone comment about his work, and after asking several times, that he brought a handful for us to see one afternoon before tea.
Mac’s lion and leopard detailed drawings
“I have had no formal training in art but have always had a keen interest in drawing,” said Mc Donald. “After school I did not draw for many years until I started to work as a ranger on a private game reserve where I began to sketch wildlife. After seeing some of my earlier work, one of my guests encouraged me to develop my skill further.”
A watercolor by Kerry Michau
His goal is to sketch very realistic representations, in terms of the proportions and postures, of the animals he and his guests often see on the game drives, especially leopards and lions. Each spot on a leopard, for example, is drawn with at least three different pencils to get the depth and texture of the fur just right, he explained.
“I draw from photographs which means that each drawing is true to the original animal. Because I know the animals I draw, I try to capture the character of each individual, in particular the look in their eyes. I look for photographs with an interesting pose or setting.”
Lion and cub in watercolor
Mac’s pencil drawings had found homes in 22 countries, including United States, Germany, Dominican Republic, Malta, New Zealand and France. The limited edition prints (98 of each) sold for $220 each; originals for $1,000 or $1,500. Overseas delivery required two weeks. He could be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leopard by Kelly Michau
Kerry Michau, the part time assistant manager, was the third artist. She worked with watercolors, painting the wildlife in the reserve as well as modern abstract pieces and fashion.
For more information about Dulini, Leadwood and Kirkman’s Kamp and other luxury properties in that area visit the Sabi Sand Reserve section of the Simon & Baker Travel Review.
By Elena del Valle and photos by Gary Cox
Chitwa Chitwa is located along the shore of a lake
When we first heard of Chitwa Chitwa, a boutique lodge in the northern corner of the famous Sabi Sand Reserve, we wondered about the meaning of the name. It was one of the first questions we asked as we settled in at the lodge. The property was named for an old bull giraffe whose bones made a creaking sound similar to the words chitwa chitwa.
The dining area featured whimsical touches like bone light fixtures
Our stay at the lodge was rewarding in many ways. We loved the lodge’s waterside location and luxurious and spacious rooms with a water view. The Big Five game viewing, in the company of a young and enthusiastic ranger tracker team, was outstanding. A pretty setting and artsy decor along with comfort centered facilities, an intimate and romantic ambiance, a foodie orientation and friendly staff made the property and instant favorite. Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review Safari Section to learn more about our stay at Chitwa Chitwa.
By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
Bedroom at Africa House
From the airport in Johannesburg we flew Federal Air directly to the Thornybush landing strip where Ryan Jack was waiting in an open four by four vehicle to drive us to Africa House, our six room luxury home away from home with a pool for the next four days. We traveled to Africa House, part of the Royal Malewane Reserve which in turn is within the Thornybush Reserve near South Africa’s famed http://simonandbaker.com/kruger, to relax and enjoy the area’s well known game viewing.
Ryan and Terence
Ryan, our ranger, and Terence Mhlanga would be our companions and guides on twice daily game drives during our visit to this luxury South Africa safari destination. In their company we spent the first and last part of our days, searching for bush experiences, taking thousands of photos and marveling at the flora and fauna of the reserve.
When we arrived at Africa House Ramos, Zama, Gift and John Jackson (see Listen to John Jackson, manager and executive chef, Royal Malewane), the staff, were waiting for us at the entrance. As soon as I saw them I recognized them from our previous stay at the Royal Malewane, an exclusive safari lodge and part of Liz Biden’s The Royal Portfolio, two and a half years earlier. On seeing them the memories of our lovely visit flooded back.
Lunch at Africa House
Moments later John and I were catching up as if time had stood still, walking through the beautiful East Africa entrance door to the stand alone house to settle in our temporary bush home. With John and his team in residence we knew our accommodations and meals would be outstanding. Ryan and Terence ensured our game viewing would be memorable. Our days at Africa House passed quickly and remain etched among our fondest bush stays. We quickly fell into a comfortable routine of early morning and late afternoon game drives with amazing gourmet meals and relaxing quiet private time in between.
White rhino in Thornybush reserve
Africa House offered a superlative combination of guest centered and attentive service, privacy, at home luxury, gourmet meals and game viewing. It was, in short, one of our favorite safari visit in South Africa. Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review to read about our Safari Reviews and our stay in Africa House.
By Elena del Valle and photos by Gary Cox
Federal Air at OR Tambo International
In the past when we visited the http://simonandbaker.com/kruger and its environs on safari we flew commercially from Johannesburg to the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, rented a car and drove the rest of the way to the safari reserve; or self drove a rental car from Johannesburg to our lodge in or near Kruger. While flying was, in theory, faster it required an early arrival at the airport and the discomforts and safety concerns (including luggage wrapping because of the serious theft problems at the airport) of the Johannesburg airport. And, once we arrived we still faced a drive of two hours or longer to our destination.
Lounge and snacks at the Federal Air terminal
Self driving from Johannesburg to the safari area in turn meant we were empowered to depart at the time of our choosing and stop as we pleased. However, the drive required a minimum of six hours and the possibility of getting lost. We were also subject to the possible dangers of South African roads. We have unfortunately had a couple of incidents on South African roads (and heard many stories from trustworthy sources) that have made us increasingly wary of driving there.
Our pilot does the safety briefing prior to takeoff
On our most recent trip we discovered a great alternative, Federal Air flights from Johannesburg to the nearest landing strip to our safari lodges. Federal Air had its own departure area with a luxury lounge in a separate section of the Johannesburg airport. This meant we could bypass the general traveling population at the airport and spend the time before our flight in relaxed comfort at the Federal Air lounge where there were complimentary snacks and beverages.
Ready for boarding at Royal Malewane airstrip
On arrival at the Thornybush Reserve our ranger was awaiting us at the simple landing strip and within minutes we were settled in at Africa House at Royal Malewane. Likewise, on our return from Singita in the Sabi Sand Reserve our guide drove us to a furnished and comfortable waiting tent stocked with beverages and reading material. Within 10 minutes of our arrival the plane had landed and we were airborne.
Article and photos by Elena del Valle
Our Iberia airplane at the gate in Barcelona
Soon after Iberia inaugurated its new service from Miami, Florida to Barcelona, Spain I flew the route in the airline’s luxury cabin. The best part about the Iberia flights from Miami to Barcelona and back was that they were direct and non stop.
On board, Pilar Rumbero, a crew member
The advantages of the Business Plus service began with expedited security lane access at Miami International Airport. After passing through security I waited for the flight to depart in comfort at the American Airlines and Iberia shared airline lounge and, on the way back, at Iberia’s Miro Lounge in Barcelona. On board, courteous service, clean bathrooms with no wait, a varied Spanish wine and spirits selection, a check-in luggage allowance of three suitcases and a spacious cabin were added advantages. The nose section had only 24 seats and an intimate feel.
My aisle seat in Iberia Business Plus
The seats with lie flat horizontal capability and extra space between rows were comfortable, allowing me to arrive in Spain and back to Miami minimally crumpled. Overall I liked the Iberia Business Plus service very much. Based on the Miami Barcelona round trip experience I will keep Iberia’s luxury service on my short list for international flights in the future. Visit the Simon & Baker Travel Review for more about my Iberia Business Plus experience.