A veritable 'Garden of Eden', the Sabi Sands is undoubtedly one of the brightest jewels in the Kruger crown. This unspoilt corner of South Africa has astonishing biodiversity, with 505 bird and 148 mammal species calling it home. Coupled with a temperate climate, seamless access from Johannesburg and arguably the biggest collection of award-winning 'safari chic' accommodation on the planet, it's easy to see why both safari beginners and old hands flock to the Sabi Sands year after year. But what makes it so sought after and why are prime lodges in peak season booked up months in advance?
Is it just coincidence that August is the month when many people go on holiday and Africa becomes the perfect place to visit? In fact, there’s so much happening across the continent that travellers really are spoilt for choice: safari destinations feature the best game-viewing conditions, while the beaches and tropical islands bask beneath warm, dry skies.
August in Southern Africa marks the end of the region’s short-lived winter and the welcome return of warmer temperatures. Down in Cape Town, the last few winter storms wring themselves out and the days get longer, while up in safari country the weather is pretty perfect: sunny, warm and dry.
Robben Island, lying off the coast of Cape Town, is part of a long list of islands known primarily for being prisons. But, unlike Rikers and Alcatraz, its history has seen it go from being a leper colony, to a thriving 19th century ‘town’ complete with a school and post office, to a notorious penitentiary, and now a must-see travel destination studded with historical buildings and home to a flock of adorable but highly endangered African penguins.
Johannesburg is Africa's economic powerhouse known to locals as Joburg, Jozi and Egoli (the ‘city of gold’). The city is modern and enormous, sprawling in all directions as the heart beat of commerce demands more offices, houses and malls. About 60 kilometres away lies Pretoria, which is the seat of administrative government in South Africa and a very pretty city with jacaranda-lined streets. Both of these urban centres are vibrant and cosmopolitan, linked by a fast-moving, multi-lane highway and the high-speed Gautrain, making it easy to explore the places that played a critical role in Nelson Mandela’s life story or which honour his legacy.
Timing is everything. If you want the best seats in the house, you need to book your place well in advance. When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime journeys to Africa’s vast playground, you definitely want to be in the front row seats for all the legendary spectacles.
If we’re being totally honest, most of Africa’s flagship wilderness regions are wild, free and unfenced (except for the outermost borders!). Some lodges prefer, or are required by regulation, to fence their living quarters and this is obviously great for families with small children and lodges with larger guest numbers. But, let’s face it, our dreams of wildest Africa include hearing lions roar a stone’s throw from your tented suite and gazing out at a busy waterhole from the camp’s deck.
Gathered around a cheerful fire, July’s safari travellers discuss the sightings of the day. The winter night sky is so full of stars it lends a luminous glow to the scene and the far-off baying of hyenas promises a busy game drive in the morning.
Part of the charm of travelling on Africa’s most luxurious train is that guests are required to look the part. Forget your yoga pants and flip-flops – it’s time to whip out those sparkly cocktail numbers, flowy dresses and sports jackets.
The first time I visited Victoria Falls I was eight years old. We put on raincoats in the bright Zimbabwean sunshine then wandered into an Enchanted Forest filled with a low rumble and fine drizzle. I’d been excited about seeing this big waterfall but had never imagined something so powerful it could surround me with sound and soak me with its rainbow-lit spray – it was magical!