How to visit South Africa during lockdown: We all know COVID-19 in our own way, and many of us have had to cancel our trips. When this is all over and what the travel industry will look like once it can start operating again, that is a big question mark. But in the meantime, we are all required to stay home and do nothing. Not only for our own safety but also for the safety of everyone else.
I noticed that I spent a lot more time researching possible future travel destinations. And in the course of my research, I discovered that several luxury hotels and safari lodges in South Africa allow you to enjoy their destination virtually via live streams on Facebook and Instagram to name a few. It took me a while to get used to it, but now I’m addicted and every day I can do several safaris in various places without having to fly or drive for hours in a game vehicle. Rather enjoy some of the culinary delights that the best South African chefs have to offer? Well, they also hopped on the train to do live broadcasts so we can go behind the scenes of how they prepare their beautiful dishes. Let me give you some of my favorites.
This wonderful private game reserve is located in the south of the Kalahari and offers only the best of the best in safaris, luxury accommodation, gastronomy … these days they take you on a live safari through the massive reserve, looking for elusive animals that you can find here like (among many others) the pangolin and the black-maned lion.
They also have a Q&A with several staff like the lodge manager, guides and chefs. Speaking of their chefs, Tswalu’s executive chef, Marnus Scholly, works closely with Michelin-starred chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen who is one of the best chefs in South Africa. The two regularly broadcast live broadcasts to present their flagship dishes while answering questions from viewers. So if you want to know what camels have to do with food in Tswalu, or why it’s hard to spot an aardvark during the summer months, you know what to do.
Belmond Mount Nelson, Cape Town
Everyone knows this famous and historic luxury hotel, with its distinct pink color and beautiful gardens in the middle of the city center. Although the rooms are nice and the overall grandeur of the hotel is always present, it is perhaps best known (special among the locals) for its incredible afternoon tea and the excellent restaurants you will find in the hotel. ‘hotel.
Most notably the Lord Nelson restaurant, which is probably in the most magnificent room in the hotel (and probably Cape Town in general) and the chef’s table, which is in the massive kitchen of the hotel itself. Two total opposites, a main objective, to impress the guests with honest and incredible food. The massive chef is led by executive chef Rudi Liebenberg who prepares the most incredible dishes while working in the kitchen of the Mount Nelson Hotel. But during this lockdown, he shares some of his secrets with viewers on Instagram while preparing some of the comfort foods that anyone can stir up. Those who don’t have Instagram can still enjoy cooking classes on Facebook where they are also shared of course.
AndBeyond Tourist attractions
The famous travel brand andBeyond has several luxury lodges for safaris and beaches across southern Africa and even Latin America. And two of their most popular safari lodges, Ngala and Phinda, now take everyone who wants to join the game via social media. It’s great to see the guides continue what they do best and try to find the wildlife that viewers are asking for. But not only that, they also answer any questions you may have regarding certain animals. The two lodges are not located in the same park, which means that you will have a better chance of seeing a greater diversity of fauna and plants.
Ngala is located in the Timbavati Game Reserve, which is world-famous for its very rare white lions which you can find here. There are only a handful alive, and most live in zoos around the world. So finding them and seeing them act in their natural environment among their pride is something very unique. Phinda, on the other hand, is located further south and has its own private game reserve where you can also spot the big 5. Here the guides will also accompany you on their daily safaris to see what they can find and test both. their knowledge but also yours. It is a great feeling to always be on the play vehicle and to look for all the animals. You may not have the wind in your hair and the smell of the earth or the cool rain (if already), but that gives you a glimpse of what it would be like to vacation here.
Jabulani Safari Lodge
Those who have not yet heard of Jabulani are missing out. Especially if you are an elephant lover or a safari enthusiast in general. Jabulani’s story began when the lodge took care of an abandoned elephant calf that was only 4 months old. They called him Jabulani and it was the beginning of a wonderful story where several orphaned elephants found refuge in the camp. Even today, you can see elephants roaming freely during the day in the huge Kapama game reserve, in addition to an abundance of other animals, including the Big 5.
Jabulani Safari Lodge is one of the most luxurious safari lodges in South Africa and the fact that they combine conservation and luxury travel in such a perfect way makes them very unique. As a member of the Relais & Châteaux chain, you can also expect superb plates to pass before your eyes. All the staff are very involved and their forest chief Ruan Roos is one of the best in the industry. During these difficult times, they share live stories on social media about the elephant herd and how they cope during the lockdown. In addition, you often get pictures of the Kapama game reserve too, especially when they meet incredible animals.
The Saxon Hotel, Johannesburg
This iconic luxury hotel in Johannesburg is known for offering the best possible hospitality to VIPs and anyone wishing to enjoy this secluded and peaceful retreat. And now they are sharing all their knowledge on social media to make sure people are also engaging at home. Executive Chef Jane-Therese Mulry shares some of her cooking secrets live.
The Saxon is also known for its famous spa which is among the best in South Africa, and their spa manager Tanya Lopes did not wait long to bring some of her glory to the people at home in order to treat their spirit and their body to something other than the cover crisis 19. And of course, a stay (even if it’s virtual) at the Saxon can’t be complete without drinking one of their incredible cocktails, so their F&B director shares recipes cocktails to make sure you enjoy this moment at home.
A name that hardly needs to be presented, Singita is well known around the world for its incredible luxury safaris that it offers in several African countries. Now that the guests are gone, they are trying to make sure that we can all enjoy the Singita experience through live safaris that often lead to incredible sightings like lions, leopards and other feral cats. They also give an excellent behind-the-scenes look at their K9 anti-poaching unit to give just one example. Or regular updates from them to help raise funds for the Grumeti Fund, which does incredible work for the last surviving eastern black rhinos, of which only 5 remain.
Their conservation officer, Inge Kotze, also explains very clearly what they are doing, what the effects and the importance of these conservation programs will be. Besides all the live streams, Singita is also the perfect place to enjoy some of the best wildlife photography. Many luxury safari lodges have incredible photographers, although I think they don’t always show their work as much as they should. On Instagram, you can see more, but I would like to see an equal amount on my Facebook feed, and Singita does it perfectly.
Londolozi Game Reserve
Londolozi is another of these well known luxury safari destinations and they also try to entertain the guests. While guests went on safaris at least twice a day, they now offer them live from the comfort of your own home. Truth be told, I doubt your home will be as beautiful as Londolozi lodges, and if it does, you will always miss the warm and friendly service from all staff, not to mention the food which is just as impressive.
As expected, they are also members of the Relais & Châteaux group. Their ranger James Tyrell goes on virtual safaris on a daily basis and from the ones I’ve seen, I can’t hide the fact that I miss the excitement of going on bush safaris. You really feel like you are sitting in this jeep, the warm wind in your hair, the sounds of the outside all around and searching everywhere to find these beautiful animals. Don’t worry if you miss the game, as they often collect highlights on Facebook or Instagram so you can enjoy them.
These times are invisible in the travel industry, and probably in any other industry, you can think of. However, that does not mean that people and service providers are left alone. The number of incredible initiatives we have seen around the world in recent weeks is incredible, and I believe that we must keep a positive view of all of this, even if we cannot deny the massive financial headache it leaves behind. But by making these virtual trips through South Africa, it makes the lack of travel and social interaction more bearable. Stay safe, follow the directions given, and hope we can all give up virtual travel as soon as we get the chance.