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A Union of Nations in the South African Bush

May 8, 2014 Hotel News No Comments Email Email

Four Americans, four Germans, a Frenchman, a Pole and a smattering of South Africans – a mini United Nations? More like the dinner table on any given night at a South African game reserve.

Foreign tourists are flocking to South Africa (with SA Tourism huge increases in tourist arrivals) for the country’s scenic beauty, wildlife and natural attractions, moderate weather, and warm hospitality. The weakness of South Africa’s currency, the rand, against currencies like the euro, dollar and pound, is an added bonus that makes for great value holidays.

That was one of the reasons that Zurich-based couple, Polish Anna Wawzyszyn and Frenchman Thibaut Bethon, chose South Africa over New York for a spur-of-the-moment holiday. Their winelands-and-safari itinerary took in a romantic engagement in Cape Town followed by Big 5 game-viewing in the malaria-free Eastern Cape.

There’s a big difference between a rainy 10°C in the Zurich spring and a sunny 18°C in the early South African winter, allowing for warm poolside basking during the day and game-viewing sundowners against a majestic sunset backdrop with just a light chill in the evening air.

“We couldn’t have asked for a more romantic setting to celebrate our engagement, and our stay in Cape Town then at Lalibela Game Reserve has given us a great overview of different aspects of South Africa,” they said.

For German couple Stefan and Anja Kramer, Lalibela Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape was an obvious choice for a weekend break – not only close to their temporary hometown of East London, just two hours’ drive away, but offering child-friendly accommodation and activities for their sons, aged 2 and 4.

With the needs of children and families in mind, Mark’s Camp lodge at Lalibela is the only area on the reserve that is fenced off and offers a children’s safari programme and shorter game drives tailored to little people’s attention spans.

The Kramers said this was ideal, allowing them to take turns in accompanying their boys on the “bokkie drive” (the word for small buck in Afrikaans) while the other parent experienced up-close Big 5 encounters on the longer game drive. Lalibela’s game rangers are well versed in keeping young children entertained while driving through the unspoilt bush of the 7 500 ha reserve.

While looking out for bigger game like elephants, lion, giraffe etc, the rangers keep fresh discoveries coming with anything from hairy caterpillars, ancient tortoises and spring hares to “Timon and Pumba” – the warthogs and meerkats that all children seem to know from The Lion King movies.

Word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends are most travellers’ preferred way of choosing a destination and the global village of the internet makes for a dizzying array of options.

On a year-long round-the-world trip, Americans Jason and Sonya Powell have made most of their accommodation decisions on the fly, comparing recommendations on sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com.

That was how they chose Lalibela for their first visit to South Africa this month with daughters Ella, 9, and Ariana, 12. “This area offers great value compared to the more northern reserves in SA – even before you factor in the exchange rate advantage – and they offer more options for families travelling with children,” Jason Powell said.

Children are notoriously easily bored, but the Powells saw no need to leave Lalibela during their 8-day stay, with the girls kept entertained on game drives and activities such as frog-hunting and learning to play African drums. Having other families staying at Mark’s Camp also gave the girls interaction with other children from around the world, something they had not experienced much on their travels, said Sonya Powell.

Having developed and stayed in top resorts around the world, Jason rated Lalibela among his top experiences across the globe as their family’s year-long journey nears its end. “We’re so glad that we chose to stay a week instead of a rushed two-night stay. We’ve seen and experienced different things every day – from elephant and lion encounters to a walking safari – and even after a week here, we haven’t been served the same meal twice!”

Follow the family’s journey on www.themothertrip.com.

Find Lalibela Game Reserve on TripAdvisor at http://www.tripadvisor.co.za/Hotel_Review-g312554-d557737-Reviews-Lalibela_Game_Reserve-Eastern_Cape.html and on Bookings.com:http://www.booking.com/hotel/za/lalibela-game-reserve.en.html?aid=365811

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