Produce a six-night event that would linger forever in the memory, creating a trip of a lifetime for 18 guests. This would be the flagship event for Alpha Club, which is a members’ club offering exclusive access to ‘money cannot buy’ experiences. No pressure then.
After an overnight flight into Johannesburg, the group of 20 are lead to their private charter flight which will take them directly into Sabi Sabi, landing at the private airstrip in the heart of the Game reserve. With Champagne and canapes waiting as they disembark, the guests then have the opportunity to meet their welcome party from a local school who add a sparkle of smiles to the start of the trip. The children are given gifts by all the guests and a suitable donation is made to the school.
Once the champagne has been quaffed, the group head to the beautiful and extraordinary Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge which has been taken exclusively for the group and will be their exclusive home for two nights. After enjoying a lunch on the terrace with the open game reserve as a back drop, the guests head to their stunning rooms to get changed into their khakis, which will be the uniform of choice for the next six days. Once back at the lodge, it’s time to meet the fabulous rangers and trekkers who make every game drive a joy and then it’s time to head out into the unknown to see who’s waiting. Is it Elephants, Giraffes, are the Lions in town, is a chase going to materialise or are the buffalo feeding at the watering hole.
The thing about safari is that you just do not know and the excitement of what may happen is palpable. With a G&T off the back of the jeep to finish the drive, it’s time to head back to the lodge for dinner under the stars and around the fire in the Boma, where the chef prepared a fabulous four course dining experience. Dinner done, wine supped and eyes drooping, it was time to head to bed ready for the 5am alarm call!
Our guests had an early morning wake-up call and enjoyed coffee and cake before heading back out into the reserve on their first morning game drive. With the morning chill in the air, and blankets over the legs, they watched and listened to the beauty of nature waking up for the day. As the sun rose and the darkness moved into first light, the group enjoyed another magical experience and had the extraordinary experience of four leopards and a leopard cub sighting. You know when you’ve seen some good sightings when the rangers and the trekkers are high-fiving each other! On returning to the lodge, a beautiful buffet breakfast is served before the group head out with their rangers on a bush walk.
Safari is an extraordinary experience in the jeeps, it’s unreal when you are walking and every twig that cracks making you shake that little bit more. Lunch is rather unique as the tables are set in the ornamental pool so after a hot bush walk, the feet can soak whilst the guests enjoy a fabulous lunch with wine pairings. After some time to rest, the groups head off on their afternoon game drive but not before a surprise stop in the bush for a pop-up G&T ice lolly bar! Staying out in the game reserve, the group enjoy a bush dinner in the middle of nowhere where you sit, eat, drink, listen and never really know who’s looking at you from outside. As night falls, the guests are eyeing up Chef’s special slow cooked ribs, while just outside the bush dinner, there’s a good chance that something is eyeing up chef!
After their final early morning game drive and farewell breakfast overlooking the Sabi Sabi reserve for the last time, it is time to say goodbye to not only one of the most beautiful places on earth but also to the team at the lodge who are simply wonderful. It’s hugs and kisses all round before the group set off to the private airstrip for the onward journey to Livingstone. On landing in Zambia, the group enjoy a private meet and greet service from Stan and Godfrey, our two guides who will accompany them during their stay.
The first port of call is the helipad where lunch and drinks are served as the guests get the opportunity to enjoy something quite spectacular. To fly over the Victoria Falls is unreal but to swoop into the gorge below is breathtaking. It is one of those “wow” moments that the guests will remember forever and another memory created from this exciting trip. It is onto to The Royal Livingstone for everyone as a Champagne reception awaits alongside the Zambezi river. With the hotel choir singing and dancing, the spray from Victoria Falls as a backdrop and the Zebra that live on the property strolling past on the lawns, it is safe to say that our group thoroughly enjoyed their first hour at the hotel!
After some time at leisure, the guests transferred up the Zambezi river (you cannot really transfer down as there’s a big drop to the left!) to a private island for drinks and canapes whist enjoying the many sightings of hippos along the way. Throw in the crocodiles basking on the riverbank and the wide array of birds amongst the lush greenery, then this is another experience for everyone to enjoy. After cruising back to the hotel, and watching the sun set, the guests had some time at leisure to freshen up and enjoy dinner on the terrace and drinks in the gorgeous hotel bar.
After their final early morning game drive and farewell breakfast After a lovely breakfast on the terrace overlooking the lawns, the guests were transferred further up the Zambezi as they were just about to embark on the rather special experience of rafting down this magnificent river. Kitted out, life jackets on and oars in hand, it was time to paddle with their experienced guide. The river has some moments where the water is a bit lively, but generally it is very serene and as the warmth from the sun takes over, the river banks come to life. Pods of hippos are visible around every turn and the noises of nature are all around.
The group couldn’t just kick back and relax as the raft needed some momentum to get to the Elephant Cafe for lunch. The fabulous two hours on the Zambezi was quickly superseded when the group met the elephants that live on the reserve. They were all orphaned and saved over the years and now live a safe and comfortable life. The guests had a chance to interact with them and meet these beautiful creatures close up in beautiful surroundings. This is a truly unique experience for the group to enjoy before heading back to the Royal Livingstone for some time at leisure. The evening brings another unique moment as the group board the beautiful Royal Livingstone Express steam train and head towards the Falls. With a private carriage for drinks, the train winds itself towards The Victoria Falls Bridge, the half way point.
The guests disembark the train at the bridge to take in the view and the noise of the water crashing down the gorge and have a bit of fun with the traders who know a good thing when they see it. After 15 minutes of trading the group are back on board (plus 40 wooden hippos, enough decorative bowls to kit out a restaurant and 8KG copper bracelets) and ready for the golden age of steam to continue as they headed off to enjoy dinner in the dining carriage. This was a fabulous experience and the group returned to the hotel for a nightcap in the bar.
So the Victoria Falls have been seen by helicopter, by raft and by train. There is only one experience left and that is to walk them. With ponchos (extra thick!) plus Stan and Godfrey at the ready, the guests make the short walk from the hotel lawns to the scenic trail and get to experience the thunder and power of one of nature’s seven wonders close up and personal. The power of the water cannot be over exaggerated, and this was another tick on the experience list.
The group headed back to the hotel and left the Royal Livingstone behind, but not before the hotel choir had serenaded them on their way. And off to Botswana they go. The crossing from Zambia into Botswana, through two sets of customs and across the Zambezi on a tin boat is an experience in itself and arriving at the world renowned Chobe Game Lodge, the only lodge in Chobe National Park is just another experience in this extraordinary trip. After lunch on the terrace with the Chobe Delta as a back drop, the guests headed out on their afternoon delta game drive. With a private boat and an open bar, the serenity of the water, the lushness of the greenery and the playful elephants along the banks of the water are a joy to behold. This, plus a G&T as the sunsets makes it all pretty special.
On returning to the lodge, the guests had some time at leisure before dinner was served in the boma, with live cooking stations, a marimba band playing under the stars and fabulous food, this rounded off another special day for everyone.
On returning to the lodge, the guests had some time at leisure before dinner After an early morning wake-up call, the guests head into the Chobe National Park to see what nature has to offer as the sun rises. It is quite special to be in the reserve as the first light appears and the group enjoyed the spectacle of three hippos falling out in a watering hole. It is fair to say when these massive beasts have a bit of a row, you all know about it! The game drive finished back at the lodge where breakfast was enjoyed on the terrace.
After a morning to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings, the guests met for a private lunch where they were treated to a performance from the local Mogwana dancers who bring their tribal passion to the proceedings. The last full day game drive is on a unique electric boat and these silent vessels just add to the peaceful serenity of the Chobe Delta. As the group meander along the waterways with a glass of wine in hand, it is time to reflect on what has been an absolute trip of a lifetime as tomorrow is departure day.
The last evening is a beautiful dinner set on private terrace alongside the Chobe River. With white linens, finest tableware and candelabras adorning the banquet table, fine wines ready to be poured and a four course dinner being prepared, the group enjoyed a dinner that only added another glorious memory to this unbelievable experience. After dinner, it was time to retire to the bar to enjoy a last night cap, reminisce about the last six days and then for the group to head to their rooms to find some space for the wooden hippos and the decorative bowls!
Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.