Yes, my husband and I won a charity auction to give us the final push to take such this exotic trip. My whole world spun in circles when I saw that I was the one holding the winning bid number. My thoughts were of both excitement and terror. Only in my wildest imagination, would I ever ACTUALLY get to go on safari, yet here I was, standing there holding the certificate.
I immediately asked the travel agent for a contact number of someone who had taken this trip and emailed the person with a million questions. She was so nice to take the time and talk me through a few of the details and put my mind into a much more comfortable place about traveling that far from home.
Well, my trip had some similarities, but was a lot more different than my storybook image.
I mustered up the courage to send my first email request to the Zulu Nyala Reservation department. I received the warmest and most welcoming reply that started my path to realizing the fact that WE ARE GOING TO AFRICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
After several rebooks due to the pandemic, we were finally on the plane to our dream vacation. We landed in Johannesburg and spent 3 nights getting adjusted to the time zone. We wanted to be sure to be awake for every moment of the Safari that awaited.
We flew into Durban airport (side note: our flight was not a prop plane, and our pilot wore a business suite). Our transportation to the Safari Lodge had been prearranged and we were greeted with a warm smile and escorted directly to our van. The ride to the Lodge was about 3 hours and we went through sugarcane fields, eucalyptus forests and the sea to our left. It was a beautiful landscape, and not one I expected.
Pulling into the gates of the Lodge is when I sat up to notice the animals that were already greeting us. Our poor driver must have thought we were crazy when we started screaming and pointing at the zebras and nyalas that were crossing the road as we approached the reception area. Inside the reception, the General Manager greeted us like we were the most anticipated guests ever and quickly got us to our room.
Our Room! Nope, it was not a tree-top tent. It was in a beautiful resort setting, modern décor and a bathroom to DIE for! The windows opened up to the most spectacular views of mountain ranges and a gorgeous sky that showed off colors of an artist’s brushstrokes. There was a wonderful swimming pool just outside our room with lounge chairs for enjoying the view of miles and miles of nature.
Upon discovering the property, we were excited to see how many details went into making us feel special and normal all at the same time. We didn’t feel out of place, nor did we ever need for anything.
Everything was thought of before our arrival and was available when you needed it, even a fully equipped work-out gym. The common areas were meticulously planned to make you feel comfortable yet pampered, upscale yet welcome, fulfilled yet wanting for more.
The restaurant had a view from anywhere you chose to sit and was decorated with the same imagination as the rest of the resort, but always smelled of something delicious being prepared for the next meal. This was definitely not a black cauldron boiling over a fire out in a hut. The chef came around to talk to us and make sure our dietary needs were met, asked about anything special he needed to know when creating our table. We were treated as if we were the only ones on property. Our dining experiences were great, the wine card was fantastic and we even had the pleasure of sitting at the big family table with the VIP’s.
The first game drive was early the next morning and I had such a difficult time trying to prepare everything I possibly could need for this event, I hardly slept. Let me warn you; grab your camera, comfy clothes (jacket if you are there in winter as we were) and your sense of adventure…you don’t need much more. We stepped onto a truck with a full cover from the sun. There were blankets for us on the cold morning drives. There was a perfect 360-degree view at all times. The ranger pointed out so many things for us and drove around to make sure we had the best possible viewing spots to see the animals and landscapes.
Oh, the animals!!!!!! This is why we came! I tried to keep count of all the animals we saw. If I listed them here, this story would never end. Believe me, you will be in tears at how amazing this adventure was. Ranger Chris had such a passion for his homeland and wanted to be sure we experienced everything we came to see.
He was so educated on the animals’ habits, how they moved, what bird just flew by and what trees or flowers we saw. (Have you ever seen an Ootheca?)… Me neither until Chris pointed one out to us.
He also made sure we were safe from anything that could harm us. Remember, we may have been sleeping in a resort style building, but don’t get me wrong, we were out in the wild. The Zulu Game Lodge is situated on an enormous reserve where the animals live on the land. This is not a zoo. These gorgeous treasures are free to roam, but monitored in case they find themselves in need of Veterinary services. We were able to observe a mom and baby rhino and learned so many things about giraffes & elephants.
Safari’s have historically been around for hunting purposes but at Zulu Nyala, the only thing that will be shot are the most beautiful set of photographs you will ever take. (Or a poacher if they try to disturb the delicate balance.)
We did 2 game drives per day during our stay, and had the opportunity to enjoy a couple of excursions off property. Take advantage of these offerings. We toured a wonderful big cat sanctuary that provides rehab & release programs, and loves on the ones who cannot be rehabbed for the remainder of their natural life. We also visited Umfolozi Game Reserve and were lucky enough to have Ranger Chris as our driver there as well. It was magnificent to see this park.
We had to go back to Johannesburg to catch our flight home, but stayed two nights at Zulu Nyala’s other property, The Country Manor. It was equally as impressive, in a whole different way. The Country Manor is a MUST to stay before or after your safari. The gardens are breathtaking and the accommodation is perfect!
I cannot understand why I waited so long to visit South Africa. All the treasures I wrote about above don’t even come close to the kindness and warmth we received from the people. It was difficult to leave this visual treat, but I will forever hold in my heart the people I met on this journey.
The family who runs this lodge, along with their staff, make it a priority to welcome you and make sure you will return. I find it crazy that I thought a trip like this was untouchable. It is at your fingertips and ready to welcome you as well. I would recommend Zulu Nyala as a “MUST SEE” on your list for life.
Oh!… And the Mosquitoes? We didn’t see one…Now, ask me, did I “feel” rich and famous? I sure did!