Post written by Emma from LuxuryBackpacking.
This was our second time visiting South Africa, and we absolutely adore the country. It’s full of such vibrance, character and stunning natural scenery. We arrived into Johannesburg late afternoon and worked our way up North towards Kruger National Park, stopping at many famous landmarks including Gods Window, The Three Rondavels and Mac Mac Falls, we really enjoyed what South Africa has to offer. However, the highlight of our trip had to be the safari and overall experience at Klaserie Sands River Camp.
We stayed for a total of 3 nights at Klaserie Sands River Camp, which in all honesty wasn’t enough, as we loved it so much! We chose this stunning camp due to the exclusivity and personalisation it came with. With a total of just 4 rooms, it is definitely one of the most tranquil and secluded camps in Kruger, which just made the experience that bit more amazing.
Upon arriving at Klaserie a few things were immediately apparent: The effort into making each guests stay personal and seamless and the outstanding view from the veranda area (multiple time we saw elephants and wildebeest grazing and drinking in front of the veranda). We were greeted with drinks and wet towels by the lovely Angie and Mathews, who were wonderful and attentive throughout our stay.
We had a total of four extensive game drives throughout our stay. We still cannot believe how experienced and knowledgeable our guides Brian and Gordon were about everything to do with the animals, park and even grass! In general safari camps operate a fairly different time schedule, here is a sample itinerary of a day at the camp:
5:00 am: Wake up
5:30 am: Tea & Coffee and Game Drive
9:30 am: Back at camp for breakfast
10:00 am: Rest and Relax
2:30 pm: Lunch
4 pm: Game Drive
7:30 pm: Return from Game Drive
8 pm: Supper/Dinner
You may be thinking, what the heck?! 5 am?! But trust us, it is worth it! Nearly all safari camps will wake up at this time for the first game drive, purely because dawn and dusk are the best times to see
game. As the mornings start so early, you have a huge amount of time to relax or catch up on your
much needed sleep during the day before heading back out on a game drive. When you arrive back at camp, you will find your suite all turned down and perfected with a personal touch every morning and evening. Take a relaxing warm bubble bath and add the bath salts provided, to ease out all the bumps and jolts of the day, before dinner is served.
We arrived at Klaserie before dusk, just missing the evening game drive. Thus, all the other guests were out on the safari. After being greeted and welcomed to our stunning suite we relaxed at the bar area with refreshing drinks, whilst we waited for the game drive to arrive back at camp. Once they arrived back at camp we met Brian and Gordon our guides for the duration of our stay, and the other three guests staying at Klaserie.
Brian and Gordon were honestly (without sounding cliche) the best guides we could have asked for. Not only were they highly knowledgeable and friendly, but they loved a good bit of banter and joking around, including some great stories that were both fascinating and a good laugh. Both their tracking skills were impeccable, they were always pointing out tracks in the dirt paths that no one else could spot or name.
Our first game drive was the next morning at 5:30 am. We personally woke up at 4 am to watch the sunrise over the veranda as it was a perfect summers morning. During this drive we saw a heard of male elephants, a zebra, a giraffe, many springboks wildebeest kudu, buffalo and three very lazy hippos. Gordon, our guide for this drive came across male and female lion tracks however they moved on quickly and were unable to track these beautiful creatures down. Whilst this was only our first game drive we had already seen 3 of the Big 5!
The afternoon consisted of relaxing by the pool, chatting to the locals Angie and Mathews and just unwinding ready for the evening game drive. After a delicious lunch, consisting of pork chops, salad and fresh bread we headed out, ready to catch the remaining 2 of the Big 5.
Once we had already got a taste of what a true game drive is all about, the adrenaline started kicking in as we were heading out on our evening safari. We headed south out of Klaserie to where multiple lions had been spotted. On the way we fired questions at Brian, our guide who took over from Gordan. We have to admit Brian is a one in a million guide (not even joking), with 20 years experience in this industry, his experience of everything in this area is mind blowing. Ask him the hardest questions and he will answer them with such in-depth knowledge. We spotted two lionesses, a pack of hyenas, zebra, hippo, giraffe, and many small game. During the first day we had seen 4 of the Big 5!
Without a doubt, the most incredible natural wildlife moment was around half an hour after the game drive had ended. Brian called us to jump back in the vehicle as a male lion had been spotted taking down a buffalo, around 5 minutes up the road from camp. We arrived at the scene to find the lion towering over its kill, we watched it for around 45 minutes as it attempted to pull and rip its way through the carcass. During this whole ordeal, we were perhaps not even five metres away, it definitely got our blood pumping, that’s for sure!
The next morning we headed out at 5:30 am,and went straight for the lion and its kill. Primarily, we couldn’t see the lion anywhere, but with the help of our awesome tracker Brix (sorry if I’ve spelt it wrong!), it didn’t take long to find the lion basking in the shade. During the morning safari, Brian took us on a bush walk. We were a little hesitant but he made us feel so secure, we knew we were in safe company. We tracked a male rhino for around 30 minutes, keeping distant and quiet, this was another hair-raising moment, but the professionalism of Brian was immaculate.
We arrived back to a wonderful cooked breakfast by the lovely Angie, and relaxed by the infinity pool. Multiple times watching impalas, buffalo and the odd elephant drink from the nearby water hole. This wasn’t a sight or experience you would see every day, quite frankly it was breathtaking watching nature at its finest.
After lunch, we headed out for our last evening game drive, without a doubt it all went too fast. As it was our last evening, Brian organised a special break whilst out in the bush. We arrived at the most amazing tree top look out, you could see all the way to the Mozambique boarder. We watched the sun set behind the mountains with a glass of wine and canapés, now you don’t get that every day! During the game drive we saw a heard of 24 elephants with multiple babies, heading down to the waterhole, literally passing within metres of us. Getting this close and personal with these stunning animals was amazing, if it wasn’t down to the amazing tracking skills of Brix and Brian we would never have seen this.
On our final morning, we went out on our last game drive. As we hadn’t seen the leopard yet (the last of the Big 5), Brian was on a mission to track this animal down. Sadly, nature can be difficult sometimes and however much we looked, a leopard just wasn’t around.
We had to leave fairly early to catch our flight to New York from Johannesburg. The whole experience was far too quick. Saying our goodbyes was probably the hardest we’ve done so far, as we really became friends with everyone there, it was one big family! This is wholly our own opinion, but we can honestly say, our stay at Klaserie Sands River Camp was the most amazing travel experience we have done so far. A combination of their passion, personalisation, knowledge and of course the beautiful lodge made it so memorable, anyone looking at a safari around the Kruger area, without a doubt we would highly recommend Klaserie Sands River Camp!
Any lodge taking an eco-sensitive approach is great in our eyes. What Klaserie Sands is hoping to achieve in the future is nothing short of amazing.
A few things especially stood out for us, which most other camps in the area do not apply or implement into their experience:
– Brian and the team do not carry guns or tranquilliser guns on them whilst on game drives. Initially, we were thinking, wow that’s kinda scary, what happens if an animal attacks you? But after learning about why guns are used, and that animals are more likely to be defensive around them, without having them the animals are much calmer and are actually less likely to attack you as they don’t see you as a threat.
– They do not use fake distress sounds to attract predators like the lion. Whilst we were out on a game drive we heard another vehicle using one. Firstly, it is such an unnatural device, predators will rely on it for food, but finding out there is nothing. Secondly, we feel you won’t experience the ‘real’ safari if your camp uses one, as part of the fun is finding the animal yourself through tracks and sounds!
– Klaserie Sands hires locals from the area to work as cooks, bartenders etc. So many larger camps just hire professionally trained staff, which is good, but it doesn’t support the local community. We absolutely love this idea, as educating locals into this type of business can make such a difference to their livelihoods. Angie and Mathews are both locals and they are the most friendly, awesome people and it’s so lovely to see them enjoying themselves working for this amazing camp!