Monday, December 5, 2016

Kapama Karula

- South African Safari

Apologies for the lack of posts of late as I got married and then went off to Africa afterwards. When we decided to do South Africa for our Honeymoon the only question about doing a safari was where we would do one. After a ton of research we ended up settling on a spot that was somewhat new having been built in the last few years. Aside from the positive reviews Kapama Karula would have we liked the fact that this resort was just coming of age. The fact it was still new made for a bargain in the pricing compared to some of the other spots. We also loved the fact that Kapama was a small spot with just twelve suites on the premises. All of this paired with the pictures we were seeing on social media made it our choice for our South African safari. It would be the best choice we made.

Crossing 'Safari' off the Bucket List

After flying into Johannesburg we waited around in their airport for about an hour before we would board another flight that took us to Hoedspruit airport which is the gateway to Kruger. Kapama Karula would be waiting for us upon our arrival and welcomed us with waters and a quick 20 minute trip back to the private reserve. Because this was our Honeymoon we wanted to make it a luxurious time inside the Bush so we were cool with the fact this was our choice even though there's ways to make it much cheaper including renting your own car and driving around Kruger. Having done my research I learned that when doing it that way (Renting a car etc) you're confined to the roads in the parks and thus you need to rely on wildlife to be crossing it. Kapama might've been gated but with 32,000 acres it was a ginormous space that takes it's rangers years to master.

Scene from Inside the Resort

Aside from a five star resort this is also known as a Big 5 Resort. Big Five meaning you're chances of seeing the Big Five (African Lion, Cape buffalo, African Leopard, Rhinoceros) are good as all of them roam the property living their life day by day. We wound up seeing four of the five as the leopards evaded us which they do often. Seeing as how they're solo hunters and dont travel in packs these are by far the most elusive of the five. We did see an African Wild Cat which is said to be even more elusive than the leopards. In the end we got to see all sorts of wildlife and each and every time we took a drive it was filled with something interesting. It was the trip of a lifetime. Obviously I didn't get great snaps of everything but we pretty much saw everything there was to see.

 The Circle of Life

Kapama had a few prides of Lions and we pretty much saw them from the get go. Not every hour so to say but we saw plenty of action including a confrontation between two males and a pride of lions with a few cubs by their side. That was at night. During the day they just lounged around.

Lots of Lions

The males stalked the group and we watched as the pride gathered the troops and moved away from where they could be found. It ended with the great grandpa of one of the prides roaring in search of the others while he just non nonchalantly walked right past our safari cart and was within four or five feet of me in doing so. We took two rides a day and never had a dull trip. While me missed the leopards we saw pretty much everything else from hyenas to African Wildcat which is said to be even more elusive than the leopards. We really lucked out in the fact that we ended up with what I truly believe was the best Ranger / Tracker team on-site. Our Ranger Dohan and his tracker Edwin (TB) were not only amazing at their jobs but also genuinely nice people who loved what they do.

Close Encounters of the Lion Kind

The resort itself is situated along the Klaserie River and as mentioned there's a total of 12 suites available for rental. Each one has it's own deck and a personal swimming pool on that deck. Though at times you may have to share it with the local monkeys that like to hop around from roof to tree and maybe pay a visit to the deck in search of something to eat. Don't feed them. The suites were spacious with all sorts of modern day amenities at your disposal. Pretty much as nice as it gets.

Our Deck with Personal Pool

View from the our Deck

They made sure every last detail was covered down to the mini bar. Seeing as how this was an all inclusive per person / per night package they made sure you had access to liquor when you needed it. Not just the hard stuff but juices, beer, wine, soda, and mixers like ginger beer and tonic. Everything you needed and refilled twice a day by the maids who come in and clean the place each time you go on your daily ride. The service was pretty much what you expect from a five star resort.

Lounge / Lobby 
Outdoor Seating on the Deck

The rest of the resorts facilities we're on par with the suites. Everything was wonderful. I didn't make it to the spa but she was there everyday and enjoyed every last second of it. There was a main area overlooking the river with a beautiful bar on one side and huge fire place on the other. Outside off of that was a larger pool available for all renters to use. The dining area was off to the left in it's own building which was also overlooking the river. Not sure they could've done a better job with the designing and stocking of this place. It honestly felt like a bargain despite the fact this was by far the most we've ever spent on a hotel / resort. All that said we thought it was worth every penny. 

View of the Bar
Dining Area Inside

What we didn't expect was for the food to be as good as it was. I'd read that it was wonderful but figured that it was probably good for an all inclusive type spot but not necessarily as a dining destination. It ended up being way better than it needs to be and much better than I thought it would be. I was actually looking forward to each meal.

Karula Benedict (Smoked Salmon)

Breakfast was daily around 9a-11a. We'd pretty much be finishing off our morning game drive around 9a each day so we'd just head over to breakfast after that. Also a surprise was the fact that breakfast was as delicious as it was. I ate a Smoked Salmon Benedict every day but one. On the day I passed on the salmon I went with the Rangers breakfast plate which was full of fuel which the Rangers need to do their job. I never went hungry while at the resort. There was food every four hours or so.

Rangers Breakfast - Fried Hen Eggs with Mushroom and Beans Ragout, Buffalo Sausage, Venison Steak with Sauce Bearnaise, and Crispy Strips of Bacon

Lunch was daily around 1p-3p I believe but I dont remember the exact details of everything. While some items stayed on the menu the entire time there were a few news ones each day. But they pretty much always had a meat option, a fish option, something vegetarian and so on. Appetizers, Salad, Entrees, etc. I enjoyed everything I ate. The head chef did some training in London and he runs a smooth sailing ship at the resort. Let me reiterate how strong the staff is here. World Class. 

Butternut and Thyme Ravioli with Charred Asparagus and Pine Nuts and Butternut and Hibiscus Puree 
Chicken and Prawn Wontons with Wasabi Nuts, Plums, Kimchee Salad, Honey and Soy Sauce

Lobster Club Sandwich

Yellowtail Filet with Potato Sweetcorn Hash, Green Beans, Confit Tomatoes, Broccolli, Buerre Blanc, Basil Pesto

The nighttime game drives were always fun as you leave when the sun is still up and then return after the sun goes down. Many of these animals are much more active in the night so you're more likely to see something exciting at that time. Also great about the night drive was the fact that the group would stop for cocktails and snacks around sundown. Enjoying a gin and tonic with some real deal Biltong (South African Beef Jerky) at sunset in the middle of the SA terrain is a great way to the end the day.

Night Time Game Drive

Dinner on each day was around the time we would return from our nighttime game drive. I think this was usually around 8p. I also remember hearing that the resort holds a braai either three times a week or every three days. Since most people spend three days on a safari this makes sure you'll get to experience a traditional South African Barbecue on your stay.

Seated at the Braai

The Braai station sits outdoors on another part of the property separate from the regular dining room. They had tables lined up around a large fire and a station up front where you could fill up a plate with traditional South African Braii sides as well as the wood grilled meats of your choice. Your waiter is the same person your entire stay and he/she is always there when needed. On this night he was only needed for drinks as the setup was like that of a buffet as far as the sides go. I dont remember everything we ate but the sides we're all an eye opener. There was a campfire bean type dish that was as well spiced as any barbecue side I've ever tried and the crocodile crudo was strangely delicious.  As far as the meats go the antelope was the real eye opener. I thought it was the best piece of meat I tried. On top of that they had beef, lamb, venison, and more. My favorite meal of the stay.

Plate of South African Braai

Another meal each guest gets to experience (as long as they stay three days) is the gourmet dinner. This is a feast where, like all the other meals, you can choose what you want to eat off of the nights menu. I should point out that because this was all inclusive there was no limit on what you could order. The gourmet dinner was a pleasant surprise with some pretty plates of food.

Tart Appetizer

Veggie Ratatouille

Line Fish of the Day

Lamb (Pie and Chop)

Strawberry / Pear Dessert

When our three day stay was nearing an end we had no interest in leaving. Though because we were headed to Cape Town we never really got a chance to recollect on the safari until now. Writing this reminded me just how much fun we had much of which I didn't even get to since I just wanted to give a bit of a roundup on what a safari might be like should you choose to look into one. The fact that it provided both action and relaxation, was in our minds, the prefect way to spend this special time together. We wouldn't switch anything about the start of an amazing Honeymoon. More to come.

Message from the Kapama Karula Team

See ya next time...

Kapama Karula
Kapama Private Game Reserve
R40, Hoedspruit, 1380, South Africa


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