In 2016, my Wife mentioned that her idea of a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip would be to go on a Safari. At the time, I thought that was a crazy idea. Why would someone want to travel that far to ‘rough it’ in the bush to possibly view some animals. Little did I know, this trip would really ignite our love for travel and adventure.

This is Part 1 of a several part series documenting our trip through South Africa to include a Safari, our trip to Cape Town and Hermanus, and our viewing of the Penguins at Betty’s Bay. This part details the start of our epic trip.


My Wife is the idea person and I am the planner, so I got to work. I knew that we were more fit for glamping vs camping, so I tried to find a luxurious resort. As I searched the numerous lodges in South Africa I started to realize the potential of how much fun this trip could be. Since we were traveling so far for this trip and would likely not do it again, I wanted to maximize the itinerary to see everything we could. We settled on traveling in September as it appeared to be one of the better months for weather and game viewing.

After some time researching the various destinations, we determined that Royal Malewane near Kruger National Park would be perfect. The lodge is easily accessible by air and road and is located in the Thornybush Private Game Reserve on the Western Border of The Greater Kruger National Park. The Royal Malewane is part of The Royal Portfolio which is a selection of several properties, one of which is Birkenhead House in Hermanus, South Africa. We liked the idea of having a beach front destination to relax at once the Safari was over. This would also afford us the possibility of seeing Whales and Penguins while there.

Journey Begins

The time had finally arrived and we were ready to head to the Airport. We took an incredibly long overnight Delta flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. It was 14 hours long! We were lucky enough to travel in Delta One so we had lie flat seats which were heavenly on this long flight. We arrived at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg on the afternoon of the next day. Coming off such a long flight and having to cope with a time zone change, we thought we would be suffering much more than we were. Upon arrival we had arranged a pickup for our hotel, The Residence, which we would be spending the night in before making our way to Royal Malewane. Our room had an outdoor tub and shower, small patio, and was finely decorated. They even provided a small bottle of Amarula. Amarula is a cream liqueur from South Africa similar to Baileys, but so much better.

We arrived in time for dinner and made our way to the restaurant. We ordered the Salmon and a Filet. We had family style servings of Asparagus and Potato Wedges. While I am my Salmon, I jealously stared at my wife’s filet. I wished I had chose that since it looked so good. She let me have a few bites which allowed me to enjoy both meals. At the end, they surprised us with a crazy dessert! Check out the video below.

Flight to the Bush

The next morning we had breakfast and it was time for Safari!!! We made our way back to JNB airport for a local flight to the private landing strip at Royal Malewane called Jackalberry Airstrip. After the first flight on a twin engine plane, we switched to a smaller Cessna Grand Caravan plane to land on a dirt runway in the middle of the bush. It was noisy and a bit of a rough ride, but we didn’t mind because we were so excited.

Federal Air Flight

We stared out of the window of the plane as we flew low across the landscape. As we approached the landing strip, we could see elephants out the window of the plane and knew it was going to be a magical trip. As we stepped off the plane we could see a dark green land rover parked at the end of the strip. Our guide Nikola approached and introduced herself. She was accompanied by Bennett who was our tracker. I should mention that we hired our own dedicated vehicle for the Safari.

Royal Malewane Vehicle
Royal Malewane Vehicle

This means it would be just us and our guides. Otherwise, we would be sharing the vehicle with other travelers. We felt this would make a more private, special experience. Our bags were loaded into the vehicle and we were off. Not five minutes in and we were already spotting Nyalas and Kudu.

Nyala Drinking
Nyala Drinking

Royal Malewane

We arrived at the lodge maybe 15 minutes later and were greeted by the property manager. They gave us a small tour of the immediate area and then sat us down for lunch. The lunch spot has an amazing view. It is a deck of two levels with trees draping over top you. It overlooks a watering hole where you can spot Elephants, Warthogs, Turtles, and water fowl.

As we sat down and were served some bread to start our meal, we were surprised by a Vervet Monkey who had jumped from the tree behind me onto our table. He stared me in the eyes for a split second, then grabbed the towel holding the bread and leaped off the table. The staff came running to chase away the monkey, but admitted it is hard to keep up with. The monkey must have been thirsty from his snack as we found him checking out the water a short time later.

Monkey looking for a drink
Monkey looking for a drink

After lunch was over, we headed down the wooden walking path to our room. We were told that the whole lodge is completely open to the wildlife which was surprising to us. We would have expected to be separated and “safe” from the predators. The staff explained that during the daytime, we were fine to walk around freely, but at night we would need an escort. I equated the escort to lion bait since he was only equipped with a flashlight and radio.

Walking Path at Royal Malewane
Walking Path at Royal Malewane

After getting unpacked and exploring our room, it was time for our first game drive!! Based on the short ride to the lodge from the airport, we were super excited for the full night drive.

Part 2 of this series will detail all of the day’s game drives.

South Africa
Photos from my first Safari at Royal Malewane in South Africa and Hermanus in 2017.

Take a look below for our next post on our trip to South Africa.