Updated: Nov 2, 2022
I was asked recently if I had been to Africa, and I was able to answer that yes, I had visited that continent. When asked what I had seen, I said that I had seen the pyramids. My questioner looked at me quizzically and then said, “Well, I guess Egypt is in Africa, so that counts.” At first, I was indignant! Of course, Egypt in is Africa, but when I thought about it, I realized their point of view. When thinking of Africa, the big five come to mind - rhinoceros, and other large species, none of which can be found in Egypt!
In September we went to South Africa and Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe we went to Victoria Falls, which I wrote about in a previous blog. The South Africa portion of our tour was spent at Makutsi Safari Springs Game Reserve.
Makutsi is a safari owned and operated by the Weber family. They have owned the land here since the late 1970’s and are involved in all aspects of running the game reserve and safari camp. You will run into the family at meals, during your game drives, and upon arrival at Hoedspruit (pronounced Hoodsprite) airport. The family is a joy to get to know, and they love to talk about Makutsi and its development.
Our accommodations at Makutsi were rondavels. These are circular structures with thatched roofs. All accommodations are private rondavels and all of them are equipped with 220/230-volt electricity, refrigerator, coffee, and tea making equipment, and an en-suite bathroom. There is no TV, radio, or internet in the rondavel, thus, there are no distractions from the incredible natural beauty walking by your veranda every day. (Note that you will need a 220/230-volt converter for your charging cables or for your hair dryer.) The rondavel is a single room with two chairs, counter space, and a bed. We had a king bed; rondavels are also available with twin beds.
There are also a few double rondavels with 2 attached units and a few family sized rondavels that can accommodate larger families. The rondavels also have an attached veranda with some reclining deck chairs that allow you to sit and watch the wildlife walk by, read a book, or just relax. Mosquito nets also drape most beds but you have AC in the room so we did not need the netting.
Your day at Makutsi will usually begin with a game drive at 6:00 AM. This early start illustrates an interesting fact about Makutsi. From 5:30 PM till 7:00 AM guests are required to be in their rondavels or in the central dining room bar area. This is because wild animals wander about the property at all hours, and that even includes some predators. We had a leopard wander through the site on one night of our visit (we heard this from the staff and saw this leopard on our morning game drive that morning).
On another day, a leopard walked by a terrace where we were having a drink before dinner. The staff is serious about this restriction and offer rides in camp vehicles to anyone needing transportation to their rondavel.
On most days, you will have two game drives of three hours at 6AM and 3PM, and at least once you will have a five-hour game drive at 3PM. The game drives range all over the Makutsi property and on to some tribal land adjacent to the privately held Makutsi property. On these game drives you may see lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, cheetah, cape buffalo, kudu, inyala, impala, wart hogs, giraffes, and other wildlife. Nearly all the species you can see in South Africa can be seen at Makutsi. We always saw interesting and rare animals on our game drives; however, the guides are correct when they tell you that they cannot guarantee specific sightings. The animals are wild and sometimes refuse to be found. These sightings are usually remarkably close, sometimes ten feet or less. No more than two vehicles are allowed to be with any animal at once to allow the animals space and respect.
Watching a male lion from less than ten feet away is thrilling. We knew we were safe; it had been explained to us that if we stayed in the vehicle and did not make any sudden moves that the lions would not really see us. However, as I watched the male lion walk past, my heart began to race, and my palms got a little clammy, and I thought “this is what being thrilled feels like.” The word thrilling is used here to mean not showing fear.
There was no time we spent with these animals that we felt afraid. The animals that live on the land that surrounds Makutsi Springs Safari camp are wild. They do see lots of humans and vehicles but interaction between the animals and humans is not allowed. You can watch them and take pictures but no touching, and, of course, no feeding.
Makutsi is remarkably close to the famous Kruger National Park and one of the days of your stay you will have a daylong excursion to Kruger. At Kruger you will see the same species you see at Makutsi, however, you have a chance to see many more of these species. Makutsi packs a bagged breakfast for you including boiled eggs, some fruit and granola bars (I got the recipe for these and have made them at home, they are delicious), and some sandwiches. We also stopped for coffee and hot chocolate just after entering the park to stretch our legs and use the facilities.
Lunch for this day is at the headquarters for the park; they have a couple of restaurants, and, of course, a nice gift shop. This is a long day, but the sights were worth the drive. We saw dozens of hippos this day as it was cloudy and cool, and the hippos were on the banks of the river running through Kruger sunning themselves. This was lucky because on a hot day the hippos just stay in the water, so you must keep a sharp eye open to catch them as they surface to take a breath.
Another day during your stay at Makutsi will include a day tour of the Blyde River Canyon. This drive will have three stops to observe the incredible beauty and spectacular mountain vistas of this part of South Africa. You will see Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a part of the river where the natural erosion of the canyon is a series of circular pools that resemble potholes. This is a very rare form of erosion, and the walk to see them is beautiful. The other stops are for viewing the mountains in this part of South Africa, and the views are majestic. There is also a stop for facilities and a small craft market. The vendors in this market can process a credit card, so you don’t need much cash for your purchases.
The meals included in the price of your stay are breakfast and dinner. Also included is internet access in the library/coffee bar above the dining hall. The internet was stable and strong enough to load photos on social media so you can make your friends jealous when they see your adventures. The internet is available from 7:00AM to 7:00PM so you have time to load the pictures in the middle of the day and check your email if you feel like you must stay in touch.
My parents are in their 80’s, and I was able to call them on Facetime using the internet everyday just to check in. Lunch is also served in the dining hall and is available for purchase. Some days we bought lunch and others we just skipped it. Breakfast is traditional breakfast food - eggs (cooked to your order), bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, and pancakes. The staff posts the items for dinner in the morning, so you will know that you will have kudu stew, or impala lasagna, or, my favorite, wild boar. The food was always good; however, you need to know that there is no menu that you order from for dinner, there is only one choice.
The bar, or atlapa, was stocked to our satisfaction and the bartender made some nice local cocktails. They had local beers and some local whiskey that were excellent. The prices in the bar were surprisingly affordable.
Makutsi Safari Springs is an excellent choice for viewing the animals of South Africa. I’ve seen these animals in zoos and on TV all my life, but seeing them in person, up close, and in the wild cannot compare. This is a thrilling vacation destination, surprisingly affordable and breathtaking in what you will experience. To learn more contact Condor Tours & Travel – firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 770-339-9961. You can also visit our website at www.condortoursandtravel.com