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Kristin and Brice

June 6th, 2019

We are so grateful to have had this trip planned through African Travel, Inc.

I've been meaning to write to you to let you know how the trip went. I guess I should start with this - this trip exceeded expectations on every single level - and that's a bold statement, as the anticipation and planning of this trip led us to have very high expectations!

I want to give you a comprehensive review, so this will be a pretty lengthy email. (Sorry about that!)

Emirates was beautiful. The service and seating was absolutely amazing. The trips were long, but definitely tolerable in business class, and we are very thankful that we did it that way. The only issue we had was on the flights on the A380s the area we sat in (row 11) was roasting hot.  Though the back of the plane had more traffic and was closer to the bar and bathrooms, it was much cooler.  If we ever fly an A380 again we would sit further back.

Cape Town:
As I emailed you, when we arrived to the Victoria and Alfred Hotel (V&A), we were informed that there was a maintainance issue in our room, and they wanted to move us to a sister hotel, the Queen Victoria, which was gorgeous. The room was very nice, the breakfast was delicious, the service was incredibly friendly, kind, helpful. We enjoyed sitting in the bar area and having some of the creative gin drinks they had.  But, in addition to the incredible service we encountered at the Queen Victoria, we also have to mention the amazing people at the V&A hotel. Though we were only there for a few min, they were absolutely awesome and friendly, and even remembered us when we went there the next day (the bellman greeted us by name and showed us where the coffee shop was.)

The private tours:
We were lucky to have Faizel as our Thompson/African Travel, Inc. guide for both the Cape Tour and the Winelands tour.  He was absolutely amazing.  He gave us great information, took time to answer questions, got to know us to help accommodate our needs/wants, and was just an incredibly interesting person (we talked about pretty much everything under the sun!)  It felt like a friend was taking us around the town. The Waterfront location was exactly what we were looking for - very safe, accessible, and GREAT food options.
Cape Town overall: So much fun - a great starting off point.

Kings Camp, Timbavati:
We arrived at Hoedspruit and were greeted by our driver. He helped us get our luggage and drove us to Kings Camp, even pausing on the way when we saw our first zebras and giraffes. When we arrived to Kings Camp, the staff all greeted us, introduced themselves, and helped us check in. We were shocked to find that we were given one of the "honeymoon suites" with a private patio and plunge pool. The room was absolutely gorgeous.  After our first game drive, we were brought back to our room and were again surprised to find that they had set up a private dinner for us on our patio, and had drawn a bath and lit the fire pit. It was just an incredible experience. The food at Kings Camp was absolutely some of the best food we've ever had, and they just kept feeding us! I wish that I could find words to describe the game drives and game viewing we encountered at Kings Camp - We saw all the Big 5, and also the wild painted dogs, which apparently is rare.  Our guide's name was Remember, and our tracker was Elvis, and they were an incredible team.  We were also pleased to be in the jeep with another family who was a lot of fun as well, so the game drive experiences were just spectacular on every single level. After the morning game drives we'd eat a wonderful breakfast, then go back to the room and sit on the patio (and Brice swam a bit in the pool) and watch the elephants, impala, and Nyala that would walk by the camp.  We had several animals jump the fence and hang with us right outside our room (our nyala friend hung with us under the shade of the tree right outside our room for several hours.

Kings Camp Overall:
Kings Camp was a really special place - not just with the great game viewing experience, but also the incredible team they have there.  One thing that I want to note is that one of the people in our jeep had a really hard time getting around due to health/mobility issues, and I was pleased to see how well they were able to accommodate her.  I spoke with one of the managers (thinking about my mom and wanting her to experience this!), and she told me that they have several things in place to help accommodate people with mobility issues.

Accommodations were very nice, great location to restaurants. Not a huge fan of how busy/chaotic it was in Sandton, but that was really because we'd just left the serenity of Kings Camp.

Victoria Falls:
Getting through immigration in Zimbabwe was awful, but only because we got into a line where the computer broke, so it took forever. We were very happy that African Travel, Inc. sent us the immigration forms ahead of time, so we didn't have to scramble to fill them out. When we got to the hotel, we were informed that our room was not ready yet. They were extremely apologetic, as I guess we got there right at check-in time. However, she explained to us that our room was a "very very very special room" and that the "state minister who had been staying there had not yet checked out".  We were fine with that, had some lunch, got ready for our dinner cruise and had a drink. The dinner cruise on the Zambezi was a huge hit.  We were the first ones on the boat, and got a chance to visit with the staff, who informed us that there was a possibility that we would see a variety of animals, but that hippos are guaranteed! (Hippos are my favorite animal.)  Sure enough, we saw all sorts of animals including Hippos, the crew kept a lively yet classy atmosphere, and the food was incredible - absolutely shocked at the quality of each of the 4 courses. When we returned to the hotel, we were shown to our room...The Royal Suite, which was beyond breathtaking. The staff called us "the king and queen" during our stay. The Victoria Falls Hotel is a magical place. You truly feel like you've gone back in time and even though there were a lot of people all around, the atmosphere is very relaxing.

The Tours in Victoria Falls:
Thompsons tours has a desk at the Victoria Falls Hotel, and we were greeted by Sharleen, who was one of our favorite people. She let us know exactly what would be happening with our tours, our transport, etc....Such a personal touch. The same driver who picked us up at the airport drove us to the dinner cruise, and again, it was kind of like having a friend show us around. The following day we did the Victoria Falls tour, which was great, and our guide talked us into booking a helicopter tour.  (My fear of flying has always prevented me from even considering any kind of helicopter tour, but I figured that if I was ever going to do it, Victoria Falls was the place!)  We also did the Village Tour, which I didn't know much about, but our guide explained that we'd drive to the village, and look for someone who would invite us to their homestead...which sounded strange to us, but we were game.  Sure enough, we as we were driving a woman waved us in, and she welcomed us to her home.  She told us a little about the life in the village, and about their homestead, gave us a tour and answered questions.  We felt a little awkward, but it was very interesting.  Later we talked to several locals who thanked us for going on the tour, as they said that they know that Victoria Falls is the tourist draw, but that they hoped that getting to know the people and allowing them to share who they are and their culture would lead people to come back, so we felt really good about doing it.
Victoria Falls overall: The falls themselves are magnificent, but it was the people we met who were the highlight. The drivers and tour guides are so incredibly knowledgeable, clever, friendly, and personable. The locals at the market were so gracious and proud to share their crafts. We enjoyed everyone we encountered on our trip, but the Zimbabwean people in particular really stole our hearts.

The drive from Victoria Falls to Chobe was just fine - our driver helped us get through immigration and waited for the next driver. That person helped us get through customs, and we headed to the Chobe National Park.  Because the lodge is in the park, we had to be in a 4-wheel drive jeep, which was kind of fun, but the "roads" in the park are awful!  (Still fun though.)  Entering the park, we saw a ton of animals.  When we got to Chobe Game Lodge, we were greeted and shown our room, which was another suite (a triple room - with 2 bathrooms!). Then we went to have some lunch, and then on to our first activity, which was a boat cruise (more hippos!).  When we went down for dinner later that evening, we were informed that they had a private dinner arranged for us by the pool, which was lovely.  Again, the food at Chobe was fantastic.
The game drives at Chobe, while different from the ones at Timbavati due to one being a private reserve (we could go anywhere) and the other being a national park (restricted on where they could go) but still very fun and exciting. We really loved the river tours due to the hippos and seeing things from a different perspective. (We even had some excitement when a hippo decided we were too close and he chased us a bit!)  Our guide was incredibly sweet and knowledgeable.

Chobe overall: Gorgeous setting, great food, wonderful people. Really enjoyed it - it was a great ending to the trip.

We are so grateful to have had this trip planned through African Travel, Inc. The personal touch of having the Thompsons/African Travel connection was incredibly helpful, and the drivers/tour guides were amazing. This trip was the most incredible, amazing, magnificent, awe-inspiring, etc.. thing we've ever done.  I cannot emphasize enough that it exceeded expectations in every single aspect.  We've decided that we'll do it again in Fall of 2024, and we have several friends who may want to join us!

We cannot thank you again for all your help and patience during the planning of the trip, as well as being available to assist us during the trip (everything went so incredibly smooth, it was incredible.)  When I first reached out to you I said I was looking for a champion, and truly, that's exactly what we received.

Kristin & Brice

CST #2071444-20