Thursday, March 2, 2017

Take a champagne tour to South Africa at a beer price

The King of the Jungle nestles in the warm afternoon sun at Karongwe River Lodge
SOUTH AFRICA -- Among the top "dream trips" for people who love to travel is a photo safari in Africa. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks is the cost.. For now, at least, Charlotte tour operatior Safarais by John Lasater is offering a trip of a lifetime to South Africa and environs from May 14-24 for the unbelievably low ground price of $1,853 per person.
Karongwe Lodge (Taylor)
Air from Washington Dulles, as well as all internal South African segments, is approximately $1,350. All accommodations are rated 4 or 5 stars and many meals are included.

For most photographic safaris, the quest is to view the "Big Five" consisting of the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, rhinoceros and the African leopard. The term was coined by big-game hunters back in the days when shooting animals with guns as trophies was preferable to shooting pictures.
Out for a stroll, an African elephant is one of the Big Five
The Big Five refers to what was said to be the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot along with the degree of danger involved to hunt them.

South African banknotes from 1990 and feature a different Big Five animal on each denomination. Though no guarantee to see them all can be made, the ultimate goal for travelers to South Africa and other countries in Africa is to view the Big Five animals.
A big "hippo" yawn  (Lasater)
John Lasater, founder of Safaris by John Lasater, has spent most of his adult life traveling through Africa and working there. Thanks to numerous contacts he has made in more than 60 visits to the "Dark Continent", Lasater is able to negotiate with the same outfitters as larger tour operators but, with no middle man, he is able to make African dream safaris affordable.
The Cape Town skyline is alluring with marinas and Table
Mountain (Taylor)
The tour begins at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area in Capetown with over 450 shops, restaurants and bars near the Victoria and Alfred Hotel.
Mountains spill into the sea along the coastal road outside Cape Town  (Taylor)
Driving along the Atlantic coastal road, which has earned the title "Nature's Greatest Show", it is almost a safari in miniature with baboons, rhebok, Cape Mountain zebra, bontebok and eland visible within the scenic beauty of the Table Mountain range and views of the Twelve Apostles.
Shanty towns still exist
It wasn't so very long ago that South Africa, despite its incredible beauty, was boycotted by many travelers due to apartheid. Those scars still exist and the shanty towns are prevalent, but South Africa is a work in progress. The historical opportunities to explore the sites where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have made such important contributions are a major part of the cultural fabric of the country.

Mandela became a symbol of hope and progress
South Africa is noted for its wines, so the intermediate stop en route to finding the Big Five is a brief visit to some of the better wine making operations in the region.

The hotel on this leg of the journey is the Oude Werf Hotel nestled in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Don't worry if you cannot pronounce the name, after a couple of glasses of wine and you'll speak like a native.
South African wines are first rate  (Taylor)
The ultimate prize, of course, are the safaris themselves which operate out of Karongwe River Lodge near Kruger National Park. For the next four nights, Karongwe is home and all meals are included. Be sure to enjoy a Kudu steak at least one night during your visit.
Zebras enjoy a late afternoon cocktail party  (Lasater)
Safaris begin early in the morning and late in the day when the animals are more likely to venture forth in search of food and water.
Specially designed jeeps provide
maximum viewing (Taylor)
Specially designed tiered vehicles allow maximum viewing as two-man teams drive and scout in search of the animals. With his perch at the front of the jeep, the scout scans the road for fresh tracks and other signs of recent activity.

Karongwe prides itself on having first-rate guides with years of experience. The guides know exactly how to approach various locations without "spooking" the animals. Since several safaris are in progress at any given time, the naturalists stay in touch with each other to provide information about sightings as well as making certain they do not infringe upon the viewing of others with too many vehicles.
Viewing animals is up close and personal  (Taylor)
Be it morning or afternoon, each safari stops for a brief break for coffee, tea or soft drinks and a snack before continuing onward. Every effort is made to see as many animals as possible, but there is a special effort to make sure the Big Five can be captured on film.
Warthogs mowing the grass

The middle of the day is reserved for relaxation and enjoying the reserve. The warthogs are particularly photogenic being that they so ugly they are cute.

There are also pre or post tour options to Zimbabwe (Victoria Falls), Chobe National Park or Botswanna. Prices are available at the Premium Safaris website.
African leopard on the lookout for its next meal  (Lasater)
If the thought of a photographic safari in Africa has ever stirred your imagination, seek out the Big Five in South Africa. The price will never be better.