It's true to say that one day on safari is never the same as any other: the unpredictability of a wild encounter is exactly what makes a safari so very special. However, we can tell you a little about what to expect on a typical day. Here we walk through 24 hours at Garonga Safari Camp, a luxury tented camp in the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve, 90 minutes from South Africa's Kruger National Park.
Safari days start early – at Garonga Safari Camp that means a wakeup call at 6:00 a.m. in the South African Winter (May to August) and a 5:00 a.m. in summer (September to April). Hot coffee and rusks enliven the senses before the early morning game drive starts at sunrise – the coolest time of day when animals are at their most active. As the sun slowly rises over the bushveld and warms the landscape, the beautiful golden light is ideal for photography.
Garonga is an intimate camp with just six en-suited tented rooms, which means an intimate safari experience. Game drives in comfortable open-sided Land Rovers take six to eight guests through the 22,00 hectare Makalali Conservancy – a wildlife-rich private reserve traversed by only two camps. Experienced guides and trackers allow ample time to stop and watch the wildlife, without the crowds of the better-known parks. Sightings here could include elephant, lion, leopard, white rhino, black rhino, cheetah, hippo, crocodile, spotted hyena and a wealth of plains game.
Morning drives last for around three hours, returning to camp for breakfast or brunch. At Garonga, those who wish can walk the last leg back to camp, experiencing the sights and sounds of the bushveld from a totally new perspective. A hearty cooked breakfast with warm pastries and tropical fruit is served around the pool.
In the heat of the midday sun, when animals and guests both seek shelter, there's space for a little me-time. Garonga's philosophy is to offer a safari for the soul; an unhurried holiday with time to reflect and find inspiration in nature. Downtime is spent dozing in private hammocks, lounging by the pool soaking in the outdoor bush bath or indulging in a tranquil massage. Just relaxing on the deck can offer effortless sightings of the reserve's wildlife; elephants, in particular, are regularly seen at the riverbed overlooked by the camp. Those looking for adventure can take to the skies in a microlight for an awe-inspiring aerial safari over Makalali Conservancy.
The afternoon safari at Garonga starts at around 3:30 p.m in the winter and 4:00 p.m. in the summer to allow around three hours for wildlife viewing before the sun sets. A ranger and tracker are on hand to share fascinating facts about the bushveld and its inhabitants, and as golden hour arrives, the soft, warm light makes for spectacular wildlife photography.
As the evening draws in, the Land Rover rests at a glorious spot from which to enjoy a cool sundowner as the beautiful African sun sets over the horizon. Returning to camp in the dark, the 4x4's spotlights are used to locate nocturnal game such as leopard, hyena and porcupine.
At Garonga, pre-dinner drinks are served around the campfire or the outdoor boma bar before a sumptuous three-course dinner with fellow guests - accompanied by a selection of South African wines. Dinner is served either around the cosy communal table in the main lounge, under the stars at the outdoor boma or in a private, romantic setting just for two.
When it's time to retire, a touch of luxury awaits. Each of Garonga's spacious tented rooms has sculpted walls and an overarching canvas roof, and comes complete with a large draped bed, en-suite bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers, and private wooden deck with its own hammock commanding spectacular views across the bushveld. Some safari camps offer the chance to spend a night under the stars: Garonga's tree house star bed offers guests the opportunity to sleep out in a beautiful four-poster bed, drifting off to the distant sounds of the wild.