June saw the arrival of our second group of intrepid safari adventurers of the year, and the excitement and anticipation was tangible when Bob and Susie Bruno were collected from the airport in Johannesburg. This was the Bruno’s third safari with us and we were excited to know they had chosen to spend their 25th wedding anniversary with Tembelani. With only a one night stop-over in the city, they were quickly checked in and settled at the Safari Club, just minutes from O.R. Tambo International, before being united with their tour guide, Bongani, and whisked off into urban Africa.
The Soweto and City tour shows off the vibrant and lively area so well-known in Jozi’s history, as well as some of the city’s great landmarks. A tour around Mandela’s childhood home, the Hector Peterson Museum and a visit to the Kliptown Youth Programme provided our explorers with some insightful experiences of the most populated city in South Africa. “Bongani, was a fountain of fascinating information and had a wonderful personality!” says Susie Bruno of their tour guide.
After an evening of cocktails and a revitalising night’s sleep at the Safari Club, Bob and Susie were collected early for their transfer to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Staying in the world renowned Victoria Falls Hotel, the couple was met by their private tour guide, Dumi, who assisted with their check-in before insisting on a quick, late afternoon trip to the falls. Susie captured the essence of the falls when she told us “The “Smoke that Thunders” truly is an accurate description. Beautiful rainbows, drenching mist, gushing over spray… we were soaked from head to toe by the time we were done, but we enjoyed every minute.” After declining a proffered shopping tour on the way back from the falls, the Brunos opted to make the most of the luxuriant accommodations, breath-taking views, delicious food, and impeccable service of their hotel. ‘We wished we could have spent another day in this African paradise.” says Susie.
The following morning saw the party boarding the exquisite Rovos Rail for a two night journey across Africa. This is heralded as the most luxuriant train ride in the world. It takes its passengers, on this particular route, from Victoria Falls, through 1600 kilometres of awe-inspiring vistas, into Botswana, across the Tropic of Capricorn and then traverses the Magaliesberg mountain range as it makes its way towards Pretoria. “This was a beautiful trip!” says Susie. “The staff saw to our every need, the food was delicious and beautifully presented. The views were unbelievable.”
After another night at the Safari Club it was time to head off into the bush, and the Bruno’s favourite part of their Safari began with three nights at the Leadwood Lodge in Sabi Sands. “When you get into the African bush you instantly feel a deep relaxation overcome you, and at the same time excitement overwhelms you.” says Bob Bruno. We had something special planned for the Bruno’s anniversary here and we loved their reaction to the evening meal prepared for them in their room. The suite was set aglow with candles everywhere, a bubble bath was drawn and champagne chilled and served. The chef prepared a special menu and delivered it personally, allowing our guests time to savour each course.
Bob and Susie had requested a ranger they had met on their previous trip in 2011, Fin Lawlor, who they have kept in touch with. Fin was able to rearrange his schedule to be the Bruno’s guide, and he remained with them at both Leadwood and Exeter River Lodge. “There’s nothing like meeting up with an old friend in a far-away land!” says Susie. Bob concurs: “Fin is excellent at his job. Over the years he has taught us so much. Not only about the animals, but the birds, bugs and trees. Our game viewing this trip was highlighted by the animals mating; we saw lions, leopards, hippos and birds completing the circle of life.”
On arrival at Exeter River Lodge Bob and Susie met their camp host and private butler who settled them in to their exquisite private suite before they set off on their evening game drive with Fin. “We were absolutely spoilt again.” says Susie. “They hung lanterns and trays with champagne and glasses by the lodge on our return from the evening game drive. Beautiful!” Once again a celebratory candle-lit dinner in their suite was laid on by the lodge.” The chef was interrupted on her way to our room to discuss the menu by an elephant on the path, outside our room.” says Bob. There was only a short delay while they chased off the intruder. The animals are very comfortable around this peaceful lodge, with kudu and even leopard joining the Brunos on the grounds.
Bob and Susie had chosen to spend their last three nights at their favourite lodge, Rattray’s on Mala Mala – although we have a sneaking suspicion they might now be torn between here and Leadwood. Breath-taking views and unbelievable game viewing is a given at Rattray’s. The Bruno’s were not disappointed and raved about their experiences when we caught up with them. We were thrilled to be able to Join Bob and Susie for breakfast on the day of their anniversary, it was fantastic catching up with people with whom we’ve become firm friends.