May 18, 2017

places I love (south africa // lions valley lodge)

we waited in the dusty car park tentatively, looking around juuuust in case. I spotted a couple giraffes casually posed on a nearby hilltop, sighed, wondered how this could be real life + shot a ridiculous grin at my favorite travel mate. we were in for an epic, epic week. 


a few months ago, lindsey and I decided we better stop talking about going to south africa and instead maybe ACTUALLY GO TO SOUTH AFRICA. she was turning 30, I was feeling wanderlusty, and so off we were. 

so far in this life I've had the good fortune to see some pretty unbelievable corners of the world. I don't know that they get any better than this one. we spent almost three weeks exploring what makes south africa so special. cape town, durban, vineyards, etc. everywhere was unique and perfect. but to be fair, my heart was stolen the moment we arrived in that dusty parking lot. so let's start there shall we? 


a week in nambiti private game reserve. just a few hours drive from johannesburg, we were in another world. 

after a few minutes of meaningful giraffe to human eye contact, a green game viewer came bounding around the corner captained by tyrone, who would be our guide (and bartender, and babysitter, and animal expert and adventure guru) during our stay at lions valley lodge, one of nine lodges in the reserve. 

lions valley was recommended by a friend, and we had no idea what to expect. we spent the entire drive to the lodge open-mouthed staring at everything around us, and when we pulled up to our home, we knew immediately it was going to be special. 

nothing I say can do the place and the people justice. every inch was beautiful. our room (hey savannah suite!) was unbelievable (side by side bath tubs for post safari relaxing? a back wall of windows that open so far that you're basically outside? watching zebras hang out by the watering hole from the couch? come on). the staff were exceptional (great food, warm greetings, awesome guides). it was the perfect home for a few days. 

each morning started while it was still dark, when tyrone would come meet us at our door for the walk to the main lodge (lions valley is an unfenced camp, so there's always the slight chance that it will be a lion instead of your guide there to greet you). after a quick coffee, we were off for a morning game drive. armed with blankets and cameras, we spent hours watching the sun rise as we ventured all over the reserve in search of wildlife. we spent mornings making pit stops to watch the hippos swim while we enjoyed tyrone's dreamed up bush-appropriate coffee/hot cocoa/amarula creations. we chased radio updates to hang out among herds of elephants. we'd return to the lodge for the day to relax, unwind, and enjoy the quiet for a while...then it was back in the viewer for an afternoon drive, with coffees and cool mornings replaced by sundowners below pink sunsets. every day was the same + every day was an adventure. 

at first I was worried it would get old. we had twelve game drives ahead of us. how many zebra can one girl look at!? good news. obvious news. it never got old. 

we explored every inch of nambiti. 

greeted other adventurers as we passed, all sharing in the same awe-filled daydream. 

asked tyrone one hundred dumb questions. 

found ourselves on cliffs, by waterfalls, in trees, buried in grass taller than our vehicle.

we met a little strawberry of a rhino named torpedo. 

got caught in the middle of an elephant herd. 

sat motionless in the pitch black darkness while two lions wandered by so closely I could have tousled their manes.

we felt our heartbeats pick up speed when we realized the humans weren't in charge. 

we were guests in their world. 

saw shooting stars. 

sat and watched and never tired of it. 

we paused for zebra roadblocks. 

embraced the chance to unplug. 

got used to (and loved) hearing the beep and chatter of the ranger radio. 

trusted our guide to get us close but not eaten (success!). 

listened to his stories about past adventures and made new ones.

learned so much about humans and animals and how we could all stand to be a little kinder all around. 

I could have stayed forever listening to the wind blow through the grass, watching rhinos meander across the path. 

every moment, every sound, every human, every big, beautiful animal is one I'll never forget. we were heartbroken to leave, which I'll take as a sign of life well lived. lions valley, you were the adventure of a lifetime and made our first trip to south africa so, so special. I can't wait to come do it again. xx 

for a little video fun too, click here

after we left lions valley lodge, we stayed a few more nights at a tented camp also in the reserve. it was wonderful too and we had a great stay - but spotting our beloved lions valley game viewer on the road each day was like seeing an ex after a break up - just a tiny bit sad, weird, and nostalgic for what you lost. lesson learned. pro tip: commit to one lodge! 



  1. I loved reading this! What a trip! Wow!!!! Your words were beautiful. The pictures were unbelievable! I am amazed and inspired! Thank you for sharing this! Xoxo

  2. "He said with a tear in his eye, my daughters amaze me every day"

  3. Wow what an amazing write up and awesome photographs, thank you so much. Delighted you enjoyed your stay at our piece of paradise. But hey one of you is not well - being in the swimming pool - that water is freezing at this time of the year. We look forward to you coming back to relive the experience.

    ReplyDelete over there! Tell me what you think!

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