South Africa WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE South Africa is of course the top destination for safaris, but Johannesburg also has much to offer the discerning traveler Words STEVEN SHORT
T he sun is just up and we are standing only yards away from a giraffe who is nosing around in the foliage. A subtle change in the wind direction—unnoticed by us but later mentioned by our guide, Tinus Nel—alerts the creature to our strange smell and therefore presence. She eyes us curiously before wandering off. “Giraffes can decapitate a lion with a single kick,” Nel informs us before leading us deeper into the bush. This exhilarating, early morning walk is just one of many things that make Shambala Private Game Reserve such a magical place. A three- hour drive from Johannesburg, the 24,711-acre (10,000 ha) “farm”—as locals refer to it—is home not just to giraffes but elephants, lions, zebras, and wildebeest. There are huge and magnificent black-and-white rhinos, too, as well as an anti-poaching unit working to ensure these endangered animals do not, as feared, disappear as a species over the course of the next decade. “They are part of our
heritage, part of what makes us who we are,” says Nel. When you arrive at the camp, over a welcoming glass of champagne, you’re told how there are no timetables here. You do what you want, when you want. Bush walk at 6am? No problem. A massage or facial in the on-site spa (where the soundtrack of exotic birds comes in from the windows rather than out of speakers) before lunch?
You got it. “We give you your time back,” as Roemello Marupen, one of the Shambala team puts it. You eat when you’re hungry, chatting with head chef Dayne Bailey and sous chef Matthew Earp-Jones about what’s available that day. All tastes and dietary requirements are catered for here, from meaty—choice local cuts are prepared over a central brai (South
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