Turn off that mobile phone! Let sleeping lions lie

Katy Holland and sons learn how to avoid being fresh kill in the bush

My kids have got the giggles, and I'm on the verge of joining them. It's not easy to stay composed when you're bouncing up and down in an open Land Rover in the South African bush looking for elephants. And if the look on the face of the warthog we just passed is anything to go by, we look as silly as we feel.

We've just arrived at CC Africa's Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, an amazing wilderness in which you might spot a giraffe's neck or a kudu's ears poking out of the scrubland.

But Whipsnade this ain't. We're in 22,000 hectares of protected semi-desert where, under the relentless sun, some of the world's most endangered animals live and sleep and eat each other. Sakhi, one of our guides, is perched perilously on the bonnet, looking for wild things. He's escorting us to our lodge, and he reckons we're heading for a lion and his fresh kill on route.

A sudden unearthly noise has us sitting bolt upright and I see alarm in Sakhi's eyes. My stomach sinks. I recognise that sound. It's Patrick's mobile ("You can stand under my umber-ella, ella, ella ..."). Note to Patrick, age 12: the South African bush is a mobile-free zone.

But I'm half-relieved that we don't bump into that lion. Rhino, springbok and a troop of baboons will do me fine for now. And a zebra, who trots across in front of us ("Look! A zebra crossing!" whispers Stan, who's nine).

Finally, out of the wilderness, our lodge looms – a man is standing with a tray of cocktails to welcome us. And welcomed we are: the Melton Manor staff – "our" staff – appear singing, greeting us Xhosa-style, offering treats for us to nibble before showing us around our very own lodge. It's stunning: we have our own pool, and the four bedrooms are palatial, with enormous beds and floor-to-ceiling windows.

The boys are in their element. There are backpacks full of goodies, and there's a huge choice of activities, from fishing expeditions to "poo safaris" (I won't go into detail, but it kept Stan amused). And, to Patrick's joy, games and DVDs.

But there's no time for these now ... a quick feast on pancakes and we're off for an evening safari.

It's hard to choose the highlight of our first day: the buffalo stampede at dusk, perhaps, or the elephants crossing the Great Fish River, washing each other on the way. We return under a starry sky, stopping to "admire" a poisonous spider, and a lioness prowls up and gives us a good sniff. We try not to breathe. But there are apparently tastier things to hunt than Land Rovers, and she slips away.

Supper is waiting at the lodge. The poolside is ablaze with candles, and a crackling fire takes the edge off the night air. We feast on ostrich and wine and fall into bed – we'll be up at 5am. There are two safaris a day, at dawn and dusk – but we rarely see another vehicle, as visitor numbers are restricted here.

The evenings are particularly enjoyable: as the sun goes down, a trestle table laden with drinks appears. We sip lemonade and gin and tonic, and take in the smouldering African sunset. Bliss.

The best thing about our South African holiday? Well, we did see a cheetah and her new cubs, which was pretty darn special. But, for us, it was the company – CC Africa's staff: we have never been so well looked after. Add to that their total commitment to conservation and ecotourism, and the feeling of exhilaration you get when you arrive lasts long after you leave.

The boys are desperate to do it all again. Can you have two holidays of a lifetime?

How to get there

Katy Holland travelled with Bushbaby Travel (01252 792984; bushbabytravel.com), which offers seven nights in South Africa for £1,799 per adult and £1,149 per child under 12 this summer, based on eight sharing, including return flights, car hire, three nights at CC Africa's Melton Manor and four nights' at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa in Cape Town.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
Jonathan de Guzman of the Netherlands and Willian of Brazil compete for the ball
world cup 2014LIVE BLOG: Hosts Brazil take on the Netherlands in third-place play-off
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice