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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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
Latest stories from i100
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

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral