We enjoyed every stop and were very happy with how the trip was structured. I thought Monique was incredibly flexible and open to catering to our specific requests throughout the planning process. She was also VERY patient which we appreciated as well! Overall, I was glad we were able to jump around and were not beholden to any one lodge group. We interacted with African Wilderness Safaris, Thornybush, and Sanctuary. I felt each one did certain things well and we were using each service the right way. We spoke with other guests that were only traveling with others they were paired with and only on Sanctuary properties. That would have been very disappointing if that was how our trip was structured. We appreciated the opportunity to experience different groups and all the different guests we met along the way.
We loved Cape Town and the vineyards and loved Thornybush. The only reason I didn't do 5 stars here is I felt it took some time to research how to fill some of the days out (reservations in Cape Town and how best to see the vineyards). I understand guided tours were one option, which we did do one day for the Cape Peninsula. We enjoyed that trip but felt it would be too costly to do that every day we were in Cape Town and the vineyards. In addition to cost, we preferred some time to explore on our own given we were on our honeymoon. Would have been helpful to see what some other itineraries had been in each location but overall we did very well with our choices.
Overall, we found everyone extremely friendly in South Africa and we enjoyed our African Wilderness Safaris guide/ground handler very much.
We are very happy we went to Botswana to see a different landscape than what South Africa / Thornybush had to offer. I think you're much more likely to see the big 5 in Thornybush but we luckily saw them at both lodges in Botswana. The border crossing at the river was a bit of an adventure (mostly because we had no idea what to expect). The guides and road transfers were wonderful. I only wish we had a bit more time at the falls than we did. Also, our charter flight was cancelled and we had to take a 2.5 hour drive instead of a flight to get to the next airport.
4.5 / 5 stars. The service was phenomenal and the location was incredible. I am glad we had a high floor with a good view of the bay. There were even whales playing in the water outside of our window in the distance each morning! The only issue we had was the air conditioner broke down one night after making a lot of loud noise and waking us up so we had a bit of a hot sleep one evening. They were able to fix it quickly the next day.
We thought everything about Leeu was incredible. The service was perfect and the room was phenomenal. They went above and beyond for us, knowing it was our honeymoon, including champagne and notes of congratulations. Our family called ahead and surprised us with a massage as a gift at their spa on the Estate property, which was one of the best massage and spa experiences I've had in a long time. We were able to uber around mostly and they arrange transportation for us at a reasonable charge when we couldn't find Ubers. If they had a shuttle that could go all the way to vineyards around Stellenhosch, it would be even better!
Thornybush was fantastic and we honestly were spoiled by the game viewing experience there (which we realized when we got to Botswana). The system they have of relying on each other to help find game is very efficient. They also ensure that it does not feel crowded by only allowing one group to view the game at a time. We saw the big 5 in the first 12 hours at Thornybush. We also appreciated the ability to go off-road and truly track the game through the bush. Our guide Chewy and tracker Jeffrey were phenomenal and the staff were great as well! Monica, who ran the staff at the camp was phenomenal as well and, knowing it was our honeymoon, treated us to champagne arranged our room very romantically one evening (candles and flower pedals), which we thought was very nice. We also found the other guests to be an interesting mix of locals and Europeans. We were happy not to run into too many Americans early in the trip! I only wish they were all-inclusive on the alcohol!
We rate Chobe Chilwero 4 stars. The game drives on land were not permitted to go off-road given it is a national park. After being spoiled by Thornybush, we realized how difficult it is to track game when you can't go off-road - and how lucky you have to be to see some animals (lions and leopards). We were very lucky to see the big five there but only because they happened to be traveling on the roads at times. However we VERY much enjoyed the boat excursions during the afternoon drives. They were truly a unique experience that we didn't find at any other camp. We also were very impressed by our guide Bobby, who was extremely knowledgeable of not only the wildlife but the geology, topography and neighboring town (he grew up nearby and recently joined the lodge). One other issue we noticed at Chilwero was the executive chef was on holiday. We thought the food was fine but wondered if we were missing anything there. Finally, we decided to do massages but they were not quite as advertised (not authentic deep tissue or Swedish massage techniques).
Overall, we enjoyed the lodge very much but may have been a bit disappointed had the boat excursions not been an option.
It's clear why this camp is the flagship property of Sanctuary. Everything was a notch above Chobe Chilwero and we heard similar feedback from guests that went to other Sanctuary properties. The game viewing was great given we could go off-road there. It was not as good a system as Thornybush but we enjoyed it given the landscape was so different than the other two camps. The food was phenomenal and even the food packed during the game drives was great! The service was above and beyond, including a private dinner they surprised and arranged for us on our last night there given they knew it was our honeymoon trip. Animae (spelling?) was phenomenal at managing our entire experience and we liked our guide here as well (Chief).
MONIQUE WAS WONDERFUL! THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR PATIENCE THROUGH THIS ENTIRE PROCESS!!! We will be recommending you to friends and family as well!