Our three night stay at Idube Game Reserve came at the end of a three week vacation touring other parts of South Africa. Everything had been wonderful - a vacation of a lifetime, all leading up to what we were promised would be the highlight of the trip. I can say that it was, but it was also like an entirely separate vacation from the former weeks of the trip. We had been self-driving - independent and mostly alone. As we arrived at the reception area at Idube the staff came out to welcome us. We were gently, but firmly guided and assisted out of our car and very warmly greeted. Debbie, and I think her name is Daveen (sorry if I'm wrong on that), and Tim made us feel as though they had just been waiting for nothing else in life but to meet and welcome us. Our car disappeared as if by magic, and we were told not to lay a finger on our luggage - that we would meet up with it again in our room.
A welcome drink followed in one of the dining areas, whilst Debbie introduced us to some of the resident game - "Rosie, the nyala, who comes when you call her and loves baked goods. Try to save her a piece of toast or a muffin. You can feed her by hand." - and described to us the pattern that our days would follow during our stay.
Then she led us to our cabin - more like a small cottage, really. A huge romantic bed, complete with mosquito net and flower petals strewn on it, a very spacious seating area, with several comfy overstuffed chairs, some excellent magazines to read, a drinks table, a writing desk, and a fabulous deck. Our cabin was not overlooked and neither did we overlook anyone else. The deck was wonderfully natural to complement its' setting. The bathroom, I have to say, was not so great. Extremely dated. There was a huge outdoor shower. At our previous accommodation I delighted in the outdoor shower, but did also have the option of an indoor one. Here there was a bath indoors, but no shower, and it was sometimes chilly out there to be naked and wet. Not only that but I found the drainage system to be unhygienic. The shower head was not adjustable, so there was only one place to stand under the flow of water, which was right over the drain hole. But the water, far from draining properly, seemed to back up and leave me standing in a large puddle of drain water. We were told that some renovations will soon be under way for the cabins, so I do hope that the bathrooms will receive some attention.
A little while after our arrival it was lunch time. Lunch is served at 15.00hrs. But bear in mind that you did not eat breakfast until 09.30. Lunch is a splendid buffet, of all sorts of cooked foods plus salads, fruit, wonderful assorted European style cheeses and crackers, plus dessert. It was hard not to eat too much, so delicious was it, but we knew that another fabulous meal was promised for dinner that night.
At 16.30 we set off on our first game drive. Every wonderful thing you might ever have imagined a game drive to be is exactly what it is. Our ranger/driver was Andruis, who proved to be very capable, passionate about his chosen career and the wildlife, entertaining, amusing, and certainly determined to please his guests. He works partnered with his tracker - Titus, who was equally adept, and the two of them made a great team, and certainly enhanced our experience. Within minutes, it seemed, we were spotting many of the animals we had come all this way and paid all this money to view. Elephants, rhino, cheetah, leopard, lions. In the days to come we would also see giraffes, hippos, many kinds of deer and antelope, wild dogs, hyenas, a tiny baby crocodile, a chameleon, some fabulous birds, and I can barely remember what else. Every drive was a wonder of wildlife.
You are assigned to a vehicle and ranger/tracker team for your stay, so you get to meet and know a little bit, the other guests with whom you share your vehicle. We met some super people.
Dinner was at about 21.30, following cocktails at the bar. Dinner was a social affair, outside, under the stars, around a fire. For me, I preferred the lunch to the dinner, but still the evening meal was always very good. Breakfast was another super meal - buffet of everything you could possibly want, plus food cooked to order. Breakfast and lunches were outside, under cover, but open to the park setting, and all kinds of animals wandered up close for us to enjoy as we ate. We had only been there for a couple of hours on our first day and as we ate lunch a large herd of elephants came within twenty feet of us and stayed, grazing, drinking. One of them was apparently only two days old. There is a bridge to cross to a hide so that you can get even closer to them, without being observed.
At 06.00 you are awoken each morning, and your ranger provides you with coffee and muffins before your morning drive. It was so very easy and pleasing to fall into this daily routine. During your morning drive you stop for hot drinks, and on the evening drive for sundowners. Delicious - should be compulsory the world over.
For the times in between the safari drives, although it might seem that there was nothing to do, in fact the time passed very pleasantly, sitting on the deck enjoying the warthogs, the nyala, hornbills, and anything else that came our way. Or you can take a nap, take a shorter safari walk with your ranger, play board games, meet up and chat with your fellow travellers, use the swimming pool. It was anything but boring. I also enjoyed passing time shopping in the handicraft shop on site. They had some beautiful items, very reasonably priced.
Some of the things which did not go unnoticed by us were the things to which we did not have to pay any attention. For instance, unlike when you stay in a hotel and have to sign for everything - meals, drinks, items procured from the reception, etc., at Idube everything like that was just very discreetly taken care of out of sight. If you had drinks at the bar, the staff knew what you had ordered and it just went onto your bill - nothing so crass here, as asking the guest to sign to guarantee payment. that made us feel like very, very special and honoured guests. And our ranger definitely gave the impression that he took very seriously his responsibility to ensure that we were always satisfied with our safari drives. We had one very exciting morning drive, chasing around at quite high speeds because Andruis had received word that some extremely rare wild African dogs were in the area. He pursued with great determination, and was so proud when we finally tracked them down and were able to sit and watch them for a while.
Our travel agent in Cape Town booked our stay at Idube, as she did everything else on our vacation. We did not ask her to break down the price of everything for us, so were not aware of the cost of staying at Idube. It was worth every cent, anyway. Later, after arriving home I looked up the cost of staying there. It translated to approx. $510 CDN per person, per night. (More, in reality, because the exchange rate quoted online is not equal to the bank rate.) I know my husband. Had he seen that beforehand, he would have made a lot of negative noises about it, saying that was not the sort of thing we could afford. I know that our travel agent would have worked to get us a good deal. Indeed she said that off season some good deals are to be found at the game reserves. But I think that even my husband would agree with me, after our stay there, that really, when compared to hotels of equal calibre in the world's cities, and given everything that came with our stay at Idube - fabulous meals, safari drives which were almost sensory overloads, a cottage sized luxury room, and the fact that we were made to feel like wealthy celebrity guests during our stay - it was a bargain.