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SILVAN SAFARI, SABI SANDS, SOUTH AFRICA

They moved closely together as a pack, silently communicating with each other as the hyena clan followed closely behind. We were watching some of the world's most endangered mammals involved in an incredible game of chase - African wild dogs. The hyenas followed them closely across the plains, hoping to steal a potential kill off the group of highly successful hunters. Hyenas are actually rather skilful hunters themselves but often prefer to play it smart - stick close by while others do the hard work, then scavenge the food off of them. We'd been watching the two groups cover a large distance of ground for the last 30 minutes; neither appeared to tire.

In February of 2019, I went on my first safari and became instantly enamoured. How can I keep doing this?! How do I become a wildlife photographer ASAP? These were the most incredible animal encounters I'd ever had, aside from scuba diving with mantas and leopard sharks (an equally mesmerising but very different kind of experience).

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As our airport transfer car approached the path towards Silvan, a lone bull elephant stood right ahead, swaying slowly, blocking our path. Our driver explained to us that because he was separate from the herd and in musth, he would be more aggressive than other elephants. We had to keep a good distance and wait for him to allow us to pass. This was his territory, after all. Shortly after, a large herd of elephants (including babies) crossed as groups of impala, zebras and warthogs gathered around a watering hole visible in the distance. Our safari experience had begun before we'd even had our first game drive.

We pulled into Silvan and were warmly greeted with cold lemongrass scented towelettes and refreshing drinks. We were informed that our guide and tracker would wait for us to change and freshen up in our suite before heading straight out for our first afternoon game drive. We changed in record time, grabbed a quick bite of food to eat at afternoon tea, met our guide Murray and tracker James and awaaaay we went.

Within 10 minutes of heading out, our vehicle came across a gorgeous male white rhino - another endangered mammal. We spent some time sat in awe-struck silence, watching him as he grazed on grass, gentle and unassuming, tiny birds flitting in and out of his ears and perched in rows on his back. The beauty of going on safari with Silvan in a private reserve is that vehicles are allowed to off-road and get that much closer to these incredible animals while they go about their daily lives.

Our guide Murray was an encyclopaedia of knowledge, regaling us not only with fascinating facts about each species we encountered but also incredible and often humorous tales of past experiences with them. Did you know, for example, that spotted hyenas have about a 70% success rate when hunting together, higher than lions and cheetahs? (Sorry, I'm a little hyena-obsessed.) Hyena females are also dominant in a pack, larger than the males and produce enough testosterone to grow a false penis. Murray was also excellent behind the wheel, manoeuvring through bush, off paths and over rough terrain with ease; it was a skill that proved very useful indeed when a bull elephant in musth didn't take kindly to our presence (we rounded a corner and there he was, blocking our path and none too pleased to be interrupted) and began a fast and intentional approach towards us. Had Murray not reversed with deft agility behind a giant termite mound I'm not quite sure the drive would have ended so pleasantly (at least not for James, our brilliant tracker who sits at the very front of the outside of the vehicle on an exposed chair 😳).

Silvan operates on an all-inclusive basis. At first glance, the PPN might evoke a sense of light-headedness. However when you factor in that this includes all game drives, food (and wow do they feed you with incredible dishes until you couldn't possibly want any more), a selection of alcohol (including an fantastic collection of premium local gins), your stunning suite with private dipping pool overlooking the bush, road transfers to/from Silvan air strip and laundry ... it starts to look a little more reasonable.

Indeed, we wanted for nothing during our entire stay and never felt pushed or persuaded to 'purchase extras' such as spa treatments, etc. (a pet peeve of mine at many resorts - feeling like you're constantly being sold to or convinced to spend more, spend more!).

The entire property is a beautifully designed feast for the eyes and every detail is carefully considered and of the highest calibre - one need only look at the Swarovski binoculars thoughtfully provided for use while on game drives to know as much. Located in what is often nicknamed the 'Rolls Royce of reserves', Sabi Sands (a private game reserve in Kruger National Park), Silvan works hard to respect, conserve and protect the gorgeous array of wildlife that lives in and passes through the reserve. With the area regarded as one of Africa's last true wilderness regions and common sightings of the Big 5 (we saw all 5 within our first 2 drives!), it is perhaps understandable why prices are quite so high.

The Lodge:



Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | breakfast Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa

Euriental | luxury travel & style | safari outfit, Yala jewellery, South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
just a sample of the premium local gins on offer

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Euriental | luxury travel & style | afternoon tea Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa
Afternoon tea, different each day and laid out before afternoon game drives.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands South Africa


Tree Wisteria Suite:

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Silvan Safari Lodge Sabi Sands, Tree Wisteria Suite


Game Drives & Wildlife:

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, elephant, zebras, rhino

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, elephants

This elephant on the right was such a joy to watch πŸ˜‚He was a young male full of "all bark and no bite", as Murray put it. He put on a good show of acting tough, trumpeting at us, billowing his ears out intimidatingly and making false charges - each time he would hesitantly step back when our vehicle didn't move away. Eventually we felt bad for bullying him away from the watering hole as he stopped his half-hearted attempts to chase us away and left of his own accord.


Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, rhino

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa game drive

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, Silvan sundowners

Evening sundowners were a real treat.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, hippo, hyena
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, hyena, wild dogs
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, wild dogs
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, wild dogs

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, hyenas

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa

Warning: animal carcass below

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, leopard

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, leopard

This was an incredible moment to witness. The leopard in the tree is the daughter of the one laying in the grass. She was eating a kill her mother had made the previous night while her mother lay at the base of the tree, guarding her child from a nearby hungry hyena.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, wild dogs, hyena
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, wild dogs, lions
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, lions

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, lions

This pride on the left is fondly referred to in the area as the "Pretty Boy Gang", consisting of one older male, plenty of females and a few younger lions. Another pride commonly spotted in the area is The Sticks pride (pictured on the right) - unfortunately a lot of them have mange so they're not looking quite as good as the pretty boy gang! 

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sabi Sands South Africa, lion


Euriental stayed on a kindly discounted press rate in the stunning Tree Wisteria suite, but this stay was still paid for without obligation of a blog article.

Book your stay at Silvan Safari Lodge.


Euriental uses affiliate links at no extra cost to you - please see the FULL DISCLAIMER for more info.


FOUR SEASONS TUNIS: WEEKEND GETAWAY TO TUNISIA

When I told people Tunisia was next on my travel itinerary, the most common reaction I received was a look of dubious surprise. Tunisia? How come? Isn't it unsafe? (No more dangerous than any other tourist destination, I would counter...and perhaps even safer, now that there are hardly any tourists to target in the first place).

Booking our trip to Tunis was actually part of a bigger 'scheme' - the flights would become part of a larger trip to Vietnam months later (long story). Still, we were looking forward to making a holiday out of a rather fleeting 2 night stay and exploring a new country.


THE HOTEL


Our hotel of choice was the newly opened Four Seasons Tunis. What with the property being so new and having hardly any other guests around, it felt almost as if we had the entire place to ourselves (though not in the uncomfortable way it can feel at some hotels/resorts, when you feel watched by every single member of staff, or as though you are an imposition). A pianist in the hotel lobby added an additional sense of serenity and comfort. The grounds are fairly expansive and the architecture clean, modern yet warm and inviting. The steps leading down to the pool make for an impressive view when looking up at the hotel from the poolside.

What with the property only recently (at the time) having been opened to the public, it was unsurprising that there were a few kinks that needed ironing out when it comes to service, particularly in the restaurants. Staff were well meaning and friendly but their performance often clumsy and forgetful. I'm sure with more time and training this will improve drastically to become the refined and smooth running service you expect from a FS.

Food overall exceeded expectations with fresh, delicious local and international dishes and an excellent breakfast buffet (made to order crepes...my fav. Nutella crepes every single morning for me!).


SIGHTS


During our brief stay, we managed to visit the ruins of Carthage, the Bardo National Museum and the quaint village of Sidi Bou Said. At the ruins, you will likely see various tour guides standing around, offering their services should you want some more insight into the history of the area. They are not expensive by any means, so we took one up on her offer and enjoyed an hour long guided visit around the ruins. There was a palpable absence of other tourists - during the entire hour we saw maybe a maximum of ten other tourists. Though the reasons behind this are utterly devastating, from a selfish perspective it felt like discovering a hidden gem - something that is quite rare in the Instagram age.

The Bardo museum is located in a gorgeous 13th century Ottoman palace and contains a large variety of ceramics, marble statues, impressive mosaics and other archaeological pieces detailing the history of Tunisia. 

Sidi Bou Said is reminiscent of Oia ... without all the people. It's a gorgeous village, and wandering around with barely any other tourists (or locals, for that matter) around felt simultaneously fortuitous and mystifying. I know I keep coming back to this but it genuinely boggled my mind - was this really the result of the horrific events that took place a few years back? London and Paris have experienced their own share of attacks over the past few years, yet they are still two of the most visited cities in the world.

From my brief experience, I would absolutely encourage a visit to Tunisia. Hopefully the recent addition of an internationally recognised luxury hotel group (and one of my favourites) is a positive sign that tourism numbers may be looking up again in Tunis - a picturesque destination suited for  those seeking relaxation, exploration and culture.

Book your stay at Four Seasons Tunis. Rates start from £178 per night.

Euriental uses affiliate links at no extra cost to you - please see the FULL DISCLAIMER for more info.

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Get the look:




Euriental | luxury travel & style | Four Seasons Tunis

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sidi Bou Said, weekend guide to Tunisia

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Carthage, weekend guide to Tunisia

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sidi Bou Said, weekend guide to Tunisia

Euriental | luxury travel & style | Sidi Bou Said, weekend guide to Tunisia

Euriental | luxury travel & style | palm tree
Euriental | luxury travel & style | Weekend in Tunis at the Four Seasons