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Andrew Harper’s H FEBRUARY 2012

LUXURY

SAFARIS BOTSWANA AND SOUTH AFRICA

{ candid reviews by a writer who tr avels incognito and always pays his own way }


editor’s letter FEBRUARY 2012 — Safaris in Southern Africa provide a distinctive pleasure: that of being in an extremely wild and remote place and yet cocooned by an environment of comfort and style. What could be more agreeable than relaxing by a log fire with a glass of good wine, in pleasant anticipation of a delicious dinner, while listening to lions roar? On my recent trip to Botswana, I was able to enjoy this experience on more than one memorable occasion. Botswana is a fortunate country in that the prodigious wealth of its diamond mines helps to provide a high standard of living for its citizens and also enables the government to take an enlightened and gradual approach to the development of tourism. The Okavango Delta, despite its justified global renown, still has only a limited number of small wildlife lodges. However, some of these are now almost as sophisticated as their famous precursors in South Africa. Despite the mounting pressures on Africa’s wildlife from the exponential growth in the human population, Botswana still contains immense tracts of wilderness there, largely out of the reach of cell phones and the Internet, can be a profoundly therapeutic experience. In an increasingly connected world, perhaps being unreachable will soon become the ultimate luxury! .

COVER Young male lion stares at us near Abu Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana O PP OSITE PAG E Our bedroom at Abu Camp

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that are little changed since the time of the first European explorers. To travel


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FEBRUARY 2012

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On Safari in Botswana Map of Okavango and Northern Kalahari Best Cats, Best Birds

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New Lodges in South Africa

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Follow In My Footsteps { online exclusive } How to Choose a Safari { online exclusive }

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Plus: Turks and Caicos Update Provo Restaurants

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clockwise from top left Female leopard near Zarafa Camp,Selinda Reserve, Botswana;

our bedroom at Mateya Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa; beach bed at Grace Bay Club, Turks and Caicos; hippo posing for our camera in Madikwe Game Reserve

LEOPARD, HIPPO AND MATEYA BEDROOM © ANDREW HARPER

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A MOTHER AND YEAR-OLD CUB ON THE PROWL NEAR ZARAFA CAMP, SELINDA RESERVE


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ON SAFARI THE ATHALA II WITH KICKER ROCK IN THE DISTANCE © ANDREW HARPER

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approximately the size of texas, botswana has a population of just over 2 million people. From the country’s southern border, the arid grasslands of the Kalahari extend northward for more than 800 miles, eventually meeting the waters of the Okavango and Cuando rivers flowing down from the rainy highlands of Angola. This unlikely encounter creates a vast network of marshes and lagoons — including the extraordinary Okavango Delta — that forms the greatest wildlife area in the whole of Africa. The principal gateway to this inspiring region is the dusty desert outpost of Maun, located an hour and 45 minutes by jet northwest of Johannesburg. From there, it is another 60 minutes by light aircraft to Selinda Reserve, a 320,000-acre private concession centered on the Zibadianja Lagoon, a two-mile-long body of fresh water teeming with crocodiles and hippos and home to impressive herds of elephant. ZARAFA CAMP opened in 2008, the brainchild of celebrated film­

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makers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, five-time Emmy Award winners and Explorers-in-Residence at National Geographic. For more than 25 years, the Jouberts have chronicled the wildlife of northern Botswana in classic films such as “Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas,” “Eye of the Leopard” and, most recently, “The Last Lions.” Drawing on their decades of experience, they decided to create the perfect safari camp in an ideal location. Perfection is hard to

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pull off, however, and prior to our visit, we feared disappointment. We arrived at the camp after a bumpy 45-minute drive from the airstrip. Greeted at the door of our vehicle by a group of extremely friendly African staff, we were ushered into the main lounge area of the camp. There, Each suite has we found spacious and atmospheric living and an outdoor dining areas housed shower at beneath a steep, coffeethe end of a wooden walk- colored canvas roof and decorated in a French way directly neocolonial style with overlooking dark woods, polished the lagoon. leather, framed maps and shelves of hardback books on African history and wildlife. One entire side of the structure opened onto a huge deck that com m a nded a sp el lbi nd i ng view of the lagoon. Less than 100 feet from its edge, around 4 0 e le p h a nt w e r e h a p pi l y squirting one another with water.

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The guest lodgings at Zarafa comprise just four magnificent 1,000-square-foot tented suites, each with a private plunge pool, shaded by massive ebony trees. The interiors are divided into three “rooms.” Large living areas come with leather sofas and armchairs, OUTDOOR SHOWER AT ZARAFA

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polished wooden floors, Oriental carpets, antique chests and oldfashioned writing desks. Beyond a canvas screen, equally expansive bedrooms feature king-size beds draped with mosquito netting, and gas fireplaces with burnished copper chimneys. Beyond that, baths provide glamorous copper-

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clad tubs and effective indoor showers. (Each also has an outdoor shower at the end of a wooden walkway directly overlooking the lagoon.) The suites have electric lighting, but are not air-conditioned. (We visited Zarafa at a hot time of the year, but thanks to the shade of surrounding trees, the ceiling

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OUR LODGING AT ZARAFA CAMP, ONE OF JUST FOUR

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MAGNIFICENT 1,000-SQUARE-FOOT TENTED SUITES

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SCENES FROM OUR CRUISE ON THE ZIBADIANJA LAGOON

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fans proved entirely sufficient.) In an imaginative touch, each “tent” is provided with its own Swarovski binoculars, plus a top-of-the-range Canon camera with 35-135mm and 100-400mm zoom lenses. Guests’

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photos are then burned to DVDs at the ends of their stays. Overall, Za ra fa’s suites provide exceptional levels of privacy, comfort and style. Having taken tea on the deck, we were driven a short distance to the edge of the lagoon, where the camp’s pontoon boat was tied up. Its upper deck was furnished with leather sofas and Oriental rugs, providing an environment fit for a lounging pasha. We began to cruise slowly and almost silently along the shoreline, watching hippos and elephant at a distance of little more than 50 feet. Our blissful voyage ended only with the rapid descent of the sun, a colossal orange fireball, into the darkening waters of the lagoon. The Selinda Reserve enjoys a unique location, being virtually equidistant from the Okavango Delta, Linyanti Swamp and Savuti Marsh, the three legendary wildlife areas being connected by the Selinda Spillway and the Savuti Channel.

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This makes for exceptional yearround game-viewing. The local Selinda pride numbers 15 lion, but it has a large territory, and a sighting is not guaranteed. A pack of rare wild dog can frequently be tracked down, however, and leopard sightings are relatively common. (One morning, we were lucky enough A pack of to find a mother and rare wild dog a f u l l- g ro w n c ub can frequently strolling through the be tracked trees at the edge of down, and the spillway and were able to follow them for leopard nearly 20 minutes.) sightings By the time of our are relatively departure, Zarafa had common. fully lived up to our expectations. It is an idyllic camp, with delicious food and superior service. And with a maximum of eight guests, it provides a semiprivate safari experience. However, it is important to understand that this is a true wilderness area. Zarafa does not offer air-conditioning,

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television, Internet access, cell phone coverage or a spa — though there is a small gym. Some people may find this frustrating, or even unacceptable, but others will relish their temporary escape from the modern world. ZARAFA CAMP 98 Tented Suite, from $2,298 for two (all meals, house beverages, scheduled activities and park fees included). Tel. (27) 11-8071800. wilderness-safaris.com

It is a 40-minute Cessna flight from Selinda to the heart of the Okavango Delta. There, over the past 20 years, ABU CAMP has acquired a reputation as the pre­ eminent place to ride on African elephants. Now partly owned by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, Abu reopened in April 2011, having been completely rebuilt and refurbished. Set on a 500,000acre private concession, it has just six accommodations. Overlooking a tranquil lagoon and shaded by hardwood trees, the suites are idiosyncratic canvas-and-beam

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OUR BATH AT ABU CAMP

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SUITES ARE IDIOSYNCRATIC CANVAS-AND-BEAM STRUCTURES THAT ARE PART TENT, PART CABIN

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structures that are part tent, part cabin. Like those at Zarafa, they are not air-conditioned, but are effectively cooled by ceiling fans. All have been individually decorated, so it is impossible to generalize, but ours came with cream walls, bleached wooden floors covered by sisal matting, wicker screens, a fourposter king-size bed, The bath is wingback armchairs, so splendid, a large writing desk, if you didn’t dramatic framed blackknow that you and-white photography and decoration that were in the ranged from traditional Okavango, African sculptures to a you might fancy yourself tower of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks. The in Los huge and splendid bath Angeles. provided a walk-in shower, twin basins set in a black marble vanity, electric lighting and extravagant amounts of hanging space. In fact, if you didn’t know that you were in the Okavango, you might fancy yourself in Los Angeles.

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A glass door opened onto a deck with a soaking tub, where it became my habit to lie, up to my neck in foam, watching the fish eagles that live nearby. (On one occasion, this blissful reverie was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of an elephant, which proceeded to rip branches from a tree no more than 15 feet away!) Although the suites at Abu do not have plunge pools, they do offer attractive sundecks with loungers. Overall, they provide an

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exceptionally elegant and relaxing environment. Once comfortably settled with a good book and a pair of binoculars, I felt little incentive to leave. The lavish public areas at Abu are contemporary African in style and include a tranquil library and an adjoining communications

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center. Uniquely for the Okavango, and presumably thanks to the personal intervention of Allen, the latter provides a reliable Internet connection, and hence phone calls via Skype. During our visit, the standard of the cuisine was consistently high and was equal to that you might expect at a good

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AT ABU CAMP, YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO

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RIDE ON, OR WALK WITH, TRAINED ELEPHANT

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restaurant in Johannesburg or Cape Town. In fact, at the end of our stay, the only aspect of the camp that seemed deserving of criticism was the rather lackluster swimming pool. Set on a cramped deck overlooked by a pizza oven, it seemed little more A 2-year-old than an architect’s elephant afterthought. opted to stroll As at most camps in the Okavango, gamebeside me, viewing at Abu is by enabling me customized sa fari to pat his vehicle, or, at the time head and tickle his ears of the annual flood, by as we ambled makoro (local dugout canoe). The large game along. species, including lion and leopard, are relatively common, and the birdlife is prolific. The big difference at Abu is the opportunity to ride on, or walk with, the camp’s trained herd of elephant. This includes mature animals of over 30 years old, as well as youngsters standing little more than 4 feet tall

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at the shoulder. We had no idea what to expect and feared that we might encounter a circus-like atmosphere, but the reality could not have been more different. The elephant boma (enclosure) is impeccably wellorganized, and you don’t have to be any kind of expert to see that the animals are extremely happy and well cared for. On our first afternoon, we opted to walk rather than ride, so, as soon as the heat of the sun began to diminish, we set out into the bush accompanied by eight or nine elephant and several guides (including one with a rifle). A 2-yearold elephant opted to stroll beside me, enabling me to pat his head and tickle his ears as we ambled along. Occasionally, however, if we fell too far behind his mother, he would give me a slight shove with his trunk as a gentle inducement to catch up. The most extraordinary thing about walking with elephants, however, is that other wild animals

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WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS IN THE OKAVANGO PHOTOS: © ANDREW HARPER

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THE ATMOSPHERIC MAIN LIVING AND DINING TENT AT JACK’S CAMP

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are unfazed by human presence. Creatures that would not have let you approach to within 300 yards unaccompanied stand their ground and gaze imperturbably, presumably confident that if the elephant believe you are safe, then you are unlikely to prove a danger to them. For those who wish to take their Abu elephant experience to its ultimate conclusion, the camp now offers a “Star Bed” overlooking the boma. Here, you can sleep high above the ground, disturbed, apparently, only by the snoring of the elephant below. ABU CAMP 98 Tented Suite, from $3,875 for two (all meals, house beverages, scheduled activities, laundry and park fees included). Tel. (27) 11-8071800. wilderness-safaris.com

Until about 20,000 years ago, the rivers Okavango and Cuando flowed directly into Lake Makgadikgadi, an immense body of water covering an area larger than Switzerland. Then, as a result of seismic shifts, the lake drained away, creating

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the Okavango Delta and the vast Makgadikgadi salt pans. Today, the eerie white flats extend for over 6,000 square miles. JACK’S CAMP is located on a low island at the edge of the pans, an hour by light aircraft southeast of Maun. On our first visit more than 15 years ago, it was an atmospheric place of silence and emptiness, overseen by the immense and cloudless Kalahari sky. But back then, its tents were too basic to appeal to most Harper members. However, over the years, reports reached me that Jack’s had become more sophisticated, so I decided to take a second look. We were met at the airstrip by Super, an employee for more than 20 years, who politely (if implausibly) claimed to remember us from our previous visit. A charming and articulate man, he drove us to camp by a leisurely and circuitous route. It was toward the end of the hot, dry season, but the Kalahari grasslands

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were scattered with zebra and wildebeest that had arrived in anticipation of the rains, which, in a matter of days, transform the desert into a vast meadow of nutritious green grass. Jack ’s was founded by the adventurer and filmmaker Ralph

Bousfield in memory of his father, a larger-than-life pioneer whose scarcely credible resume includes a stint as a lion tamer for the movie “Born Free.” The enormous main living and dining tent reflects the men’s shared passion for Africa’s most elemental places. A stuffed

TENTED ACCOMMODATIONS AT JACK’S CAMP

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lion in a glass case stands guard over a treasure trove of animal skulls, fossils, eggs, spears, arrows, hundreds of books and maps, 19th-century etchings, and framed posters for exhibitions by the artist and photographer Peter Beard. The tent itself is dark-green canvas on the outside, but its interior is lined

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by a voluptuous canopy of pale raspberry-pink cotton. The dark wooden floor is covered by sisal mats and Persian carpets, while the easy chairs come with kilimcovered cushions. Down the center of the tent, a dining table seats 20 in comfort, and looks as though it might originally have been intended

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Within minutes, around 20 meerkats had arrived, squeaking excitedly.

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for army officers on some far-flung Victorian campaign. The 10 guest tents share the same nostalgic décor, with fourposter beds, writing desks, antique furniture, brass-bound chests and bookshelves crammed to capacity. However, now they are also extremely comfortable, with large electric fans, en suite baths, effective indoor and outdoor showers, and spacious verandas. Aside from the significantly upg ra ded accom mo d at ion s, the camp’s other most obvious innovation is a splendid swimming pool, shaded from the desert sun by another flamboyant cotton canopy. Close by, a waterhole has been dug — paradoxically, just a few feet beneath the surface of the Kalahari lies an abundant supply of pure water — which, along with elephant, zebra, wildebeest and various antelope species, occasionally attracts a wandering pride of lion. Wildlife sightings

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at Jack’s are much more prolific during the December to April wet season, but the waterhole now ensures that there is something to look at year-round. (It is possible to visit northern Botswana at any time of year, as the rainy season generally involves brief downpours between extended periods of sunshine. However, October and November can be unpleasantly hot during the day, and in the JuneAugust high season, the nights are often chilly.) A f t er a d e l ic io u s lu nc h , accompanied by icy homemade lemonade, Super proposed a lateafternoon visit to a nearby meerkat colony, whose occupants have become habituated to human visitors. Meerkats are endearing small mammals belonging to the mon­ goose family that characteristically use their long tails to stand upright to spot predators such as jackals and large eagles. After a short drive in a Land Rover, we came

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GAME-VIEWING IN THE KALAHARI

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to their network of burrows and sat down to await their return. Within minutes, around 20 of the creatures had arrived, squeaking excitedly. Being in constant danger of attack, meerkat groups appoint sentries, and the designated animals then seek out the highest vantage points from which to keep watch. To my amazement, one meerkat identified an ideal observation tower and promptly ran up my arm to stand on top of my head, where it remained for more than five minutes! Some activities at Jack’s Camp are seasonal. For example, during the dry season, guests can venture out onto the Makgadikgadi pans to search for Stone Age artifacts, to gaze at the overwhelming night sky or to

undertake longer mobile safaris. (At this time of year, a second camp is erected immediately adjacent to the salt flats.) However, some equally memorable experiences, such as walking with the local San Bushmen hunter-gatherers, are possible year-round. For those of a romantic and adventurous spirit, Jack’s Camp cannot be recommended too highly. It is a unique and unforgettable place, one, moreover, that is extremely well-run and well-organized. And its epic Kalahari setting provides an astonishing counterpoint to the tangled waterways of the Okavango Delta. AH JACK’S CAMP 96 Tented Accommodation, from $2,550 for two (all meals, house beverages and scheduled activities included). Tel. (27) 11-4471605. unchartedafrica.com

Jack’s Camp is a unique and unforgettable place, and its epic Kalahari setting provides an astonishing counterpoint to the tangled waterways of the Okavango Delta.

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LONE ELEPHANT CROSSING THE VAST MAKGADIKGADI PANS

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One of our guides on the salt flats

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Father and son, Moremi Game Reserve

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Best Cats, Best Birds The Okavango Delta is roughly 135 miles long by 100 miles wide and contains around 40 small camps. The most frequent question I am asked is “Which place do you recommend if I just want to see lion and leopard?” Surprisingly, there is a simple answer. Even its competitors concede that the delta’s best cat-viewing is at MOMBO, a Harper-recommended property for many years. If this is your first visit to Botswana and you plan to stay at only one camp, then Mombo should be your choice. A second recurring question is “Where is the best place in the delta to watch birds?” The Okavango boasts 444 confirmed bird species, but the greatest densities are in the wetter areas. Again, by common consent, the best bird camp is XIGERA . AH Fish eagle, Okavango Delta

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Both camps are represented by Wilderness Safaris, Tel. (27) 11-807-1800. wilderness-safaris.com

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Mateya Suite bedroom at Mateya Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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THE ATHALA II WITH KICKER ROCK IN THE DISTANCE © ANDREW HARPER

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over the past 20 years, south african lodges such as Londolozi, Royal Malewane and Singita have evolved into lavish resorts in the bush, where the sophistication of the suites and the standard of the cuisine are as crucial to the experience as the quality of the wildlife-viewing. Recently, these properties have been joined by two worthy rivals. Susan White Mathis, a native of Atlanta, had long been in search of a place to build an African retreat, and after an extensive search, she settled on Madikwe Game Reserve, a 185,000-acre tract of arid bushveld located an hour by light aircraft northwest of Johannesburg. Enclosed

After a while, it became clear that the home she had constructed for herself and her friends could also function as a small, ultraluxurious game lodge.

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by a 95-mile fence, it is home to 66 mammal species, including lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant and wild dog. Having identified a suitable site at the center of the reserve, she set to work. After a while, however, it became clear that the home she had constructed for herself and her friends could also function as a small, ultra-luxurious game lodge. Set around a rocky outcrop, MATEYA SAFARI LODGE has just five huge air-conditioned suites. These are astonishingly opulent, with four-poster beds, deep armchairs, large fireplaces and artwork ranging from tribal

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OUR OPULENT SUITE AT MATEYA SAFARI LODGE

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PLAYFUL HIPPOS, MADIKWE RESERVE © ANDREW HARPER

PANAMONTE INN & SPA © ANDREW HARPER

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sculptures to contempora r y African landscape paintings. The marble baths feature soaking tubs positioned to allow a view of passing wildlife, and interconnecting indoor and outdoor showers. From a sun lounger on your private rosewood deck, all you can see is a stretch of tawny grassland

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extending beyond your infinityedge pool to a ridge of distant hills. Public areas at Mateya are equally lavish and include an exceptional library, plus an expansive living area that provides a gallery-like space for White Mathis’ vast collection of African sculpture. A formal dining room is complemented by

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a wonderful outdoor deck with a view of a waterhole, plus a private dining area in the 8,000-bottle wine cellar. During our stay, the food was uniformly delicious and the service prompt and exceptionally obliging. Facilities at Mateya include a small spa. The wildlifeviewing is well-organized and the game prolific. MATEYA SAFARI LODGE 97 Suite, from $1,865 for two (all meals, local beverages, game drives and park fees included). Madikwe Reserve, Molatedi, North West Province. Tel. (27) 14-778-9200. mateyasafari.com

The Shambala Private Game Reserve lies a three-hour drive, or a 45-minute helicopter flight, directly north of Johannesburg. The 30,000-acre estate is the property of South African insurance magnate Douw Steyn, owner of the Saxon, Johannesburg’s preeminent hotel. ZULU CAMP comprises just eight thatched cottages over­ looking the Sterkstroom River and surrounded by rushing streams. Their air-conditioned interiors are

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atmospheric, comfortable and sufficiently spacious, while the adjoining baths are lavish, with soaking tubs, glass-enclosed shower stalls and outdoor showers on adjacent private decks. Public areas include a stylish lounge/library with a log-burning fireplace and an attractive riverfront deck with a small rock swimming pool. During our stay, we enjoyed exceptional South African cuisine. The property’s principal amenity is a small spa. Shambala contains a wide range of wildlife species, including lion and leopard. A comparatively small and enclosed reserve, it also

The reserve provides a protected environment for the black and white rhino, which are currently being killed at the rate of one a day elsewhere in South Africa.

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THIS NOOK AT ZULU CAMP BECAME A FAVORITE PLACE TO READ BETWEEN GAME DRIVES.

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provides an ideal environment for the protection of black and white rhino, which are currently being killed at the rate of one a day elsewhere in South Africa. Zulu Camp offers its guests the opportunity to ride on an African elephant. However, the highlight of our stay was an ineffably tranquil

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evening cruise on the reserve’s 75acre man-made lake, sipping a glass of chilled wine, watching the hippos and casting a lure for the obliging bass and catfish. AH ZULU CAMP 94 Cottage, from $2,240 for two (all meals, South African wines, game drives, one elephant ride and unlimited boat trips included). Vaalwater 05330, Limpopo Province. Tel. (27) 11292-6030. shambalagamereserve.co

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RHINOS OBSTRUCT THE PROGRESS OF OUR VEHICLE, SHAMBALA RESERVE

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PANAMONTE INN & SPA © ANDREW HARPER

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LEOPARD NEAR ZARAFA CAMP, SELINDA RESERVE

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FOOTSTEPS ITINERARY

Follow Me I planned my recent trip to South Africa and Botswana to include a number of new or recently upgraded safari properties. Therefore, my itinerary omitted Cape Town, as well as several longtime Harper favorite lodges such as Singita, Royal Malewane and Mombo Camp. However, my journey proved particularly memorable, and I confidently recommend it to anyone, even those undertaking their first African safaris. If you choose to follow in my footsteps, you will experience astonishing scenic variety, from dry bushveld to the tangled lagoons of the Okavango and the overpowering immensity of the Kalahari. All of the lodges and camps offer a high degree of comfort (though some are more luxurious than others), delicious food and hospitable staff. You will also experience some of the most prolific and pristine wildlife areas of Africa. Although not guaranteed, it is highly likely that you will see all of the so-called “Big Five” game animals: lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo.

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DAY 1

Johannesburg Johannesburg is the commercial and cultural capital of South Africa, and for its devotees, a fascinating and dynamic place, despite its notorious problem with violent crime. I do not number among the city’s admirers, however, and it is always a relief to leave the airport and to find myself in a limousine heading northwest to the SAXON, an exceptional boutique hotel in the tranquil suburb of Sandhurst. Flights from the United States (or London) to South Africa tend to arrive in the early morning, so having unpacked and taken breakfast, I head for the shade of an umbrella beside the property’s wonderful horizon pool. The Saxon is an idyllic enclave with luxuriant gardens, imaginative interior design, delicious food and obliging staff. There are few more delightful places in which to recuperate from the rigors of a long transatlantic flight.

DAYS 2-4

Madikwe Reserve It is an easy one-hour flight from Johannesburg to the airstrip at Madikwe

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Game Reserve, close to the Botswana border. Nowadays the fifth-largest reserve in South Africa, Madikwe was reclaimed from unprofitable farmland, and since 1991, it has seen the biggest program of wildlife translocation in history, “Operation Phoenix,” with the reintroduction of more than 8,000 animals belonging to 28 species. The reserve now hosts numerous lodges, of which MATEYA SAFARI LODGE is by far the most opulent. (For a full des­ cription of the property, see my review.) Mateya is so comfortable, it provides a gentle and gradual introduction to the African wild. On my first afternoon, I relaxed for two or three hours beside my plunge pool before heading out for a game drive at 5 p.m., a twohour excursion that culminated in the customary sundowner. The landscape of the reserve is hilly and attractive, and while the wildlife is not overwhelmingly prolific, I saw lion on consecutive days. However, the highlight of my three-night stay was an hour spent with a pack of wild dog as they set out to hunt at dusk. Wild dog are extremely rare, with fewer than 5,000 in the whole of Africa, and the sighting at Madikwe was the most exciting and prolonged I have experienced in more than three decades of safari travel.

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The highlight of our stay at Mateya was an hour spent with a pack of wild dog.

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At Zarafa Camp, you can sit in your suite and wait for wildlife to arrive.

© WILDERNESS SAFARIS / DANA ALLEN

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Three nights is the ideal length for a stay at Mateya, providing enough time to unwind and acclimatize, to enjoy the exceptional cuisine, to explore the fine library and to visit the small spa.

DAYS 5-7

Selinda Reserve Madikwe is just 40 miles from Botswana’s capital, Gaborone. The border crossing is uncomplicated, and it is an easy drive to the airport, from where you can catch an Air Botswana jet to Maun, the gateway to the country’s northern game areas, including the Okavango Delta. (The flight takes 90 minutes and, alas, there is no Business Class.) I always get a thrill coming in to land at the dusty desert outpost of Maun, a town of some 40,000 people that still seems close to the end of the world. On this occasion, having retrieved my bag, I boarded a light aircraft for the 60-minute flight to the Selinda Reserve, close to Botswana’s northern border with Namibia. Remote airstrips in Southern Africa are invariably constructed from graded dirt, but the quality of the surfaces and the length of the runways have improved

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greatly in recent years, and takeoffs and landings seldom give cause for alarm. Selinda, Linyanti and Savuti are legendary game areas that lie to the northeast of the Okavango. All are focused on marshes or swamps and are connected by seasonal channels. The great appeal of this part of Africa is that it feels (and is) extremely wild, with huge herds free to wander over long distances. There are no crowds, and it is unusual to encounter another vehicle. ZARAFA CAMP has brought a new level of luxury to the wilderness, and over the course of three days, it established itself firmly among my 10 favorite safari camps in Africa. (For a full description of the property, see my review.) One of its great pleasures is the deck overlooking a lagoon, where I spent many happy hours with binoculars. Here, you just sit back and wait for the wildlife to arrive. Elephant and hippo invariably wander past; there are hundreds of birds; and, apparently, a leopard sometimes snoozes during the heat of the day in one of the massive ebony trees nearby. The wildlife at Selinda is prolific, and on any game drive, you will see numerous large species such as elephant and giraffe. The local lion,

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leopard and wild dog are free to roam, and generally have to be tracked down by your safari guide, who is skilled at recognizing recent prints in the dust and following them, for miles if need be. More adventurous travelers can walk in the bush accompanied by a guide with a rifle, or canoe down the Selinda Spillway, a stretch of tranquil water that connects the Zibadianja Lagoon to the Okavango Delta. Again, I recommend a three-night stay: You need time to attune to the wildness and remoteness of the region.

DAYS 7-9

Okavango Delta The Okavango is arguably the greatest wildlife area in the world. About 150 miles long by 100 miles wide, it teems with both animal and bird life. At its heart is Chief’s Island and the Moremi Game Reserve, home to large lion and leopard populations, as well as a full range of herbivore species. The annual flood reaches its height from May to July, attracting still more animals from the arid surrounding

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regions. (Paradoxically, this is the dry season; the floodwater originates in the highlands of Angola, 750 miles to the northwest.) Although there are distinct wet and dry seasons, it is possible to visit the Okavango year-round, though I would avoid October and November, when it can be excessively hot and humid. During the flood, much of the game-viewing is by makoro, or dugout canoe, and sometimes it is possible to come quite close to grazing elephant, or to watch from a safe distance as the herds surge through the water from island to island. Just southwest of Chief’s Island, ABU CAMP has recently been entirely reconstructed. (For a full description of the property, see my review.) To walk with, or ride on, the camp’s herd of trained African elephant is an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. Abu Camp provides a full range of wildlife-viewing opportunities, so it is unnecessary to move elsewhere. However, some travelers will wish to spend a few additional days on Chief’s island, perhaps at MOMBO CAMP, where the lion and leopard sightings are unequaled.

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The Okavango Delta is arguably the greatest wildlife area in the world and is home to large cat populations.

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The main reason to travel to the Kalahari is to experience its awe-inspiring silence and immensity.

© ANDREW HARPER

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DAYS 10-12

Northern Kalahari From Abu Camp, via Maun, it is a 90-minute flight to JACK’S CAMP, located at the edge of the Makgadikgadi salt pans in the northern Kalahari. (For a full description of the property, see my review.) The Kalahari is not a desert of sand dunes like the Sahara, but a vast expanse of arid land that the annual rains briefly transform into a grassy savanna. At its heart lies the 20,400-squaremile Central Kalahari Game Reserve, second-largest in the world. For much of the year, wildlife is thinly scattered, but during the rains from January to March, large herds of zebra and wildebeest arrive, accompanied by predators, to feast on the new grasses. The main reason to travel to the Kalahari, however, is to experience its awe-inspiring silence and immensity. Here, you will find an untouched wilderness, 800 miles across, still popu­lated by the San Bushmen hunter-gatherers, the original human inhabitants of Southern Africa. From Jack ’s Camp, I walked with the

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Bushmen one morning — one of whom spoke English — across the bleached grasslands beneath a cloudless sky. After a short while, chatting with a man carrying a bow and arrow and clad only in a loincloth made of impala hide began to seem like a perfectly normal occurrence. It was one of those extraordinary and transforming experiences that travel can provide. At n i g h t , t h e s k y a b ove t h e Makgadikgadi pans is ablaze with stars. The four largest moons of Jupiter are usually visible with the naked eye, and the Magellanic Clouds, nearby galaxies invisible from much of the Northern Hemisphere, appear almost close enough to touch. Jack’s Camp and the Kalahari are suited to slightly more adventurous travelers and are best visited toward the end of a safari, when you have completed your wildlife checklist and are ready for a different experience. The contrast with the watery world of the Okavango Delta is astonishing, and the fact that two such utterly different places should be little more than 100 miles apart is sometimes hard to comprehend.

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DAYS 13-14 Johannesburg

Rather than going straight from the middle of the Kalahari to the Departures lounge at Johannesburg’s airport, I prefer to unwind for a day or so and to ease myself back into civilization. I like to have a brief interlude to recall the trip and for its narrative to take shape before I find myself importuned by the demands of everyday life. For me, the SAXON is an ideal place to reconnect with reality — except perhaps in the middle of winter (June and July), when Johannesburg, at an altitude of 5,700 feet, can be a little chilly.

SAFARI TRAVEL TIPS Travel in Southern Africa can be tiring, not least because of the heat at certain times of year. The principal safari areas are best visited during the cool, dry season from April to August (though, of course, this period straddles the winter in Cape Town, more than 1,000 miles to the south). Obviously, the levels of comfort and convenience (and expense) will greatly increase if you opt for private charters when transferring between lodges. Most flights in Botswana

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are aboard roomy Cessna Caravans (typically configured for 12 people), but sometimes couples and small groups will find themselves squeezed into a cramped five-passenger Cessna 206 or a Beechcraft Baron, unless a larger plane has been specifically requested in advance. Although you will wish to consult your physician prior to departure, the areas of Southern Africa on this itinerary are generally healthy places in which to travel, and providing that you take all sensible precautions  — such as drinking only the water specifically provided — you will be extremely unfortunate to fall sick. Malaria is present in the Okavango Delta, chiefly on its periphery near human settlements, but it is not a chronic problem as in some other African wildlife areas. AH PRICE — Based on a party of two passengers traveling together, the above itinerary would cos t a n e s timate d $1 9,975 p e r p e r so n, excluding international flights. Price includes all accommodations on a shared basis, most meals as specified, two game activities per day at the safari camps, relevant park and entrance fees, drinks as specified at the various camps/lodges, internal air, applicable taxes and tourism levies. Should you wish to find out more about this “Footsteps Itinerar y,” consultants in our Travel Office would be more than delighted to assist you. Tel. (800) 375-4685 or email reservations@AndrewHarper.com

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For a first safari, it is sensible to opt for a resort lodge such as Singita.

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Singita Lebombo, Kruger National Park, South Africa

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How to Choose a Safari I went on my first safari more than 30 years ago, spending five unforgettable days under canvas in Kenya’s Maasai Mara reserve. Like most first-time visitors to Africa, I sat beside the fire in the darkness listening to the lions roar and felt myself succumb to the atavistic allure of the wild. And at dawn, I would head out with my guide to discover a world magically made new, teeming with life, the terrors of the night dispelled. By the time I boarded the international flight in Nairobi, I was hooked. Back then, most safari travelers found their way to East Africa. Southern Africa was still in the grip of apartheid and the regional conflicts it provoked. And inspiration for Americans was still provided by Theodore Roosevelt’s 1909 Kenyan expedition and Ernest Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa,” published in 1935. Indeed, until the 1980s, the ethos of upscale safaris derived from such prewar hunting trips in pursuit of the so-called “Big Five” (lion, leopard, AFRICAN FISH EAGLE elephant, rhino and buffalo). Most lodges were middle-

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market, and luxury meant a private tented camp erected on your behalf by one of the famous outfitters such as Ker & Downey. The point of such safaris was total immersion in the sights and sounds of the wild, with simple bathroom arrangements and the occasional frisson of fear being accepted parts of the experience. Of course, it is still possible to camp on the East African plains, or amid the epic landscape of Kenya’s Northern Frontier District. And nowadays, the tents erected by companies such as

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HOW TO CHOOSE A SAFARI

Abercrombie & Kent are a great deal more comfortable and sophisticated. Personally, I think that a private tented camp in the southern Serengeti is still the best way to see Africa’s greatest wildlife spectacle: the migration of the wildebeest and the birth of their young in January and February each year. But times have changed: Many safari lodges now provide levels of comfort equivalent to those at a top five-star resort. The event that revolutionized the nature of safari travel was the election in April 1994 of Nelson Mandela as president of a post-apartheid South Africa. Peace abruptly broke out in places such as Namibia and Mozambique, and the South Africans themselves were suddenly liberated from the shackles of economic sanctions. Private game areas adjacent to vast Kruger National Park (and just 75 minutes by air from Johannesburg) could be developed with a minimum of bureaucratic delay. As a result, pioneering lodges such as LONDOLOZI and MALAMALA were soon joined by places like SINGITA and ROYAL MALEWANE , and the modern luxury safari was born. Such

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places now offer air-conditioned suites with private plunge pools, baths equipped with walk-in power showers, gourmet cuisine, climatecontrolled wine cellars and even spas and gymnasiums. Today, arguably the most important question that any prospective safari traveler can ask is, “Just how comfortable do I want to be?” Specifically, “Do I want air-conditioning, or do I prefer to lie in bed listening to the lions, the hyenas and the grunt of hippo in a nearby lagoon?” Although opulent lodges can now be found throughout East and Southern Africa, the most lavish are still in South Africa. Generally, these are surrounded by intensively managed reserves, which are either wholly or partly fenced. In contrast, the game areas of Botswana, Namibia and Zambia tend to be vast areas of wilderness that have changed relatively little since Europeans first saw them 150 years ago. In my view, for a first safari it is sensible to opt for a “resort” lodge such as Singita. You will certainly not be unhappy, and even if you discover that being bounced about in a Land

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The ideal location for a second safari is the Okavango Delta. Rover or mock-charged by an elephant is not your idea of fun, you will still be able to swim, lie in the sun and eat delicious food. However, if after three or four days you find that you have been bitten by the African bug, on a return trip you can opt for somewhere a little more adventurous. The ideal location for a second safari is Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Here, the upscale camps such as MOMBO, ABU CAMP and SANCTUARY CHIEF’S CAMP are extremely comfortable, with spacious and attractive accommodations, but they feel much closer to nature. Permanent str uctures are not permitted in the Okavango, so wood and canvas are the customary building materials. Okavango camps are not airconditioned, and communication with the outside world is usually difficult or impossible. The compensation is the excitement of being somewhere truly wild, where vast herds still roam over great distances unimpeded by fences and oblivious to the modern world. Here, you will be surrounded by a primeval Africa that has scarcely changed in the past 20,000 years.

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HOW TO CHOOSE A SAFARI

Where to See ...

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Lion

Leopard

Although Africa’s lion population has declined from 100,000 to 20,000 in the past two decades, the continent’s top predators are still present in most major game areas. Lion are frequently encountered in large prides and spend most of the day asleep in the shade of trees, making no effort to conceal themselves or to run away. Nowadays, most upscale lodges and camps make use of radios, so once a pride has been located, the guide will notify his colleagues. This means that in places such as South Africa’s Sabi Sand reserve, finding a lion is virtually guaranteed. Seeing lions hunt or kill is extremely unusual, however, and some people, accustomed to TV wildlife specials that took years to film, go home bitterly disappointed. The most spectacular of Africa’s lions are the black-maned males in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. The Serengeti also has huge prides, up to 25 strong, whereas in more arid areas, lions tend to form much smaller groups or to live solitary existences. (To find out more about the plight of Africa’s lions, click here.)

Arguably the most beautiful and alluring of all the cats — and my own personal favorite — leopard are often very elusive. Largely nocturnal, they are shy and hide in thick vegetation during the day. In a few places, however, leopard have become habituated to humans and are routinely seen in daylight. This is especially the case in Sabi Sand, where both LONDOLOZI and SINGITA are famous for their frequent sightings. In Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, night drives are permitted, and it is possible to find leopard with a spotlight. (SANCTUARY PUKU RIDGE CAMP is the Harper-recommended property nearby.) However, my own best leopard sightings have been at MOMBO in the Okavango Delta, where one morning I saw five individuals, including a female, killing an impala in broad daylight on the camp’s airstrip!

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Cheetah Perhaps 15,000 cheetah remain in the wild, with the largest single population (2,500) being in Namibia. There,

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visitors to Etosha National Park have a good chance of a sighting, though cheetah tend to be elusive if there are lion in the vicinity. (The Harperrecommended property close to Etosha is LITTLE ONGAVA camp.) However, nothing quite compares with finding cheetah on the immense grass plains of East Africa, in Kenya’s Maasai Mara reserve or Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.

Elephant Despite a recent increase in ivory poaching, elephant are still present in most major African game areas. The greatest concentrations are found in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, where around 50,000 elephant congregate on the banks of the Chobe River during the May-October dry season. During the rainy months, the elephant spread out, with some large herds migrating for hundreds of

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miles. An unusually dense elephant population is also to be found in Addo National Park in the Western Cape province of South Africa. (There, GORAH ELEPHANT CAMP is a Harper-recommended property.)

Birds Botswana’s Okavango Delta is home to nearly 450 recorded bird species. Another birder’s paradise is the Lower Zambezi Valley — the river forms the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe — where the profusion of large and colorful species must be seen to be believed. There are few more spectacular sights in nature than a flock of crimson carmine beeeaters, several thousand strong, congregating above their nest site on the sandy banks of the Zambezi. (SANCTUARY ZAMBEZI KULEFU CAMP is the Harper-recommended property nearby.) AH

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A FRESH LOOK:

TURKS CAICOS AND

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THE ATHALA II WITH KICKER ROCK IN THE DISTANCE © ANDREW HARPER

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TURKS AND CAICOS

when we first visited the turks and caicos more than 30 years ago, few people had ever heard of this British Overseas Territory tucked just south of the Bahamas, a 90-minute flight from Miami. On our inaugural visit in January 1981, we had to fly to Grand Turk, which then contained most of the archipelago’s 7,500 inhabitants, to catch a puddle jumper to the island of Providenciales, a process that took two days, thanks to the pilot initially taking off with insufficient fuel and being obliged to return! The island had yet to be discovered and offered about 100 beds in a halfdozen inns and cottage colonies, most tucked along Grace Bay, with its beautiful and relatively deserted 12-mile white-sand beach. Today, all that has changed, with Provo being a prime example of development and corruption run rampant. (Things got so out of hand by 2009 that Britain took the unprecedented step of suspending self-rule in the islands and taking over day-today control of the government, alleging that the premier and other

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Cabinet ministers illegally sold Crown land to developers for their own personal gain. New elections are expected this year). High-rise hotels and condos now stand cheek by jowl along the beach, and the once-barren interior of the island is dotted with malls, restaurants and vacation homes. (Like that of so many other resort destinations, however, the Turks and Caicos real estate market collapsed during the Great Recession, and construction was halted on many grand hotel projects that were eventually to be

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managed by high-end companies such as Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental.) That said, the political brouhaha seems to have had little or no impact on tourism. The beach remains as inviting as ever, and for those who prefer a livelier vacation ambience, Provo serves up an admirable array of dining, entertainment, shopping and recreational options. Be forewarned, however, that prices for rooms, food and beverages are sky-high because everything is imported and subject to crippling duties. The airport terminal is also long overdue for a major overhaul. Readers requiring the bells and whistles of a full-blown resort will prefer GRACE BAY CLUB , snuggled amid 11 lushly landscaped acres right along the calm and translucent waters of Grace Bay Beach. Lodging options include an adults-only all-suite hotel with 82 units, a newer compound featuring

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38 family-friendly one- to threebedroom villas with full kitchens, and the exclusive Estate enclave with 22 custom-designed three- to four-bedroom residences. Several restaurants, pools, a comprehensive spa and a myriad of water sports round out the first-class facilities. G R A C E B AY C L U B 8 8 O n e - B e d ro o m Hotel Suite, $995-$1,325. Grace Bay Circle Road, Providenciales. Tel. (649) 946-5050. gracebayresorts.com  BOOK ONLINE

Anacaona restaurant, Grace Bay Club

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A new resort with appealing options for fa milies is TH E V E R A N DA , a n a l l-inclu sive property managed by the same group as the Grace Bay Club. Open since early 2010, The Veranda occupies a choice spot on the beach, with 800 feet of oceanfront. The 123 accommodations Choicest among are located in three The Veranda’s buildings. Studios offerings are and most of the the eight beach- one-bedroom suites are set within the front cottages, steps away from m a i n Ve r a n d a House, a pleasant the ocean and if undistinguished each with its four-story structure. own plunge T he s e a re n ice pool and white enough, but they are picket fence. decorated in a bland contemporary style, and couples will find better options elsewhere. I do not recommend them. The two- and three-bedroom suites are a different matter. These are housed in two “villages” of

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charming two-story buildings, which appear to be a cross between the Caribbean and Nantucket, with creamy yellow clapboard siding augmented by balcony railings and window frames done in a complementary shade of bluegray. The interiors come with traditional colonial-style furniture, rich fabrics, full modern kitchens, washer-dryers, flat-panel TVs, Sony PlayStation 3s and Wi-Fi. Choicest among The Veranda’s offerings are the eight beachfront cottages, steps away from the ocean and each with its own plunge pool. These are done in the same appealing style as the “village” buildings — with the addition of a white picket fence! The interiors provide the same amenities as the “village” accommodations. Aside from easy proximity to the beach, other attributes that make The Veranda a fine choice for families include a dedicated pool for children and an attractive

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Kids Club, where parents can leave children ages 3 to 12 for supervised activities. Teens can sign up for kiteboarding, scuba and other excursions. Another plus for those with children is that meals in the main restaurant, Marin, are served buffet

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style — with themes from Chinese to Mexican — so all can eat at their own paces in a casual atmosphere. The other restaurant, Grill Bleu, offers an appealing multi-ethnic à la carte dinner menu that includes tandoori dishes and fresh local fish — we had an especially good

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yellow snapper with capers — but is better suited to grown-ups. Those who can’t put aside their regular workouts will appreciate the fully equipped fitness center, while guests in pursuit of something more relaxing will find a full range of treatments in the Sabai Spa, with products by Elemis. THE VERANDA 87 Two-Bedroom Suite, from $1,340; Three-Bedroom Suite, from $1,620; ThreeBedroom Beach Front Cottage with Pool, $3,600. Princess Drive, Providenciales. Tel. (649) 3395050. verandatci.com  BOOK ONLINE

If you desire more seclusion and quiet sophistication on Provo, AMANYARA is the perfect, if pricey, choice. The dramatically designed, cottage-style resort nestles along a seaside bluff at the island’s isolated northwest tip, a long 30-minute drive from the shops and hotels lining Grace Bay Beach. Entrance is through a temple-like reception pavilion, where a huge reflecting pool leads to a striking tower-like barlounge and Asian/Mediterranean

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restaurant set on a headland separating a lovely half-mile beach from the guest cottage pavilions. Enhanced by exotic woods, the contemporary accommodations (reminiscent of Amankila in Bali) feature all the expected amenities, the Ocean Pavilion junior suites occupying breezy rocky outcrops that definitely afford the best sea views. Leisure choices include a snorkeling/dive center for exploring the coral reefs of an adjacent marine park, a 165-foot freshwater pool, tennis courts and a delightful fitness and wellness spa offering a full menu of massages and body treatments. The resort’s visually appealing architecture, delectable food (including many fresh seafood dishes) and charming staff will please most Aman aficionados, the only drawback being the short hike from the cottages to the main beach. AMANYARA 95 Ocean Pavilion, $1,800-$2,050. Northwest Point, Providenciales. Tel. (649) 9418133. amanresorts.com  BOOK ONLINE

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Poolside at Amanyara

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TURKS AND CAICOS Bed and bath at The Meridian Club

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TURKS AND CAICOS

For an authentic tropical getaway at half the price of Amanyara, opt for THE MERIDIAN CLUB , ensconced on the privately owned island of Pine Cay, a 30-minute launch ride from Provo. This is the crown jewel of the Turks and Caicos for those seeking the relaxing and timeless spirit of the old West Indies, the intimate resort fringed by crystal-clear aquamarine waters and one of the Caribbean’s last great untrammeled beaches. In t he la st 30 yea rs, we have recommended dozens of Caribbean resorts and seen most of them mushroom in size. The environmentally sensitive and purposely underdeveloped island of Pine Cay is one of those rare exceptions that has steadfastly maintained its original identity. On our latest visit, we were thrilled to see that there are still just 13 guest rooms tumbling out to the same spectacular, deserted white-sand beach, along which we happily

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strolled in 1981. No cars are allowed on the island, with transportation strictly limited to bicycles and electric golf carts. Adding to the timeless bliss is the total absence of room phones and TVs, though guests may avail themselves of a daily New York Times news fax. In addition, cell phones are banned from most public areas, the only concession to the digital world being an Internet room equipped with a poky computer and laptop connections for those who must. D e c or a t e d i n a c h e er f u l tropical style with vibrant Haitian paintings and colorful handcrafted furnishings, the comfortably simple accommodations come with king beds, refrigerators, wall safes, wellstocked bookshelves and separate sitting alcoves opening onto newly screened porches. Spacious baths feature two vanity areas, indooroutdoor showers, lounging robes and mounds of fluffy towels. Overhead fans and louvered windows circulate

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the island’s year-round breeze. Under the direction of affable managers Beverly and Wally Plachta, a longtime, caring staff tends to guests’ every need in a handsome clubhouse sheltering a convivial upstairs bar-lounge trimmed by a scenic veranda. Downstairs, an informal dining room For romantic spills out to a terrace beach lovers with tables beneath who yearn to thatched umbrellas, a newly upgraded truly get away pool and alfresco bar. from it all in The superb kitchen is a uniquely now overseen by chef unspoiled Shane Coffey, who Robinson Crusoe setting, built his reputation at Alias on Manhattan’s nothing quite L ower Ea st Side, compares. and Lulu Wilson in Aspen, Colorado. For starters, we particularly enjoyed the chef’s signature kale and Parmesan salad, as well as his chilled avocado soup with sautéed shrimp, sweet chili sauce and a lime zest. Dinner

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entrées include a wide variety of grilled fish (chili-crusted wahoo, fresh snapper, mahi, mackerel and striped bass), plus Greek stuffed lamb loin, roasted Cornish hen, spice-rubbed steaks and more. Succulent barbecued ribs highlight the lively Saturday night jump-up. Complementing the superlative two-mile beach and calm swimming waters, the resort provides a small flotilla of sailboats and kayaks, plus daily catamaran snorkeling forays to the nearby national park reef. A new tennis court, limited spa services and bonefishing excursions are also available. Admittedly, this tranquil and sensuous sanctuary will not appeal to ever yone. But for romantic beach lovers who yearn to truly get away from it all in a uniquely unspoiled Robinson Crusoe setting, nothing quite compares. AH THE MERIDIAN CLUB 95 Beachfront Club Room, $1,085-$1,310, all meals included. Tel. (649) 9467758. meridianclub.com

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The newly upgraded pool area of The Meridian Club

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Provo Restaurants All of our recommended resorts have fine restaurants, but part of the fun of visiting an island where it is easy to get around — whether you drive or use taxis — is to try some of the local places. On our most recent visit, we particularly enjoyed the following.

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» At Coyaba, chef-owner Paul Newman serves fine seafood such as this bay scallop ceviche. © NICK BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

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Mango Reef

Tiki Hut

The one place that locals invariably recommend is Mango Reef, which is part of The Alexandra Resort, just a few minutes’ walk from The Veranda. The main restaurant has an open deck set in the dunes, which affords sweeping views of the ocean. It is a wonderful spot for lunch. The fare is casual, with pizzas, excellent salads, a fine lobster club and other sandwiches, plus the island specialty, braised oxtail! Although scarcely a light dish suitable for the tropics, I tried the latter out of curiosity and found it absolutely delicious. Tel. 946-8200.

Another good spot for lunch, especially if you are traveling with children, is the Tiki Hut, in a d e li g h t f u l s et tin g b e si d e t h e marina in the enclave of Turtle Cove, just a short drive from Grace Bay. The menu is a delightful mix of Caribbean and casual. We started with spicy conch fritters and then enjoyed a mild but flavorful curried chicken, with a generous portion of sautéed vegetables and rice with beans. The younger set will enjoy the chicken fingers, ribs, burgers and choose-your-toppings pizzas. Tel. 941-5341.

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Coyaba

Coco Bistro

Two places are best saved for dinner. Coyaba is an enchanting restaurant with an interior that is stage-set perfect: The airy pavilion comes with gingerbread trim and opens into lovely gardens. Chef-owner Paul Newman’s cuisine is superb, with especially fine seafood. Among the standouts from our meal were a thick, smooth gazpacho and a perfectly cooked swordfish steak with Asian peppers. Yield to the temptation to try the Key lime pie. Tel. 946-5186.

The other choice dinner spot, Coco Bistro, is set in a pomegranate-red adobe-style house with a garden of towering palms. Chef Stuart Gray has fashioned a sophisticated menu that combines island and international dishes. Among the starters, the ahi tuna sashimi is excellent, served on crisp tortillas with chopped onions, tomatoes and scallions and given zip by a wasabi mayonnaise. My main course, a nicely spiced jerk pork tenderloin with a rich mangoPor t reduction, ratatouille and mashed potatoes, was outstanding. Tel. 946-5369. AH

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MEMBER NEWS

Galápagos tortoise on Isabela Island

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© ANDREW HARPER

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Upcoming Tours Andrew Harper Signature Tours are meticulously designed to provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience to small groups of like-minded travelers. These trips feature the finest accommodations and the most knowledgeable guides, and provide an opportunity to meet eminent individuals and gain access to sites that are generally off-limits to the wider public. While all are welcome, our upcoming Costa Rica and Galápagos Islands Family Adventure Tours have been created with families in mind.

The Galápagos Islands Our Andrew Harper Galápagos Family Adventure Tour (August 9-19, 2012) begins in Quito, Ecuador’s bustling capital and a World Heritage site. From there, you’ll fly to the Galápagos to board the 210-foot expedition ship M.V. Eclipse and visit a dozen of the most intriguing locations in the islands. You’ll find an extraordinary abundance of fascinating wildlife, including sea lions, giant tortoises, iguanas, countless shorebirds and marine life, and scores of unique species found nowhere else SEA TURTLE LAYING HER EGGS ON A BEACH IN COSTA RICA on earth. Please click here for details and pricing.

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MEMBER NEWS

Costa Rica

The Andrew Harper Family Adventure Tour to Costa Rica (July 28-August 5, 2012) promises a host of memorable sights and experiences, such as watching a giant sea turtle lay her eggs on the beach, and taking a leisurely suspension-bridge stroll high above a cloud forest. Tour participants will also enjoy some of Costa Rica’s finest properties, including Arenal Nayara, overlooking Arenal Volcano; and the isolated splendor of Hotel Punta Islita. While all are welcome, this itinerary has been created with families in mind. For details and pricing, please click here.

Sicily and the Amalfi Coast

The Andrew Harper Signature Tour to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast (October 1-13, 2012; limited to 14 participants) also features an array of remarkable experiences for the sophisticated traveler. Our well-connected Travel Office has arranged for private jet travel between Catania and Naples, a private tour of the Borghese Gardens followed by lunch with Princess Maria Carla Borghese, and a special guest lecture on Sicily and its cultural traditions by journalist Wendy Mazza. Participants will enjoy a stay at Sicily’s Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, one of our favorite recent European openings, as well as at perennial Harper favorite Hotel Caruso. Please click here for details and pricing.

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A young girl outside a pagoda in Bagan © ANDREW HARPER

Burma: The Lost World

Experience Burma’s unique blend of British colonialism and Burmese tradition, its ancient ruins and its pristine wilderness in the comfort and style of an Andrew Harper Signature Tour (October 31-November 15, 2012). Glide past ancient capitals and bucolic villages that line the Irrawaddy River. Soar above the temples of Bagan at sunrise in a hot air balloon. Enjoy luxury accommodations, travel SEA TURTLE LAYING HER EGGS ON Ain-country BEACH IN COSTA RICAby private charter aircraft, and rewarding excursions. For details and pricing, please click here.

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ANDREW HARPER HOTEL AND RESORT RATINGS

Andrew Harper’s 500 Favorite Hotels in the World™ 98-100 A truly great hotel/resort, among the finest of its kind in the world 95-97 A wholly exceptional hotel/resort of great individuality and distinction 92-94 A remarkable hotel/resort of genuine sophistication Also Recommended

90-91 A fine hotel/resort of considerable charm 85-89 A commendable hotel/resort, providing high levels of comfort and service

50-84 A hotel/resort that did not meet the Andrew Harper standard

Not Recommended

Ratings are entirely subjective and are clearly not infallible. Based on a stay of not less than 24 hours and seldom more than three days, each reflects only a general impression. It is one informed, however, by millions of miles of travel and more than 30 years of experience. Rates provided are published nightly room rates and are subject to change. Call the Andrew Harper Travel Office for the best available rates and personalized travel assistance, (800) 375-4685. The Hideaway Report® is a privately published newsletter for the sophisticated traveler, 85% of our executive members holding the title of CEO/President/Owner/Partner. Issued monthly since June 1979. ISSN 0884-7622. For information, visit AndrewHarper.com or contact the Andrew Harper Membership Office, P.O. Box 684368, Austin, TX 78768 USA. Tel. (866) 831-4314 or (512) 904-7342. Fax (512) 904-7350. Copyright 2012 Andrew Harper, LLC. All rights reserved. Quotation, reproduction or transmission by any means is prohibited without written permission from the publisher. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ANDREW HARPER  ART DIRECTOR KRISTINA MITCHELL  ILLUSTRATOR MELISSA COLSON


Last Look A MEERKAT ON BOTSWANA’S MAKGADIKGADI PANS CLIMBS ATOP OUR GUIDE FOR A BETTER VIEW. © ANDREW HARPER

Hideaway Report February 2012  
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