Have you ever wondered what it’s like to go on a safari? We experienced the ultimate African luxury safari at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Keep reading to see the first-class facilities, chef-driven food and some of the most amazing animals in the world.
Don’t stand in the jeep!
Ranger Josh van der Ploeg made it crystal clear as we approached the leopard during our first game drive – standing could provoke an attack.
Due to the excitement of seeing the beautiful spotted creature up close, Daryl, who sometimes lets the excitement take over his reasoning, forgot van der Ploeg’s one rule and immediately stood up.
Long story short, the leopard didn’t attack us and we saw many more animals during our second safari experience. More about that later, but first watch our YouTube video.
Where Is &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp
&Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp is located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a 65,000 hectare area located adjacent to Kruger National Park. Sabi Sand shares an open boundary with the national park, which allows animals to roam freely across the boundary and often bathe in the area’s two rivers – the Sabie and the Sand.
Beyond being rich with African safari animals, Sabi Sands has a notable variety of flora and fauna that surprises with every twist and turn. And the sunrises! The sun’s golden yolk rises every morning at the edge of the flat, unoccluded tree-dotted savanna.
The only thing better than a colorful Sabi Sand sunrise is an even more colorful Sabi Sand sunset. At dusk, the show returns with an explosion of color that bathes the meandering Sabi River in hues of pink and orange.
Why We Went to &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp
For our second safari, we wanted to take it to the next level with a classic luxury safari experience. To do this, we drove ten hours through South Africa to &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp at the edge of Kruger Park so that we could experience one of Africa’s best safaris.
Like many Generation X Americans, we grew up with romanticized views of safaris thanks to Hollywood classics like Out of Africa and Hatari, not to mention the grand prize trip giveaways on U.S. television game shows like The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune.
In our fantasy safaris, upper-class people glamp in fancy tents and eat elegant food served by appointed servants before they put on khaki outfits with pith helmets and head to the bush in 4×4 vehicles to see (and sometimes catch) wild animals.
During our long drive on mostly pothole-filled, two-lane highways, we wondered if &Beyond Kirkmans Kamp would live up to our romantic vision. We wondered about the food. Most of all, though, we wondered if we would see any or all of the Big Five animals.
Prior to the first safari during our South Africa dream vacation, we weren’t obsessed with animals and didn’t even know which animals comprise the Big Five. We soon learned that these specific animals (African Lions, African Elephants, Cape Buffalo, African Leopards and Rhinoceroses) are the hardest to find – and we wanted to find them all.
Our Stay at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp
Eight hundred kilometers is a long way to drive, especially in South Africa, but’s that’s what we did to get to &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp. We arrived a bit dusty and tired but totally excited for the adventure that lay ahead.
A Gracious Welcome
Before we could even get out of our car, manager Nicolene Schoeman warmly greeted us with Verbena scented wet towels and glasses of chilled lemonade. She gave us a tour of the classic 1920s lodge and introduced us to our butler Simon. (Yes, we had a butler!)
By the time we traded the glasses of lemonade for glasses of rosé wine and sat down for a gourmet lunch on the veranda, our fatigue was gone. We were left with a feeling of excitement that stayed with us through a magical two-day stay that included much more food and four outstanding game drives.
Situated on Harry Kirkman’s 1920 homestead, the safari lodge is understated and elegant with authentic touches like framed antique photos and firearms as well as game mementos from the days when animals in the game reserve were hunted with guns instead of cameras.
Though we had plenty of privacy during our stay, we mingled with a number of other guests from countries like Australia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. We felt truly cosmopolitan in a world where safaris are a big event.
&Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp has 18 air-conditioned suites, each with its own private veranda overlooking the Sand River and an ensuite bathroom. Luxury amenities include high-end bathroom products, free wi-fi and complimentary laundry service.
During our stay, the suite was our own private oasis. After dusty, energy-sapping game drives, we enjoyed coming back to our suite and lounging on the big, plush bed and taking bubble baths in the claw foot bathtub.
Not all lodges include air conditioning in an effort to connect guests with nature. We, however, wholeheartedly approve of the modern convenience.
Nobody told us that safaris would be so tiring, but it makes sense considering the crack-of-dawn wake-up calls and twice daily game drives that interactively engage all five senses. Not only did we sleep well in our luxury hotel room, but we also lounged well there.
Food Connected with Nature
If you think that a luxury African safari experience is all about the animals, then think again. An andBeyond safari experience is also about the food.
At least it is at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp. During our stay, Chef Lulama Magatya combined his international culinary experience with locally sourced products to create tempting food from the crack of dawn until late at night.
The accomplished Chef and his team used the finest ingredients to prepare food that delighted us starting with the chickpea fritters served with tomato chutney that we inhaled during our first lunch to the lemon meringue tarts that we savored during afternoon tea.
Day time meals skewed toward casual with full breakfasts and a la carte lunches. Evenings were more formal with pre-dinner cocktails where guests gathered to drink Gin & Tonics while sharing elephant tales about the day’s game drives.
Don’t expect to lose weight during a luxury African safari. Take advantage of healthy choices like fresh fruit and granola. Otherwise, don’t kill yourself if you gain a few pounds from the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Some dinners at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp are romantic affairs with private tables and refined foods like smoked salmon salad, duck fillet and creme brulee. Other dinners are more raucous, filled with meats grilled on the braai and a local choir singing from their hearts.
Though we enjoyed eating the communal braai dinner under the stars, we preferred the more intimate, candlelit dinner after a day of immersive game drives. We may be in the minority with this preference based on the enthusiasm displayed by our dinner companions.
For many people, a luxury safari is at the top of their travel bucket lists. We weren’t those people – at least not until we experienced our first African safari and realized that we wanted to take our safari repertoire to the next level. In other words, we wanted to see the Big Five plus as many giraffes, zebras and other animals as possible.
Let’s be clear, we’re not animal experts. We usually focus on food travel. However, we’re confident to say that we experienced four spectacular game drives at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp. During these drives, we saw animals galore including the beautiful leopard and angry elephant (pictured at top).
We also saw hyenas, rhinos, so many impalas, baboons, kudos steenbok and waterbuck. We witnessed a herd of impalas peacefully frolic with a congress of baboons while other baboons participated in not-so-subtle mating rituals just feet from our jeep. Ouch – those female baboon bottoms are really red.
We stopped often to observe the stunning birds and fabulous scenery. We didn’t know we were into birding until we visited &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp and observed a variety of birds including African Hoopoe birds and vultures.
We also viewed impressive trees from the prevalent Acacia trees to a proud Sycamore Fig tree, the biggest tree on the property and reputed to be 600 years old.
Ranger Josh and our quiet but capable tracker Jerry made every effort for us to see as many animals as possible, often communicating with other &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp staff by walkie talkie and sometimes following footprints in the dirt.
Their unbridled excitement was contagious when we encountered a pack of Cape Hunting Dogs. Resembling coyotes and practically extinct, these animals are typically elusive and garner a lot of points for those who track their game drive sightings. To us, they were scarier than the leopard with their mangy appearance and pointy, sharp teeth.
Our morning game drives included stops in the game park where we enjoyed ginger cookies and ‘special special coffee’ made with shots of Amarula liqueur and hot chocolate mix. However, the evening drives stops were even more memorable with alcoholic sundowners and snacks like dried apricots, cheese puffs and biltong.
As we watched the sun set over the Sand River while the sky flared into shades of orange, purple and pink, we toasted the wonder that is South Africa.
Evening game drives were special for another reason – the stars. There is nothing like the African sky when the stars start sparkling.
We gazed with wonder at the Southern Cross and the Milky Way, pinching each other to prove to ourselves that this was for real and wishing that the night would never end.
Our one and only regret is that we did not complete our Big Five mission at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp. We saw African Elephants, Cape Buffalo, an African Leopard and Rhinoceroses.
However, the African Lion remained elusive despite the unrelenting efforts of both Josh and Jerry. Check back to soon if we accomplished this vanity goal during our third safari or if we need to return to South Africa to make it happen.
We appreciate why tourists go out of their way to experience top-notch safaris. We fully recommend that everybody experience at least one safari at a game reserve like Kruger or the adjacent Sabi Sands.
This is land that has been untouched for centuries and possibly for millennia. There’s nothing like it, and the experience beats filling out a ‘Big Five scorecard.’
Beyond the animals and food, not to mention the comfortable suites, &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp has a range of amenities to satisfy all guests. These amenities include an infinity swimming pool, an open-air boma, a safari shop, a library, Harry’s bar (named after original owner Harry Kirkman), free wi-fi and complimentary laundry service.
Prices are surprisingly fair at the safari shop. Don’t fret if you forget to pack extra batteries or a certain toiletry item.
Photography Equipment Rental
In addition to selling souvenirs and toiletries, the safari shop also rents Canon and Nikon photography equipment including DSLR cameras and zoom lenses.
We rented a Canon 75-300 Canon Lens to use during our four game drives. This lens wasn’t top of the line, but it still enhanced our experience by enabling us to take better photos of animals we encountered.
We found the daily rental cost of 370 Rand (approximately $28 USD at the time of our visit) to be a worthwhile expense. The shop also rents binoculars and provides photography lessons for visitors.
Transportation and Logistics
Getting to &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp
You can travel to &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp by car or plane. There are daily flights to the nearby Skukuza airstrip, making the plane option both time effective and convenient.
For those who choose to drive, be aware that South Africans drive on the left side of the road. Public roads are fairly well maintained although potholes and traffic are not uncommon. The roads inside Sabi Sand Game Reserve are not paved.
If you rent a car, be sure to purchase insurance… just in case. We were happy to have the insurance and even happier not to use it.
Let’s face it – luxury African safaris are not cheap. However, we believe that this type of once-in-a-lifetime experience is worth the cost for guests of all ages. The current cost of Kirkman’s Kamp is 9,075 Rands per person per night (approximately $685 USD during our visit), but the memories are priceless.
This cost includes accommodation, meals, drinks, game drives, game drive refreshments, laundry service, taxes and transfers to/from the airstrip. The cost does not include gratuities, safari shop purchases, park fees, landing fees, premium drinks and phone calls.
Tips are not required but are expected and appreciated. This is the case at all luxury safaris unless stated otherwise.
When to Plan Your Visit
The good news is that there is no bad season to visit &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp.
Spring and summer are great for their long days, baby animals and migrating birds. Autumn shines with its mild weather.
Don’t count out winter – a great option for enhanced visibility and animal sightings.
Book Your Stay at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp
Click here to research the current rates for your &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp safari experience.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.