Award Trip Report – South African Safari

ATR3 Award Trip Report by Mattson Austin We flew out of SFO on Air Canada to Montreal, then Qatar Airways to Doha with a couple-day stay in Qatar to do some four wheeling in the desert and enjoy the local atmosphere and great Middle Eastern food. Then a couple days later down to Johannesburg and on a South African local hopper to Nelspruit, near Kruger National Park. Ulusaba is Sir Richard Branson’s private safari lodge in the Sabi Sand private reserve, adjacent to Kruger. It is luxurious, all-inclusive and the guides and staff reflect the top quality operation it is. They arranged a driver from Nelspruit to Ulusaba, since we wanted to see the countryside and rural South Africa; they arranged a bush flight back to JNB after our visit. We met with local people and kids at their school near the reserve. Branson’s charity does wonderful work in the communities nearby. The star of the show, however, was the game drives, at 5am and 4pm every day. Every South African animal, bird and tree imaginable is there, among a landscape of beautiful veldts, kopjes, forests, hills and meadows. Our guide and tracker both provided skill and safety in taking us places we never thought we’d go, in a Land Rover right up near leopards with their cubs, lionesses and their offspring feeding on prey, among masses of elephants – all quietly and respectfully, making sure not to disturb them while giving us a front row seat to African nature in all its glory. We did a little bush walking. We quaffed wine and drinks from the fully stocked bar in the most amazing clearings. The two lodges, each with about 12-15 rooms, were superb. The breakfast, lunch and dinner were to order and magnificent. The other guests were convivial and we made new friends. But the staff really make the place: the love and caring for the environment, the people of the region and the animals just shines through. 

After an amazing six days (three on miles, three paid) we headed home. 

ATR 1 Award Trip Details: FFP miles spent: 
240,000 UA 

Hotel points spent: 
275,000 Virgin Atlantic miles used to defray safari costs 

Approximate fees: 

Airline(s) / Routing: 
SFO-YUL-DOH-JNB-DOH-JFK-SFO on United, Air Canada, Qatar and SAA

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