Being a bush-lover and avid bird watcher, I am always looking for new experiences, destinations and of course...birds. Tanya from Africa Direct recently arranged and booked me on a Specialist Birding Safari at Phinda Private Game Reserve with Specialist Guide, Mike Karantonis. At first I was a bit skeptical...how good could it really be? Well, what a mind blowing experience!  No one could have prepared me for it.

Not only were the staff at Phinda Forest Lodge extremely friendly, but going on a Specialist Birding Safari with Mike was an awesome experience!  What is more, he has a wealth of knowledge not only about birds, but about almost everything we encountered - from plants and habitats to the "hairies and scaries".

Being on a Specialist Safari, meant we also travelled to various locations to find scarce birds and endemic species, and nothing was too much trouble for Mike.  All of Tanya's arrangements were absolutely perfect and my whole holiday went without a glitch. I can recommend both of them to anybody who would like to have a fantastic bush experience!


Tanya, we are back from South Africa and I just wanted to thank you on behalf of all of us for arranging this dream holiday!  Cape Town and the wine country were very nice, but our safari was what we will all remember for the rest of our lives.  We had almost impossible expectations of how great it would be, and the reality far exceeded those expectations.  It was flawless, breathtaking and completely unforgetable in every way.  Having a private safari with Mike truly made the experience for us.  He's not only amazingly knowledgeable and passionate, but also a genuinely great guy.  He inspired all of us, and we feel truly fortunate to have had the immeasurable benefit of having him has our personal guide.

Needless to say, should you ever need a recommendation, please do not hesitate to let us know.  In the meantime, we will recommend you, Mike and Africa Direct to anyone and everyone we know who is considering a safari!


Tanya and Africa Direct created a fairytale wedding and safari for my husband and I.  We were married at Camp Jabulani in South Africa with a herd of elephants.  We had hoped to be married with one...but somehow with her talent and charm there were 13.  It was the most beautiful, amazing wedding either of us could ever have imagined.  The lodge itself is exquisite and the people treated us like family.  Speaking of which - Tanya, and her husband Hilton, our wedding photographer, were witnesses at our wedding.  Tanya and I became very close while planning our wedding and it just seemed perfect.  Hilton's photographs are unlike any I have ever seen, his wildlife expertise and sheer talent created works of art.  They are an extraordinary couple and it is reflected in the service provided with Africa Direct.

We spent the most exciting two weeks of our lives traveling from one fabulous lodge to the next.  After getting married at Camp Jabulani, we went to Ngala Tented Camp, Ngala Walking Safaris Camp, Elephant Plains and then Exeter Leadwood Lodge.  I could write a short novel about each place and the unbelievable safaris, food and people.  Tanya made arrangements with each lodge to plan wedding surprises....from candle lit dinners in a tree, to champagne and candle lit baths, the list goes on.  Each lodge planned their own beautiful acknowledgement of our marriage.  It was a wedding and trip that dreams are made of.  I miss Africa everyday and I can't wait to return and see our SA family, Tanya and Hilton.


Dear Tanya,

This is just a thank you for everything you did for us to make our trip something special. We had a great time and the locations were fantastic especially Inyati. Their staff couldn’t have been more helpful and the game drives and food were exceptional. This was the highlight of our trip. We saw the Big 5 on the first day/night and hadn’t even left the lodge when we saw our first Elephant eating a tree near the staff accommodation. It was a similar story with a Rhino on the 2nd day. We saw a lioness with 4 cubs (on her first trip out with the cubs), Honey Badgers which we were told are very rare. Lions, Buffalo, Wilderbeast, Impala (which our guide called the McDonalds of the bush, Giraffe, Warthog, Nyala, Kudu, Hippo, Elephant, Leopard, Rhino, Crocodiles (not to mention the many birds) were all a regular part of our day including a casual walk through the grounds by Leopard, Nyala, Elephant, Warthogs, Crocodiles and other animals.

Rissington was another little piece of paradise with great accommodation and food and the atmosphere in the bar during the games was fun. The Hillside lodge (ideal for large family) has its own pool and two large bedrooms with separate dining/lounge and the Manager Chris was a character that went out of his way to make sure you were enjoying yourselves.

We enjoyed Vic Falls and Thorntree River Lodge, although the rooms were very cold with no heating and a breeze blowing through the eaves onto your face in bed (would be very nice in Summer) but not in the middle of winter. The food and staff made up for any inconvenience and it was a nice short break. We did a helicopter flight over the falls (thoroughly recommend this to anyone). The game drive was good but after Inyati it was always going to be difficult for them to compete. We did however go on a walk to see Rhino which was fun. The best part of Thorntree is that it is very small (9 rooms) which gives it that more personal feeling.

We would thoroughly recommend Inyati, Rissington and Africa Direct (Tanya of course) to any of our friends and want to once again say thank you and wish you and your family all the best for the future. We would love to visit Africa again, see more and go further afield, we would definitely get you to organise it for us.

Yours Sincerely

Robyn & Mark Woodward



Hello Tanya,

Yvonne and I arrived home (reluctantly) last night from our trip to your part of the world.

We had the best holiday of all time and definitely want to go back again sometime -- perhaps with Michelle and Phil.

Every thing went very well and we thoroughly enjoyed each location for different reasons.

Victoria Falls was great and  especially the room we had. Not sure if we paid for it ,you arranged it for us or we were just lucky but we got the suite in the Ilala Lodge which was fantastic. The weather was very kind to us so the helicopter ride and guided tour was great.

I understand the staff there contacted you as I assumed they were organizing the transfer to Kasane but they were unaware of any arrangements.

I was very impressed with their efforts to ensure it all went well with no concern on our part.

The Zambezi Queen was fabulous ,made even better by only 3 couples on board. They said it is always full except for this time. The owners came aboard occasionally and were there when your hubby came by the second time. They were hoping he would join us for a coffee

so they could show off the boat to him. What a surprise!. We were cruising along and heard someone calling out our names. The first thoughts were we were thousands of miles from anyone we would know so who could it possibly be. It caused a good deal of interest on the boat.

I took the liberty of giving the owners your name as they would be keen to get you aboard sometime.

The boat is even better than the internet photos and food and accommodation was first class. We had a suite here also, presumably because of the low occupancy.

The activities were first rate and kept us busy and excited. Watching the animals from the boat or tenders was fascinating and unique.  I caught a 3 kg Tiger fish. I will send you a photo.  We would recommend it to anyone.

Then there was Londolozi. I am glad we took your advice ,went there and stayed in the Superior accommodation. It was a great treat for us. The food and staff were terrific. The accommodation was out of this world and the game viewing was incredible.

We saw the big 5 by our second drive and had many opportunities to see the leopard (7 different animals on several occasions.)

The Guide and tracker were so good, they asked before each trip what we wanted to see and they did it all except for Cheetah.

Highlights were visiting a Hyena den and seeing them playing ,seeing and observing a wild dog pack, seeing 2 cheetah in a tree with a kill with mum and a hyena on the ground.

We were so excited to see so many animals so closely and to see them interacting ( we even saw cheetah mating which we did not request !)

There were many occasions where security had to escort us to and from rooms because of elephant buffalo and hippo, all 3 on the last day.

The whole trip was wonderful and we would gladly go again and I am sure a big part of that was due to your efforts for which we are very grateful

I would have no hesitation in recommending you and your services to all those people that we are going to bore silly in the next few weeks and months. I hope you get some business out of it because you earned it.

We will send a few photos when they are sorted out.

Thank you once again. You have made us very happy  with many wonderful experiences to live with for the rest of our lives

Best Regards

Yvonne and David