Fine weather, fine accommodation, fine dining, fine wine, and the finest sightseeing… that’s South Africa… if it’s time for you to have some finery – read on!
My first night was in Paarl, at the beautiful Grand Roche Hotel. The Grand Roche is a small hotel, just 34 rooms, located at the bottom of Paarl Rock. It has beautiful gardens overlooking vineyards and mountains. A champagne reception on arrival and meeting the friendly staff was a lovely welcome.
It’s also a perfect place for a wedding, and every couple that gets married there will have their names etched into the chapel’s doors. The Grand Roche hosts the award-winning Bosmans Restaurant, which serves everything from breakfast to 7-course meals serving different wines with each course to complement the flavours.
Setting the standard at The Grande Roche, I was not disappointed to arrive at Franschoek, to see the beautiful Mont Rochelle – the latest hotel in Sir Richard Bransons’ portfolio. Having just re-opened after renovations in September 2014 – it was fresh and clean. Each room is designed with a unique décor, so that no two rooms are the same. With their own vineyard and wine tasting area, this is the perfect place for wine lovers! Mont Rochelle offers something completely unique – which is horseback wine tasting, something that we didn’t try but is proving to be very popular!
If you prefer to get closer to nature then you will love the Grootbos Nature Reserve, nestled between the mountains and the sea. Grootbos is absolutely beautiful – a five-star eco-lodge offering something again completely unique. Grootbos is an Afrikaans word which translates as ‘Big Forest’ – which is perfectly suited as the reserve is surrounded by Milkwood Forests, trees which can grow to over 1000 years old! At certain times of the year, whales can be spotted from the reserve. There is so much that Grootbos has to offer, from shark cage diving to 4×4 flower safaris on their own grounds. The staff at Grootbos are all passionate about their work, and the conservation of their nature reserve. They also have a school on site for local students between 18-25 to attend, where they are taught about the flowers and plants, and how to look after them.
Turning back to make my way to Cape Town, I went via Hermanus, a small town with shops, restaurants and markets – the perfect en-route stop. Walker Bay is very popular with people who are wanting to see the whales – so do book your hotel early if you are visiting in whale watching season. Further along the ‘Whale Coast Road’ I was in Betty’s Bay to spot the penguins! Betty’s Bay is very similar to the popular tourist spot of Boulders Beach – except it is still relatively undiscovered. There are literally hundreds of penguins here, and hyraxes – which are small animals, which look like they belong in the rodent family, but are in fact closely related to elephants! Betty’s Bay does make a small charge for entry, unlike Boulders Beach – but this is to help conserve the penguin’s habitat.
Do I really need to say more about Cape Town’s sightseeing? Number 1, of course is the famous Table Mountain. It was a beautiful, clear day, not even a ‘tablecloth’ in sight! I went up in the cable car, which has a rotating floor so that everyone gets a 360° view. If you’re celebrating I can arrange drinks and canapés for you once you are at the top! Otherwise there is a café to purchase refreshments and souvenirs. Being such a clear day, I was lucky to see Cape Point inthe distance, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. The views from Table Mountain however are wonderful at anytime.
One of the finest hotels in Cape Town is the Belmond Mount Nelson, which is conveniently located just a short drive from both the city centre and the bustling V&A Waterfront. If you are not staying there, then make time to visit and try their famous afternoon tea! It’s a tradition, and you won’t be disappointed.
While in Cape Town, also try to visit Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope on the Southern tip of Africa – where two oceans meet – dramatic and wild!
What is the only experience that makes you feel – “I’m in Africa”? Of course! A safari! And for this I went to Kruger National Park…
After a short 2-hour flight to Hoedspruit, and an even shorter transfer to the Kapama River Lodge, I had arrived. The River Lodge is perfect if you want to safari, with your home comforts and more. The Kapama Reserve also has three other camps – Buffalo Camp, Karula and the Southern Camp, which is the newest. Southern Camp is very modern, it has fabulous suites with their own plunge pools completely open to the bush, so you can relax on your deck, or sit in a giant bathtub and watch the impalas and monkeys! A safari was the perfect way to end my trip – an early morning game drive, and the entire day to relax and laze by the pool – so that you are wide awake for the game drive in the afternoon! Giraffes, zebras, elephants, lions and everyone searching for a sighting of the elusive leopard and cheetah! What fun and excitement – and what a lot of photos to keep me remembering!