Although October in England has beautiful colours, it has cool temperatures, so when I had the chance for a few days in a warmer climate and to see the equally beautiful colours of the green trees in the bush of South Africa, I was up for the change!
So off I went, to Johannesburg specifically to the suburb of Melrose Arch, to enjoy a pleasant stay in a safe environment with plenty of shops and restaurants. I arrived at the weekend and was soon heading to the local Neighbourgoods Market with farm fresh foods to sample, speciality goods to browse and live bands to listen to, I felt at home in a place where the community catch up with friends and families. The weekend passed quickly – I tried the hop on hop off red double-decker bus, stopping at the Apartheid Museum for a couple of hours – the exhibits are so interesting.I also enjoyed a guided City Arts Walk, where I learned that Graffiti is not just idle scribble!
For something completely different, I had a bicycle tour of the township of Soweto! For two hours, I took in some of the historical and cultural sites –the area of Meadowlands, the site of the 1976 student uprising, the Hector Pieterson Memorial, Nelson Mandela’s former home, and I tried a local delicacy – Banana Beer! I loved to see the happy smiles of the local children saying their “hellos” and high fiving – quite a difficult task whilst riding, so I stopped for photo opportunities.
I continued my trip with a short flight to Nelspruit airport near Kruger National Park and picked up a hire car – I would strongly recommend a 4WD vehicle big enough for your luggage as these make it easier to cope with the terrain. My mission? Be a bit more involved and drive the open road myself! My first stop was the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, a walk to take in the clean air and admire the beautiful gardens…. followed by lunch. At Sudwala Caves I did a one hour tour – fairly gentle but for the more adventurous try the four hour experience called the Crystal Tour.
I stayed in a unique, exclusive, mountain retreat in the Mount Anderson Reserve set on 20,000 acres of dramatic landscape in Mpumalanga region. It was just perfect for small groups of friends or families to gather before or after a safari adventure. In the great outdoors here, I tried some fly fishing – the line pulled once or twice, but as the saying goes “that’s the one that got away!”
If fishing is not your style – there are plenty of other things to do to unwind and enjoy:- there is some wonderful and rare birdlife – I caught a glimpse of the stunning bright red wings of the Knysna Turaco, or be a bit more active – horse riding, mountain biking, clay pigeon shooting, the list is endless! Having worked up an appetite I tucked into a delicious barbeque and sat around the pit fire.
This is a great place to have the freedom of a car to explore the sights of the Panorama Route. The highlights I recommend are: The Pinnacle, God’s Window, Berlin Falls and the Three Rondavels. Everyone goes to Kruger for a safari and I was excited to reach this exciting part of my trip. I stayed in the Balule Nature Reserve at a property called the Naledi Game Reserve. It was lodge type accommodation and offered excellent fine cuisine. The game drives and bush walks were huge fun – out in the African bush, learning the art of tracking and recognising paw prints! After two nights, I moved to another part of Kruger – the Makalali area in the west and to a different style of accommodation, a luxury tent on the exclusive camp of Garonga. It was quiet and tranquil here, and I was privileged to overlook the water hole, and watch thirsty elephants drinking gallons of water. The mischievous monkeys played in the trees and curiously they always knew when the food was being served! It is a perfect place for a wedding or honeymoon, or just to have a fabulous holiday with some unique experiences, like a picnic lunch in a tree house, a sleep-out under the stars or a massage, out in the open with the sounds of the bush as a backdrop.
All safari holidays include morning and evening game drives and these are great opportunities for intimate viewings of wildlife. I nearly saw all of the Big Five! – the cheetah on my final morning drive made up for not sighting the elusive leopard.
What can I say about my trip? Just that South Africa is a perfect place to relax and unwind. It’s excellent value for money and there is only a one hour time difference, so there is no jetlag. And I now know it’s an easy destination to drive to, and it has the bonus of driving on the left – great for us Brits!
Let me tell you more about the Open Road in South Africa! Call or email me… anytime!