Luxury Safaris and Holidays South Africa
South Africa -a world in one country’ . The diversity it offers is extraordinary, ranging from the huge Kruger Park in Mpumalanga where one can go on safari to the beautiful ‘Mother City’ of Cape Town which nestles under the shade of Table Mountain. Largely unspoiled beaches run from Durban westwards all the way to Cape Town, including the aptly named Garden Route which takes in many of the Cape Province’s most beautiful areas. You can also see leatherback and loggerhead turtles nesting on the sand at certain times of year on the border of Mozambique and the snorkelling and scuba diving is fantastic. Outside Plettenberg Bay it is still possible to find quiet and beautiful beaches and it is on the Garden Route that the migration of the Southern Right whale takes place as well as seeing dolphins, sharks, seals and penguins. If one is careful, one can dovetail a visit with the blossoming of the wild flowers, or “fynbos” as the local flora is commonly known. There is excellent horse riding in South Africa – either on safari or playing polo, to riding on the beach or through the winelands. Climb the Drakensberg Mountains or Table Mountain with a guide; visit the Zulu battlefields with world class guides; have wonderful picnics in beautiful forests; kayak and canoe to penguins, seeing them at close quarters or canoe down the Orange River for several days. Have a wonderful wildlife and cultural experience in the Limpopo region. Dine at any number of gastronomic restaurants and sample the finest wines in South Africa staying in luxurious, boutique retreats and meeting the wine makers.
Highlights of South Africa:
- Go on safari and see some of the richest and most abundant wildlife in Africa – from the the Kruger Park and Limpopo to the Waterberg Mountains, Madikwe, the Kalahari Desert and Kwa Zulu Natal to the garden route
- Some of the best family holidays in Africa – safaris in non malarial regions, private houses in the bush, horse riding, great canoeing and walking, bunjee jumping, elephant back riding, snorkelling, whale watching, turtle tracking, specialist children’s safaris which are educational, teaching them about the stars, culture, how to identify plants and what their uses are; how to identify spoormarks etc
- Cooking courses, wine courses and fly fishing courses
- Diverse range of accommodation from Relais et Chateaux, to earthy African chic to tents and everything in between. However, quality is a common thread which runs through all the establishments we recommend and we only ever suggest places that we either use for our own family holidays or that we have slept in the beds and sampled the food!
- Wine tasting in Cape Town as well as the wine regions throughout the Cape
- Dedicated horse riding safaris endorsed by Lucinda Green in Mpumalanga as well as riding safaris in the Waterberg Mountains, Kwa Zulu Natal and Cape Town. Polo in Plettenberg Bay.
- Bushman art in the Cape – staying in an area renowned for its carpets of magnificent wild flowers
- Wild Flowers throughout the Cape
- Amazing cuisine at contemporary restaurants and bistros
- Walking safaris and holidays in the Kruger and in private concessions as well as the Drakensberg Mountains and the Cape
- Battlefield tours in KwaZulu Natal, staying at Rorke’s Drift.
- Camping in the Drakensberg Mountains with a private guide
- Lesotho and Swaziland with their extraordinarily beautiful scenery and cultural experience
- Spa holidays in Kwa Zulu Natal and Mpumalanga.
- Wonderful art galleries – both contemporary and traditional.
- Musical evenings with artists or visits to African outreach programmes – both are enlightening and moving!
General information on South Africa:
One reason that we all fall in love with the Cape is the winelands – with its magnificent Cape Dutch or French Huguenot architecture, all framed by the mountains and, of course, some of the finest vineyards in the world.
The best way to get around South Africa is by car, self-driving which allows flexibility and freedom. We have negotiated a special rate with car hire companies who have branches conveniently located throughout South Africa; one-way rental is no problem. We have spent large amounts of time driving the length and breadth of South Africa, researching the finest places to stay, retaining typical architecture and serving excellent food and wine.
In contrast, we have also sought places which typify true wilderness and remoteness and give a genuine feel of Africa. Our favourite region is KwaZulu Natal, which probably provides more contrast than anywhere else in South Africa. Here one has the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains which can be explored by car, on foot, and by horse and there are gorgeous stud farms and fly fishing in dramatic scenery. A visit would not be complete without staying at Richard and Mouse Poynton’s beautifully situated home in the Drakensberg, just off the multi-faceted “Midlands Meander”, where Richard boasts the finest food and the most impressive cellar for miles around!
Away from the mountains there are the famous battlefields and one can take a battlefield tour with a famous historian such as David Rattray. There are superb game reserves. “KZN” also has unspoiled, beautiful, beaches running as far as the eye can see, a magnificent coastline that runs right up to Mozambique where one can stay in lovely lodges and see Bottle Neck dolphins (the diving is excellent) and monitor and watch the migration of the Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles as they come to nest.
Lucia van der Post wrote an enlightened article about staying at the more genuine older properties and working farms that one can find in South Africa which represent such good value for money. Julian Melck’s property offers just such a place, and the 18th Century buildings on his property are listed as a National Monument. A passionate aviator, Julian will also indulge anyone who is wanting a bird’s eye view of the west coast… Nic and Nicole Dupper have opened up their home set on the Klein Rivier Mountains, close for whale watching, and Nicole’s cooking is legendary! Or there is Ant and Tessa Baber who close their home in the Waterberg Mountains to families and groups of friends; their sister establishment is an excellent place to share and learn about conservation with Ant – and ride in this magnificent territory. Grootbos is another of our favourites, one is hosted by botanists and marine biologists, another excellent place for seeing the Southern Right whale and they have the largest fynbos reserve in South Africa. In Franschhoek, Mark Dendy-Young owns a lovely vineyard with cottages and his cuisine is exquisite!
For those only interested in sheer luxury, South Africa abounds in suitable hotels and lodges, including several Relais et Chateaux. We tend to prefer the smaller, very high quality, establishments where there is an overall sense of calm with tranquillity and perfect views. However there are some wonderful, sensibly priced, hotels suitable for families who may want to at least consider the budget which we can recommend, too, as well as some super small, owner-managed, lodges in the Mpumalanga region where white water rafting, horse riding, golf, flyfishing and interesting drives on an artist’s route are all possible.
In terms of game viewing and safaris in South Africa there are many excellent lodges and camps to choose from, ranging from the more basic tented camps in the Kruger to the utterly spoiling and lavish lodges! In most camps one can walk to a greater or lesser extent or, of course, do the more standard form of game viewing by vehicle. Kruger National Park is the size of Wales, and the reserve is broken into three areas – the Sabi Sands, Manyeleti and Timbavati regions. Thornybush is adjacent to the Kruger and is home to some of the most luxurious lodges. However, both game viewing and safaris in South Africa is far from just being the Kruger: Natal, the Waterberg, Madikwe (the latter Malaria-free)and certain areas along the Cape coast are all good places to see game and, as ever, we choose the right places to suit each individual or family.
Lastly, for those wanting to explore in a more relaxed style, Rovos Rail and the Blue Train offer luxury train journeys. Pretoria to the Kruger Park takes 24 hours and the trains run Johannesburg to Cape Town and vice versa, these are some of the most luxurious trains in the world offering a wonderfully relaxed way to travel. Jo’burg to Victoria Falls is a splendid journey and a wonderful way of combining the two countries. The Blue Train is a relatively modern train; Rovos Rail has carriages deliberately evoking travel from a bygone era.