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A trip to South Africa, September 2014

11 Nov 2014

By Bob Mortimore – Travel Consultant at Ultimate Destinations.

Ostensibly, my trip to South Africa in September 2014 was a holiday but having working in the Travel Business for many years, I also took time to do some hotel inspections. This blog logs some of the wonderful places where we stayed at and places we visited. South Africa is a wonderful country with a huge variety of sights and things to see and do. In my opinion, it just gets better each time I go there.

Cape Grace Hotel, Cape Town

Located on its own private quay on the Victoria and Alfred waterfront, the Cape Grace Hotel is surrounded on all three sides by the vibrant and busy harbour. It sits in the best location to explore Cape Town itself and I have to say that it is my favourite hotel in this magnificent city.

There are three words to describe the Cape Grace Hotel: Location, Style, Staff. Being on the front of the Waterfront set against an unforgettable background of beautiful Table Mountain, the Cape Grace Hotel is just steps away from all the shops, restaurants, cafés and bars in this modern, cosmopolitan, vibrant part of the city. Recently refurbished, this lovely hotel boasts an ultra-luxury elegant décor and a warm and welcoming ambiance is evident throughout. With local antiques and quirky local contemporary pieces, the public rooms and hallways are a treasure trove of interest and you must take a look at the chandeliers which are very different and opulent in style!

This hotel currently has 120 suites and rooms, each one uniquely different, elegant in style and of a generous size. With luxurious bedding and authentic furnishings, rooms have flat screen high definition TV, a well stocked mini bar, a deli with tea and coffee making facilities and an iron and ironing board. All rooms have french windows with yacht marina or harbour views and some of them have balconies. As well as i-Pod docking stations in each room, there is complimentary WiFi, internet modem lines and international plug points. Every room has a large luxury bathroom with a big bath and walk-in shower plus exclusive lovely toiletries.

The impeccable service from all the staff is just so good. They seem to know all of the guests’ names and you do receive genuine, very friendly help from them at all times. My understanding is that personality is a key consideration in staff selection and successful staff are then thoroughly trained in the Cape Grace Hotel way.

The Signal Restaurant at the Cape Grace Hotel is one of the finest restaurants in Cape Town. It features an incredible daily breakfast while in the evening, executive chefs prepare an impressive, South African influenced menu. The food is simply delightful and a Sommelier, with vast experience, is on hand to give the very best advice on wine.

On the edge of the yacht marina is the Bascule whisky, wine and cocktail Bar. Here, during the day, light lunches are served with a selection of coffees and drinks whilst in the evening, the very best cocktails and wine are offered along with light dinners. As the Bar features over 500 whiskies from around the world, there are exclusive whisky tastings and private dining can be arranged. Take time to sample the hotel’s popular daily Afternoon Tea which is served in the library and famed throughout Cape Town.

The Cape Grace Hotel also offers many facilities including an excellent Spa, fitness studio, a heated outdoor swimming pool, shop, library and an extensive lounge. A chauffeured BMW service is offered free to all guests for local journeys (within a 10km radius). Click here to view the hotel’s extensive photo gallery.

A most wonderful hotel to stay in. The Cape Grace Hotel has it all, from location to style to staff and it continues to strive to make every client welcome, happy and above all, supremely content.

Cape Town

Whilst in Cape Town, we enjoyed two full days of touring with Jarat Tours and our wonderful Guide called Jimmy. Jarat Tours have an excellent fleet of executive cars, very experienced drivers and guides and provide a  good transfer service all over the Western Cape. Jarat Tours’ one day tours of Cape Town City, Cape Peninsular, The Wine Lands and Robben Island are particularly popular and they also feature Garden Route, Whale Route and Wine Route Tours, as well as one day Safaris. This company also arrange bespoke itineraries throughout South Africa and will charter aircraft, yachts and helicopters to take you to where ever you may want to go. A superb company who were easy to deal with and came up with imaginative ideas.

The first day of our two day tour, was to the wine lands, a 50 minute drive through beautiful scenery to Stellenbosch, one of the oldest towns in the Western Cape. Featuring Cape Dutch architecture and oak tree lined streets, Stellenbosch has a village Museum and four houses from the past, lovingly restored. Home to the oldest university in South Africa, you can meander along pretty little streets to visit art galleries, antique, gift and wine shops as well as restaurants and quaint boutiques.

We then drove to Franschhoek which has one long main street amidst its almost perfect Cape Dutch buildings. Franschhoek features many award winning restaurants, gift, antique and wine shops as well as jewellery and clothing boutiques. It is a good place to stay with a very good selection of excellent Bed and Breakfasts as well as boutique style hotels. The area boasts many vineyards and wineries and they all offer wine tasting tours of exceptionally high quality. An area of outstanding beauty, there are miles of open countryside that just has to be seen for a full appreciation of its natural scenic landscape.

Our second day was spent touring Cape Town itself. We visited many old beautiful buildings and gardens as well as Bo-Kaap, a small interesting area that features old houses painted in vibrant colours, originally by the Malays who were brought over as slaves to work. The tradition has been upheld ever since. Cape Castle is another interesting place to visit, now is a Museum showing off the uniforms, furniture and art of the day.

The biggest highlight of the day was Table Mountain itself. With the ultra-modern cable car that speeds you up to the top in five minutes, gently rotating at the same time, you are soon at the top one of the new seven Wonders of the World. The panoramic views of Cape Town and its surrounding area are just amazing and you will take picture after picture in an effort to capture the moment. Guided tours are available and there is a large café and seating areas. Some people do walk up to the summit and back down again and whichever way you get there, it’s definitely worth the effort. We finished off our tour by the Cape’s terrific coastline, passing Camps Bay on the way back to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, now South Africa’s 1 most visited attraction, boasting lots of shops, restaurants, entertainment and hotels.

A wonderful, cosmopolitan and captivating city, Cape Town is without doubt one of the most interesting and beautiful places to visit and stay in.

Sanbona Wildlife Reserve

Just three hours drive from Cape Town and located in 54,000 hectares of vast open plains and undulating rugged mountains, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve boasts an impressive display of indigenous flora and fauna with rock formations featuring old rock art. The Reserve offers three very different types of 5 star accommodation to suit everyone.

1. Tilney Manor
There are six luxurious accommodations at this exclusive lodge which is set in a wonderful Safari setting: four king bedded and two twin bedded luxury suites. Each one is spacious and well laid out, with free standing baths, indoor/outdoor showers and a private outside veranda. With cosy fireplaces that are easily lit for any chilly nights and a comfortable sitting area, there are magnificent views from the floor to ceiling french windows. The suites come equipped with tea and coffee making facilities as well as luxurious bath robes and toiletries.

The Manor has a Cape Georgian style and its subtle touches of culture creates a relaxing aura of relaxation. There are inside and outside dining areas with comfortable lounges as well as a small shop selling indigenous goods and safari items. The fully equipped Spa offers a full range of treatments and there is a decked pool. All meals are included, from the full English breakfast to three course lunches and dinners.

There area two game drives a day. The early morning one starts at 6am and the afternoon one around 3.30. Both are nearly four hours in length. The early morning ones were better for seeing more animals as this was at dawn and more animals were around hunting for food. The afternoon game drives were also good and include a sundowner’s stop for drinks at a high location which offered the most amazing landscape views. The Tilney Manor lodge was extremely well run and organised and a fantastic place to stay with  excellent game drives and experienced Rangers.

2. Gondwana Lodge

Resembling a typical thatched Karoo homestead, Gondwana Lodge is geared up for families, offering family rooms, children’s activities rooms, outside spacious areas and a lovely pool with wonderful views. There is also a crèche for under four year olds, as they are too young to go on Safaris. With inside and outside activities for all children, there are plenty of things to keep them entertained and their impressive programme called ‘Kids on Safari’ features interactive activities and interpretive trails and games.

There are 12 large suites with either an outdoor patio or balcony and each suite is spacious, modern and very comfortable. There is Scandinavian feel to the design and each suite is bright and airy, with under floor heating, air conditioning, a mini bar and tea and coffee making facilities. The Lodge has a rugged but modern feel and is decorated with in African style.

The lodge has indoor and outside dining areas, a comfortable lounge, a Spa and Steam room, Wi Fi and a gift shop. All meals are laid on here along with two daily game drives.  With game drives, bird-watching, nature walks, star gazing plus family oriented activities, Gondwana Lodge strives to keep all of its guests, of all ages, busy.

3. Dwyka Tented Lodge

Situated in a horseshoe bend of a dry Karoo ravine, Dwyka Tented Lodge consists of seven king bedded and two twin bedded luxury tents, each sleeping two persons and the Lodge is surrounded by awe inspiring rock formations.

These luxurious, secluded tents all have indoor and outside showers and access to a plunge pool on a private deck. Both underfloor heating and air conditioning are available as well as a mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities and Wi Fi.

The Main Lodge has a lounge bar and dining area as well as an outside decking area for relaxation and there is also a wine cellar and a gift shop on site. Residents will enjoy its up to date Spa and treatment rooms, with uninterrupted views of the open landscape.  Stays include all meals and two Game Drives a day. Dwyka Tented Lodge has a pioneering aura alongside a modern, bright style of tranquillity and calm in a secluded location.

Sanbona Game Drives

In the four days we stayed at Sanbona, we enjoyed the most amazing Game Drives and our experienced Ranger was constantly on the lookout for animals. He liaised with other Rangers out in the field who were also exploring the Reserve and they kept each other up to date on sightings. On one day we saw eleven cheetahs and on another, a line of twelve elephants walking the landscape with the baby ones in the middle of the herd. We also sighted rhinos, hippos, lions, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, elands, hyenas, springboks, wildebeest, kudus and baboons. We saw cheetahs feeding and gazed at hippos bathing and all other animals in their natural state. It was all an amazing and very unforgettable experience.

This short clip about Sanbona Wildlife Reserve gives you a feel for this excellent destination – http://youtu.be/w2CesUe_Rd4

The Last Word Hotel, Long Beach, Kommetjie

Right on Long Beach, the longest beach in South Africa, sits the Last Word Hotel. Situated in the fishing village of Kommetjie, it is about a 40 minute drive from Cape Town.

In essence, this is a 5 star boutique style hotel with just six luxury rooms. There are three suites and three superior double rooms, all with private patios or balconies with full sea view. All six rooms are bright, modern and very spacious and include a separate shower wet area and bath and toilet. A complimentary minibar with snacks, tea and coffee making facilities and Wi Fi are all included along with under floor heating and air conditioning. All rooms have a flat screen TV with DVD player and Satellite TV along with quality robes and slippers. There is a distinct quality of comfort in all the rooms and at night, you can listen to the crashing of the waves.

The Last Word Hotel serves superb daily breakfasts and lunch and dinner can be pre-arranged and all beverages including wine and spirits are included. Local restaurants offer amazingly low prices and are all friendly and are of a good standard and residents can make use of the in-house chauffeur service for transfers and tours.

There is a very relaxing, sea facing lounge with balcony and a nice dining area with a well stocked bar; outside, the hotel’s small garden has a solar heated pool. This was a lovely intimate hotel to stay in with excellent facilities, staff and food and secure parking.Its high repeat set of cliental is very easy to understand and see.

The Last Word is a collection of small boutique style of hotels that seems to take hospitality to another level in a creative serene of wonderful locations.

While staying at the Last Word, which is on the Cape Peninsular, we visited Simons Town, an old English Sea Port which is now a thriving seaside town. We also visited the other seaside towns and fishing bays of Fish Hoek, Scarborough, Glencairn and Kalk Bay and drove via the dramatic scenic mountain roads of Chapman’s Peak to Hout Bay. We also went to Boulders Bay to see the breeding colony of African Penguins in a very organised and protected beach area.

This was my fifth visit to South Africa and I honestly have to say that it gets better every time. South Africa is an amazing country with diverse, interesting places to visit and things to do. It is very easy to get around, the people are lovely, the roads are good. It is very safe and above all reasonable in costs when you are there. I would not hesitate to go to South Africa again as it offers up a simply wonderful holiday experience.

For more details about travel to and holidays in South Africa, you can contact Bob on 01923 284709 or send him an email to at bob@old.ultimatedestinations.co.uk – he will delighted to help.

 


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