30th June 2017: Having recently travelled to South Africa, Lyndsey, Travel Specialist at our Taunton branch shares with us the reasons why you should consider Africa for your next holiday destination.
Before this trip, I had never considered a trip to Africa and now, after returning from the country I don’t know why. Africa has so many wonders to offer, my eyes have definitely been opened. From beautiful scenery, wondrous wildlife and glorious sunsets here are some of the highlights of my African adventure.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Situated in Cape Town, this oldest working harbour is full of charm. Leisure facilities are situated amongst the working harbour front so you really get a feel of how this city works on a day-to-day basis. The harbour is full of life and you’ll find it awash with restaurants, pubs, theatres and craft markets.
An added bonus of this quaint place? The harbour backs onto the iconic Table Mountain; aptly named as the top of the mountain is flat, resembling a table top!
Just a 15 minute shuttle from the waterfront is the Winchester Mansions, famous for its ‘sun-downer’ drinks on the terrace of Harvey’s bar. The mansions have been listed as one of the top 10 sundowner spots in Cape Town.
Make sure to visit the Watershed where you’ll find the best local designs and crafts; perfect for traditional souvenirs.
Translated from Afrikaans, the Bo Kaap means ‘above the cape’ aptly so as it is situated above the city of Cape Town. Arguably the most photographed place here, the Bo Kaap is lined with brightly coloured houses and quaint cobbled streets. In my opinion, definitely worth a visit during your time here.
Probably the highlight of my stay here, Boulders Beach is one of the only places in the world you can visit where you can get up close to some of the world’s most unique and endangered penguins. During my time here I walked along a boardwalk, which is subject to a small conservation fee, and when you arrive at the bottom you’re rewarded with amazing views of up to 2,000 South African Penguins in their natural habitat. I was in awe of their interactions with one another and, as an added bonus, we even got to see some of the baby penguins, still fluffy from birth, waddling about.
Visit here early in the morning to avoid the crowds and take the perfect picture.
Located next to Boulders Beach, Simon's Town is a wildlife haven. Not only can you see penguins in their natural habitat on nearby Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town is also one of the only locations in South Africa where you can whale watch from land. That’s not all though as you also have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the whales by taking a local boat trip.
The best season to take part in whale watching is June-November but, if you’re feeling really brave, why not take a trip to nearby Seal Island which is a great spot to try cage diving… with Great White Sharks! I definitely want to try this one day and, while I couldn't on this occasion, I'd urge you to take the opportunity here, especially if you want to tick this off your bucket list!
Beaches in this area are great for sunbathing and swimming as they’re sheltered from the cool Cape Town breeze.
While I only spent one night here, you could easily spend more. With four hotels – The Palace, Cascades, Soho and Cabanas there’s something to suit everyone here as each hotel has its own unique style, character and attractions.
Just a handful of these attractions here include Valley of the Waves, a water park at the heart of the resort, two golf courses designed by Gary Player, Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City Casino.
My favourite hotel here was the Cascades. This chic hotel enjoys some amazing views over its landscaped gardens and also boasts three swimming pools. Its modern décor aids its relaxing atmosphere, and, to top things off, the Heron Suite even has its own room with a jacuzzi! Still in close proximity to the main attractions, this hotel for me, was a welcome hub of relaxation within the hubbub of Sun City.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local monkeys who can often be seen roaming around the hotel.
Sanctuary Makanyane – Madikwe Game Reserve
Definitely one of the best parts of my trip, it began with a greeting near the gates of this spectacular place by none other than a heard of elephants; what a welcome party!
Upon arrival, I was completely blown away at just how beautiful the property was. The staff came to greet us and, despite being seven hours away, this place felt like a home from home.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I entered my room… beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows effortlessly overlooked the surrounding bush and Marico River; so picturesque. I was even treated to the views of an impala (a medium-sized antelope native to eastern and southern Africa); other guests told me their stories of wild visitors, with one couple sharing that they had an elephant walk right outside their window!
After a lush afternoon tea we headed out for an afternoon game drive where we were lucky enough to see elephants, giraffes, impala, spring hare, warthogs and even a wildebeest or two. After two and a half hours, we stopped in the middle of the bush for a relaxing sunset drink. We sipped on a tipple of our choice as we soaked up the atmosphere which included a spectacular sunset!
Back at the lodge we were treated to a 'Boma' style meal which the lodge try to arrange for at least one of the nights during your stay. This unique experience gives you the opportunity to dine in the bush alongside a roaring fire and take in the beautiful stars and sounds of the surrounding area.
After a 6am wake-up call (I thought this was a holiday), we were up and ready for our next game drive. On this occasion we saw different animals including ground squirrel, steenbok, more wildebeest, white rhino and zebra. We stopped at around 9am for tea, coffee and hot chocolate in the bush. During this time we had a zebra staring at us, without a care in the world that we were there. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to beat that view for my morning coffee!
Sadly, we came to our last morning of the trip, and our last morning game drive. As they say though, we definitely saved ‘the best for last’. We saw many of the same animals, however on this occasion we were able to get really close; white rhino and zebra were just feet away from the jeep.
The highlight of this drive though, was getting the opportunity to see a couple of cheetahs. One stood posing on a rock with the other just in front, then moved on a little, so we followed in the jeep. We found them sat together, again posing for the cameras, before both lying down and relaxing in the South African sunshine. A perfect photo opportunity!
Our breakfast later that morning, was the icing on the cake; we heard elephants trumpeting close by. Next thing we knew, everyone was rushing to the lodge entrance as the herd of elephants walked straight past! It was really fitting that not only did the elephants welcome us, they also said goodbye to us too.
Madikwe Game Reserve only allows private lodge jeeps on the reserve meaning game viewing is much more personal. Vehicles are also allowed off-road so you can get much closer to the animals.
South Africa is a destination that has something to offer everyone and a truly memorable experience. My favourite experience from my recent trip is Madikwe Game Reserve. A safari here is a truly memorable experience, with jeeps allowed to off-road, it allows you to get up close to 'The Big 5' and more. Combine your safari with a stay in Cape Town or a beach stay in the Indian Ocean, in Mauritius or the Seychelles. Get in touch with me and I can help you plan your perfect South African adventure.