I have just returned from a fabulous tour of South Africa and would like to share the experience.
I drove to London Heathrow and parked my car at the purple parking valet site which was very efficient and a good start to the trip.
We checked in for our British Airways flight and were fortunate to be travelling on the A380 on the top floor in business class, obviously thrilled. The experience was very good I would recommend this aircraft to anyone and everyone.
On arrival to Johannesburg we were transferred to our hotel, The Saxon. This hotel was very beautiful. The city did not in my opinion have much to offer to a tourist, we visited a shopping mall.
Our next stop was lunch at the Athol Palace Boutique, a lovely small chic hotel within Johannesburg. They made us very welcome with a very lovely lunch and of course plenty of good wines.
After lunch we then went to Soweto township and visited the house of Nelson Mandela. A very interesting experience.
Next on the itinerary was the Blue Train from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
The check in area for the Blue Train supplied teas, coffees and snacks. Our cabins were small with a shower and toilet and wash basin and very comfortable. They gave specific times for lunch, with a choice of menu that included all drinks with the exception of champagne. The food was nice but not anything very special.
The scenery from Johannesburg as far as Kimberley was very dry and baron and we saw many, many townships so not the most wonderful views.
At dusk we were taken for a viewing of the Black Hole, awesomely deep and wide, then taken to the cinema for the story of Kimberley and then taken to the vault to view all of the existing diamonds.
When we awoke the next morning the scenery was much more interesting as we travelled into the wine lands, breakfast was very good and we departed from the train at noon.
On leaving the train we were met for our scenic drive to Hermanus.
Our first stop was at the very lovely chic hotel Birkenhead House set on the impressive Atlantic Ocean with spectacular views and stunning accommodation, just right for a 2 or 3 night break
This area is ideal during Sept and October for whale watching and we saw them from the hotel. The town of Hermanus also has some lovely hotels and very good restaurants.
After lunch we left for the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
We were each given our own suite which comprised of a lovely bedroom, lounge with fire and kitchen and bathroom very spacious with lovely furnishings.
The reserve is surrounded with beautiful scenery with lots of activities on offer for both adults and children, horse riding and ponies for the children, as they have their own stables.
Shark cage diving at a supplement, whale watching at a supplement, nature walks…..
Dinner was taken in the wine cellar, 7 course dinner with wines (7) to accompany all courses.
Three of us had decided to go book the shark cage dive ……..After signing our indemnity slips which said “SHOULD YOU GET ATTACKED BY THE SHARK YOU WERE UNABLE TO CLAIM ON THE COMPANY “, we were on our way. From the harbour we saw 3 hump back whales a wonderful site. After 30 minutes we arrived at Shark Valley a certain area where the great whites were.
The cage is located on the side of the boat, six persons climb into the cage, the water was very cold and very rough, and your shoulders are on eye level with the water. They start to bait the water in front you see your first fin, yes it is just like JAWS. Not for the faint hearted but a WOW experience. We followed this with a horse ride and then a nature walk.
We made our way to Swellendam, a beautiful town really good for a visit, with good restaurants and beautiful scenery. In the middle of the town was a very old grade listed house called Augusta de Mist, small very eccentric. Lovely rooms dotted around the gardens not suitable for the elderly as far too many steps.
We then left and made our way to Sabona game reserve, the drive was very scenic over the Tradouw pass. There are three accommodations in Sabona, Gondwana Lodge where we were located a very modern building with large rooms and lovely decks overlooking the reserve, and then a tented lodge, ideal for honeymooners and younger couples and then a manor house which was just delightful and so African.
Up at 5am and out on the game drive. It was very cold I was so glad that I took all the suitable cloths and under garments. We saw elephant, eland, springbok, Oryx, rhino, jackals, and some birds of prey, and also lions and cheetah.
We left the hotel for a scenic drive through the wine lands. Enroute we stopped for one hour at the very lovely town of Franshoek a must for anyone doing the garden route, so many lovely hotels and restaurants and shops. It is so very scenic. We then visited Rietvallei for a Muscatel wine tasting this was most enjoyable.
We then travelled to Babylonstoren, a large wine land property that comprised of stable style accommodations, various restaurants, wine tasting, shops and children activities, as it was a Saturday. We then left and made our way to Delaire Graff Hotel, a beautiful 5 star deluxe hotel in the wine lands with lovely accommodation and facilities.
Later we arrived in Cape Town, our first night was at the One and Only…..
In a good location and not far from the V & A waterfront the hotel is very modern.
Dinner we decided to go to the waterfront and have some seafood and wine it was wonderful and nice to have a couple of hours to have a look around.
There was a choice to go to Table Mountain, I have done this before so I did not go.
We then left and visited a lovely hotel Manna Bay located in the old part of Cape Town, a beautiful hotel very stylish with a lovely setting, very nice but only with a hire car.
Our next excursion was to Atlantis ( sand dunes) some 30 minutes outside of Cape Town, for a 4 x 4 dune drive. It was very exhilarating, and it felt like driving on ice. We then went for a drive around Camps Bay and Hout Bay.
We then transferred to the Belmond Mount Nelson. This hotel is delightful, I would say my favourite in Cape Town, beautiful gardens and beautiful views. A colonial feel with excellent service and facilities. In the afternoon we were taken for a site inspection to the Cape Grace, this has a lovely location almost on the V & A waterfront, lovely décor and lovely accommodation and also very busy. The facilities are very good.
Then we were taken to the Uthando Project Tour, in the townships outside of Cape Town, to visit the people living on the estates. We visited a garden project, ladies working with gifts to raise money and the local school, all very interesting and an insite to how the locals have to manage.
We transferred to the airport and said our goodbyes.
On check in we were all really pleased that we would be returning with BA on a 747 in business class, the flatbed was impressive.
An educational with Carrier was certainly wonderful, everything was 5 star luxury with some very exciting extras and one educational I will remember for a very long time.