In April, I accompanied a small group of people to South Africa. None had been to South Africa before and they were both apprehensive and excited about the trip! They had no idea what to expect but I did, since I had visited twice in the previous year. I was excited for them!
We started our Garden Route tour in Cape Town and everyone was pleasantly surprised to find a modern, clean and beautiful city. Much like Vancouver, it sits on an Ocean (Atlantic) and is framed by the famous Table Mountain.
The Victoria & Albert Waterfront is like visiting Granville Island but is far more sophisticated and much, much larger. There are abundant shops and restaurants available that will keep you busy for hours.
This group loved to shop and took advantage of our strong dollar (yes, a country where our Canadian dollar is worth something) and purchased many Curios along the way. At the end of our trip, several of us were checking-in Giraffes to bring home. Not real ones, of course!
Our Cape Town tour included visits to the Jackass Penguin colony, scenic Simon's Town, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the Cape Peninsula! Our guide Marion was a walking history book and we were totally entertained.
Traveling inland took us on a scenic drive to the Franschhoek Valley and historic Stellenbosch, center of the Wine Industry. We tasted our way through this beautiful valley and of course, made a few purchases. We were given a nice surprise when we visited the Cheetah Outreach and actually stood beside and stroked a Cheetah. What a wonderful experience as these Cats are on the endangered list.
After four days, we said good-bye to Cape Town and started our journey east through the mountains, heading for the Ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn. We had an opportunity to ride an Ostrich and were informed that they can run up to 40mph! We choose not to race but had many laughs as we tried not to fall off.
Next, we were shuttled off to one of the many wonders of the world the Cango Caves. This natural wonder takes your breath away! Mother Nature has sculptured a subterranean wonderland of Limestone formations. This is something that you wouldn't want to miss.We stayed overnight at the lovely Hlangana Lodge. The next morning after enjoying a hot traditional breakfast with Champagne, we were on our way to Knysna to board the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe Steam train for a scenic ride along the coast. This picturesque town lies on the banks of a shimmering lagoon. While most of us walked along the wharf enjoying the sites and shops, two of our people had the opportunity to play Golf at the famous Fancourt Golf and Country Club.
Once again, we were off to catch our flight to Kruger National Park, which boasts two million hectares of land and thousands of wild animals. Everyone was excited to go on Safari! We were booked at the Lion Sands Private Safari Lodge, which was stunning! The lodge was designed to complement the natural surroundings yet, offer the guest total comfort.
That afternoon started our first game viewing with cocktails on the plains before we set out. The first animal we spotted was a large male Leopard! The first of the Big Five! What an exciting moment as this Cat is one of the hardest to find! We were so close, that we could have touched his head, but we didn't!!
Next, we came across a magnificent Bull Elephant that was huge! The ranger told us that this Bull was over 50 years old. He watched us for a moment then continued to eat his favourite Marula tree. When he walked, it was in complete silence. It's amazing that something so large could be so graceful!
We saw most of the Big Five Leopard, Lion, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino. We didn't get to see the pride of Lions but were told that they had walked through the camp during the night.
That evening we enjoyed the most incredible gourmet dinner out in the middle of the plains. White linen, fine china, candles, wine and a huge bonfire were all arranged under the stars! The chef (a female) was in the center of all the activity and made a point of coming by to speak to every guest!
We were sad, to say goodbye to Kruger Park, as this was the most exciting part our trip! The animals are very special and to view them in their own environment, under the stars is a life changing experience!
We flew from Kruger Park to Durban (via JNB) and then our guide drove us to the Zimbali Lodge. This property overlooks the Indian Ocean and is one of the most beautiful properties that I have ever seen. They offer Golf, Spa, Pools, Lagoons, Waterfalls, Beaches, Seclusion, Fine dining, large guest rooms with balconies and Monkeys to entertain you! The perfect retreat for a Honeymoon couple!
That evening we drove to the Shakaland Village to meet the Zulu people. This was very educational and entertaining as we enjoyed a delicious dinner followed by traditional Zulu dancing.
Some of the group decided to rise very early the next morning and participate in the Sani Pass Tour. This outing takes you to the highest Pub in Africa and includes a cultural visit with the Blanket people. Our trip was now coming to an end and as we sat around the pool enjoying a glass of wine, we discussed what we liked best about the country. The verdict was "Everything!"
Lovely Accommodation, Delicious Food, Great Game Viewing, First-class Golf, Shopping, Beautiful Scenery, Natural Wonders, Friendly People, Modern Cities and a destination where our money has some strength! At no time, did we feel that our safety was in jeopardy and wondered why, we had ever been apprehensive! The trip from Canada is long but is well worth it! We are all ready to go again! I am glad South Africa was on my list of 'Exotic' places to visit!
Article and pictures by Lorill Fochaey
Magic Carpet Journals
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