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Hannah Jones works at our travel agents in Woodbridge and recently got to spend nine nights in South Africa. Here are the highlights from a trip that combined a stay in Cape Town with a visit to the Hluhluwe game Reserve.
Destination: South Africa
Operator/Host: Travel 2
(Hotel names/Ship name): 3 nights Southern Sun Waterfront, 2 nights Riverside Hotel, 2 nights Zulu Nyala Game Reserve.
Airline: South African Airways
Duration: 9 nights
We flew with South African Airlines and were situated in economy both ways. For the outbound and the inbound journey the check-in was very smooth and efficient.
The flight was not full which meant that I was able to take advantage of two seats. We were offered a good selection of drinks, which was then followed by an adequate meal. We were also provided with headphones, toiletries, blankets and pillows for the flight and there was a good selection of TV series, films, music etc. on offer.
The seats were organised in 2-4-2 configuration and I felt the leg room was good. Our flights were via Johannesburg, but the connection was very easy. The only slight issue was that the bags are not checked all the way through and so you have to collect them and re-check them in for the connecting flight. Overall though it was a good experience and got the trip off to a pleasant start.
As well as the hotels and resorts that we actually stayed in, we also got the chance to look around some other options whilst we were in each location. The ones we stayed in are listed above, but here is a brief run-down of all the accommodation we saw.
Southern Sun Waterfront - This is a good 4* hotel and everything was modern and comfortable. The staff were very friendly and ensured that we had an excellent time whilst we were there. The hotel is actually situated away from the waterfront, but it is still easily within walking distance. There is also a regular shuttle bus to take you to and from the waterfront if you would prefer. The hotel is around 15-20 minutes from the airport and the beaches of Camps Bay are around a 15-minute drive away.
Bay Hotel Camps Bay - This is an excellent 4*+ hotel with 78 rooms. It may be small but is very sophisticated with a real friendly, informal feel. The stylish décor is in line with a beach vibe and the rooms are very spacious; offering either a mountain or sea view.
The Table Bay -With 329 rooms, this is the largest of all the hotels we visited and is a member of the leading hotels of the world. The style of this hotel is much more traditional and it is in the great location of being right on the waterfront within walking distance of all shops and restaurants.
Victoria And Alfred Waterfront - This was a beautiful hotel with lovely rooms and great food, and any guests staying here have access to the pool at the two other hotels in the group. Just across the road, there is the Queen Victoria (more modern, very stylish) & the Dock House Boutique. The latter was amazing. There are just six rooms and the whole place has a very special feel to it.
Cape Grace Waterfront - You can tell what this hotel is going to be like just by looking at it �� amazing! It is very stylish is, in a quirky way, and has lots of antiques and artefacts dotted around the place. It manages to achieve grandeur and style without being pretentious and is also a member of the leading hotels of the world.
Spier Hotel �� This hotel is set in the countryside outside the town rather than in Stellenbosch itself. It is a lovely 4-star hotel made up of a large complex offering two restaurants, wine tasting, segway tours, a craft market and a wildlife centre. The accommodation is in clusters and each sector has its own pool. It was a really lovely hotel with great wine!!
Durban & KwaZulu Natal
Riverside Hotel - This is a 4* hotel overlooking the river. It's around 10 minutes' drive from the centre of Durban and the beaches (Umhlanga Rocks).
Beverly Hills Umhlanga Rocks - This was an amazing 5* hotel! It was right on the beach front and offered fantastic service, food and beautiful accommodation.
Zulu Nyala Game Lodge - The game lodge was nice and friendly with great food and excellent service in the restaurant. It also had a lovely pool area with panoramic views. We stayed in standard rooms, but if you are thinking about upgrading then the next category up looked very inviting.
Whilst in Cape Town we travelled on the cable car up to the summit of Table Mountain �� WOW! This offered amazing views, and once you reach the top it is a lovely place to wander round and then you can travel back down when you please. A Cable car offers perhaps the most conservative route, whilst you can abseil if you are feeling very adventurous.
We then continued our city tour, taking in the Company Gardens, Castle of Good Hope, the flea market of Greenmarket Square and a walk around the vibrant Bo-Kaap district.
The following day we travelled to the Winelands; visiting Paarl for cheese and wine tasting and then Stellenbosch for chocolate and wine tasting. Afterwards, we took a short walk through Stellenbosch itself, which is a very nice town to explore.
On the last day, before we headed to the airport, we took a boat trip from the V&A waterfront to Robben Island. The journey was about 1 hour 20 minutes and gave us fantastic views of Cape Town. There are faster ferries that can do this journey in half the time but we were glad to take advantage of the very informative guides.
We then departed on our flight from Cape Town to Durban for a one night stay.
The next day we travelled from Durban to St Lucia to visit the world heritage site of iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Here we enjoyed a boat trip on the estuary, during which we were surrounded by crocodiles and Hippos. From here we travelled on to Hluhluwe where we explored a traditional Zulu village, including a reading from their healer and the chance to see some traditional Zulu dancing. The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to the lodge for free time and dinner.
The next day was the first of our game viewings and so we travelled from the lodge to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve. Our ranger was incredible and we were lucky enough to see the elephants bathing, as well as giraffes, zebras and buffalo.
The afternoon was dedicated to another open vehicle game drive. This time it was in the Zulu Nyala Reserve and offered the chance to watch a beautiful sunset over the Savannah. This was an amazing experience.
The next morning we were up ready for our early morning game drive, which was yet another fantastic event. This time we saw rhino, cheetah, elephants, zebra and giraffe with the sun rising in the distance.
Back in Durban, we were invited by the Beverly Hills hotel to use their facilities before our flight home. What a hotel! We were provided with 10 sunbeds situated in the front row of the grounds and overlooking the sea. The staff were on hand with sun cream, ice lollies and fruit; they couldn't do enough for us. It really was amazing service.
I have so many! The main ones being:
Table Mountain! The views were just incredible and we were so lucky to have such lovely weather.
Game drives; viewing the animals so close and in their natural environment. I'm very pleased that we saw 4 out of the big 5! The sunset game drive was so lovely; we all had our blankets on in the vehicle just taking it all in!
Nothing at all!
I would most definitely recommend this trip to everyone. I think it would be perfect for people looking for a shorter trip and the price of this particular tour is very reasonable compared to trips in other regions. I feel the Hluhluwe Game Reserve would be perfect as a taster or for a first-time safari experience.
Everything was very reasonably priced, which I was surprised about. I went with the perception that dining and drinking on the waterfront especially would be very expensive, but we all found it to be incredible value. For example, cocktails and spirits at the waterfront and 5* hotels were only around £3. A starter in one of the 5* hotels was also about £3, with a steak main coming to a very reasonable £8 and desserts ranging between £3 and £4. The four-star hotels and general restaurants offered main meals from £4 and it all came in generous portions sizes which tasted great.
Must see? Robben Island
Must do? Table Mountain cable car
Must try? The wine & Malva pudding!
If you would like to plan your own African adventure, the team at TravelQuest can recreate a trip similar to Hannah's or design one specifically for you. Call us today or drop in at one of our travel stores.