Sent by Julie Farr
Gloucester 12/14/2021 4:17:00 PM
Based in Charlton Kings - Cheltenham
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Hi, I’m Rob and I‘m based in Charlton Kings, Cheltenham; gateway to the beautiful Cotswolds; thank you for visiting my webpage and for considering me as your personal Travel Counsellor. I look forward to helping you make special experiences and lifelong holiday memories.
Having moved to Gloucestershire from the north coast of Pembrokeshire, Wales to study for my Degree. I have since enjoyed over 20 years in the travel industry as senior manager of a prominent specialist tour operator.
No matter your travel preferences, I can personally tailor your holiday to your requirements; something that can’t be achieved through a website. I will combine the highest levels of customer service, a wealth of experience and award winning technology to plan your perfect holiday and I’ll be available at a time of day that suits you.
Be it a once in a lifetime luxury trip, an idyllic honeymoon, your family summer holiday, ski, cruise, beach, city break or UK staycation, I will listen and learn about what you want and create your holiday with a smile and a friendly face, saving you time whilst dotting every ‘I' and crossing every ’t’ before, during and after your trip.
I count myself lucky to have a career that has enabled me to travel and absorb the sights, sounds and experiences of our world’s cultures, traditions and attractions. My travels have taken me to 36 countries and over 130 worldwide destinations, with multiple trips to Australia, South Africa, the Caribbean and France. Taking the children to Disneyland Paris, my first African safari and watching the British Lions in New Zealand are stand out memories. I intend to add to this list and will take pleasure in sharing my experiences and recommendations with you.
I am a proud family man who enjoys the outdoors and lives family life to the full; volunteering as a coach for my son’s rugby and football teams. We’ve travelled as a family since the children were small and I can use this experience to make your family holiday a smooth and enjoyable experience.
Do you belong to an organisation wanting to enjoy your hobby or interest away from home? I am also an experienced group travel provider, so get in touch to discuss your ideas to enable you to bring your group together whilst you explore.
If a 100% financially protected, personally tailored and competitively priced holiday is right for you, let me be your personal Travel Counsellor; I very much look forward to having that opportunity.
“To travel is to live”
Hans Christian Anderson
My customers experiences as a young family on board the fabulous Disney Magic At Sea UK cruise, summer 2021. How amazing does it look!
Relive your travel memories with me as you watch our film, and when you're ready to travel again, I'll be here to make your next holiday something special.
A holiday to Lapland of a lifetime with experiences you’ll never forget. All of Santa's Lapland trips include a private family meeting with Santa & much more.
Get off the tourist trail on your next staycation and soak up Devon’s wellness vibes. You needn’t stray far to find balance this year.
There really are some fantastic places to go on holiday out there! Spoil yourself with an unforgettable trip to the Maldives; perfect for honeymooners too.
When booking your holiday, you need to make sure you speak to a trusted travel professional. Customer care and wellbeing is at the heart of everything I do.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
12 November 2020
18 November 2020
As a lifelong rugby fan, a visit to Rome had been on the wish list for some time. In February 2017, we decided to have a child free city break to Rome with friends that would complete my set of visits to the ‘Six Nations Rugby’ destinations! I’d heard lots of good things about Rome as a host rugby city and of course its sights, culinary appeal and historical significance needs no introduction. The unexpected bonus was the space we enjoyed whilst exploring. Traveling out of season really had its advantages affording time at the major attractions and tables for drinks and meals were extremely easy to find. Our photos lacked the blue sky back drop, but for us that was just fine! Starting with travel and this is a good tip! Flights to Rome can carry a premium; particularly on Six Nations Rugby weekends, so to help our pounds go a little further we met our friends at Gatwick Airport for a drink and an overnight stay at the more than adequate Sofitel Hotel, North Terminal and headed off early Saturday morning on a flight to Naples. On arrival in Naples we purchased train tickets with ease and enjoyed a very civilised rail journey to Rome; complete with views of Mount Vesuvius and a glass of wine or two! The combined cost of flights and train travel was still significantly less than the cost of direct flights to Rome. The train journey was around one hour and forty minutes and we quickly found ourselves on the cobbled streets of Rome, winding our way on foot to our extremely well placed hotel, a short walk from the Trevi Fountain in the beating heart of Rome. Our accommodation was the Rhea Silvia Luxury Spagna and everything about it was superb. From the espresso coffee offered on arrival, to the luxurious rooms, fantastic location, (essential for short city breaks) and ample breakfast served quirkily by hostess trolley to your room each morning, we couldn’t have asked for more. By day we were typical tourists ticking off the major sights such as the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Pantheon and Roman Forum as we clocked up the steps, (comfy shoes needed for the cobbled streets) only breaking for the all-important ‘refuelling’ in the fantastic roman bars and cafés. As a cultural experience, Rome is right up there. The architecture and atmosphere are amazing and in our experience the city opens its arms warmly to its visitors. Saturday night, we headed for the lively Trastevere district for dinner and drinks. This is a great area to visit if you are looking for variety of restaurants and bars that adorn the winding cobbled streets. Sunday night we stayed nearer to our accommodation to eat before enjoying some live music. As we were on a rugby weekend; we wanted simple, good food and a few drinks of an evening and Rome certainly didn’t disappoint. There are fantastic pizzerias in abundance. We didn’t have a bad meal throughout our stay. We didn’t make any reservations and took places as we found them, enjoying sumptuous ani-pasta platters, superb authentic pizza and pasta dishes and of course several fantastic Italian wines! Sunday was match day, usually the highlight of a rugby weekend, but it had some stiff competition on this trip! An afternoon kick-off gave us a free morning where we decided to visit Vatican City and the impressive St Peter’s Basilica. We were lucky to witness the Pope speaking to the gathered crowd looking down from a window high above. Whilst a privilege to experience, this did make it quite busy, but the crowds quickly dispersed and allowed us to enjoy a self-guided tour of the Basilica and take in its majesty and architectural splendour. After a quick stop for refreshments we headed out to the Stadio Olimpico. Transport links are good from the city, so usually we would have travelled by tram, but from Vatican City, a taxi was the best, but not cheapest option. The pre-match atmosphere outside the stadium was fantastic with the bubbling excitement and anticipation playing out over a backdrop of singing and marching bands. There were a plethora of bars and catering outlets – we enjoyed THE best margarita pizza I’ve ever tasted cooked from a converted pickup truck, folded like a a wrap and handed to us straight from the oven; delicious! Wales, (my team) started slowly and were 7-3 down at half time, but fortunately, the players read the script and scored 30 unanswered points in the second half running out 7-33 winners, allowing us to leave the stadium full of excitement and looking forward to our last night and Rome once again hosted us nicely! With the rugby, exploring and socialising done, Monday morning was for coffees and a leisurely lunch, our return train journey to Naples and our flight back to Gatwick to complete a fun and enlightening rugby and city break to Rome. Being able to combine sport and travel is for me a fantastic opportunity and a great way to see the world. I have spent 20 years doing this professionally so if you would like to learn more about how you I can help you watch, train for or even play your sport overseas, please get in touch via email@example.com or on 01242 790 020 and I’d love to tell you more about my sports travel experience.
05 November 2020
Returning as a family of three! So, this was a new experience for us! Traveling with an 18 month old. Don’t do it people said, wait until she can remember it. Fortunately, we didn’t take their advice and in September 2009 the opportunity arose for a week in the Western Cape, basing ourselves in Hermanus in a stunning property called Birkenhead Villa, now a private residence, sat high on the cliffside overlooking a small sandy bay about an hour and a half’s walk along a stunning coastal path from the centre of Hermanus. It’s sister property, (next door) Birkenhead House remains an option for adult guests looking for one of the best places to stay in South Africa. The time in Heathrow airport flew by; much quicker than usual. Our direct BA flight into Cape Town was also incident free with Paddington Bear on the inflight entertainment system helping with the entertainment. I doubt I’m the first and likely not the last to struggle with a nappy in an aeroplane toilet but all was well and we had made it to Cape Town unscathed, car collected and we were soon driving south east to Hermanus. Top tip, as our daughter was 18 months, we did buy a seat for her otherwise she would have been on our knee, having the extra seat was so valuable and I would highly recommend it for a long-haul flight. September in Hermanus is height of whale season as expectant mothers return to the warmer waters to give birth and shelter in the bay. The famous Hermanus whale crier with is whale board and Kelp horn announces the breeds present in the bay on any given day, a now famous tradition and popular tourist attraction of the area. Being in this area at this time of year is fabulous. The standout experience of our holiday was our walk along the cliff top into Hermanus along the coastal path being accompanied by several Southern Wright Whales and their calves for every step. We were close enough to hear their eloquent chatter and the fizz of their blow holes. Being this close to such magnificent creatures is a real treat. Compared to our previous visit to Hermanus, there was a buzz around the old fishing village with the Whale Crier in full swing, market in the town square and restaurants, cafes and bars bustling with visitors. We enjoyed the space and serenity of picnics on the beach by our accommodation, visited a local cheese producer with its own playground and selection of animals and spent time relaxing in and around our hotel. We made use of our hire car and headed into Cape Town for the day spending time in and around the V&A waterfront where we visited the Two Oceans Aquarium which our daughter loved as Nemo was a big thing back then! We enjoyed a fish and chip lunch at the Signal Restaurant in the iconic Cape Grace hotel and later, drove to Simons Town to show her the penguin colony before heading back to Hermanus with many memories. Our other larger day out was a return visit to the winelands and Franschhoek in particular. We enjoyed a superb lunch at the stunning La Residence; a unique hotel frequented by the likes of Elton John. My lasting memory is seeing my 18-month-old daughter enjoying a fine dining lunch, sat on what can only be described as a throne like seat in the most palatial of surroundings. We were truly spoilt. Before heading back to Hermanus, there was just enough time to re-visit the Asara Wine Estate to top up on my white port discovered on my last visit! Before our return flight, we enjoyed one last treat with afternoon tea at the Grande Dame of Cape Town, the Mount Nelson hotel set in the foothills of Table Mountain. Our daughter was perfectly behaved and enjoyed her tea party by spreading her white napkin out on a chair as a tablecloth and standing in front of it to enjoy the most exquisite spread; so cute! She certainly grabbed the attention of the other guests and hotel staff for all the right reasons! While its true that our daughter doesn’t remember any of this trip, we both do and look back on it very fondly. Some excellent experiences right at the beginning of our time as a family that I wouldn’t change in any way. Plans as a family of four! Our son is quick to remind us that he is the only member of the family not to have had the pleasure of a South African holiday, so in August 2020, we had planned a fantastic three week trip to South Africa that would have been a trip of a lifetime for us all. Unfortunately the Covid -19 pandemic prevented us from traveling, but we now have something fantastic to look forward to for 2021 as our holiday has been re-booked and I can’t wait to share our experiences with you and for my personal affiliation with South Africa as one of the ultimate holiday destinations to flourish with new experiences shared with the people that means the most to me; if not that, what are holidays for?
05 November 2020
A brief honeymoon visit to the Western Cape & Johannesburg My third visit to South Africa formed part of our fantastic honeymoon that saw us spend a magical week in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean before returning to Africa for an overnight at J’burg airport to allow us to continue our love of safari’s by visiting Botswana and Zambia which I will write about separately, so watch this space! We rounded off a stunning trip in Cape Town, that was quickly becoming one of my favourite places in the world. Our brief stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Joburg airport was great; perfect for a stop over. The staff had gone to a lot of effort to make our stay special with heart shaped rose petals on the bed that also trailed into the bathroom. Lovely evening meal, a great breakfast and we were away. After exploring Botswana and Zambia enjoying light aircraft flights, view over the Okavango Delta, superb game viewing and a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls among many highlights, we headed for the Cape. Even for a third visit there as so much to do and different ways to enjoy things we had already experienced. Firstly, we had to get up Table Mountain on a sunny day, so we dropped everything and did so at the first given chance. Fantastic views out over the city flanked at either side by Lions Head and Devil’s Peak with Robben Island out in the distance in Table Bay. We enjoyed watching the ‘Dassie’s’ or Rock Hyrax’s playing in the sunshine and enjoyed the signposted walks fully exploring the summit. Our previous visit did not allow us to visit Robben Island; the infamous prison that was home to Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years of incarceration as a political prisoner for crimes against South Africa’s apartheid government. As visits and tourist attractions go, this is up there with the best. Extremely emotive, moving and thought provoking and I still feel privileged to have had the experience and a brief glimpse at the hardships faced by one of the worlds most iconic and influential figures. I would whole heartedly recommend that every visitor to Cape Town takes the short ferry ride from the waterfront. A return to the winelands was also high on our to do list as we had enjoyed the experience so much during our last visit. With more confidence and a feel for where we wanted to head to, this time we self-drove visiting the university town of Stellenbosch as we’d not been there before and had heard positive things about it, but spending most of our time in the Franschhoek and Paarl areas, dropping in to vineyards we thought looked interesting in our guidebook and simply those that looked appealing. As our day was coming to an end, we happened across the Asara Wine Estate and thought we’d take one last chance to stock up. We were welcomed warmly and offered to taste the some of their popular wines and enjoyed them very much. As we were settling our purchases, a member of the team came from the back office full of excitement; their white port had one a gold medal that day; did I like port and if so would I like to try some. Minutes later I was the proud owner of a case of a beautiful white port; something I ignorantly didn’t realise existed; it was fabulous and has been a talking point around our dinner table for some time since. We also wanted to visit Hermanus, a drive of approximately 120KM east of Cape Town. An old fishing village, renowned for the opportunity to view whales from the cliff tops during whale season, (July – September, peaking in August and September) marine life is a running theme. Stunning cliff top walks, breath-taking beaches and a quaint seaside town await. To the north and emerging wine region the Hemelen-Aarde Valley was becoming increasingly popular, so we decided to take a detour and visit the Hamilton Russell Vineyard, one of south Africa’s most southernly vineyards and a Pinot Noir and Chardonnay specialist. After a thorough and enjoyable tasting, our wine stocks increased further! And so another Western Cape adventure came to a close with more memories and a fully stocked wine store brining our magical honeymoon to and end and we returned home to Cheltenham to start our lives as Mr & Mrs!
20 January 2021
Starting married life with an amazing travel experience and a truly special honeymoon is high on many people’s agendas when planning a wedding and we were no different. Also, like many we wanted something memorable. We were mindful that the run up to a wedding is extremely busy so we would need time to relax before our adventure and it didn’t take us long to settle on the tried and tested Indian Ocean and safari combination and I’ll start by explaining how we got there. We’d been lucky enough to have enjoyed an amazing trip to South Africa incorporating 3 different safari stays, so the bug had well and truly bitten. We knew that the magical wildlife viewings, impeccable service, unique 5 star surroundings of the African safari lodges would not disappoint, so our newfound love of something we had only just discovered was an easy decision and that was our adventure sorted. For the relaxation part of the holiday, there is no better accompaniment to Africa than the Indian Ocean and, let’s be honest, destinations like Mauritius, Maldives and The Seychelles are very easy to like! Next was to decide how to split our generous 3-week holiday. We needed to start with some relaxation. Flight connections from Mauritius to Johannesburg make combining the ‘beach and bush’ convenient and a little more affordable then other Indian Ocean destinations. For those main reasons, we settled on a romantic 7 nights in Mauritius to unwind from the wedding. For the safari element we spent a lot of time considering our options as there are so many that provide truly fantastic travel experiences. As we had visited several areas of South Africa before, we were eager to find out how a safari experience could differ in other African countries such as Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania. Our research led us to Botswana largely because of the variety of water and land based activities. The quieter, more remote lodge and camp locations also require use of light aircraft and small boats to get to the camp which we thought would give us a true sense of Africa and a different angle on what we had previously thoroughly enjoyed. The majesty of the Okavango Delta and proximity to Zambia and the splendour of Victoria Falls was also attractive. We settled on two separate camps in Botswana before enjoying a stay on the shores of the mighty Zambezi River in Zambia. We would need an overnight in Joburg in order to connect to Botswana, so with that and a final fleeting visit to the Cape to round off our amazing honeymoon our itinerary was set. Mauritius: Our Mauritian home for a week was the extremely comfortable 4* and adult only boutique hotel Paradise Cove a perfect place to spend time not doing a great deal! From the chef in full chef whites who prepared crepes on the beach each morning to the waiter who saved us our favourite sunbeds each day and brought us iced tea in silver goblets, the attention to detail at Paradise Cove punched above its weight. The private lagoon beach and swimming pool provided an idyllic setting to soak up the sun, relax an unwind from the build up to our wedding and when we wanted to be active there were kayaks and pedalos available to us to explore the coastline. The double kayak provided an early test to our recent commitment!! We enjoyed one trip out from Paradise Cove to the spectacular National Botanical Gardens; Mauritius’ top tourist attraction, to stretch our legs amongst a beautiful array of indigenous plant species, a variety of palm trees and spectacular lily ponds. I would recommend a visit. A highlight was a trip on the hotel’s catamaran to a nearby sand island for private relaxation and a romantic lunch surrounded by powder white sand and turquoise seas. The highlight of our half board dining experience was a private meal in The Cove, the hotels individual private romantic dining area nestled between the coconut trees at the water’s edge, each with its own individual thatched canopy. A must for any visit and a special way to celebrate our honeymoon. The cuisine was a seafood loves paradise where prawns were large enough to be mistaken for lobster! Mauritius and Paradise Cove provided a perfect start to our honeymoon and we left fully recharged and ready to take on our African adventure. Johannesburg Airport overnight: Room service, complete with silver cloches and Forrest Gump on the TV was the order of the day! The hotel staff at the Intercontinental had gone out of their way to make our room special with rose petal hearts and other lovely surprise touches to make our stay special. Botswana: A two-hour flight with Air Botswana saw us arrive in Maun Airport; Botswana’s safari hub. Our destination was Little Vumbura in Okavango Delta, which meant a first for me – a light aircraft flight! I loved it. The 35 minutes scenic flight in a six-seater Cessna aircraft gave us unbelievable views of the delta; a landscape that I’d never experienced before. The Okavango is the world’s largest inland delta and World Heritage Site that floods seasonally to create a lush habitat renowned for abundant wildlife. We’d not spent time in a wetland area on our previous safari’s, so we were really excited! The local airstrip appeared out of nowhere and after a few hop, skip and jumps we were on the ground. The abnormally high water levels in the delta not only made for a fantastic spectacle, but also meant that the usual road transfer from the airstrip could not be completed entirely by vehicle, but we instead needed to compete our journey to the camp by boat, winding through the hippo channels; just awesome. Continued in Honeymoons and Me: Mauritius and Botswana; the classic beach and bush combo: Part Two
20 January 2021
Little Vumbura is a private luxury tented camp in the north of the Okavango. You will find that most camps in Botswana are tented as safari camps are built sustainably and they have to be able to be removed and relocated without having left a blemish on the environment. But don’t be disillusioned, a typical tent couldn’t be further from its reality. We occupied one of only 6 rooms in a camp eloquently interlaced in the forest canopy for our two night stay. We loved it; hard to believe that you are experiencing what you are enjoying in such remote surroundings. A real treat. From the early morning pre-safari snack, through brunch, afternoon tea and dinner, the food was fantastic and the service and welcome even better. Our game drives started by boat through those same hippo channels that we followed on arrival as the safari vehicles could reach the camp as they normally would. It was a true privilege to feel the early morning freshness and witness the African sunrise again. The game viewing in Botswana is about the variety of species over the large herds that Kenya and Tanzania are famous for. The watery habitat of the delta is abundant in hippo, red lechwe and tsessebe as well as the famous big 5 and other predators making for some stunning sightings against the unique back drop; amazing photographs! A highlight was gliding through the waterways and hippo channels in a mokoro; a dug out canoe synonymous to the area. This gave a whole new perspective on the habitat with tiny frogs, birdlife and insets taking centre stage. A peaceful and serene few hours alone with African nature. Our next adventure started with another light aircraft as we said goodbye to the impressive Okavango. After a 40-minute flight that offered an aerial view of elephant and giraffe and other plains game plus unforgettable vistas of the African bush, we arrived at Savuti Camp in the Linyanti Private Game Concession, north west of the renowned Chobe National Park. The camp sits on the banks of the Savuti Channel, the path of a river that has the ability to flow in abundance or completely dry out; for us it was the latter. I can’t say if our experience would have been better or worse if the river had been full, but what I do know is that one of the highlights of this section of our honeymoon was a magical few hours in a viewing hide in front of the camp next to the waterhole, which would not have been possible had the river been present. It felt like we could reach out and touch the animals, yet felt perfectly safe with our guide as an array of animals; including a couple of elephants who stayed around forever, were kind enough to provide a privileged game viewing experience. Other stand out memories from Savuti Camp were fantastic dining under the stars in the superb Boma under the African night sky with such knowledgeable guides and trackers sharing their stories and experiences; one of THE best ways to spend an evening. Our guide Tito was amazing. His insight, enthusiasm and all round likeability made the experience much more than we could have wished for; we will always remember him and an his amazing walking safari and brilliant game drives. We stayed in the impressive honeymoon suite / luxury tent which was away from the other accommodation at the camp. It felt like we had our own private piece of Africa complete with outside bucket shower and the best view I have ever and likely will ever see from the loo! Our African safari experience had all but ended and the experience had done nothing but fuel our love of Africa and safari holidays. The customer service, hospitality and welcome never fails to impress – something everyone should experience. Zambia: We continued north west via a shared light aircraft flight bound for Zambia where we were first required to land in Kasane to clear Zambian customs before re-boarding to cross into Zambia for what turned into an unexpected private scenic flight over Victoria Falls providing unforgettable views. It felt like we had it all to ourselves! Transferring by light aircraft turned an otherwise uneventful road transfer into an experience, so I would recommend this if given the choice. Our home in Zambia was the impressive River Club with its colonial heritage and prime location at the water’s edge on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River. At the time, the luxurious individual suites were open fronted allowing the sights and sounds of the river and its large inhabitant hippo pod into our space. Their distinctive deep chortle is a fantastic memory. Being able to sit in the upper floor of our suite with a glass of champagne watching the sunset over the Zambezi was a magical experience. We enjoyed all that the River Club had to offer. This included a boat safari offering one last chance to enjoy the African wildlife with sightings of hippo, elephant, crocodile, monitor lizard and bee-eaters nesting in the river bank that ended as the sun set with a glass of champagne in hand. We fished but never caught anything and that didn’t matter. We walked the footpath to the falls and were absolutely soaked! The highlight was a fantastic “Flight of Angels” helicopter flight above Victoria Falls also known as the “smoke that thunders”. The helicopter wound its way through the ravine before arriving at the falls for stunning views of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The helicopter collected and returned us to the River Club and was 30 magical minutes in total. One tip - take a light lunch beforehand! The dining experience at the River Club was varied and most enjoyable. Lunch on the croquet lawn and private fine dining dinners were complemented by the theatre of a shared dining experience with post meal traditions of bugle playing and passing the port! After leaving Zambia, we enjoyed a fleeting visit to the Cape which you can read more about as part of my blog entitled: South Africa and Me: Safaris, Sports Tours, Honeymoons and so Much More - Part Three Our honeymoon will be something that we will never forget. We wouldn’t change any part of it; well maybe the extra pounds we both put on after 3 weeks of fantastic food! There are many accommodation options in all destinations featured in this blog and I can help you create a honeymoon full of amazing travel experiences. I would whole heartily recommend this combination to any newlyweds looking to start married life with a bang and would be delighted to plan your honeymoon for you.
05 November 2020
After a magical 3 nights in the treetops, we deviated inland along the breath-taking R62; a lesser known route that takes in Oudtshoorn; ostrich farming country and home to the majestic Cango Caves located in the foothills of the Swartberg Mountain Range with their awesome array of geologic formations. We enjoyed the Heritage Tour which is an easy stroll through the first six caves; some of which are larger than multiple football pitches. Well worth a visit. The more adventurous can explore deeper into the cave network on the Adventure Tour that includes an element of caving. Not for the faint hearted but fantastic if this is you. The drive from Outdtshoorn along the R62 through the Swartberg Pass is stunning and worth the additional mileage. Our overnight stay was at the quaint Klippe Rivier Dutch Homestead near Swellendam. As we sapproached we were met with the compelling uniqueness of Cape Dutch architecture in complete contrast to the accommodation we had enjoyed so far. The next surprise to greet us was two, huge Irish Wolf Hounds stretched out across the hall. After a truly pleasant overnight stay and a superb meal where the highlight was a delicious dessert of a pear poached in red wine that I have still not bettered, we departed after breakfast for my second visit to Cape Town. We had selected the Commodore Hotel on the edge of the V & A Waterfront for its location and as it offered solid 4* accommodation; it was the first larger hotel I had ever stayed at where the staff remembered my name; all very impressive! It’s pleasant nautical theme, superb buffet breakfast and comfortable rooms provide an excellent base to explore all that Cape Town has to offer. We spent time in the V&A Waterfront in the evenings and chose from the range of restaurants on offer; often selecting plain and simple as our culinary journey on the holiday so far had been on another level. By day we enjoyed a full day escorted tour of the Cape peninsular, taking in its unique beauty. We spent time at Cape Point with is wild seas and funicular to a viewing point on the continent’s most notorious tip, covered with fynbos and with its cheeky baboons and splattering of plains game and Cape mountain zebra. We visited the beaches and towns of False Bay, Kalk Bay and Hout Bay with the opportunity to take a boat trip out to Seal Island. One of the highlights was a visit to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach in Simons Town with a wonderful lunch and fantastic insight into local history and cultures form our friendly and knowledgeable guide. We also enjoyed a full day guided tour into the Cape’s famous winelands, visiting the renowned wine producing areas of Paarl, Constantia and Franschhoek with its French Huguenot influence. We visited a superb cross section of vineyards, from commercial settings to small, family owned independent wine growers. Two vineyards stick out in my memory, the Fairview Wine Estate with its magnificent white goats, cheese and wine tasting; my heaven; and the roaring fire at Rickerty Bridge Winery, where it was like sitting in your front room with an endless supply of high quality wines to enjoy. We discovered the beautiful Pinotage, still one of my wines of choice; unique to South Africa and rounded Cabernet Sauvignon’s and made sure we have a good supply to bring home! No visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip up to Table Mountain. Cape Town is renowned for its ability to experience all four seasons in one day, so planning your Table Mountain ascent is important. The weather at the top can also be very different and on this occasion, the ‘tablecloth’ of cloud cover was in place and visibility was not great, a great experience none the less; we’d have to come back! We then took a direct flight from Cape Town to Hoedspruit airport to embark on two safari experiences to round off our South African Adventure. First stop was the 5* Thornybush Game Lodge in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve. We were collected from the airport by one of the safari vehicles and to our delight, the journey to the lodge became a mini game drive; an unexpected and welcomed addition. Thornybush certainly continued the wow factor of our amazing trip. Stunning suites and superb facilities with a pool to relax around during the middle of the day before afternoon tea is served and you embark on your evening game drive. The customary sundowner led into the latter part of the game drive after dark under the tracker’s flashlight, picking up the smallest nocturnal creatures on the highest branches, before returning to your boma evening meal; a brilliant experience allowing time with your guides and trackers under the stars around a roaring fire and marvel in their stories and experiences that continue to ignite your passion for the South African wilderness. Our guide Mike made the experience all the better, fantastic insight and a lovely guy. He led us on a brilliant walking safari, teaching us survival skills in the bush and how natural resources can be used as to clean your teeth and wash your hair. We tracked a big bull elephant and comparing their footprints to your feet allowed you to appreciate the sheer size of these gentle giants. Thornybush was a superb experience and ideal for first time and returning safari enthusiast alike; brilliant Big 5 viewing in extremely pleasant surroundings. Our last South African experience took us south by road to the famous Sabi Sands; one of THE places in South Africa for Big 5 game viewing and renowned for sightings of cats; particularly leopard. Our 5* accommodation was in Lion Sands Game Reserve, with a privileged location on the Sabie River and in Africa, where there is water there are always animals! We thoroughly enjoyed what would be our last opportunity to enjoy the freshness of an early morning game drive as the African sun slowly warms the air, the elegance of the sundowner and the excitement of a late night game drive scouring the darkness for flashes of eyes under the trackers beam. A safari is one of my most enjoyed holiday experiences. The luxury, culinary delights and uniqueness of the wildlife sightings make each experience truly unique and something that I would always recommend and reflect on with nothing but joy. So, the African sun set on our adventure for the last time. If you would like to know more about any aspect of our trip and understand how you can incorporate it into your future travel planes, please get in touch to find out more.
04 November 2020
Exploring South Africa as a Couple I knew before leaving South Africa in 1999 that the bug had bitten, and it wasn’t too long before I was back on South African soil, this time with my partner and now wife. In 2002, we enjoyed an unbelievable adventure in South Africa staring in Kwazulu Natal in Durban before moving north to the Hluhluwe National Park, continuing south to the Eastern Cape and moving west along the Garden Route to Cape Town before ending our South African Stay with two unforgettable safari experiences in the Timbavati game reserve and the Sabi Sands. Our adventure began with a short stay on Durban’s Golden Mile overlooking the sea before moving north. I remember an evening meal where I cooked my own steak on a hot stone at the table, something I’d not experienced at the time and thought very impressive! To travel further north into Kwazulu Natal, we had pre-booked an overland tour that saw us explore the Hluhluwe iMfolozi National Park and St Lucia Wetlands. Our base was a South African Parks Board property called Hilltop Camp that had the most amazing views out over the escarpment. This style of accommodation is a great way to enjoy a game experience when operating to a budget; clean comfortable but without the frills of a private game lodge. The game viewing was amazing! An area renowned for white and black rhino and did not disappoint. Early morning game drives, boat trips and exciting night drives provided a fantastic game viewing experience and seeing my first wild rhino was a huge buzz. As this is not a private reserve you can self-drive in the national park, so you do see cars and minibuses whilst on your game drives, so if you are looking for a more authentic experience some of our later bases may be better suited to you, but for a cost effective and an unforgettable game experience, this format certainly provides. A short flight from Durban to Port Elizabeth saw us in the Eastern Cape where we picked up a car and began our self-driven journey west along the famous Garden Route. First stop was a slight deviation north east to the Shamwari Private Game Reserve and wow was it impressive! This was my first experience of a private reserve; the absolute luxury and attention to detail making their guests feel unbelievably welcome. The accommodation, dining and game viewing from their traditional safari vehicles was a fantastic experience and sitting back with wide eyes watching a 2-day old baby elephant find its feet will stay with me forever. The evening game drive sundowner was also a first for me; I watched in amazement as the pristine white table cloth appears and is laid out with snacks and drinks for guests to enjoy whilst taking in the vistas of that famous African sunset; we felt both privileged and spoilt. Conservation is also a priority at Shamwari and an introduction to the Born Free Foundation and the value of its work was extremely enlightening and added another dimension to the experience. With our mediocre hire car washed and stocked with water, (we felt a little embarrassed about that!) and after a hearty breakfast we reluctantly waved goodbye to Shamwari and were back on the road for a short journey, (approx. one hour) to our next stop at Gorah Elephant Camp in the heart of the Addo National Park. Our reluctance to leave Shamwari soon dissipated as we checked into our tented accommodation. Now I’d been on cub and scout camps before so was ok with the idea of sleeping in a tent, but I was not expecting a tent with a four-poster bed in it! The luxury tents were perfect; no attention to detail missed and the view from the veranda across the valley and watering hole in front of the main lodge was simply stunning and really made you feel like you were in Africa. At the time of our visit, the Addo National Park did not offer ‘Big 5’ game viewing, and even though this has since changed, if certainly did not detract from our experience. Famous for its elephants, it did not disappoint with some remarkable sightings. Our guide was brilliant; a fellow rugby player who I quickly bonded with. He was a birder and his knowledge knew no limits. He introduced us to the colours and sounds of the birdlife of the area and something that I hadn’t expected to have enjoyed. Other highlights of our stay at Gorah were a deafening crunch from just outside the main lodge over dinner where we were all ushered outside to witness to big bull elephants taking exception to each other at the watering hole. The pinnacle of our stay was on our last morning. I can vividly remember sitting with a coffee overlooking the valley and seeing tiny dots appear from the trees that covered the hillside opposite the lodge as if ants were emerging from their nest. Slowly but surely, the dots grew bigger and bigger, but kept on coming! We had the pleasure of seeing a herd of over 100 elephants of all ages take their turn to drink from the waterhole and continue their journey away to our left and meander off into the distance. Check out time soon became insignificant as we enjoyed this visual fest and the hotel were nothing but accommodating. A fantastic place to stay, exceptional dining on an all-inclusive basis, luxurious tented accommodation that should not pose any apprehension and fantastic game viewing; how would we beat that? Our journey west along the Garden Route continued via Jeffreys Bay and Storms River where we took some time to visit the rugged coastline and natural beauty of the Tsitsikamma National Park. Our destination was Plettenberg Bay and the Tsala Tree Top Lodge where we were treated to more luxurious surroundings in our very own treetop hideaway complete with bedroom, living area, bathroom with freestanding bath and outdoor bucket shower and private plunge pool; even tough that was a bit cold! The accommodation was simply stunning and provided a more than adequate base to explore the picturesque coastal locality. We enjoyed a stunning walk around the Robberg Nature reserve where we watched seals frolicking in the waves and an exciting whale and dolphin watching boat trip where we were lucky enough to see numerous southern right whales from our boat. Knysna; where I had visited on my previous rugby tour, was just 20 mins from Plettenberg by car, which presented the perfect opportunity to share the beauty of the Featherbed Nature Reserve, the lagoon and the quaint town with my partner over a delicious lunch.
04 November 2020
As a tourist destination, South Africa has it all. Combine picture postcard beaches, bustling cities and breath-taking countryside into the same holiday alongside a unique safari experience where you can spot the ‘Big 5’ and enjoy the sights sounds and unexpected luxury of the South African bush. My affiliation and enjoyment of South Africa and its diverse culture started in 1999 when rugby took me there for this first time. South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and were crowned winners, lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy in front of their adoring fans. This was later documented in the hit film Invictus starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon and the ‘Living with the Lions’ video, (yes it was that long ago!!) giving behind the scenes footage of the 1997 British & Irish Lions series win in South Africa meant that from a rugby perspective a chance to visit and play rugby in South Africa and experience what the best rugby players had enjoyed first hand was an unbelievable opportunity…… all I had to do was organise it! An awesome university rugby tour to South Africa with 40 of my friends Organising travel for a group of my student peers ranks with one of the harder things I have been tasked with over the years! Nevertheless, with a lot of patience and badgering for money, 40 of us left Cheltenham in July 1999 for a 2-week tour to Cape Town, the popular Garden Route along South Africa’s southern coast and ending up in Port Elizabeth. We simply had a blast. Being students, we had a budget, so accommodation was modest, but clean and comfortable and suited for our needs for a good location near to the bars! My overriding memory was that everything was so cheap; I am sure that some of us had steak and chips 3 times a day, every day just because they could! We’d had warnings about the need not to draw attention to ourselves of an evening, so being ‘a responsible group leader’ I laid down the law before the first night out, but I needn’t have bothered! Within minutes of being in the V&A waterfront, there was dancing, sing songs and a few too many beers coming our way from rugby mad South Africans; fantastic memories of a fantastic welcome. We played matches in False Bay, Knysna and Port Elizabeth, enjoyed amazing hospitality, braais and a good few Castle lagers with our hosts. The undoubted highlight was a trip into the Langa Township in the Cape Flats to play a rugby match against Lagunya RFC. Picture Billy Connolly in Africa for Comic Relief; surrounded by local children, full of energy with wide smiles; that’s the welcome we had, and I know the experience is something that will stay with us all. As a travel professional, I have since played a part in organising many more sports tours to South Africa for rugby, football, netball, hockey and cricket teams from the UK who have all enjoyed the sports obsessed culture and all that South Africa has to offer. I am a qualified South Africa Specialist and my experience will ensure that any holiday I plan to south Africa will be a holiday to remember.
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