South Africa and Me: Safaris, Sports Tours, Honeymoons and so Much More - Part Two B

Rob Morris on 30 May 2002
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.