Take an early evening flight from London to Cape Town, arriving in time for breakfast. You’ll be met at the airport and taken to your five-star boutique hotel on the slopes of Table Mountain. Its elevated position affords you fabulous panoramas over the city and harbour, whilst you’ll also find yourself within walking distance of some of the city’s finest shops, restaurants and bars.
Make sure you take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain as soon as the sky is clear – when the ‘tablecloth’ (the locals’ nickname for clouds) is on, the clouds obscure the fantastic city-and-sea view. Cape Town itself features many period buildings, and a busy nightlife collected around the marina.
Stay: Three nights in a standard room at Kensington Place – bed & breakfast
Next you’ll be transferred – through miles of rolling countryside – to Franschhoek in the heart of South Africa’s winelands. Steeped in French Hugenot heritage, this charming town is renowned for its gastronomic delights. When you’re not enjoying the food, you can visit vineyards and wineries to sample the award-winning offerings. In the surrounding area you can ride horses, go mountain biking and take leisurely walks.
Stay: Three nights in a garden room at La Cle Lodge – bed & breakfast
Your next adventure lies in the seaside town of Hermanus. Occupying a spot on the cliffs above Walker Bay, your home for the next couple of nights will offer you magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.
It’s easy to be enchanted by the Overberg region, with its picturesque towns, fruit farms, vineyards and green valleys. Your stay here can include cruises on the lagoon, relaxing on fine beaches, riding quad bikes through the fynbos or touring nearby archaeological caves. The area is especially famous for southern right whale watching from June to December.
Stay: Three nights in a standard room at Birkenhead House – full board
Today you’ll journey to the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay, a special treat for birdwatchers with its plethora of recorded species. Using The Old Rectory as your base you can explore the Garden Route – reputedly one of the most visually stunning journeys along the South African coastline. It winds along between the ocean, lagoons, untamed forest, and lush countryside, with monumental mountains rising gracefully in the background. You’ll also have pristine beaches right on your doorstep.
The buzzing town of Kynsna is a hub of local arts and crafts and can be reached in just 30 minutes. The surrounding indigenous forests are inhabited by unique species like the dwarf chameleon, Brenton Blue butterfly, forest elephant, blue duiker and South Africa’s national bird – the Blue Crane.
Stay: Three nights in a luxury suite at The Old Rectory – bed & breakfast
The last instalment of your trip sees you hop on a light aircraft to Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. Not far from South Africa’s sensational coastline in the Eastern Cape, Kwandwe is the perfect place to end your journey along the Garden Route.
This once neglected part of the world has been carefully restored, and is now the ideal habitat for thousands of animals including lion, black and white rhino, buffalo, elephant, cheetah and endangered species such as the Knysna woodpecker and black wildebeest. It’s also a place to find South Africa’s national bird – the super rare blue crane. Just as impressive is the reserve’s hauntingly beautiful scenery, featuring the meandering Great Fish River and a spectacular display of winter flowering aloes.
Your lodge is located within the reserve itself on the banks of the Great Fish River; with huge windows and wraparound viewing decks you are really able to take in the grandeur of the surroundings. Whilst here you can enjoy day and night game drives, guided bush walks, picnics on the reserve and rhino and buffalo tracking. For those interested in the history of the region, you can take archaeological and battlefield tours alongside an expert guide.
Stay: Three nights in a suite at the Great Fish River Lodge – full board
Today you will be transferred to Port Elizabeth Airport for your flight back to Johannesburg. You will then board your international flight home, arriving in the morning of the following day.
It was a complicated and very individual trip, and several changes were made by me during the planning. None of this seemed to worry Ayesha and everything went according to plan.- AM, India, 2014