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South Africa

Game, Wine and Mountain Passes

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel through much of Africa but up until now my only experience of South Africa was a day in Cape Town (sipping a chilled South African Sauvignon with views of Table Mountain), but sadly I never made it past the Waterfront, or experienced a safari holiday in South Africa, that is until now.

I have just returned from a three week South African adventure which began in the north east, in the Sabi Sands game reserve bordering the Kruger National Park. Over the years I’ve enjoyed many game drives on return trips to other parts of Africa but rarely have I been witness to all the big 5 in one afternoon drive. Our guide fromLondolozi was fantastic, and within minutes we were sat amongst a herd of elephants with a pride of lion less than a few kilometres away.

Londolozi, main camp viewing deck

With the sun setting, we drove past buffalo to find a young suckling rhino calf, before encountering a leopard just around the corner!

After the excitement of Kruger, I flew west to Cape Town where I soon learnt there was far more to discover than the Waterfront! Escaping the bustle of the coast and city, I enjoyed a night at the beautiful Constantia Uitsig, set on its own private wine estate. Although only 20 minutes from Cape Town’s centre, I felt I had been transported hundreds of miles away.

The calming and tranquil surroundings were the perfect respite after a hot and busy day in the city. Settling into the slower pace of life, I was delighted to hear we were off to Franschhoek, South Africa’s premier wine region, to marvel at the rolling vineyards, enjoy some world class cuisine and sample some of South Africa’s finest wines.

Our road trip continued east via Hermanus (although sadly being out of season, no whales), and up along the Garden Route driving along stunning coastal roads and through dramatic mountain passes. Quick stops in the pretty coastal towns of Wilderness and Knysna allowed us to stretch our legs before arriving at Plettenberg Bay. Although famed for its stunning sea side location we spent the night over looking the myriad of waterways and wetlands from Emily Moon River Lodgewhich provided total peace and serenity.

Emily Moon River Lodge, Plettenberg lounge with a view

From Plettenberg we had an easy 3 hour drive up towards Port Elizabeth and onto Addo Elephant National Park. Game reserves in this part of the Eastern Cape were fantastic. Not only for their ease of access (and being malaria-free) but also for their hidden beauty. Rolling hills and sweeping landscapes were the perfect backdrop for spotting a cheetah cooling off in the long grass.

From Port Elizabeth we took a short flight east to Durban for our final chapter. KwaZulu-Natal is an area rich in history, unrivalled natural beauty and more delicious food. Our journey continued through the beautiful Drakensburg Mountains with a night at Cleopatra’s Mountain Lodge.Fortunately I had been pre-warned to arrive hungry but nothing could quite prepare me for the sumptuous seven course meal that awaited. And just in case you were even remotely hungry by morning, the day started with an equally mouth-watering three course breakfast.

Cleopatra's Mountain Farm House, Horses

Although the food was unforgettable there is plenty to do in the area to build up an appetite. The lodge is situated on 500 acres of rolling hills and borders Highmoor Nature Reserve, a recently declared world heritage site. These surroundings offer the perfect setting for hiking, fishing, horse riding and helicopter rides to name a few.

From Cleopatra’s we had a scenic 5 hour drive to our next stop, Fugitives drift and the Battlefields. Being transported back in time to 1879, we were captivated by talks and scenes from the Battles of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift during the Anglo-Zulu War.

As the trip was coming to an end we felt it necessary to enjoy one more safari, this time on the fabulous Phinda Game Reserve before making our way to the coast to catch the last few rays of sun that I was going to see for a while.  

If you would like to find out more about tailor-made holidays toSouth Africa, please contact our experts who will be delighted to answer any questions you may have.

N.B Victoria no longer works at The Ultimate Travel Company, but any of our other Africa experts would be delighted to help you.