Discovering South Africa
Discover everything South Africa has to offer. From open roads to old-world trains and luxury camps, South Africa has a Journey for every type of traveller. Here three Flighties tell us more regarding their experiences in South Africa.
Emily Hyslop Takes the Wheel
If I had to pick a standout day, it would be getting up early to hike up Table Mountain to catch the sunrise, and arriving back at our hotel for an amazing Champagne breakfast. Cape Town is a city I could keep coming back to and never get bored. I love the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront for its eclectic mix of top-class restaurants, swanky bars and excellent craft shops.
Self-drive is my favourite way to take in South Africa as it gives you such freedom. We loved that we could pull up whenever we wanted to take photos, or do spontaneous trips based on recommendations. That’s how we found Plettenberg Bay, where we hiked the Robberg Peninsula and swam with seals.
You can’t come to South Africa without driving along the Garden Route and visiting the Winelands. Most visitors head for the handsome town of Stellenbosch, but we made the short trip to the smaller town of Franschhoek for the hop-on, hop-off Wine Tram. At La Petite Ferme we enjoyed an informal wine tasting and picked up invaluable advice: don’t save your wine for years assuming it will taste better, drink it whenever the mood takes you!
On the way to Oudtshoorn, famed for its ostrich farms, stay at the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, where the villas have gorgeous sea views. Before arriving in Port Elizabeth, go to Addo. Kuzuko Lodge lies in a private concession to the north of the Addo Elephant National Park, and encountering South Africa’s incredible array of wildlife up close is unforgettable.
Nicola Brown Aboard the Rovos Rail
From the moment we arrived at the colonial-style Rovos Rail station in Pretoria, we were looked after like film stars. And with its balcony overlooking the platform, the elegant waiting room set the tone for the three-day, 994-mile trip.
Onboard, the service is incredible. While we were served an à la carte breakfast, our well-appointed rooms were – as if by magic – made ready for the day. The second we sat at the bar, we were offered a drink. In the evenings, we dressed for dinner and dined on wonderful meals, with fresh local ingredients and South African wines. Best of all was how personal it all felt; we chatted to the train manager for hours – he’s worked on Rovos Rail for 20 years.
During the day we sat in the observation cars reading, playing chess, or simply watching the world go by. The train moves slowly and the landscape changes gradually. Just before our stop at Kimberley, a small mining town where you can stretch your legs and explore its sparkling history, we saw hundreds of flamingos right by the track.
As the train nears Cape Town the setting changes dramatically. You travel through the Winelands, then there’s Table Mountain – it's an amazing end to the ride. This is slow travel at its best.
Mick Heitzinger and South Africa's Wildlife
Within minutes of our first game drive we were surrounded by elephants. It was breathtaking. South Africa’s parks and reserves are bursting with wildlife and beauty, and the MalaMala Game Reserve is no exception.
We stayed at the exclusive Rattray Camp, nestling in a pocket of forest alongside the Sand River. With just eight suites, and communal areas decorated with rare African books, works of art and old photos, it’s perfect for anyone wanting to experience the wild heart of Africa.
A typical day starts at 5am with a game drive – it’s just you and your ranger. We saw the Big Five our first morning! Back at camp, a beautiful cooked breakfast is waiting, then there’s time to relax before lunch. Meals are served in the dining room or on the terrace, and the food is exceptional. In the afternoons, read in the library, take a swim or just enjoy your suite – sinking into our private plunge pool, we watched elephants crossing the river.
At 4pm we took a second game drive, spotting a sleeping pride of lions with 10 or 12 cubs. On the last evening, as the sun was setting, our ranger pulled the Jeep over and set up a table in the bush. As we sipped on a drink – with ice and a slice – we saw a giraffe silhouetted against the huge glowing sun. It was a special moment in a powerful place.
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