Senior Leisure Advisor Maggie Fay toured the very best of South Africa with Giltedge venturing from Cape Town and the Cape Winelands to Umhlanga, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve and ending her epic sojourn in Johannesburg.
Q: Cape Town is touted as the single most spectacularly beautiful city on earth and no one can argue that this exceptionally scenic city is in a class of its own.
Yes I just love Cape Town. At the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, sandwiched between the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain and the glistening sapphire waters of Table Bay, Cape Town boasts rich culture, natural wonders, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant nightlife, a cosmopolitan atmosphere and extraordinary architecture. With its bustling harbour, world-class beaches, top-notch vineyards, and its mountainous surroundings brimming with diverse flora and fauna, Cape Town consistently captivates the hearts of anyone who visits, and it was no different with me.
Q: Shame you missed out on the Robben Island Tour because of inclement weather but you had the privilege of staying on the yacht and listening to a special guest speaker. On board was Mr. Christo Brand – who recently published a book called ‘Doing Mandela – My Prisoner My Friend.’
This was an encounter that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. We had an intimate setting to talk to and ask questions to the person who was closest to Nelson Mandela during his years of imprisonment which lead to him being jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with the then President of SA – Mr. F. W. De Klerk.
Q: Just outside of Cape Town, you stayed at the award-winning Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa situated on Cape Town’s most scenic route.
Poised above the Atlantic Ocean, the 5-star boutique hotel is flanked by the majestic Table Mountain National Park, a World Heritage Site, and the Twelve Apostles mountain range. A complimentary shuttle service to the city centre and V&A Waterfront ensures that spectacular beaches and tourist attractions are within easy reach. The hotel is guided by the longest hours of sunshine in Cape Town, guaranteeing remarkable Atlantic Ocean sunsets. Repeatedly voted as one of Cape Town’s best hotels, The Twelve Apostles boasts 70 elegant, individually designed bedrooms and suites, including a Presidential Suite. The hotel offers splendid luxury, passionate service, generous hospitality and exquisite cuisine. Guests are invited to relax in the infinity or heated rock pool, enjoy mountain walks, surrender the senses in the tranquil Spa, or indulge in a movie night in the private cinema. Cocktails at the Leopard Bar are legendary, while gourmets will delight in the superb wine and dine experience on offer at Azure Restaurant and The Café Grill.
Q: In the city of Cape Town itself you had the experience of a much larger hotel – the sprawling resort of the One&Only Cape Town.
A destination unto itself with captivating views of Table Mountain, the chic design and contemporary African flair of this urban resort finds a natural home in the heart of Cape Town. The resort’s seven-storey Marina Rise features 91 spacious rooms and suites. With its crescent-shaped architecture, all guest rooms and suites enjoy uninhibited views of iconic Table Mountain or the picturesque harbourside.
Two lushly landscaped private islands at the centre of the waterfront feature 40 Island rooms and suites and a tranquil Spa. Central to exciting nightlife and entertainment, One&Only Cape Town serves as a gateway to the unique adventures of South Africa such as tours to Robben Island, wildlife safaris and wine country excursions. The hallmarks of One&Only – supreme location, authentic style, genuine hospitality and a lively energy.
Q: Cape Town is full of extraordinary accommodation and next you had the privilege of staying at The Last Word Constantia.
Situated in the Cape’s oldest and most beautiful wine valley, the five-star The Last Word Constantia is close to seven of South Africa’s top wine estates and many internationally celebrated restaurants. The Last Word Constantia is in a most exclusive area just one minutes drive from the chic Constantia Mall’s fashionable shops and restaurants. An easy approach to freeways gives guests superb access to all the Cape’s scenic delights, from Simonstown and the False Bay beaches to the City Centre, Waterfront and beyond. Golf lovers will be spoilt for choice with championship golf courses situated a stone’s throw away. Great attention is paid to peace and tranquillity. An inviting sunken swimming pool and surrounding tanning deck is the focal point of the magnificently manicured garden with rolling lawns, vibrant colours and exquisite mountain views.
Q: Next it was onto the Cape Winelands. Resting at the foot of the Boland Mountains, the Cape Winelands is a renowned for producing some of the world’s finest wines. Which was your favorite?
The breathtakingly beautiful landscape boasts incredible mountain scenery and numerous luxury wine farms laden with vineyards stretching across lush fertile valleys. Activities abound include exploring a collection of historic little hamlets and towns dotting the countryside, sampling a wide selection of world-class wine at a historic Cape Dutch farmstead as well as many other wine estates; and enjoying a network of hiking and biking trails traversing the picturesque landscape. While the wine is undoubtedly the highlight of the region, visitors can also enjoy a meal at some of the country’s best restaurants offering delicious food and wine pairings.
Q: In the Cape Winelands, located between the mountainside and river and just minutes away from the village of Franschhoek, is Leeu Estates which seems to be the ideal setting for an elegant and sophisticated private hideaway, yes?
Absolutely. Leeu Estates is an exclusive five-star boutique hotel property with 17 luxuriously appointed rooms and suites in the Franschhoek valley. This hideaway offers superb comfort, fine dining and platinum service. At the centre of this working wine farm is the meticulously refurbished 19th-century Manor House with its six rooms and suites. There are two rooms adjacent to The Manor House, and the remaining rooms and suites are located in spacious cottages among the gardens, oak trees and vineyards.
An expression of love, the Bokkie Garden is very close to owner Analjit Singh’s heart. The Afrikaans word bokkie means small buck but is also a term of endearment used by South Africans, comparable to ‘beloved’ or ‘sweetheart’. The Franchesca Watson designed garden with its herd of small buck called ‘Reflective Resonance’ by acclaimed sculptor Angus Taylor is a powerful piece in bronze and Belfast granite that is set to become a Franschhoek landmark.
Q: After the winelands, you were off to the eastern coast of South Africa, just outside the port city of Durban, to the popular seaside resort town of Umhlanga. Tell us what a visitor will find…
Umhlanga’s tropical weather and lush vegetation make this an enticing holiday destination attracting visitors from all over the world. Umhlanga and its surrounds feature golden-sand beaches stretching over 200 kilometres, endless sugarcane fields and the rolling verdant landscape of the Valley of 1000 Hills. It is the perfect location for ocean enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike, with great opportunities for diving, swimming, scuba diving, whale watching, dolphin viewing, deep sea fishing and kiteboarding. Don’t miss Umhlanga’s excellent golf courses; they are a real treat for the avid golfer.
Q: How was your stay at The Oyster Box in Umhlanga?
Standing proud on Umhlanga’s beachfront, overlooking the historical Umhlanga lighthouse, The Oyster Box has long been one of South Africa’s best-loved and most distinguished hotels.
This 86-room hotel is renowned for its generous hospitality, attentive service and exceptional cuisine. The elegant rooms, decorated with antiques, feature private balconies (many with sea views), flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, tea and coffeemaking facilities, and fresh fruit and flowers. Suites add separate lounges; some have private plunge pools. There’s a complimentary buffet breakfast, a fine-dining restaurant and multiple eateries/bars. Other amenities include a spa with a hammam, an oceanfront outdoor pool and a 24-hour fitness centre. There’s also a 24-seat cinema and a kids’ activity programme.
Q: Next you got to visit Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, the oldest game reserve in Africa, which contains 94000 hectares dedicated to housing one fifth of the world’s black and white rhino population.
It was amazing. It was here that the internationally acclaimed Operation Rhino started in the 1960s, successfully capturing and relocating white rhino to havens within South Africa and abroad. The Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park was the first reserve to introduce walking safaris and its Wilderness Trails are internationally renowned. Visitors can also look forward to visiting a traditional Zulu village, enjoying a horse riding safari, and spotting the world renowned Big Five as well as a wide variety of bird species.
Q: Within this game reserve, what captures the essence of Mthembu Lodge?
Mthembu Lodge has an earthy character, yet just as luxurious as sister lodge, Biyela. Situated somewhat higher off the river, it has a panoramic view of the waters and the forest – giving guests a bigger-picture kind of experience. Chosen for sentiment and soul, the spot where Mthembu Lodge stands is the exact place where Dr. Ian Player stabled his horses which were first used on patrols and later on wilderness leadership training in this area. Visitors to Mthembu Lodge can immerse themselves in a part of this special history the story of how Dr. Player started with what would become a global effort to save the rhino from extinction.
Q: For a truly intimate safari experience with a mere 4 units, &Beyond Phinda Zuka Lodge in the &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, takes the cake. Lucky you having exclusive use of the lodge for two nights!
Described as ‘Seven Worlds of Wonder’, &Beyond Phinda encompasses an impressive 28,555 hectares (70,560 acres) of prime Big Five wilderness in KwaZulu-Natal. This Reserve comprises seven distinct habitats – from dry sand forest to wetland systems and mountain ranges. Catch a glimpse of the shy suni antelope, track rhino in the bushveld, observe breeding herds of elephant in fever tree forests, hold your breath as a cheetah teaches her cubs to hunt, glide past hippo on the Mzinene River and marvel at the gracious nyala. Phinda is home to more than 3,000 of these rare antelope.
Bordered by lush valleys and wooded hills &Beyond Phinda Zuka Lodge sits in the west of Phinda Private Game Reserve. This intimate, sophisticated lodge offers just four thatched Zululand bush cottages clustered around a busy waterhole where a diversity of wildlife is regularly seen and birdlife flourishes. Each cottage boasts a luxurious ensuite bathroom and comfortable lounge chairs on private verandas allowing for gentle contemplation or even an afternoon siesta. Guest areas include an interactive café-style kitchen, indoor sitting and dining areas, an intimate library with internet access and a swimming pool with an extended wooden deck overlooking the surrounding wilderness.
&Beyond’s professionally trained guides asked me about my favourite wildlife and did their best to ensure that my preferences were met, whether it was tracking a particular species or spending more time enjoying each sighting and getting to know the habits of the animals.
Q: Then it was onto the famous Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve and your stays at two Dulini properties – tell us about them.
Adjacent to the Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve is a private premier game viewing destination. It was the first ever private nature reserve established in South Africa.
Set in a peaceful riverine grove and embraced in a leafy canopy of giant Ebony trees, Dulini’s six exquisite suites all offer private views of the Mabrak River and feature plunge pools, outdoor showers and shady decks. Interiors epitomise romance with canopies of billowing mosquito nets and beautiful bathrooms. Fine wine and dining, enhanced by the culinary tradition of African flavours, complements the luxurious accommodation while personal butlers attend to guests’ every whim. Enjoy a workout in the well-equipped gym, relax in the guest lounge, dine under the ancient jackalberry tree, or steal away for a romantic private dinner at your suite.
Q: Before heading home, the exquisite Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa was your urban sanctuary to end the ultimate South African adventure.
Set among lush acres of landscaped gardens you’ll find Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, an urban sanctuary right in the heart of Johannesburg. With close attention to detail and exceptional service, Fairlawns creates an intimate atmosphere where some of the globe’s most vibrant personalities converge. The chic, upscale suites are individually decorated in varying themes ranging from Eastern influence to French provincial, each featuring every desired modern amenity. The hotel also caters to a variety of culinary tastes with an array of elegant dining experiences to choose from.
Located in Johannesburg – South Africa’s largest city and gateway to the rest of Africa – Fairlawns is situated just 6 km from central Sandton, and 20 km from the Johannesburg city centre to offer the upmarket traveller a delicate mix of luxury and convenience. Established in 1997, Fairlawns, or “FBH” as it’s come to be affectionately known by Managing Director, Michael Kewley, is a property proud in heritage and character. Previously a luxury private residence, it is only fitting that the property has transformed “herself” into the stylish hotel, with an air of eclectic sophistication, that Fairlawns is today.