Stunning South Africa

STUNNING SOUTH AFRICA By ANNETTE HAYDEN

South Africa – a land of many natural wonders and unforgettable experiences.

In May 2018, I was very fortunate to experience the nation at its finest, organised by one of our close partners, Venture Far.

In many ways, where you stay during your explorations of a country can really set the tone for the whole trip. My trip included some stunning properties that I would rush back to in a heartbeat!

My introduction to South Africa was at The Spier Hotel in Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands area. The property is built village-style, on a farm surrounded by vineyards, quiet gardens and historic farm buildings.

There are many things to do at Spier Hotel such as bicycle riding, swimming, wine tasting and spa treatments. The Spier is approximately one and a half hours from Cape Town and is lovely for a one- or two-night stay.

We had dinner at the Hog House BBQ & Bakery, which is a casual dining restaurant. The meals were tasty and reasonably priced. Overall, the stay was very pleasant and the staff were lovely and couldn’t do enough, without being “over the top”. The food was very fresh and wine tasting was lovely. If limited for time I would definitely recommend this option if you want a taste of the winelands.

From here, we moved onto Babylonstoren on the outskirts of Franschhoek, where centuries-old vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture are plentiful.

Babylonstoren is a picturesque farm, which grows fresh produce to be served in the restaurant (Babel Restaurant). They also make their own wines and liqueurs here. The accommodation has been built from old renovated farm houses and is beautifully decorated.

Again, there is plenty to do here, including bicycle riding, swimming, walking tours and spa treatments. The farm accommodation caters for families and couples and the rooms have fireplaces, which added a beautiful homely touch.

My first experience of Cape Town was at the elegant, renowned Cape Grace Hotel. The location of the Cape Grace is excellent, being within walking distance to the V&A Waterfront. This hotel even has its own private quay!

I would highly recommend a room overlooking Table Mountain or the Harbour (or both – as this is also possible). The hotel has excellent facilities including a pool, a whiskey bar, and a spa and fitness area with relaxation lounge, steam and sauna, and gym equipment. There are a number of restaurants and the food is – as expected – amazing! The staff are also extremely friendly.

For something different – but just as special – I also stayed at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town City Centre. It is a lovely grand old hotel and all rooms are very spacious. The hotel features a lovely cocktail bar on the corner (apparently the best in Cape Town!).

We dined at the Indian Restaurant at the Taj (Bombay Brasserie) renowned for serving the best Indian food in Cape Town. As you can imagine, I was loving all the “bests” that were popping up in the trip! The food here was undeniably delicious.

After this came the most quintessential of African experiences – the safari. I transferred to Summerfields Rose Retreat in Kruger Park in time for lunch, which was absolutely amazing, featuring dishes made from their own organic vegetable gardens.

Summerfields offers guests the height of “barefoot luxury” with its tented suites. It is a truly beautiful property and I would highly recommend this on your way out of the Kruger, rather than on the way in. I would say to spend one or two nights there just to chill out.

Dinner at the restaurant, The Summerfields Kitchen, was without a doubt the absolute best meal we had in South Africa. Once again, made from their own grown produce. Delectable!

Something really quite unique and special followed at the next property. Named one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World – Sabi Earth Lodge – is a sanctuary symbolising a new era in luxury South African safari lodges.

Sculpted into a slope of the earth almost invisible in the landscape, the lodge uses texture, light and space to present a façade like no other. It has been described as the most environmentally sensitive lodge in Africa.

Each of the suites at this luxury lodge features individually designed furniture, private plunge pool, ensuite glass fronted bathroom and indoor and outdoor shower. An unbelievably breathtaking way to live.

I also enjoyed lunch and afternoon tea here, and of course the mandatory sundowner. Dinner was in the Boma and was absolutely incredible.

My final stop before flying back to Australia was at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg. Another beautiful hotel to wrap up a beautiful African adventure. There are two sides to this hotel – the old and the new. The old features beautifully furnished rooms with ‘old world charm’.

The new section has accommodation which is more villa style. The grounds at the Fairlawns are very pretty and the restaurant has an older, elegant style about it. I opted to take the free hotel transfer to Sandton Square to see the famed Nelson Mandela statue.

Johannesburg surprised me as it really is worth a one-night stay to take a look around the thriving city. I would recommend staying in the Sandton area, or Sandton Square, as there are plenty of restaurants close by with easy access from hotels. The Fairlawns was a great place to be located in Johannesburg.

I left South Africa with beautiful memories of some incredible properties, each unique in their own way, and very satisfied taste buds! I would recommend South Africa as an excellent destination for first-time travellers to Africa who want a trip that offers lots of variety in experiences, incredible wildlife sightings, value for money and amazing food and wine.

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