Silhouettes in the Sand – Strike a Pose South African Style!

South Africa might be famous for its exhilarating wildlife safari experiences, but it also offers a fantastic selection of flora, fauna and beach safaris for those who wish to experience the true beauty of this magical land.

During one of our visits to SA, we were invited to stay at one of the most exclusive resorts in Africa – Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, and it was here that we were introduced to our first ever beach safari on the windswept coast of Walker Bay and Gansbaai.

There is only one word to describe this region of the Western Cape, and that would be ‘Breathtaking’.  The coastline of Walker Bay and Gansbaai is rugged and raw, the sea is swarming with seals, whales, dolphins and sharks, the landscape is covered in a rainbow of flora and fauna unique to South Africa – and this all equates to one of the most stunning holiday destinations on earth.

After making our way down to the coast in the Gansbaai suburb of De Kelders, our informative guide took us to the Klipgat Cave for a rare photo opportunity.  Formed millions of years ago by the pounding waves of the ocean, this limestone cavern is steeped in history, and once you have taken your tour, it provides the perfect backdrop for some unusual holiday snaps…

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Quad Biking in Walker Bay – The Perfect End to a Perfect Day

If you have ever experienced shark cage diving or whale watching in South Africa, you have most probably been to, or heard about, Walker Bay.

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A gorgeous wind-swept bay located between False Bay and Cape Agulhas in the Western Cape Province, Walker Bay not only attracts some of the largest Great White Sharks and whales in the Atlantic Ocean, but it also boasts an enormous array of flora and fauna, specifically Fynbos, making it a wonderful holiday destination for nature lovers.

There are some stunning properties within the Walker Bay area, such as the uber luxurious Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, and the charming Mosaic Private Sanctuary, and if you can drag yourself away from the glitz and glamour of Cape Town, we can highly recommend treating yourself to a day or two along this marine protected area.

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During our recent stay at the Mosaic Private Sanctuary, we were given the opportunity to take a quad biking tour along the sand dunes to Walker Bay beach for sundowners.  The sundowner part sounded good to me, but for someone who cannot even drive a lawnmower, the thought of setting off into unknown territory on a four-wheeled mean machine was somewhat daunting!

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However, quad biking we did, and I can honestly say it was one of the most thrilling excursions I have ever been on! Along with two fellow guests, Hannah and Judith, we set off into the sunset along with our guide for some serious sand dune action, and arrived at the beach in time to pop open the Sauvignon Blanc as the sun began to set…

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A perfect end to a perfect day, the sunsets in South Africa are, arguably, the most beautiful in the world, and as Walker Bay is so remote and un-crowded, the sunsets along these shores seem even more special.

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Hotel Star Ratings – What’s in a number?

Since the invention of Trip Advisor, it seems most of us would rather rely on the opinions of other travellers who have “been there, done that”, than the number of stars listed by a hotel name.

Why, well, every country seems to have its own star rating system and what one country deems a four-star hotel, another may well rate a 2-star property – so how do we know we are getting what we are paying for?

Social media outlets that offer advice and opinions are all well and good, but as they are open to everyone, a competitor with sour grapes can easily add a damaging report about a neighbouring hotel. Then there are the travellers who use these channels to write a book on how they didn’t like the wallpaper, the light switches were too high, and the orange juice at breakfast was sour!

So, while I do take note of what has been written by other travellers, I also read between the lines, and combine the hotel star rating with an overview of all the reviews/opinions available to try to get a better idea of what the property is really like.

After travelling to over 40 countries, I truly believe you get what you pay for, and while I understand everyone has a travel budget, I don’t understand why someone would book a 2-star hotel when they are used to, and expect, the luxurious amenities they have at home!  It doesn’t work like that…

Luxury 5-Star Rooms at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Like most people, I enjoy staying in five-star properties but they can be expensive and unless you are going to spend a great deal of time in your hotel room or using the hotel facilities they might not be worth the investment.  We prefer to save these hotels for special occasions such as anniversaries, birthday treats or romantic beach breaks, when we really make the most of the luxurious rooms, great facilities and five-star service.

We generally opt for four-star hotels where you get all the little luxuries you are used to at home such as quality bed linens, tastefully decorated rooms, clean bathrooms and electrical goods, without the pomp and ceremony offered by five-star hotels. Perfect for city breaks and country escapes!

In most European countries, three-star hotels are decent properties with nice rooms, adequate facilities, and are therefore perfect for a weekend city break, but when you compare the prices of a three-star hotel with a four-star, you may find that there isn’t much between them, so location may be your deciding factor.

When it comes to a two-star hotel, well again, you get what you pay for.  In the few two-star properties I have seen, you get a clean but basic room with private bathroom, and very few facilities. These properties are ideal for those travelling around the world on a budget, and if you do some research beforehand, you may well find a real gem.

I have to admit I have never stayed in a one-star hotel so really cannot comment (do they even exist?), but before I would choose such a hotel, I think I would rather go for a guest house or B&B, and that’s a whole new ball game when it comes to star rating!

5 Luxury Hotels in South Africa

As recent reports indicate we will be spending most of our travel budget on accommodation in 2012, we thought it only right that we take this opportunity to share our 5 favourite luxury hotels in South Africa with you.

Anyone reading our blogs will have realised that South Africa has a truly special place in our hearts, and as we countdown to our next trip below the equator, we simply cannot wait to visit our favourite hotels and share a glass of South African wine with the owners who are fast becoming dear friends.

We couldn’t possibly put these hotels in order of preference, as we love them all, so in no particular order:

Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

A simply stunning five-star property overlooking Walker’s Bay, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a place that everyone visiting South Africa should experience.  Combining two luxurious lodges with the most amazing private nature reserve, Grootbos is a place where one goes to relax, indulge and enjoy the very best foods, wines, and nature activities amongst the world’s greatest collection of Fynbos.

Rosenhof Country House

Set in the “Wild West” town of Oudtshoorn, the Rosenhof Country House is an exquisite five-star property that boasts sumptuous accommodations, excellent dining and some of the friendliest local staff one could wish to encounter.  A great stopover for those travelling the Garden Route, the Rosenhof is just beautiful.

Lairds Lodge

Lairds Lodge has a homely feel and a relaxed atmosphere that allows one to really appreciate the beautiful property, exceptional dining, and attentive staff.  Perfectly positioned between the two popular towns of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, Lairds is a great base for those looking to get away from the bustling city.

Winchester Mansions

We love the Winchester Mansions, and if you are looking for a Cape Town break we don’t believe there is anywhere better to stay!  Set on the Atlantic Seaboard in the bustling town of Seapoint, this property is great for those who enjoy walking (it’s a mere 20 minute walk to the V&A Waterfront), and offers a fantastic sea facing bar, which is just ideal for those late afternoon sundowners!

Lalibela Game Reserve

If you are heading off to the Eastern Cape for a Malaria Free Safari, then one of the best places to stay (in our humble opinion) is Lalibela Game Reserve.  Featuring three different lodges, this spectacular game reserve boasts South Africa’s Big 5, along with a variety of other beautiful animals, and combines a relaxed atmosphere with quality accommodation, great game viewing and delicious menus.

What are your favourite hotels in South Africa?  Let us know so we can add it to our “to see” list!

 

 

 

A step into Nature

It is very rare that one finds a place that takes your breath away, but Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in Gansbaai, South Africa is certainly one of those places. Combining luxurious five-star accommodations with the most amazing nature reserve, Grootbos is a little piece of paradise that no one visiting South Africa should miss.

Our own experience at Grootbos was indeed a pleasant one, and after speaking to the owner who is most passionate about his magnificent eco-friendly reserve, it is easy to see why more and more foreign tourists are flocking south to see it for themselves.

When you arrive at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve the first thing you notice is the friendliness of the team who are there to make your visit as relaxed and enjoyable as possible. After receiving a glass of bubbly, you are given the option to review the activities itinerary before heading for lunch, the first of many delicious meals in the beautifully decorated restaurant overlooking Walker’s Bay.

The Grootbos activities list is a long one, and whether you are looking for horse riding along the beach, a flower safari or shark diving with great whites, they cater for your every need.  For those who wish to relax you can simply head to the pool or take a walk through the stunning reserve to discover some of the 756 species of Fynbos growing amongst the Milkwood trees.

The accommodation at Grootbos really is five-star, the rooms are beautifully decorated and the views amazing, but it is the little things that really stand out.  When I say ‘little things’ I refer to the luxurious selection of toiletries, the fresh fruit basket, an open fire lit by the team as you enjoy dinner, and a range of other things that one might not notice straight away, but when you do it just makes the place even more special.

A story of determination, hard work and giving back to the community is what made Grootbos Private Nature Reserve what it is today, and if you are looking for a step into nature, we can highly recommend you step in this direction.