Fran travels through the Cape and Madikwe – December 2015
I have to say I was feeling smug as our plane took off from Heathrow, leaving behind a very British dark cold December night. I was Cape Town bound and going to spend the next few weeks working my way up through the winelands, Hermanus, the Karoo and the Garden Route before finishing on safari in the Eastern Cape and flying up to Madikwe for some more malaria free safari. I was being accompanied by my father, who spent his early twenties at university in Cape Town and the local area, and so was a useful addition to the trip. We spent the first few days in Cape Town, and began our trip with a drive round the peninsular following the beautiful Chapmans Peak route. This is well worth doing, travelling through charming coastal towns like Kalk Bay and seeing the spectacular Noordhoek Beach, with lots of places to stop and take in the views. I spent the morning viewing properties in Camps Bay, which was absolutely buzzing with the summer season in full flow; restaurants packed, beach lively, and with the backdrop of Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles behind you. We spent the afternoon in the Tamberskloof region, a lovely central location to consider when visiting the city, with Kloof Street being full of popular bars and restaurants and plenty of smart guesthouses to choose from.
After Cape Town we travelled inland to the winelands where we indulged in good food and my Dad enjoyed the delicious wine on offer. I of course abstained as I was on a serious work trip (well I perhaps dabbled in a bit of wine, you can’t travel to Franschhoek and not have at least a ‘taster’). Franschhoek is packed with an array of quality hotels, guesthouses and private villas, whilst the nearby wine estates offer a more relaxed ‘escapist’ experience. We had a superb lunch at the Delaire Graff estate and my Dad particularly enjoyed the Mont Rochelle estate, making friends with the resident hotel cat while I was on my site inspection, after which we enjoyed a lovely wine and cheese tasting at their Country Kitchen.
Next stop was the coastal town of Hermanus. Unfortunately we had missed the whales (the main whale season is from June to November), but we did spend some time tricking ourselves into thinking various wave formations were whales breaching. Nonetheless, it is a lovely, lively seaside town to spend some time in with some beautiful coastal walks and delicious sea food restaurants.
Travelling inland, we took the R62, one of the most scenic roads to the Garden Route, through the Karoo to Oudtshoorn. The wide road was empty and a joy to drive on. We stopped in Swellendam and had lunch in the surreal Barrydale before arriving at out accommodation. Oudtshoorn is a good place to break your journey, and there are a number of charming guesthouses located on ostrich farms, where you can try the delicious local delicacy.
We took some time off from site inspections and took a day to enjoy the scenic drive up the Swartberg Pass to Prince Albert, returning via the Meiringspoort Pass with a lunchtime stop at a waterfall.
We spent the next three nights along the Garden Route. Knysna and Plettenberg Bay are two great options to consider as a base or you can choose to be in a lodge or country estate. The area is beautiful and there’s so much to keep you busy; walks, various animal sanctuaries, bungee jumping and canyoning for the adventurous, mooching around the villages or exploring the wild stretches of coast. Storms River Mouth is a great place to spend the day.
The Garden Route is a haven for families with young or adult children, and couples alike. We loved the sundowner drinks on the Falcons View Manor verandah with beautiful views over the Knysna Lagoon, and had a wonderful dinner on the big sociable dinner table at Hog Hollow Country Lodge.
We then moved on to the safari portion of the trip and spent three nights on the game reserves of the Eastern Cape. An easy and straightforward few hours drive from the Garden Route, it is a logical addition to any holiday to this region if you want to spend a few days on safari as part of your experience. We began our safari at River Bend Lodge in Addo Elephant National Park. The elephants were definitely the highlight here. They were plentiful and extremely relaxed, but my Dad also kept our brilliant guide busy spotting birds. River Bend offers a relaxed and gentle safari experience, ideal for a family with young children. Among the other reserves, Kwandwe Game Reserve stood out with a real sense of vastness and remoteness that perhaps some of the other reserves lack. The game viewing is good and over my stay we came across lion, elephant, cheetah, rhino and buffalo. Leopard proved more difficult but despite this, a safari on the Eastern Cape is always going to be fruitful.
Bidding my father good-bye at Johannesburg as he begrudgingly checked-in to fly home, I took the convenient one hour light aircraft flight up to the Madikwe Game Reserve, located in the North West Province and on the border with Botswana. It is an alternative malaria free safari destination to the Eastern Cape reserves and there are lodges to cater all needs, from the down to earth and welcoming Bush House and family friendly Tuningi and Madikwe Safari lodges to the exclusive and exquisite Morukuru houses. Although it is not true wild and remote Africa, Madikwe certainly feels like it has a bit more of an edge to it than the reserves of the Eastern Cape. The game viewing was excellent, especially elephant and rhino, and I got to see a brown hyaena for the first time. At Etali Safari Lodge, I peered outside my room as I was going to bed and was greeted by a herd of elephant silently visiting the waterhole. At the small and personal Bush House, an elephant conveniently turned up at the waterhole while we were in the underground photographic hide, which offers a whole new perspective on these gentle giants.
South Africa is certainly a wonderful country, with dramatic scenery, friendly people, varied experiences, delicious food and wine, and stylish and polished accommodation. It does offer that little bit more sophistication than elsewhere in Africa, and the opportunity to self-drive gives you that sense of independence and freedom to take a holiday at your own pace.
During my visit to South Africa I stayed at Cape Cadogan, Maison Chablis, Auberge Clermont, Ocean Eleven Guesthouse, La Plume Guesthouse, Falcons View Manor, Lairds Lodge, Hog Hollow Country Lodge, River Bend Lodge, Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge, Lalibela Mark’s Camp, Fairlawns Hotel, Etali Safari Lodge, Makanyane Safari Lodge and The Bush House. I site inspected the Twelve Apostles, 3 on Camps Bay, Sea Five Boutique Hotel, Acorn House, 2inn1 Kensington, Derwent House, The Cellars-Hohenort, The Steenberg, River Manor, Angala Boutique Hotel, Delaire Graff Estate, Le Quartier Francais, Leeu House, La Fontaine, La Clé des Montagnes, Last Word, La Residence, Mont Rochelle, Schulphoek Guest House, Auberge Burgundy, The Marine, Birkenhead House, Mosselberg on Grotto Beach, Lavender Manor, Rothmans Manor, Rosenhof Country House, De Denne Country House, Villa Afrikana, Candlewood Lodge, Leisure Isle Lodge, Tsala Treetop Lodge, Hunter’s Country Lodge, The Robberg, Periwinkle Guest Lodge, Starfish Guest Lodge, The Plettenberg Hotel, Tarn Country House, Kurland Hotel, Kichaka Safari Lodge, Shamwari Reserve, Syrene Boutique Hotel, Athol Place, Four Seasons Johannesburg, Madikwe Hills Safari Lodge, Molori Safari Lodge, Madikwe Safari Lodge, Jaci’s Safari Lodge, Morukoru, Jamala Safari Lodge, The Bush House, Tuningi Safari Lodge and Impodimo Safari Lodge.
Back to Trip Reports