Let us start by saying that we enjoyed every minute! It was a marvelous experience and we are still talking about it and reliving special moments.
ARRIVAL IN JO’BURG— Our flight arrived late (about 8:30 pm), but the nice driver from Safari Club was there to meet us. Safari Club was convenient and comfortable. Basic amenities, but perfect for our overnight stay close to the airport. Off to Cape Town the next morning.
CAPE TOWN— What a lovely city you live in. It lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful settings for a city in the world.
As we mentioned on the phone to you, the afternoon we arrived was a beautiful day. So we dropped our luggage off in our room and took a cab (even though we had picked up our Avis car at the airport) right up to Table Mountain. Spectacular! We were there from about 3 p.m. until after sunset, not nearly enough time to do it justice. We mostly just enjoyed the views so missed out doing a really thorough walk about on the top. Next trip we will do that.
That evening we ate in the hotel restaurant. The Cape Town Hollow Hotel is a gem. Small (which we like) but all the services one needs. We had a room that looked out on Table Mountain and Company’s Garden. Seemed in the heart of everything and a quiet location. The restaurant was very good, both for dinner and breakfast. Even got a complimentary bottle of wine our first evening.
The next day dawned with blue skies too, so we drove down to Cape of Good Hope…saw baboons, ostriches and the penguins. A fun, easy outing.
Our last two days in CT were grey and rainy, but we still had a nice drive to the wine area where we visited the Spice Route winery; and, upon return to the city we walked around the waterfront in the rain. A fun place even on a gloomy day.
One experience we had that we want to share is the restaurant we found on the second evening. Trip Advisor lists it as the #1 restaurant in Cape Town and you probably know of it. It is Mzani in Langa Township. The folks at the hotel tried to talk us out of going, saying it was not safe. But we were determined, so they called a cabdriver they knew to take us. He drove us there, waited outside while we ate and then took us back to the hotel. It was an experience we would highly recommend to your clients. First of all, it didn’t seem dangerous or threatening at all. The folks who run it are warm and friendly and have a wonderful story about their lives and how the restaurant came to be. There is a local group of musicians (kids and one older gentleman) who play and, after the meal, “teach” diners how to play various instruments. Then everyone gets together to dance and laugh. The food (good home cooking) is served buffet style—good quality and generous amounts. You can read more about this place on line, but as a couple who have been there, we wanted to recommend it to you.
AFTER CAPE TOWN—Our flight to Jo’burg was uneventful and we picked up our Avis car without trouble, starting our drive to Hazyview. If we had it to do over again, we would probably not spend the two days allotted for this trip. While interesting, the drive east on the N4 was not scenic at all. And the Panorama Route that we tried to drive on the second day was not viewable due to very grey, foggy weather which we were told is fairly common. Spent a couple hours in a cozy pancake restaurant in Graskop. Others may enjoy the Panorama Route and luck out on the weather, but we wish we had those two days in Kruger instead.
The above said, our stay at Hippo Hollow Hotel was great. Another nice facility in the Hollow chain. Hippo Hollow is a very good hotel and a perfect place to stay if a traveler needs a night before heading into Kruger.
KRUGER PARK— What can we say? This entire experience was the best. Monwana Lodge was 5-star in every way, from the lovely room, delicious food (prepared and presented perfectly), and a professional and friendly staff. Jacques and Emma, the managers, were delightful. Thornybush and Kruger are, of course, wildlife dreams. We saw four of the big five on the first day and spotted (no pun intended) the elusive leopard the next day. Jaques served as our guide and Jeffery was our tracker. They were both excellent in every way. Our next trip we will allow more time at Monwana.
DRIVE BACK FROM KRUGER TO JO’BURG—We came back through Lydenburg and Belfast which was more scenic than our drive straight over to Hazyview on the N4. Our only disappointment of the trip came when we got back to Jo’burg that afternoon. With the GPS we found the MoAfrica Hotel where you had us booked. To begin with, we were never clear if they actually showed a paid reservation for us. They couldn’t find our name and there was quite a bit of confusion; but, that didn’t really matter in the end because after we looked around a little bit we decided that we would not stay there anyway. I don’t know if you have actually seen MoAfrica, Cathy, or if you have had other clients booked there, but—for us at least—it is not satisfactory at all. As someone we met later who is familiar with it said, “only backpackers and derelicts stay there”. You had forwarded us a description of this place that we assume is written and provided by the establishment. The actual place bears no resemblance to the literature. All’s well that ends well, however, and with the kindness of strangers we eventually made our way to Ikwekwezi Guest Lodge (408 First Ave., Bredell, Kempton Park). It was great! We had one night in a very spacious, well-appointed room plus dinner and breakfast for both of us for a total price of $1400 Rand. For future reference, they also have complimentary airport shuttle. Their website is http://www.ikwekwezi.co.za if you want to check them out for future clients. We would recommend it to anyone and found it nicer and better run than the Safari Club. Not sure what the price difference is; but, even if it is a bit more it would be worth it.
VICTORIA FALLS AND CHOBE—The hotel at V.F. was top notch. Quite posh with excellent food and service. As you know, we had a day tour of the Falls and a working African village. The Falls were impressive, even at this low-water time of year, and the village was very interesting with the head elder Mr. Mpala as our host. Then it was on to the sunset river cruise. Very pleasant with lots of hippo sightings. The next day was our tour to Chobe National Park. This was our favorite part of the Zimbabwe visit, especially the river boat excursion. Numerous birds and, of course, tons of elephants which Chobe is known for. Our boat handler and guide made the trip extra special with his knowledge and patience.
OKAVANGO DELTA—For many reasons, Okavango was the star of the trip. It is a fascinating ecosystem, abundant and easily accessed wildlife and lovely vistas of water and savanna. The place where we stayed, Mapula Lodge, had some issues. Upon arrival we were a bit disappointed mostly with the cleanliness and maintenance of the place. It certainly looks like it has seen better days. The food was basic but good. The staff was friendly and helpful. What made the place wonderful for us in the end was the guide (Oracle) and the tracker (Mike) assigned to us. They were extremely knowledgeable and able to explain what we were seeing and experiencing, plus they were just really good and gentle men. It was a pleasure to have known them. If we are ever able to return to the Delta we would be torn. We probably would prefer to stay in a little better lodge, but we would want to have those guys as our guides again.
LAST DAYS—Had nice flights back to Jo’burg and two nights at the Safari Club. As we said before, it is a perfectly nice place to layover near the airport, but in our opinion the Ikwekwezi Guest Lodge is a better alternative. We had a good Jo’burg tour with Wilro Tours. We went to the Apartheid Museum, Soweto and a drive through the financially devastated Jo’burg city center. One other observation that you might want to pass on to some of your clients. We have been in many international airports during our life and the OR Tambo is the only one we’ve experienced where the rental cars are located on the airport property. Usually, the rental car companies have shuttle vans that pick up the clients right at the curb outside of the arrivals area and drive them to the rental car desk. At Tambo, the rental car desks and the vehicles are adjacent to the terminal. As a result, the client has to walk quite a way to get from the arrivals area to the rental car area. Same thing, obviously when returning the car. A very long walk to the airline check-in area. I know there is nothing to be done about this, but I just thought you might want to alert some of your clients to this situation.
So that’s it, Cathy. Fabulous trip, wonderful memories and desires to return again. It was the service you provided that played a big part in making all of this a reality. Not only were you professional—and very patient with all of our date changes, etc.—and knowledgeable, your suggestions and counsel were really helpful. We were very impressed with the paperwork and documents you forwarded to us. The “Quick Reference Voucher Itinerary” was really helpful, as was the 16-page day-by-day itinerary. We could not have asked for more.
Many, many thanks again, Cathy. Hope all continues well for you and your family. If and when we are able to go back to South Africa we will certainly be in touch. And we’ll be happy to refer friends and neighbors who are thinking of coming your way.
All the best,
Fran and Brooke