TRIP REPORT: Cape Town -Phinda (Homestead) -Singita Castleton Camp -Victoria Falls
Background info for our trip-
This was our 4th trip to Africa and all of the previous trips (spanning 1998-2009) have been to South Africa. We keep saying we’re going to try somewhere else but we keep having such great times and sightings in South Africa that we see no reason to go anywhere else.
On two of the previous trips we traveled with our 3 children and this trip we expanded to include our sons’ new wives. Our daughter also made the trip. All are in their 20’s. So there were 7 of us traveling.
I did all the planning for the trip with the exception of the hotel in Victoria Falls which was a suggestion of a travel agent. My goal in selecting locations and accommodations was to keep us all together. Some of our children are located in different areas of the world so we don’t get to spend much time together as a family. I didn’t want to spend our “downtime” in 4 separate hotel or lodge rooms.
Our flight from the U.S. was out of Washington, Dulles to Joburg. It was a SAA flight but booked thru United Airlines. We arrived in JNB around 5pm, and then took a 7:30pm SAA flight to Cape Town.
For Cape Town, I booked the Hollywood Mansion. It is a private residence in Camps Bay, with 5 suites and it’s absolutely beautiful. (For my detailed reviews of the places we stayed please check Trip Advisor.) As it turned out, we were busy with activities in Cape Town from early in the morning until dinner so we didn’t really get to spend much time at “home”. The Hollywood Mansion was a splurge but it was about the same as what we would have paid for 4 nice hotel rooms and we had a lot more room.
On our last visit to Cape Town, we used a guide recommended on Fodors, Wayne Milne. Wayne is Take2Tours.com and he is super! As soon as I started planning this trip, the first thing I did was contact Wayne to make sure he was available for this trip too! Last trip we only used him for half of our time in CT. This trip we were with him from the time he picked us up at the CT airport to the time he dropped us off. We told him in advance all of the activities we wanted to do in CT and he scheduled them all and made the appropriate reservations. I just can’t say enough good things about Wayne. We had to make many last minute changes to our itinerary and he handled them seamlessly.
In Cape Town we had these activities planned:
Cable car to the top of Table Mountain
Robben Island (for the 2 couples only)
Cape Tour (Drive down Chapmans Peak to the Cape of Good Hope)
Shark Cage Diving in False Bay (ended up going to Gansbaai)
Segway off road tour of the Spier Winery
As they say, the best laid plans….. The Cape Tour was the only day that went as planned.
DAY 2: Our first morning we were suppose to take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain but it was closed due to high winds, and it was raining. So Wayne made a quick change in plans for us and we bundled up in our new raincoats and fleeces, (there’s a story there ) because Wayne told us the cold front had come in and the high temp for the day was predicted to be 8 degrees C which is 46F. Our first stop was Signal Hill which has a great view of not only Table Mountain but also Lions Head (Mountain) and the entire city of Cape Town. Spectacular views! It was really cold up there and started to rain, so we didn't stay very long. We continued on with a city tour of Cape Town and then stopped for an Italian lunch at the Waterfront. NOTE: There is a great African “souvenir” store right by the entrance to the Robben Island ferry. If you don’t want to “haggle” for prices at the Green Market, we found this to be the best place to buy reasonably priced items. We bought some beautiful pottery and a few glass pieces. My daughter bought all of her trinket type gifts for her friends back home here also. We wish it had been at the end of our trip so we could have purchased more. We never found better prices anywhere..
After lunch, the 2 couples left to take the boat over to Robben Island ( Wayne had purchased their tickets months earlier). And after some souvenir shopping and a quick grocery stop, Wayne took the rest of us back to the Mansion. By choice, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the computer, reading, or just spelunking.
As far as the couples, they returned later than expected and had an INCREDIBLE story to tell! My oldest son, our master storyteller, explained how they had just survived “The Perfect Storm” coming back on the prison boat from Robben Island. I have to admit, they were drenched so their stories of 25 ft swells, an account supported by all, we're very believable! Note: On our prior trip to Robben Island they used ferries. Now apparently, they are using old prison boats for a more realistic adventure. It sounds like they got it!
We topped off the evening with burgers on the grill and a movie. Everybody headed off to bed pretty early, still catching up on sleep.
DAY 3: After breakfast at the house, Wayne picked us up for a trip down to the Cape of Good Hope. We had to cancel our plans for Table Mountain AGAIN because of the fierce winds. The rain had stopped but the winds were gale force!
We took Chapmans Peak Drive down to the Cape and stopped at Boulders Beach in Simons Town to see the penguins. Unfortunately, since the last time we were there they had built a pedestrian "boardwalk" along the dunes of the beach and we were required to stay on them. Last time we were free to roam the beaches and get very close to the penguins. I understand why they had to do that but the new set up was quite disappointing as a lot of the penguins were in the distance. We didn't stay long.
As soon as we got to Cape Point, we had lunch at the only restaurant there which is a very nice place and the same place we ate last time (at our request). They had the outside closed this time though because the winds were just too strong but Wayne had still reserved us the best table.
Lunch was kind of strange. Half of us ordered "fish &chips" and when it came it was a whole fish that had been battered and fried. That meant it looked like a fish! And it even had the skin on under the fried batter. Ewwwww. We weren’t used to that.
I was proud of myself though. I ate most of it.
After lunch we hiked from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope. We were able to do this one way (it’s about an hour hike) because Wayne drove the van around to pick us up at the end. It's an amazing hike with incredible views! This is a "must do" hike! However, the winds were just unbelievable! I seriously thought we were going to get blown off the mountain we were hiking on. On the way, we saw a momma ostrich sitting on her eggs, and many, many Rock Hyraxes (dassies) running about. They were not afraid of us and kids were touching them! Wayne said he had never seen anyone touch them before.
We arrived back in Cape Town about 45 mins before the Green Market closed. The “kids” wanted to shop there but as it turned out, they were not in the mood to argue about price so they came out with very little.
DAY 4:The next morning Wayne arrived at the house and informed us that our False Bay Shark diving trip had been cancelled due to weather. High winds and rough seas. Not only that, but also, Table Mountain was closed again. But our hero, Wayne, had already worked out another plan. He had been able to squeeze us in on a shark trip in Gansbaai, which is also known as Shark Alley.
Because we were on an afternoon Gansbaai shark trip (1pm) Wayne had to cancel the Segway tour we had scheduled for that afternoon. Sharks were our priority. On the way to Gansbaai we had enough time to stop in Hermanus for some unofficial whale watching. We didn’t see any.
Gansbaai, which is 2 hours east of Cape Town, was actually my first choice for shark cage diving last trip. Anyway, to make a long story short, it was unbelievable! The sharks were anywhere from 10 ft to a big guy that was 18 ft and ate the entire buoy! Sharks are so hard to get pics of because they are so fast and when they breach out of the water they are not only fast but make a huge splash. So if you don't get the pic while they're in the air, you’re sunk. DH did get one of the best breeches on video. The kids all got in the shark cage. They absolutely loved it! DH and I didn't get in the cage. It was freezing cold and we just didn't have the desire. Besides, the view was fabulous from the top of the boat. So, in a nutshell, the sharks were INCREDIBLE! I would highly recommend Gansbaai over False Bay. The last trip we used Apex Predators and only saw 2 sharks the whole time. Of course, on any given day, anything can happen. Apex in False Bay is a LOT more expensive.
Upon returning home from our shark trip we were greeted by the smells of a delicious dinner! I had hired a chef to cook a 5 course meal for us to celebrate my DIL’s 24th birthday. The dinner was delicious! We had stuffed mushrooms, butternut squash soup, roast, chicken, broccoli and cauliflower cheese casserole, an out of this world fresh salad, and strawberry cake! Yum!
After dinner we all had to pack to be ready for a 7am pickup in the morning.
Wayne was there to pick us up a few minutes before 7 and took us to the airport. We really love Wayne Milne and we were all sorry to have to say goodbye.
We had a 2 hour flight from Cape Town to Durban and then we had a private bus drive us from Durban to Phinda, our home for the next 4 nts!
To be continued….
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Cape Town/ Phinda (Homestead)/ Singita (Castleton Camp)/ Victoria Falls
TRIP REPORT: Cape Town -Phinda (Homestead) -Singita Castleton Camp -Victoria Falls