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Quick trip report on Cape Town, Franschhoek, Phinda and Londolozi

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Apr 26th, 2012, 07:21 AM
  #1
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Quick trip report on Cape Town, Franschhoek, Phinda and Londolozi

Sitting in Johannesburg Airport on the way home from an amazing vacation. Memorable highlights as follows (I'll stick more to food and lodging since most sightseeing stuff has been covered).

Cape Town - Stayed at the Bay Hotel which is a good property in a great location in Camp's Bay right on the ocean (rooms could use a little refresh). My guess is the One & Only Hotel is likely nicer, but you can't beat the Bay's location (did a nice beach walk each morning). The Bay also has two cars with drivers who can take you to/from sights or dinner for a nominal fee (nice to not be driving after drinking). We did tour the waterfront but basically it reminded me of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf (tacky) combined with a shopping mall and I personally would not want to stay there just as I don't visit Fisherman's Wharf and I live in San Francisco. Standout dinner was the Test Kitchen which was a great intimate spot with an open kitchen (and the food and wine were excellent).

Franschhoek - stayed at La Petite Dauphine wine farm just outside of town which was charming little cottages with excellent huge modern baths and very warm, welcoming hosts. Dinner at the Tasting Room was great n that it revolved around modern takes on old South African dishes (and wasn't stuffy at all which was a nice surprise). There were some great art galleries on the main strip and we toured several of the wine farms also both for history (Boschendahl) and wine/art (Grand Provence). We wished we had gotten into Bread + Wine for lunch as several other spots were too formal (we ended up having pizza on the main street which was pretty good after all the rich meals before).

Phinda Forest - Charming game lodge with very nice rooms set in the trees. Ranger and tracker (Matt and Dan) were great and we saw tons. Food was good not great.

We then did the direct transfer from Phinda to Londolozi which I absolutely recommend as you avoid the connection in Joberg and don't have to drive to Richard's Bay.

Londolozi (Tree Camp) - amazing, amazing, amazing. Rooms were luxurious (and huge) with your own private plunge pool and outdoor shower. The pics on their website don't nearly do it justice. The staff (everyone from housekeeping to managers to rangers) seemed genuinely happy and enjoy their jobs. I can't begin to list how attentive they were to anything you mentioned and how they creatively try to come up with unique ways to entertain you. One highlight was the river cafe they set up out in the bush as a surprise on one evening's game drive complete with food, drinks, sax player, furniture and lanterns in the trees (keep in mind this was all done as a surprise for four guests). Because Londolozi is family owned, I think they really work to hire people that fit into the culture and because they do a lot for the community and conservation everyone is I good spirits. I've stayed in top hotels in Europe and the US and Londolozi was top of the heap on all fronts (including great food). We chose Tree Camp as it was six rooms (intimate but were able to meet some people) and was limited to guests older than 16.

One last note - Robben Island - we don't recommend the tour. While I found the history very interesting, I would rather read up independently or attend a seminar on it. Because of how it is set up you are out there for four + hours which we felt was too long and you're driving around on a bus on the island. We had thought it would be more like Alcatraz where you tour at your own pace and come back when ready (Robben Island ferries don't run as frequently so you're stuck). We obviously hadn't done our legwork on this one in advance.

Amazing vacation overall and already planning on returning for my 50th.
TJinSOMA is offline  
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Apr 30th, 2012, 05:08 PM
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What all did you see at Phinda, TJin? Happy 50th in advance.
atravelynn is offline  
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May 3rd, 2012, 07:14 AM
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We were very lucky on sightings. At Phinda we saw lions (including a pride), cheetahs, leopards, elephants, rhinos, giraffes and all the usual suspects. We were joking with our ranger on the ride to the airport that we hadn't seen the big 5 (when we were able to see such amazing things including hunting, etc,) and then we saw the buffalo (our #5) on the drive to the airstrip for our transfer to Londolozi.
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May 3rd, 2012, 12:33 PM
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Thanks for posting this. I am in the process of booking our Africa trip and have chosen Londolozi Tree Camp for 4 nights. So happy to hear it exceeded your expectations.
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May 5th, 2012, 11:33 PM
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Thanks for the report, I was glad to hear you really enjoyed Test Kitchen, we have reservations there in June. Would like to hear more about it if you have time. Where else did you eat in Cape Town ?
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May 6th, 2012, 12:35 PM
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Thanks!
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May 6th, 2012, 11:08 PM
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Add another who is planning another trip to Africa before getting home. Africa sure does reach our hearts somehow.

Test Kitchen was fun. We had to be a bit daring in 2006 - some of the offers were unexpected. We loved it. Would love to hear more!
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May 7th, 2012, 06:30 AM
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Next time for accommodation you should try La Clé des Montagnes newly opened luxury Villas near the main hub of the village. For restaurants in Franschhoek - there are so many, but my favorites are Reubens, La Motte and Maison.
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