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jgourdji Jun 12th, 2008 12:17 PM

SAA Vacations
Hi, all.

I am trying to decide between three itineraries offerred though South Africa Airways Vacations (Lion World Travel.) It is my first and probably last trip. We are going this September. I would appreciate your advice.

The first itinerary is called The Royal Treatment. It offers three nights at the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town, two nights at La Residence in Franschhoek, two nights in Hermanus at Birkenhead House, and three nights at the Royal Malewane.

The second itinerary is Spectacular Southern Africa. There are 4 nights at the Table Bay in Cape Town, 2 nights at Jackalberry Lodge, 1 night at the Michaelangelo in Johannesburg, and 2 nights at the Royal Livingstone. The attraction of this itinerary is the visit to Victoria Falls.

The third is South Africa Platinum. It includes 4 nights in CapeTown at the Cape Grace, 2 nights in Knysna at the Pezula, 1 night in Johannesburg, and 3 nights at either Singita Boulders or Mateya.
The attraction here is the properties. I have read so much on this board about the Cape Grace and Singita.

Surprisingly, the prices are not very different. The third one is the least expensive. Of course, I am not sure yet about availability.

Any help you can give me in choosing would be welcome. My husband and I are retirees in our 60s. We will be flying coach from Detroit, in order to afford the land arrangements.

Is Victoria Falls really worth seeing in September?

Should we hire a car and driver for the free days in CapeTown? I know someone has been highly recommened here.

Thanks, Judy

divine54 Jun 12th, 2008 01:15 PM

hi judy

it's difficult as i am not a "package" person and wouldn't therefore take the lenghts of stays as given.

the reason for booking with SAA - is it cheaper than booking with an agent or consultant?

based on the destinations i would chose
either the grace or twelve aposteles but definately not the table bay hotel as it is too kitschy for me.

i would avoid to stay in johannesburg and fly cape toen - krüger direct and stay in singita (mateya is in madikwe reserve close to botswana. it's malaria free which krüger isn't, has got the big five plus wilddogs and cheetah and the accommodation and meals are out of this world. singita's general manager went there because he wanted to see it for himself. vakue for money is much better than singita. but the animals are better as they can wander between sabi sands and kruger; mateya is definately a destination in itself!)

september on the zambian side of the falls is not THAT spectacular as the water has been greatly subsided at that time of year. but it's still a sight!

you also have to decided whether you like to spend 4 days in cape town in sep. as the weather might be very unpleasant at that time of the year.

yes - if i would stay in cape town for 4 days i would either rent a car and drive to the winelands and cape point, penguis in simons twon etc. or hire a driver.

hermanus will be fine in sep if you love to see the southern right wales.

it's all depending on interests.....

sorry if i could not really give you a clue!

uhoh_busted Jun 12th, 2008 02:42 PM

If you are a wine and food enthusiast, I would pick the first itinerary. Cape Town is a fabulous city, Franschhoek is in the middle of the most beautiful wine country you can imagine, and Hermanus is a lovely "beach" town. I think I remember Birkenhead House as being quite stunningly placed on the coast and you will have great views for whale watching. The safari aspect being Royal Malewane - I don't know about (when we visited Cape Town & the winelands we flew off mid-trip for a week long safari in Botswana.) HOWEVER that was in 2004 and Botswana was much more affordable :D

Does Selwyn still post here? I would highly recommend him for touring around Cape Town. I think his webpage is
He took my husband and I, along with some other "Fodorites" on a remarkable day in and around Cape Town. It was a truly special experience. I know we tasted some specialties we never would have had a chance to, thanks to the ladies of Kayamundi, the township we visited.

mpkp Jun 12th, 2008 03:20 PM

It depends on what you are interested in. I personally would not like either itinerary because the important thing to me is the wildlife and, for me, all these itineraries are light on that. You have at most 3 nights on safari out of 10 nights.

Unless going to see Victoria Falls is a number 1 priority for you, I would not do it. The time involved in getting there would discourage me. I have been there and it is interesting to see but I was also near there on safari. It is another country so it means clearing customs in both directions. South Africa has so much to offer and your stay is not that long.

Singita is not a major draw to me but, from all I have read, I would pick the Sabi Sands area where Singita is over Thornybush where the Royale Malewane is. So I would pick the third option of these three. With 4 days in Cape Town, you can do the wine country and Hermanus as day trips.

I am not sure why you have picked Lion World Safaris. I do know they are the provide for Costco travel to Africa. We are going later this year and I gave them an itinerary as well as another agency and they were a lot more expensive for the same itinerary. I was surprised because I usually like Costco's choices. I went with and saved several thousand dollars over Lion World. However, if Lion World has a special with SAA (we did not need airfare as we were using ff miles) they may cost less.

There are a lot of other agencies here that others have used and been happy with.

mpkp Jun 12th, 2008 03:22 PM

I also toured with Selwyn and would highly recommend him -- but I do not think he is available then as he and his wife are going on sabbatical for the fall.

jgourdji Jun 12th, 2008 06:10 PM

In answer to divine54's post, I have been looking at Lion World Safaris because we are booking at the last minute. The first travel agent I contacted told me that September was a bad month for availability. I assumed LWS has held blocks of rooms due to their size, and the LWS agent told me that she had space available.

I will call other agents as soon as I decide on an itinerary.

divine54 Jun 13th, 2008 02:51 AM


it's late but all these high end places should still have some availability - singita has several venues on its property....

get an idea of what yolu really want - cape town, wine lands, whales, singita, zambia/vic falls and try the TA already suggested with whome the other fodorites have made got experiences.

another option would be

fairfield in SA. a big dmc which i am sure can help.

another one at the high end site is
abercrombie and kent

patsy120 Jul 18th, 2008 02:07 PM

It may be too late to voice my opinion since I've been away from Fodors. You have some great choices. I have been to both Singita Boulders as well as Mateya. Both are luxury properties but IMO, Mateya wins hands down. The lodging itself is smaller and more intimate than Singita properties. It is also maleria free. Seeing the animals can be hit or miss but we saw all the Big 5 on the first day while staying at Mateya.

Birkenhead House (in Hermanus) is a fabulous resort. It is so relaxing, the service is wonderful and what an ocean view! Both Mateya and Birkenhead remind me of luxury honeymoon spots. There are 3 categories of rooms there but even the smaller, less expensive are still very nice.

Let us know what you decide.

Drum_Africa_Tours Jul 25th, 2008 01:28 AM

Great options, Singita is awesome but there are a few other places that are great as well. I agree going to Zim for the time frame that you have is not really worth it. Cape Town has a lot to offer. I would suggest you do a winelands tour on arrival with a guide so that you can drink as much wine as you wish without worrying about driving - and there are so many wonderful ones to choose from. The take a car from the next day and do the Peninsula (Cape Point, Boulders etc.). Again if you have a guide it is nice because you can look at all the scenery and not worry about finding your way. Hermanus is a great trip too. If you do not take the package you can also go down the Garden Route - Swellendam has a stunning place called Jan Harmsgat Farmhouse - amazing food and the owner Brin is very into his wine and hosting. You would feel right at home. From here you can go drive to Knysna and spend sometime on the Lagoon - amazing oysters. Travel back through Oudtshoorn and see the ostriches and caves. There really is so much to do in the Cape.

I hope you have a wonderful trip - whatever you decide.

kch246 Jul 25th, 2008 05:26 AM

My husband and I have booked several trips to Africa with Lion World Travels (Simon) and have had fantastic trips. Every single detail was taken care of. He created itineries specifically to our desires and was extremely knowledgable in all of the areas we visited.

I cannot recommend them highly enough.

travel4u Jul 25th, 2008 01:21 PM

I have read all of the responses and quite surprised that Phinda was never mentioned. It not only has the Big Five but also the rare black rhino and more wild game and birds on it's Reserve than you'll see anywhere else in Southern Africa.
We book through nakker international in the usa exclusively. They are not obliged to book any particular lodge or hotel and get excellent rates that usually beat any other quotes that we recieve.
I agree with the others about Vic Falls in September. The Falls are at a low, especialy on the Zambia side. The Royal Livingstone Hotel is very nice but pricey. You can stay at The River Run for about the same and it has alot more ambiance.
HOpe this all helps and good luck. You won't regret going down there.

Drum_Africa_Tours Jul 26th, 2008 01:16 AM

I agree with Travel4u, Phinda is stunning, they have 4 different lodges. I guess the only reason they didn't come up is cause of their location. You would have to either drive (about 6 and a half hours or you can fly from OR Tambo). Close to Phinda you also have Mkuze Falls - awesome place and they have a tented camp there - luxury.

That said there is much to do in the KwaZulu-Natal area. The Battlefield tours are great from Fugitives drift. Really an area worth looking into.

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