Sth Africa 2011 Trip Report

Apr 30th, 2011, 03:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 420
Sth Africa 2011 Trip Report

Part 1- Cape Town
We booked through our local Jetset Travel who booked through African Safari Company in Sydney who booked through Springbok Atlas in Africa, we wouldn't recommend African Safari but Springbok Atlas were good, they did all our transfers and their drivers were all very informative.

5 nights Cape Town
3 nights Cheetah Plains in Sabi Sands
3 nights Tembe Elephant Park KwaZuluNatal
2 nights J'burg

March 30th we all flew to Sydney, meeting Biddy at the airport, checked in at airport hotel and caught ferry to Taronga Zoo, where we had a fabulous couple of wet hours.
Following morning (Thursday) flew to J'burg, a quicker flight than the last 2 as the plane didn't go as far south as before. Had several hours to fill before our Cape Town flight which is easy to do at J'burg airport.
Our 20.10 flight finally left at 21.00 due to a BA flight being aborted whilst on takeoff and they were blocking the runway. Finally arrived at the Village & Life Waterfront Apartments at midnight to find they had changed security company's at midnight and we were the first to be checked with the new system, yippee, got the apartment at 1.30.
We booked our Cape Town tours with Cape Town Travel as they worked out of the apartments and they in turn booked with African Eagle

Friday - This morning we had breakfast at the Cape Grace Hotel, very nice & very cheap, R300, back to the apt for our 9am pick up.
Basil was our driver for our 1/2 day city tour, which was very informative. The South African Museum was really interesting and could have spent a couple of hours there. Couldn't go up Table Mt due to low cloud.
Had lunch near the Clock Tower at Roots, steak and chicken burgers, 2 coffees and a beer R300, cheap but wouldn’t recommend it.
Went to Pick and Pay to do some shopping, had toast for dinner.

Saturday - Easy picked us up for our Best of the Cape Tour & this time we had other people in the van with us. It was an enjoyable day. We had a great lunch at the Twin Oceans Restaurant, despite the birds and baboons.
The funicular wasn't working, so Lin & Biddy started the long walk up to the lookout armed with cameras and movie camera, I didn't try it as I've torn ligaments in my foot. Lin didn't get too far before she turned back, her fused ankle wasn’t coping, so it was up to Biddy to take photos and movies. The photos were great but the lens cap being on the movie camera did limit what we could see, she did eventually take it off and never lived it down! We finished the day with a short walk through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
We had dinner at the Hildebrand restaurant at the V & A Waterfront, which was very nice.

Sunday - Jerry was our drive for today's 1/2 Township Tour and once again we were a full vehicle. It was an interesting morning driving through District 6 and attending a local church service which was fabulous fun. In Langa we went to a Sheebeen and tried the local beer. They put some in a big tin and passed it around all 14 of us, Lin was lucky being number 2, then Biddy about 7 and me second last, I tried so desperately hard not to touch the tin, GROSS. It was interesting watching everyone trying unsuccessfully to drink from an unused part of the tin, and now thinking back on it we were all really stupid because NONE of us turned the tin around to the other side.
From there we went to Vicki's B & B, the smallest in Sth Africa. She started with 2 beds and now has 6. She's also trying to raise enough money to give all the children 2 slices of bread per week. At all the places we went to we were expected to leave donations, which became a little embarrassing as we didn't take more than a couple of rand with us.
We got back just in time to change and grab a taxi and head off to the Mt Nelson Hotel for High Tea. This is a gorgeous old hotel with beautiful gardens, & the arvo tea was okay, nothing to rave about, but a nice relaxing afternoon.

Monday - we got up early and headed out for a taxi at 7.30 to go up Table Mt, but no, it was blowing an absolute gale. We wandered over to the Hop On Hop Off bus and caught it up to the cable car station in the hope the wind might have died down but it wasn't to be. Back on the bus and down to Camps Bay for some breakfast and a wander around.
It was still blowing a gale at the end of the day, so we went on a Champagne Sunset Cruise on the yacht Spirit of Victoria.
We/I missed calculated the time it would take to walk there so we arrived just in the nic of time, which meant we were on the right hand side.
We motored out from the wharf and the crew of 2 battled to put the sails up, and then off we flew, it was outstanding! Keeping in mind I have no idea what I'm talking about, I'd guess that the waves would be rated at 1 -3 mts and very very choppy. Were racing along, trying to keep our champagne in our glasses when the captain changed direction a little and all those folk on the left hand side got incredibly wet as we keeled right over, & in came the ocean, how they didn't go overboard I don't know. There was much nervous laughter as we all righted ourselves, those that were soaked got spray jackets to keep them warm. It was a fantastic couple of hours, the sunset, brilliant and the view looking back over Cape Town outstanding. Finally bouncing our way back in we got drenched as well, needless to say every ones dinner plans changed for that evening as no one was dry. They took photos of the happy folk arriving but wouldn't take them of us drowned rats leaving.

Tuesday am back to J’burg airport.

We loved Cape Town and it would be great to go back for a few weeks and explore more thoroughly. We highly recommend the Village & Life Apartments, clean comfortable & secure & for us ideally situated. If we had a couple of million dollars we’d buy an apartment there!
To watch the clouds dribble over Table Mt & Lions Head was awesome. The locals were always friendly & helpful & the crew on the Hop on/off bus were gorgeous we had a hysterical trip with them, I can’t imagine what the other people on board thought was going on.
sallysaab is offline  
May 1st, 2011, 02:07 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Nice report GREAT info thanks for posting most informative...
qwovadis is offline  
May 1st, 2011, 01:51 PM
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Posts: 2,138
Great start. Please post the next sections on this thread as it will be much easier to track and follow (no pun intended!).
Femi is offline  
May 1st, 2011, 03:26 PM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 624
Sounds like a wonderful trip to Cape Town, although I'm left wondering about the places and agents you wouldn't recommend. Whether it was big things or little things which led to your comments. Possibly not things to post online, but interesting.

Look forward to the next instalment.
twaffle is offline  
May 3rd, 2011, 11:55 PM
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Twaffle, no I wont post online, as we all have different experiences at different times & circumstances, I'll email you. If there was something perhaps dangerous or critical I would mention it but that's not the case, I think it's basically that nobody seems to give darn anymore.

In brief:
We flew from Cape Town – J’burg – Hoedspruit & were met at the airport & transferred to Cheetah Plains in Sabi Sands, approx 1½ hours drive.
Nerice & Henry the chef met us. Henry carried our bags to our rooms whilst we were taken to the lodge lounge for a welcoming coffee with Amarula & short talk on camp procedures & then straight on the afternoon game drive. In fact we drank quite a lot of coffee & Amarula whilst here, even for arvo tea on the game drives, very nice!
Ransom was our spotter and Andrew our driver. They have open vehicles & also a special vehicle set up by Nikon for photographers, we didn’t get to see it, I’d assume it was under lock & key somewhere, but it did sound brilliant, a pro photographers dream perhaps?
We finally saw leopards, and in fact left there thinking they were quite common, lol. We saw all the usual suspects, including a herd of elephants with quite a few babies frolicking in the mud after an amazing storm. We sat in the pouring rain totally enchanted by them, but, there’s always a but, my brand new camera, even though it was wrapped in my jumper and under my shirt, got wet & is now a bin job, note to self, ALWAYS carry a plastic bag regardless of the situation.
The food here was spectacular, and the table presentation outstanding, the chap who set it each evening dressed the table in spectacular fashion, you walked to the table and always went “wow”.
The rooms were very nice and comfortable but short on space to put things, the floor became very busy, it’s a problem they are aware of and the new owners are going to address it.
We only had the one wet game drive & saw quite a lot of animals each time out, the most unusual were two big porcupines that ran up the road in front of us one evening. Here also the drivers can leave the road but do so cautiously, very aware of what will bounce back and what wont. Also there were orb spiders everywhere, Ransom sat up front with a long stick clearing the way. Andrew took us on a short bush walk from camp pointing out trees, flowers & tracks etc.
We selected this lodge because we’ve watched their webcam & game drives on the internet and the girls were lucky enough to meet Tara on her game drive one morning.
We had 3 wonderful nights here.

Back to J’burg & a flight to Durban for an overnight. We stayed at the Royal Hotel & in a word don’t!

We were picked up early for the 4 -5 hour drive up to Tembe Elephant Park, a long but interesting trip.
Once again this Lodge was selected because the girls wanted to go where the webcam was
On arrival the staff greeted us with a welcoming song and took us to our suite, after a rushed lunch we left on the afternoon game drive.
Tom was our driver & he was excellent, being born & raised in Tembe his knowledge of course was amazing, we learnt so much about the different trees & shrubs, their uses etc. If we didn’t see any animals he was out of the vehicle grabbing a tree/bush. It’s desperately dry & a lot of the bush looked like it was dying.
The vehicles are open but have a canvas top, and because the area is very sandy there is no going off the road. We didn’t see as many animals here but we did see 2 big tuskers, Mkadebona, 3rd largest in Sth Africa, about 45 years old, right tusk approx 60kgs 2.55m, left tusk 60kgs 2.55m, and Siqualo, approx 40 years old, right tusk 42kgs 2.35, left tusk 40kgs 2.3m.
Also here you could walk around at night, where you couldn’t at Cheetah Plains because the leopards came into the camp at night.
We didn’t get to see Isilo, Sth Africa’s largest tusker, but we were told that each night Tom walked the electric fence to make sure Isilo hadn’t let himself in the camp, apparently he just flicks the electric fence away with his tusks.
Our room, the Matriarch Suite was very spacious and comfortable, and the nyalas would come and wander around our veranda not at all worried about us.
Whilst totally different from Cheetah Plains, we had a very enjoyable time, the most enjoyable perhaps being at the hide watching the elephants at the waterhole.
Late one afternoon we were heading back in from the far side of the park, when Tom got word of 3 lions resting after a kill, on the other side, of course. He asked us if we’d like him to try and drive there quickly, & of course we all said go for it, & he did, he was awesome, we flew in the sand, when we got there his eyes were streamimg! We named him Tom Schumacher.
On our last afternoon, there is no driving in the park after 6pm & you must give way to dung beetles, anyway, we’re heading back in when a very large elephant appeared around a corner, Tom stopped the vehicle but the ele kept coming, & coming so we backed up, stopped & backed up again, the ele was really relaxed just out for an evening stroll with us in his way, we moved backwards slowly & he followed us slowly, determined that he wasn’t going to get off the road. This went on until we found a spot on the left that we could move off on, we just sat & waited for the big boy to pass & he just waited for us to move, obviously he didn’t want to pass on our right, so back we go again until we can pull off on the right & there we both sat, some of us tossing sand on our back, finally he got the courage to pass us, followed by a huge sigh of relief from the 3 of us.
We’d had a couple of other “big” encounters but they always moved off into the bush.
From Tembe we went back to J’burg for 2 nights, we stayed at Nelson Mandela Square as we wanted the freedom to dine at different restaurants at night. We toured J’burg city, which was interesting to say the least, Soweto & then out to the Cradle of Humankind which was awesome, but we weren’t allowed enough time there, & that’s another story, we will be going back!
sallysaab is offline  
May 4th, 2011, 02:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,003
Terrific report, sallysaab.

I think it's basically that nobody seems to give darn anymore. That's an awful feeling any time, but especially when you are traveling/planning travel.


DonTopaz is offline  
May 4th, 2011, 05:21 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
I agree with the plastic bag tip and am impressed with the pair of porcupines.

There might be more darns given if shortfalls were posted. But I respect your choice to exercise restraint.
atravelynn is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 03:28 PM
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Porcupines have been a very rear sighting for me, wish I'd been there to see them.
Femi is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 04:00 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 5,286
Thanks for the report. As you know, I'm off to Tembe in a month. Sad it's so dry - too early for that. They had floods in January when I was arranging our trip. Tembe is a public/private concession with KZN, so I'm not surprised about no off-road. Will definitely request the walks.

Sabi Sands has lots of leopard. But common! Cool you saw so many.

Sounds like a great trip.
christabir is offline  
May 18th, 2011, 12:55 AM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 76
Surprised you were booked in to The Royal, the city is not a place anybody goes to anymore, so I am not sure why these booking agents don't seek better advice before making the bookings.
kimssouthafrica is offline  
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