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Trip Report - Joburg, Singita, Cape Town and Victoria Falls

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Mar 25th, 2002, 04:47 PM
  #1
Rocco
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Trip Report - Joburg, Singita, Cape Town and Victoria Falls

Despite my problems in Zimbabwe (particulary Matetsi Game Lodge), I had a wonderful vacation. Cape Town is absolutely beautiful and Singita was a wonderful experience.
Day 1 - Joburg overnight at the Rosebank Hotel, a nice four star hotel located a block away from the Grace Hotel.
Day 2 and 3 - Singita Private Game Reserve. Had too many close encounters with 4 of the big 5 (excluding Buffalo) to count. Our ranger was Neil and he was not only knowledgable but also very personable and fun to be around. Singita, unlike some other game reserves, allows their rangers to go offroad to follow the game allowing very intimate encounters that would have otherwise been missed. The food was good but not excellent. The service was good but not excellent. Although pleased enough with Singita to definitely return in the future, it did not seem to warrant the perfect 100 score that Conde Nast Traveler saw fit to merit, making it their number 1 vacation destination in the world.
Days 4, 5, 6 and 7 - Cape Town at the Table Bay Hotel. I had no regrets over staying at the Table Bay. While the Cape Grace was a very beautiful hotel, I thought that the Table Bay was equally beautiful. Two of my days were spent on tours and two of my days were spent looking at real estate as realtor after realtor zipped my wife and I around looking at properties in various parts of the City. Real Estate is amazingle inexpensive for an American or Western European. The Rand is down 45% against the dollar in the last year alone. We finally settled on a 17,000 sf plot of land in a gated community in Hout Bay. A beautiful 5,000 sf house was for sale next door for $3.5 Million ZAR (about $303,000 USD). I compare Hout Bay to Manhattan Beach, CA. Not as fancy as Newport Beach or Malibu but still very upmarket but with a real sense of community.
Days 9 - 12 Victoria Falls. Don't really want to talk about it. Matetsi is to be avoided. Only highlight was a great ranger (Casper) who didn't even have the benefit of a tracker for our entire stay. Got stuck for an extra day after Matetsi falsely told me they reconfirmed my flight. Flight had been discontinued two months earlier but didn't learn of it until I arrived at airport. Embarrassed and wanting to keep me from other guests, Matetsi put my wife and I up for free at the Victoria Falls Hotel, a welcome escape from Matetsi. Zimbabwe is a mess right now so if you truly must see the Falls, I suggest no more than two nights at the Victoria Falls Hotel. The Kingdom Hotel is a very unattractive, plastic-like hotel. I had lunch there and used the internet one day and I would never want to stay there.
Days 13 - 15 Cape Town. This time at the Mount Nelson, a very nice but older hotel. Nice to be away from the waterfront and explore the City Bowl a bit. Spent time in areas with real Capetonians and never felt uncomfortable.
All in all a very nice trip. Thinking of returning later in the year for about 8 nights in Cape Town only.
 
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Mar 26th, 2002, 02:42 AM
  #2
kavey
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Rocco
Thanks for sharing your experiences, sorry to hear about the nightmare at Matetsi, pleased everything else went well.
I hope you will forgive my nosiness but I was just wondering: You mention you bought a plot of land (and a house?) - is this for investment purposes, holiday home or are you intending to move there?
Would love to know how you came to buy real estate there.
Kind Regards
Kavey
 
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Mar 26th, 2002, 05:24 AM
  #3
Rocco
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Kavey,
Regarding the real estate, I bought a 1450 sq. meter plot (16,000 sq. feet for my fellow Americans) in a gated, secured, oceanfront community in Hout Bay for about $70,000 USD ($800,000 ZAR). I intend to eventually build a very nice home on the plot. The way I discovered it was by looking at the house for sale next door, a 2 year old Tuscan style 500 sq. meter home (about 5000 sq. feet) for $3.5 Million ZAR ($303,000 USD). The same type home would be well over $1 Million USD and I am truly disgusted with the price of houses in the Los Angeles area. I own two houses right now with one being my primary home and the other being income property for my wifes business (an upscale residential home for Alzheimers care). I am willing to lease (let) a nice luxury condo for $2,000 USD per month so that we can start a second home for my wifes business and hopefully realize a very early retirement in Cape Town or elsewhere (I am 30 and she is 29). The way I look at it, we can retire by the time we are 40 and still have income generating properties in Los Angeles if we go to Cape Town. The Rand is down 45% to the dollar in the last year alone. It is ridiculous how inexpensive Cape Town is to an American and I long to be in Cape Town at this very moment. It is such a beautiful city and although I love my hometown of Pasadena, CA, I can totally see myself being happy in Cape Town, at least for six months a year! If you want to be amazed, go to www.remax.co.za or www.pamgolding.co.za to see just how inexpensive Cape Town property is. I realize S. Africa is not as stable as W. Europe or the U.S., but there are many foreign investors snapping up property right now and I wanted to get my foot in the door as soon as possible.
 
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Mar 26th, 2002, 11:54 AM
  #4
billyjeff
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Can you tell us about the Victoria Falls hotel. We were scheduled to stay there but may opt for the River Club in Zambia
 
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Mar 26th, 2002, 07:30 PM
  #5
Rocco
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After Matetsi, I really enjoyed my single night at the Victoria Falls Hotel. It is a beautiful hotel and when compared to the Kingdom and a couple other places, even at $400 a night, it is well worth it.
The game viewing is not good in the Vic Falls area due to neighboring hunting lodges combined with poaching. If the River Lodge is a game reserve, I would skip it. Really, you should not stay more than two nights. Spend the rest of your time in Cape Town, on safari in the Sabi Sand reserve or elsewhere. Besides seeing the falls, maybe doing some activity such as white water rafting or flying over the falls, you will probably want to stick to your hotel and the Victoria Falls Hotel is the best place to spend time in. If you do ultimately go to the Victoria Falls Hotel, you need to speak to a manager and make sure that they give you a 70% discount off all expenses other than the room price. The prices are SO INFLATED that it is ridiculous. They immediately told me not to worry that they would apply a 70% discount to my bill. Also, ignore the signs at the hotel that it is illegal to change money for other than the bank / government rate. That rate was a measly 55 per $1 USD. I got 180 on the street and was escorted by my guide to make sure I didn't get ripped off. Victoria Falls does have a lot of poverty and despite having very friendly people, there isn't much to see in the City but the Falls are one of the most beautiful sites I have ever witnessed.
 
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Mar 26th, 2002, 08:37 PM
  #6
Mary
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I am always intrigued by Americans who want to but property in and move to CT. I grew up there and lived there for 34 years and moved to the States 16 year ago. While I love CT and I still have very close family living there, I am not at all relaxed when I visit. The crime gets to me. Here I do not think twice about driving around alone at night and there I would no longer do that. I suppose it is difficult to live with the huge changes in urban crime etc. My husband really wants to buy property there again and I am against it. It is wonderful that people have the confidence in the country and not think it may follow in the footsteps of Zimabwe. Rocco pleased you had such a wonderful time in CT.
 
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Mar 27th, 2002, 04:43 AM
  #7
Lisa
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Glad you had a great time and that you loved Cape Town. I always tell my friends that it is the most beautiful place on earth. Just looking at the Twelve Apostles (mountains) flowing into the sea at Camps Bay is breathtaking. My husband grew up on the slopes of Table Mt with a view over the City bowl. I never imagined that I would live anywhere else but in Cape Town. Oh well!
 
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