South Africa with African Travel Inc.
I spent one night in Johannesburg, two nights at Thornybush and three nights in Cape Town featuring Queen Victoria Hotel and Belmond Mount Nelson. From the time I stepped off the plane in JNB, African Travel made our group feel welcome and safe. They had greeters meet us when we got off the plane, expedited us through customs and immigration, assisted with luggage and porters and took us to our transportation. This was the case for every airport arrival and departure and they were even in JNB to meet us and assist us from our domestic flight to international flight.
The Thornybush Private Game Reserve is adjacent to Kruger Natioanal Park. They have several properties on the reserve. I stayed at Thornybush Waterside Lodge and viewed Thornybush Game Lodge, Saseka Tented Camp (both in their Premium Collection) as well as Jackalberry Lodge (Waterside and Jackalberry considered Classic Collection). The Saseka Tented Camp just opened eight months ago and has already had at least one repeat guest! This would be a great property for honeymooners or anyone that wants more privacy. There was a millennial group there while we toured and it looked like they were having a good time. The tents here were absolutely stunning.
Observations and information of my Safari Experience:
Open top vehicles used with driver and tracker. They seat nine but they will only put up to eight guests in vehicle. Very comfortable seats and plenty of room. Theatre style seating and back room is bumpiest. Please note you are out for three hours-go to the bathroom before you leave! You can take a “bush pee” if you need to go during the drive.
Tipping guidelines for your drive staff and lodge staff are in the room information booklet. In South Africa you can tip in Rand as well as USD (newer bills only). If you are not taking a bushwalk after your drive, you can where flip flops, sandals, tennis shoes. You will not go out of your vehicle except for a “Sundowner” drinks on the last night drive of your stay in the bush or a light breakfast on the last morning of your stay out in the bush. Dress in layers. I went from shorts and t shirt to wearing a blanket over my lap, jacket and scarf on one ride. They provide blankets and rain tarps.
The crafts and brand wear in the gift shops at the lodges were priced well. Please buy from the shops since they support the locals. I had no problem doing this! Get to know your trackers and drivers-they have great stories. We asked ours to have a drink with us the last night and they obliged. Also listen to their directions. They are the ones that keep you safe.
I took a Wine Country tour to Franschhoek and vicinity. This is a quaint town with great shopping. Many wineries here and we did a tasting, lunch, and a blending class. The blending class was quite fun and interesting. We were able to bottle our own blend and take with us. We also stopped at the last prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated and say where he did his Freedom Walk and statue. I also went down to the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Point, The Penguin Colony, and had lunch at Bertha’s in Simon’s Town-great seafood platter! This is a coastal town where I would recommend some time to stroll. I recommend booking an early morning tour, especially in busy season. The road gets quite congested by midmorning.
The Cape Town City Tour was excellent and again, I recommend a private tour: you will see beautiful views of Table Mountain, the city, and Company Garden. They also took us to a private diamond/jewelry store. Great prices and we were given a demonstration of diamond cutting. This was my first experience to Africa and I am hooked – cannot wait to go back again!