Flew overnight from Heathrow. Arrived on time and were very pleased to be met as we got off the plane, as I only got a few hours sleep. Meet and greet whisked us through passport control, baggage pick up and customs, then took us over to domestic to check in for Hoedspruit.
First impressions of SA are very favourable. Our guide was lovely and we heard a lot of laughter wherever we went. We arrive in early summer, a beautiful day.
Good flight to Hoedspruit, then picked up and driven 90mins to Simbambili. Lovely welcome when we arrive and are shown to our beautiful room. Straight into lunch overlooking the water hole – a herd of impala is drinking, then back to try and get some sleep. Jumped into the plunge pool –freezing but really woke me up.
At four, after iced coffee, we went out for the first drive with Justin the ranger, Willis the tracker and four other guests. Within 15 minutes we were watching a pride of lions eating a newly killed buffalo.
Onwards and we saw so many different antelope – impala, kudu, djiker, then, as the sun was setting, we came across a young female leopard. So, so beautiful and so close! She passed within a couple of meters. The animals have learned that people are no threat in vehicles, whereas if we had been on foot we might have been in danger. We sat and watched her for 20 minutes as she walked to a termite hill, surveyed a distant herd of impala, then climbed a tree for a better view. Stunning.
Onwards until sunset when we stopped and were given wine. Very thoughtful and most welcome.
Geraldine’s 60th birthday. They knocked on our door at 5am and after tea we set off, going straight to the buffalo kill to see how things were going. The lions had been joined by a mother and two cubs – super cute. Still eating but the carcass was much smaller now and very smelly.
Onwards and we came across a herd of elephants – just extraordinary to see them in the wild, and essential to treat them with respect as they are very dangerous if threatened. One young female flapped her ears and danced around a bit to tell us to be careful. As we drive through we see beautiful birds, antelope, little mongooses, so many animals. We stopped for coffee then were dropped off for a 90 minute walking safari back to the lodge. Had to walk single file to not look threatening – a very different experience.
Then a welcome breakfast at 9.30 and back to catch up on more sleep.
Lunch at 1.30, and the first thing we saw was a big bull elephant at the lodge water hole. A wonderful birthday present! More sleep, then out at 4pm, when the big mission was to find a giraffe. We didn’t find one, but did find four rhinos up close, so we had seen the big five in 24 hours.
Back for supper in the Boma, an open circle with lamplight and open fire fantastic atmosphere. Great supper, then birthday cake and happy birthday to Geraldine.
Up at 5am again, and still trying to find the giraffe. And we did and followed them into the bush. Shyest of all the animals so far, but so elegant. Onwards, and we saw the lions with the cubs again, having moved on from the kill.
Breakfast was off site in the bush – they had set up fires, tables the whole thing – just great.
The afternoon drive was the best yet. Highlight was definitely the baby rhino and its Mum. Funny little pootley thing. Only a month old. Nearly tripped over a log. You know that something is special when the ranger gets out his camera. Then onwards when we nearly drove into a big male rhino who stood his ground glaring at us for a while before reluctantly letting us pass. Then buffalo, more lions and a wart hog. As it was getting dark a male leopard appeared, and we followed it into the bush for a while. Then on the way home Willis was shining a light and caught three eagle owls in a tree, a bush baby and a chameleon. An amazing drive – best yet.
Woke before the knock, cup of tea and we’re off, just us again. Cooler today and we didn’t see much at first, but then we came across a herd of elephants – 14 of them. Also zebra and we stopped for coffee by the hippo pool where a couple of fish eagles were posing beautifully.
Breakfast and back to the room. Only two more drives now, beginning to think of next stage.
Off to Cape Town today after the final drive. Good flight, arrived in Cape Town to 50mph winds – the doctor I think they called it. Picked up the car from the car hire, which was nice and easy and drove into town. So pleased we paid the extra €20 for the satnav.
Guesthouse lovely – upgraded on arrival and welcomed with excellent bottle of wine. Cheers 360 Private Travel!
Dinner at a really good sushi restaurant in The Waterfront – Willoughby’s.
Lovely breakfast and on the road by 9am. Our guide was excellent – very knowledgeable. Drove down the coast, stunning beaches and big waves because of the strong winds. Wild plants were stunning. Drove to Cape of Good Hope – coffee then climbed to the top to look at where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.
Drove on, through Simon’s Town, very pretty, to Boulder Beach to look at penguins. African penguins, established in the 80s. Adorable – got very close. Some people try and stroke them but get pecked! Afternoon at Kirstenbosch.
Dinner at the Black Sheep – excellent food and great atmosphere.
Beautiful day, wind had stopped. Breakfast by the pool, then ready to go out. Our first freestyle day.
Walked down into town, through the Company Gardens. Very tranquil. Ubered down to the Waterfront where we saw seals and found the Museum of Contemporary African Art.
Dinner was at Aubergine. Really good, excellent sommelier.
Last lovely breakfast at the Abbey Manor.
Drove down to Hermanus – blessed be the satnav – took about an hour and a half. Stopped at Siever’s Punt and saw one immediately! We saw two adult whales and a calf, all rolling around, flippers akimbo. Towards the end they started poking their heads out and the flukes of tails were visible – will die happy.
Onwards to Franschhoek. Guesthouse is great, room spacious and lovely bathroom.
Le Coin François for dinner. A new restaurant recommended to us – really excellent.
Good breakfast. Justin works hard to make this place run well. At times one wonders if he has a twin brother.
Drove to Paarl for Babylonstoren. Amazing set up with cheese making, scent and soap, wine of course, with tasting, meat, plants, olive oils, gifts, the lot. Could teach the French a thing or two about running a winery.
Hot today – went up to 34 degrees. Went to the farmers’ market and shops to buy presents. Nice vibe, lovely people. Took until midday, then drove to La Motte winery – we had had two of their wines at dinners here. Tasted seven wines of increasing weight. Bought some.
Off to Mauritius today. Arrived at Le Residence late but first impressions are very impressive. Upgraded to Ocean Suite thanks to 360 PT.
First dive today at Dive Passion dive centre. Mauritius is one of the best places to dive in the world and I wasn’t disappointed. Fantastic fish – like swimming in a fish tank. Loving days of diving, lazing on the beach and beautiful long walks on the sand.
Best dive today. Dive master pointed out a moray eel – tried to tickle it. Plus loads of other beauties including the Mauritian clown fish – big one, 15cm long.
Afternoon sun was shining so stayed under the parasol, but Geraldine still got a bit burnt.
Woke and went for early morning walk as it was a beautiful day, then breakfast. Home tomorrow.
Diving was fantastic. Saw lots of good stuff, but highlight was the eagle ray, about 3m across.
Final dinner – they had set up a special table, with white coats on the chairs and flowers on the table – so nice. Geraldine asked for the big prawns with the curry sauce from the lobster curry to dip them in – lovely.
Still a full day ahead so want to enjoy it. Flopped on the beach, people watched, swam, drank fruit cocktails, ate lunch, swam again and before we knew it were back in the room showering and making ready to go home.
I have to say it – best holiday ever!