Cat's South Africa

One of our South Africa Specialists Cat, is currently travelling around South Africa on a journey of discovery.

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Start to plan a trip like this >>> South Africa Blog April 2017
by Catherine Denton
Bookmark my blog here!

Wednesday 19th April 2017

Having left Loughborough, it was time to hit the road to commence my journey to South Africa, a fantastic destination in the Southern hemisphere.

I arrived into London Heathrow to check-in and noticed it was definitely less busy this time. I even managed to get through security within ten minutes! I flew with South African Airways, which is South Africa’s national flag carrier airline. I particularly wanted to experience the service whilst on-board this flight. Having continued through departures, the gate was announced and moments later, I was taking a familiar route to terminal B (it took around a fifteen minute walk to this specific terminal).

After I had boarded the aircraft, I realised that the flight wasn’t as full as what I had initially thought in mind. In fact if you asked nicely to a member of the crew, you could move to a different seat at their discretion. I did this, to take full advantage of the comfort when it came to sleeping for my overnight flight.

The flight didn't leave London Heathrow until around 9:00pm however; you were still offered the choice to eat dinner which was served about an hour after take-off. Although the time was slightly later than what I was used to, I didn’t want to miss out on what the airline had to offer. On this particular flight, there was a choice of three delicious dishes which were, beef stew, chicken curry or pasta. I was pleased that South African Airways catered for all sorts of dietary requirements however, I would recommend letting the cabin crew know prior to boarding.

Not only was there a variety of meals to pick from, but also a good range of drinks. I would recommend asking for a bottle of water during your overnight flight. Please do not worry if you struggle to fall asleep quickly because every seat came with an entertainment TV set with many films to browse through. Additionally, the crew offered you a comfort pack filled with essentials such as, snuggly socks, an eye mask, a toothbrush and toothpaste.

As I closed my eyes for the night, I couldn’t wait to wake up for the day ahead!

Thursday 20th April 2017

Having woken up, breakfast was a simple affair of either continental or hot breakfast to choose from. Once arriving into Johannesburg airport, I had just over two hours of free-time before my next flight to Cape Town. The journey did not stop here! This was more than do-able however, I would advise to stay vigilant and keep moving.

First of all, I approached the immigration desk, where it was hassle-free because there was no custom form needed. I was extremely lucky at this stage, because I was seen almost immediately after going through a queue of people. Afterwards, I took another walk and headed to the suitcase carousel to be reunited once again. I would recommend taking a colourful one, to avoid the continuous flow of black suitcases! Once I had followed the signs for transfers, I went over to the desk to check-in my suitcase for my second flight and took the escalator upstairs. Please note, that you will get the boarding card for your second flight at the original airport, mine being London Heathrow. I intended to go to terminal B for cosmetics however; I decided to take a left for the main hall, around the balcony and up the escalators, ready for my flight to Cape Town. Walking past the check-in desk, I knew the gate reference beforehand as I was kindly told when I checked my luggage back in. Gates C, D and E were at different areas towards the end of the airport so; I followed the signs for security just in case I had acquired anything in the short time. I walked downstairs as I was flying from gate E and wanted to arrive in plenty of time. Please bear in mind, that Johannesburg airport is not as straightforward as some airports in UK.

The flight to Cape Town was fairly easy however; the downside was that there was no entertainment system available. Therefore, I would recommend bringing something with you for the two hour flight. I chose a sandwich among several other refreshments at no additional cost. This could perhaps be something that our own domestic airline could evolve to. Upon landing, it was a relief to see my suitcase and off I went to begin my South African trip.

I was being met by a representative of African Eagle, a service we include for all our clients. Elton, a native of Cape Town, held a sign with my name written on. I thought that he was a brilliant guide as he drove me to my hotel. He pointed out the famous highlights for instance the mountains, the hospital and various others. We discussed the townships that we passed. South Africa is the centre of such commerce and development but there were areas that told the other side. We passed one location, where a number of shacks were present. Poverty? was very much evident in the city however; there were elements of change and developmental projects in place.

At Cloud Nine Boutique Hotel, I was checked in quickly and later shown to my room. This hotel happened to be a combination of previously five properties, so they had been joined together over the years. I was pleased to be told, that my room was accessed across the small courtyard which was very pretty indeed!

I had two nights here and it was already 3:00pm before I was refreshed and ready to explore. In order to see the city, Anna from African Outposts (our ground agent in South Africa, who also arranged the hotel and transfers), had given me the tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus. With a map from reception, I walked about ten minutes to the bus stop. On-board, I exchanged the voucher for the pass which was printed like a receipt. This bus was on the Red Line which explored the downtown area, the cableway and Camps Bay. My next stop, was Table Mountain cableway and I was particularly looking forward to this activity. The one point that the Independent Traveller advises to our clients, is to see what the conditions are like on top of the mountain before heading up. As it was a beautiful day with no clouds and temperatures in their 20’s, there was no better opportunity to take the cableway and admire the picturesque scenery. It was truly wonderful! I also brought the cable car ticket on the bus up there with me, so that saved waiting in a queue. Please note, it is about R255 and the driver takes the card from you beforehand.

I made my way and was soon on the cable car which could easily take roughly thirty people. The cable car started moving and the floor revolved. So as I was busy with my camera recording part of the journey, I realised my hand holding the side was leaving me! However this was useful, because I was able to record the video from all different angles. When I was at the top, it was just breathtaking and you could see why it was, ‘One of seven natural wonders of the world’. The sights of the city and surrounding bays restricted me from putting the camera down.

As well as looking off into the distance, there were designated trails along the surface of Table Mountain. This whole area was protected with walkways so that the indigenous plants were undisturbed. There were some plants that were brought over by the Europeans for example, pine trees and you could easily see this, as you peered down the side of the mountain. I listened in on an informative debate on whether they should be phased out now or gradually. The trails were all in a loop with the longest being forty-five minutes long which stretched right across. I took a shorter route that had some impressive outlooks. Table Mountain had several different urban critters with the most noticeable on my visit, the Dassie.

Heading back, I rejoined the bus. At each stop, there was a timetable on the signs so you could plan the next bus. I decided with the remainder of the journey, to stay on this bus and let it take me fully around. This came to Camps Bay with the Twelve Apostles (or seventeen) then around to Clifton, Sea Point, Mouille Point, V&A and then back to where I first joined on. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the bus and thought that it was one of the best I had been on for interesting and insightful commentary. The guide was most helpful at directing which highlights to spot and I learnt a great deal. I looked forward to getting on the other route tomorrow.

Back at the hotel, it was about time for dinner. Cloud Nine Boutique Hotel was not too far from Long Street, one of the main streets for shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. Additionally just outside the hotel, was also a few establishments. I decided to head across the road to Kyoto, a Japanese restaurant which served delicious cuisine. I watched my sushi being prepared as I sat at the bar which was very exciting. The restaurant had a great atmosphere and it really made my first night memorable. As I was a single traveller, the locals were more than happy to have a chat and answer any questions I might have had. They made me feel really comfortable.

That night, I headed for bed to prepare for the next day!

Friday 21st April 2017

It was a new start to the day and thankfully, I was all caught up on my sleep. I chose buffet breakfast at the hotel, followed by a morning walk. I headed all the way down Long Street to see all the different shop fronts. There was even a trusty SPAR corner shop to accommodate all your needs.

I headed down to the Convention Centre for the WTM Travel Show Africa and having done this, I jumped on the Blue Line Mini Peninsula tour which I loved! First of all, I stopped off at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. In the top ten gardens in the world, you could not afford to miss this. Admission was R60 per adult and the gardens were just wonderful. Ideally, you could spend a whole day here exploring the different paths and exhibits. There were also hiking trails that could take you to the base of the mountain and beyond. My favourite part was the treetop canopy walkway, as it portrayed a perfect outlook of the city and the mountains.

Moving on, my next stop off was at Constania, the winelands. Here, I got on a different bus that took you on a short tour of the winelands. There were opportunities to get off at two wineries, Groot Constania and Eagle's Nest where you could discover the vineyards, do a tasting and buy some of their finest wines… I couldn’t say no!

Now this particular tour was my favourite, as the bus continued on to Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay and then to Camps Bay where you then followed the same route as the Red Line. This bus took you around the coastline for some stunning views. A tip from myself, try to sit on the left.

I didn't get off until I arrived at the V&A. Here, I walked around the waterfront and soaked the sights and sounds in the surrounding area. This was Cape Town’s premier shopping district (for our shop-a-holics) and eating scene but it was also a working port which helped in the keeping of this area. In terms of shopping, you could buy from several original creations, or from an endless list of high street shops and of course a few top quality, high end designers. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from but I favoured the food market for its choice and speciality of food.

There was also a range of entertainment from the aquarium, to Cape Wheel, the Diamond Museum and it was also the place where you took the ferry across to Robben Island. What added to the experience, was that the terminal had a museum to look around. This was regrettably the one thing I wasn't able to do however, it is on the top of my list for when I hope to return in the future.

Leaving the V&A, I took the hop-on bus back to Long Street to skip out crossing the main roads. On Long Street, I then walked back to the hotel stopping off at one of the small cafes to eat something light. As I ate a later lunch, I decided to leave dinner that afternoon.

Back at the hotel, I went up to the rooftop bar, one of the best features of the hotel as it gave you a 360 degree view of the city and the mountain range. I was offered a complimentary glass of sparkling wine, which was the best way to end the day and indeed my time in Cape Town as I headed to bed to prepare for day four!

Saturday 22nd April 2017

It was an early start and after having breakfast at the hotel, my transfer had arrived and it was back to Cape Town airport for the flight to Port Elizabeth. Please bear in mind, that the driver will ask your airline so that they can drop you at the most convenient place. After I checked in with South African Airways, I went through security and made my way to the gate. The departure lounge for cosmetics was reasonably small with a few shops and cafes to keep you occupied.

I explored Cape Town solo however; I was now met with a group of other travellers to explore parts of the east, led by Ethos Marketing/Newmark.

The flight to Port Elizabeth was stress-free and it happened to be a clear day so I could enjoy the landscape below. The airline also provided an excellent service along with drinks and light snacks.

I thought that Port Elizabeth airport was surprisingly small in comparison to East Midlands airport. When we landed, we went to one of two carousels for the luggage, it was reasonably accessible due to its small size. There was a handy information centre inside the arrivals halls that had information guides and suggestions of where to go and what to do in the area.

We met our transfer for our first stop, Cape St Francis, driven by Shaun and off we went. The scenery was beautiful, as we drove through many towns and fields but it wasn’t until you were close to Jeffries Bay, that you properly got a glimpse of the ocean.

Further along, we come to St Francis Bay. This was the biggest dairy farm in South Africa, a huge industry for the area. Finally, we continued our drive to Cape St Francis Resort.

Cape St Francis Resort may come across as a standard resort, but it was the ambiance that drew locals and tourists in. After having arrived, it did feel like a, 'village in a village' with the lanes and greenery around you. In fact, many of the villas were privately owned as holiday homes as they often return. Driving through, we were dropped off at the Beach/Sea Break, the five/four bedroom villas. This was the type of accommodation that we regularly use for clients from its position closest to the beach and amenities not to mention the villas themselves are beautifully done up.

The beach itself distanced miles of golden sand. From my room, I had a great view of the shoreline and the lighthouse. It was really lovely weather mind you; it would have been brilliant to see a storm as well from here!

Myself and the group went on a tour of the resort to the other accommodation. Village Break which were again villas, had three/four bedrooms (good for families, self catering-partial views) and Club Break which were one/two bedroom apartments. All the accommodation have kitchens and access to the beach or a pool. There was a restaurant on site (more on that later), as well as a shop and there was a Boma restaurant, which is open about four times a week during the busy months.

After taking in the surroundings, we boarded a special safari jeep and headed off. I would more than recommend anyone doing this while they were here. We went to Sunset Rocks, a hidden secret of the area where people come to watch the sun go down. Cape St Francis’ team offered refreshments and canapés and we toasted as the sun began to set. There were many other visitors who joined us, mainly locals who came with friends, families and dogs. Each of them carried picnic baskets filled with nibbles and beverages.

That evening, we headed back for dinner at Joe Fish located near the entrance. An important point to mention here was that the area was one of the biggest calamari industries in the country and it was very important to the community. A vast majority of calamari that was fished was exported to places in Europe and further - it still is considered as white gold. We actually had some at the restaurant that had been imported from the Falklands Islands which we still wanted to try, as it was a vital part for the local economy. You could try different varieties of calamari like Asian fused or filled tubes with spices or simply fried, with seasoning. It was delicious!

For my main course, I tried a South African dish called Bobotie. You could easily have a steak or fish but why not try something native? In my opinion, it looked like a spiced shepherd's pie with an egg topping and was mostly served with rice. I thought that it was very tasty but filling and you would find that almost anywhere that serves it, will have a slight twist on the recipe. The restaurant had a wide range of choices available that would suit any taste, as well as a good selection of South African's best dishes.

After a delightful meal, it was back to the hotel in preparation for the next day!

Sunday 23rd April 2017

Today, we spent the day in and around Cape St Francis. However, I had a great night’s sleep. Some people may be put off by the sound of the ocean waves but to me, it was soothing… even the fog horn didn’t disturb me!

Breakfast was a lovely affair. We stayed in a beach/sea accommodation, which meant that it was prepared in the kitchen area and served in the villas. In Village Break and Club Break, it was a short walk to Joe Fish. For breakfast, continental dishes were laid out and there was a menu for freshly cooked, hot food, from the kitchen.

After breakfast, half the group left for golf at the Links Golf Resort. My group prepared for a walk along the shoreline. We were doing part of the Chokka trail which took you left on the beach from the villa and around a sharp point into St Francis. This trail was fascinating for the different landscapes with sandy beaches to shingle, rocks and sand dunes. Our guide Shaun, the activity coordinator, guided us with interesting information on the area and further details on calamari fishing. In St Francis, we went to the harbour to see the Chokka boats that fish the squid but were in port due to the off season peak time. I learn that Chokka, was a local name for calamari.

Heading into the Seafood Market and Deli, this was our stop for a light lunch. With good views of the bay, we were treated to you guessed it... Calamari! However, unlike the calamari that we had last night, this was caught locally. It was extremely tasty and afterwards, Shaun gave us a talk on the calamari. The calamari unlike the squid, was actually difficult to study and understand. However, Shaun discussed the anatomy and the fishing which was really insightful.

You could do the hike and lunch yourself but the guided walk was enjoyable and also flexible as there were no set timings. Please note, that this does need at least a couple of days notice to ensure that a guide is available.

Afterwards, we were picked up in the safari jeep and taken across to Seal Point Lighthouse to see the Penguin Rehabilitation Centre. We weren't able to go into the lighthouse due to health and safety reasons but the Rehabilitation Centre was a revelation. This was one of three SANCCOB Seabird Rehabilitation Centres in South Africa and was mainly run by volunteers.

It was dedicated to helping vulnerable sea birds like the African Penguin with the hope of returning them to the wild. At any time, the centre could have up to six hundred birds to care for and rehabilitate. When we arrived, it was too late to go in (the resort will have timings to visit especially at feeding time) but you could look in the windows at the ones nearly ready to leave and at the back, the ones who couldn’t be set free. These birds were either too ill or injured to be able to be released so, they were housed at the centre. However, the centre has an impressive 96% success rate.

This felt like a full day but we did not stop there, it was back to St Francis in time to do the river and canal cruise. The resort had its own open board and you could do this trip daily. This trip took us first up the Krome River leaving St Francis behind until the banks were all green and peaceful. We landed at a holiday house that the resort owned for a delicious buffet and drinks. A few of us took kayaks to explore further upstream and apart from nearly running into the trees and the bankside, it was great to seek some adventure.

Heading back to St Francis, we journeyed through the canal system which was quite unique for this part. Lined along the canals were these beautiful, large holiday homes that were all unique and individual… some even had privately owned, small beaches! You finished the tour thinking of ways you could possibly gain the money to buy such properties.

Later that day, we were taken back to the resort for dinner. At this time it started raining, as there had been a drought in South Africa so this was hopefully a sign that it was coming to an end. Coming from the UK, if it rained, it rained and I was prepared because I had a raincoat.

My time at Cape St Francis was coming to an end and I wished I had longer however; I was ready for the next day ahead!

Monday 24th April 2017

Having woken up from a restful night’s sleep, myself and the group were ready to set off the next morning. I did however; go to the beach and wandered down to the ocean for a quiet fifteen minutes after breakfast. I thought the beach was most spectacular as it was incredibly peaceful!

Just a quick note before I carry on, the golfers went to the St Francis Links Golf Course. This is considered one of the top ten courses in South Africa, the golfers (who work at golf specialist companies) were extremely enthusiastic about the beautiful layout of the course with a lovely view to match. Golf is available to all visitors that come to visit Cape St Francis and the resort often organise it all for you (with some notice beforehand) at a great rate. If you are a golf lover, I would definitely recommend giving it a go!

Before we left the area, we stopped in St Francis to visit the local school, Talhado Children's Haven. This particular school is funded through the Government as well as generous donations from various organisations such as ourselves at The Independent Traveller, sponsorship and of course the local community. It was interesting because it was dedicated to ensuring the children’s education of the township and local projects in the surrounding area. I thought that it was a memorable place to visit and the guests were also able to look around with Betty's Tours.

We were then on our way towards George to stay at Fancourt Golf Resort. It was about a three hour drive, in which we stopped off in a couple of places. The first stop was at Storm River, where you could walk on the bridge for some real photo opportunities of Storm River and Tsitsikamma within the Tsitsikamma Mountain Range.

Next, was the Bloukrans Bridge Bungy. This was the highest bungee jump in the world from a bridge so if you are feeling up for a challenge, then please do have a go. There was a gentleman who had done it over a hundred times in 24 hours! (for charity).

Further along, we took a detour through the? Natures Valley which in my opinion, was a more scenic route towards Plettenberg Bay.

Our lunch stop was in Knsyna. I was looking forward to seeing the lagoon that was sheltered by the Heads from the ocean. I really didn't appreciate how huge it was and you could see why tourists come to holiday here. We had lunch on the waterfront at Dry Point restaurant which had some lovely seafood to taste. I then took the opportunity to walk the quays to take some pictures before we were again whisked away. When I return here, I plan to do a cruise to the Knysna Heads as there were lots more to see and do.

Driving around the lagoon was lovely and picturesque with further coastal views offered at Wilderness. Just past Wilderness, there was a scenic point overlooking the ocean, the town and the Kaaiman River, a really beautiful spot. There was also the train line still in view of the railway that used to be in use many years ago.

The drive to George was about thirty to forty minutes from here. On arrival, we went to the Fancourt Golf Resort to stay for the next two nights. The resort not only offered top golfing opportunities but was equally a fantastic place to stay for everyone. At the site orientation, you could see that it could perfectly accommodate families with young children, as there were so many activities to do. You could even use the resort as a base to visit places like Knysna and Oudtshoorn at their leisure. The facilities ranged from a leisure centre, to a spa and even a cinema on site! The accommodation had roughly one hundred and fifteen rooms and suites which were spread out nicely at the resort. There was also a retail estate, giving people the opportunity to live here. So, what else makes this resort a brilliant place to visit? Well, the well maintained scenic landscape and the Outeniqua Mountains as a backdrop is your answer.

Dinner was at Henry White's which was located at the historic Manor House. It was fine dining, with excellent service to match. At the end of the night, you were able to call for a buggy to take you back to your room.

After a wonderful day of exploring and pampering, I was ready to call it a night!

Tuesday 25th April 2017

Today was our full day in this area but before we set off, we popped down for breakfast. It was at La Cantina which was their Italian restaurant in the evenings. They offered just about everything that you could want for breakfast. Fruit, waffles, full hot breakfast, cereal the lot! You were able to help yourself at the buffet or you could choose something from the cooked menu or even both.

After breakfast, we split for our morning activities. A couple went to play a round on the Montagu course, while others decided to do a spot of bird watching around the resort. Myself and Amanda went to the gym before heading to the spa for an hour's treatment. The facilities were great and made for a very tranquil morning. I thought the spa provided a lovely service and one to recommend, where I chose a massage followed by some relaxation in the sauna and steam room.

After a light lunch at the Montagu Restaurant, we headed off to Herald's winery. We took a route through the Outeniqua Pass, which was truly scenic as you drove up. It was then a short drive from there to the winery. It seemed slightly off the beaten track; in fact you might have thought at one point… where am I? It was in the middle of nowhere but that was part of the charm. The winery was a quirky boutique vineyard where the tour buses couldn’t access, so it was almost private. The owners were reasonably new to the wine trade but the passion was evident. After a short tour, we were able to taste six different wines (both white & red) with a cheese and meat platter.

Returning to George, we took the Montagu Pass. This was a recognised historic route that was once taken to get the goods from the Small Karoo to the ships at Mossell Bay. It was a beautiful route to go on however, the roads were a little bumpier than what I had expected and incredibly narrow… only one car could pass at a time!

Back at the resort, dinner was at La Cantina, the Italian restaurant. I thought that it served great food and good wine to end a superb day. I would definitely recommend the seafood pasta with white wine sauce. It was heavenly!

That night, I reflected on the day and looked forward to what was in store tomorrow.

Wednesday 26th April 2017

This morning, we continued our journey onwards however; I wish I had just one more extra day. After breakfast, we arranged for our luggage to be picked up from our individual rooms and suites. We took the Outeniqua Pass again to the Little Karoo and drove on to the Great Karoo.

Questioning the drive, it was about four hours but the landscape did change frequently, which made it even more exciting. It was through mountain ranges to open spaces and also to mention, the homesteads and farms. You could never tell which wildlife would pass you on the way. To my surprise, I saw springbok, ostriches and monkeys.

We stopped off roughly half way at Willowmere. This was a small town in the middle of nowhere, as a strategic place to refuel both today and in the past. We went to a really quirky and unusual place called Sophie's Choice, a restaurant in the centre. As well as delightful food, the restaurant was designed with antiques and curios, so that you could spend some time looking around the bits and pieces. It was certainly a place you wouldn’t expect to find out there.

Going further along, we come to the town of Graaff-Reinet. Established in 1786 as a supply town, Graaff-Reinet was the fourth oldest town in South Africa and the 'Gem of the Karoo'. Our accommodation was at the wonderful Drostdy Hotel, situated in the centre of the town. It was a collection of buildings evolved into rooms, courtyards and meeting spaces.

After having settled in, it was time for the Valley of Desolution Sundowner Tour which was operated by Karoo Connections and led by David. Off in an open safari land rover, we made our way to Camdeboo National Park, also stopping off at the reservoir on the way. At the gates, our group was signed in, so please do remember this if you are travelling to the park solo (they require a passport number). Being in a vehicle, we were able to go off on a dirtier and bumpy road to see what wildlife we could see (also known as a mini game drive) and so, there were monkeys, mountain zebra, blesbok, ostrich and springbok. I would advise packing some binoculars or a long-lensed camera to capture the images.

Following on, we headed up into the valley to stop off at various points to take pictures of the breathtaking scenery, the panorama and the rock formations. Unfortunately, it wasn't much of a sunset but the setting created some lovely, light pictures on the rock formations. When the sun set properly, David set up for drinks and snacks to toast the end of the day. As it began to go dark, we made our way down and back into town.

David, who within the company runs the walking tours in Graaff-Reinet (more on that tomorrow), was extremely knowledgeable. This was not only on the history but also on the plants, geology and the wildlife. I thought that he was very engaging and entertaining because he clearly loved what he does. This made me really look forward to the walking tour in the morning.

We had dinner at the hotel restaurant which was a wonderful way to end the evening. The salmon if possible was highly recommended, as well as the lamb.

After a long, adventurous day, I decided it was time to sleep in preparation for tomorrow’s walking tour!

Thursday 27th April 2017

This morning, we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel. There was a selection of hot and cold buffet items, as well as a cooked menu. We were later shown around the hotel properly to see the different room types and amenities.

David met us back at reception for the Historical Tour. Some of this was walking, but we were also taken from area to area by van. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see everything but David took us to an overlook point and shared the history of the area from the tribes to the Europeans and what made the town what it is. Next, we travelled to the Reinstall House Museum which was originally the town parsonage, after having been transformed into a famous exhibit to portray the town’s history. The artefacts were either donated or rescued, ranging from transport, to clothing and toys.

Travelling around, the town had about two-hundred and twenty historical monuments. Most of them were houses and properties. For example, Reinet House, John Rupert Little Theatre, Urquhart House, The Dutch Reformed Church and of course the Drostdy Hotel. This specific hotel used to be at one stage the magistrate's residency. All the historical buildings had a plaque on the front to signal their importance, meaning that no-one had permission to alter them and that they would always be protected.

Later that day, we came back to the hotel for lunch, before rejoining David for an afternoon tour to Nieu-Bethesda. It was about an hour out of town and the best way to describe it was a new-age Bohemia, overlooked by Compassberg Mountain, the highest mountain in South Africa. It was an ideal place for artists to work on art projects and for tourists to visit as it had an extremely relaxed atmosphere.

After a brief walk around, we headed to Helen Martin's house, the Owl House. Helen Martin created an environment of her own creations and imagination through colour and statues which made her seem strange to some, living in the present but in the past, was recognised as an untrained, esteemed artist attracting thousands to come to her home. I found the experience fascinating, but I could also see why some would find it strange and dark.

Next, we went to a local, micro-brewery. Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you about the selection of beers that were on offer as I can't drink it however; the rest of the group enjoyed the dark ale and the honey favoured ale. The brewery also had a cheese platter to taste, but I am still not sure on the cheddar and stinging nettle.

It was soon time to head back to try the spa facilities, which was a nice way to end the afternoon. David came back in the early evening and took us to the Graaff-Reinet club. Now in my opinion, the hotel felt colonial but to my surprise, there were lounges, a bar and pool tables. It had some great remnants of history... the photos on the wall were dating as far back to the late 1800’s!

After another great day at the hotel, it was time to say goodnight. It was my last night in South Africa and what an adventure I have had.

A special mention to David from Karoo Connections, who took us around Graaff-Reinet, he was a fantastic guide with unlimited knowledge and stories, thank you.

Friday 28th April 2017

Today, I had my final hours in South Africa as I flew out of Port Elizabeth and back to London via Johannesburg. It was about two hours, forty-five minutes to the airport where we were dropped.

A massive thank you to Trev who drove us from Cape St Francis to and around George, to Graaff-Reinet and then to Port Elizabeth. Trev was a lovely guide who was only too happy to help and provided us with some useful bits of knowledge about where we were in particular places. I could tell he was passionate about his job!

At Port Elizabeth airport, it was soon time to board for the flight to Johannesburg. The airport was very small and I could find my way around fairly easily. Once I had arrived, it was a walk to terminal A-internationals, from Terminal B arrival hall. This does take roughly twenty minutes in which you must go through passport control (not as bad as Heathrow, so I was looking forward to that!) and also security.

As I had plenty of time before my next flight, about four hours, I had gone into the Bidvest Lounge to relax. It costed about £25 with food, drink, WiFi and showers all included.

I would like to finish this blog with a few thank you’s. Firstly to the group that joined me on the trip, Richard, Matt, Roy and Richard who made sure I was involved. The discussions of politics, marriage, golf and mishaps will stay with me for a long, long time.

Thank you to the properties that I stayed at, Cape St Francis Resort, Fancourt and the Drostdy. Each of them offered brilliant hospitality and service. I very much hope to stay again in the future.

Finally to Amanda and Kevin from Ethos who organised the trip, thank you for inviting me. This was such an amazing experience.

It was now time to go home... fingers crossed for sunny weather!

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Things to remember about planning your own fly drive or safari
1. Select the right size of vehicle for your party. Distances are a little further than you perhaps expect in South Africa.

2. Think about a good mix of accommodation and we strongly encourage use of some of the smaller guest house accommodation, which you will find is first class.

3. The information you will be provided with will give you detailed directions to your hotel/safari and we provide maps for your whole itinerary.

4. Please allow time for excursions along the route.
Excursions to consider
1. Whale watching. Hermanus has amongst the best land-based whale watching in the world. However many clients enjoy going out by boat to view these magnificent creatures. Strongly recommended in the whale watching season.

2. Shark Diving. In the same area inhabited by the whales there is some of the best great white shark viewing in the world and some intrepid travellers enjoy the cage diving experience.

3. The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe. For railway enthusiasts to travel on this vintage railway is a great half day excursion.

4. Walking tour in Graaff-Reinet The historic town of Graaff-Reinet includes some of the best Cape Dutch architecture in South Africa. Our walking tour allows you to explore and experience some spectacular architecture whilst learning of the development of this town.

5. Destination Valley Tour. Destination Valley, located near Graaff-Reinet, is South Africa’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon.
BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: For your financial protection and peace of mind, The Independent Traveller is a full member of ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) membership No. 96395/V9150 and a licensed and bonded tour operator. Our tour operating licence is granted by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) through their ATOL scheme. Our ATOL licence number is 4660.
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+44 (0) 1509 61 88 00 | holidays@
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