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Africa Blog - by Malcolm Peasnall - Apr 2014
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What another trip to South Africa!
By the time you read this our Product Director, Malcolm Peasnall,
will be on his way to London Heathrow for a 10 day trip to South Africa
looking at additional product for our website and a brochure update.
There are two major travel shows for companies involved in selling
Africa, and South Africa in particular. INDABA, which Malcolm attended
last year and has also attended in previous years, is the established
show. The second show is WTM Africa and is aimed at very specific areas
from a highly selected exhibitor list of African suppliers and a highly
selected exhibitor list of overseas buyers. The overseas buyers are
also split into two separate camps: buyers and hosted buyers. Hosted
buyers are ones who are perceived to be major players in South Africa
and the cost of attending is met for those exhibitors. We are pleased
that Malcolm is a hosted buyer and you will be pleased that the cost
of his trip is not going to be built into your holiday! There are less
than 10 hosted buyers from the UK.
Over the next 10 days the blog on the www.itissouthafrica.co.uk website
will be regularly updated, subject to the limitations of Wi Fi availability.
The first part of the trip will be along the fantastic Garden Route
and the blog will contain lots of useful tips on how to best enjoy South
If you are looking for a destination that offers great
value and great weather from September through to May, then South Africa
is probably the destination of choice. Why not ask for one of our brochures
by clicking on the button below, or alternatively click on the quote
button, give us some ideas of what you want to do and we will put together
an individual quote for yourself. Make sure you bookmark the website
for the next 10 days to keep up to date with the blog.
Friday 25th and Saturday 26th April 2014
Good drive to Heathrow and, as usual, we used the meet and greet parking.
It is so easy and when it was raining really hard, as it was then, it
is so nice to walk into the terminal dry!
Check-in only requires your passport and we have normally pre booked
your seats so that part is all done. The flight departed on time and
the meal service was prompt and quite tasty. As usual, I then went to
sleep! Just about 2 hours before landing, Breakfast was served. This
was probably the best breakfast I have ever had on an airline. Good
fruit bowl followed by sausage, mushrooms, tomato, potato and scrambled
eggs. In addition, there was a yogurt and a bread roll with strawberry
jam. All topped off with a piping hot coffee. Well done South African
airlines and thank you!
The flight arrived 15 minutes early, which is great news, as this means
you are one of the first long haul flights to arrive. This then means
no queues at Immigration; which is great. If you have been through Johannesburg
you will know how good that feels. We then went to collect our baggage.
My bag arrived as soon as we arrived but we waited in vain for Jean's
bag. While Jean waited to see, I went to baggage services. They scanned
the checked bag receipt and told us the bag had already been transferred
to our onwards flight to Port Elizabeth. This really should not happen.
I am writing this while waiting for the flight to Port Elizabeth so
we will see.
So with just one bag we cleared customs and followed the signs for re
check-in. Your bags are already checked in to your end destination and
your seats allocated at Heathrow. However, you do have to re-check your
Then it is out of the door and up two sets of escalators to the normal
domestic check-in area. Always check the Allocated gate, but about 90%
of the connecting flights we use depart from the D gates; which is right
at the far end of the terminal.
Our flight to Port Elizabeth departed 25 minutes late so the bag saga
was delayed! On arrival, however, the bag was there!.
Thus a lesson to learn. We picked up car at the airport and set out
to drive to Cape St Francis. Located about 60 minutes drive towards
Cape Town on the coast. The weather en-route however turned quite poor
with heavy rain and also very windy. Not the best way to arrive at any
resort. On arrival we completed the normal check-in and were shown our
accomadation; which turned out to be a 5 bedroom house over looking
the sea. This is let either as a whole house, or, as rooms with a shared
lounge area. The breakfast is prepared in your room at a time to suit
you. The rain really came down but we drove down to the Joe Fish restaurant
which is the resorts on-site restaurant for a really good meal. A good
selection, and in UK terms, was very cheap for some excellent Fish.
Then back to room for some sleep.
Sunday 27th April 2014
woke after a great night's sleep to hear the waves breaking on the shore.
Pulling up the blinds we were greeted by bright sunshine. After a shower
a walk we took a walk directly from our house on to the beach, returning
to the house where breakfast was being prepared. Hopefully pictures
will be available for you to see, but suffice to say it was really good.
After breakfast we were shown around the rest of the resort, where they
offer a range of room types. The five beach houses like we had are either
sold for sole occupancy or are often sold on a B&B basis on a room by
room option with the common space shared. These all have breakfast served
in the property and all offer a fantastic direct access onto the beach
option. There are two other options: some 2/3 bedroom units with lounge
and kitchen and some more standard rooms with two double beds and a
small kitchenette. These units are just a short walk to the beach and
the occupants are served breakfast in the Joe Fish Restaurant. There
is a choice of several swimming pools and the beach properties all have
their own pools.
We were then treated to a visit around the area. The property has strong
links to a local school and local project where some local ladies have
formed a knitting cooperative and are now selling hand made products
both locally and around South Africa. The South African long board surf
championship are all set to start on the beach this coming week, so
many surfers out on the waves.
The area is really three areas: Cape St Francis, Port St Francis and
St Francis. Our area tour continued by taking the short drive to Port
St Francis, the home of about 40% of the South Africa calamari fishing
fleet. The port is really pretty and well worth a visit. There are several
really excellent restaurants and for a small fee the resort will transfer
you if you want to eat out of resort. The other area is St Francis Bay.
This is a very upmarket area and one of the 'places ' to be seen over
the holiday season. The area has fantastic houses built around a canal
system. It is also home to two great golf courses with very affordable
green fees. The resort offers a one hour cruise on the canal system
for about £10 per person or a six hour cruise, which also takes you
up the river for a Bria (South African for barbecue). This costs £25.00
including lunch and a drink. We then returned to the resort to pick
up our car. As we had not seen this property previously we had not used
it much in our trip planning, but following our inspection it will be
used much more.
the short 25 km drive back towards Jeffries Bay. The drive is quite
scenic and the weather by now is quite hot. Jeffries Bay is a large
more concentrated seaside area with miles of great beaches. Diaz 15
is located directly on the beach and again we had another bauxite overlooking
the beach. The property has direct access to the beach with several
miles of safe, clean and soft sand. The suite we had was a two bedroom
unit with separate rooms and bathrooms, again with a small kitchen.
All guests receive a small bottle of champagne to drink whilst taking
in the great sea view. After sorting out our bags we change into shorts,
and yes I know a frightening sight for the locals!
We then take a very pleasant walk on the beach, followed by a nice cup
of tea before going out for dinner. In South Africa many restaurants
are closed on Sunday evenings. It is common for them to serve lunch,
maybe to about 16.00, and then close. The owner had booked us into a
Greek restaurant in town that is open. Most owners of the B&B's we use
will do this for clients or ring for a table once you arrive. However
be aware that eating later on a Sunday night can be more of a challenge.
The meal was very good and again including drinks and tip came to less
than £15.00 per person.
Monday 28th April 2014
Breakfast was served in our suite this morning with bright sunlight
streaming through the windows. There is no doubt Diaz15 delivers a high
standard of service and standards.
We left the property after doing some housekeeping we drove back towards
Port Elizabeth and past the city towards Grahams town. Then the short
drive towards Addo National Park. Addo the the third largest Park in
South Africa. Each Park is in a carefully selected area and features
a unique Eco system. Unlike some of the private game reserves the Parks
board only allows animals that would have been found naturally . This
means that for instance there are no Giraffe in the park and no white
Rhino. There are however black Rhino.
However getting slightly ahead of ourselves. For clients who do not
want the full safari experience then we use some selected properties
in the area with the clients doing a self drive through the park. Enroute
to our lodge we took the opportunity to inspect Woodhall Lodge. This
is beautiful peaceful property on a working citrus farm. In fact it
supplies a major British supermarket amongst other markets. The property
is built around what was the old farmstead. Really tastefully developed
with some exceptional rooms all featuring outside showers. Just in case
you are wondering they also have the normal inside ones as well! Should
you chose not the full lodge experience then Woodall lodge is a very
is about 10 Kms from Woodall to the entrance to the park. We are staying
at River bend Lodge which is in a 14000 hectare private concession attacked
to the main park. The animal inventory is exactly the same but in the
private reserve you are allowed to go off road for big 5 sightings.
River Bend has a private gate .it is in a really good setting with lovely
views across the valley. On arrival we were taken to our room very well
equipped and a short walk to the main building. River Bend is fenced
safari which means the whole camp is surrounded by an electric fence.
These means that it is save to walk around the camp at night. Some safari
is not fenced. We will always tell you at the point of quoting so you
can make an informed choice.
We had a light lunch( our choice ) and then short time by the pool before
getting ready for our afternoon drive. At this time the temperature
was over 25C but experience tells us that especially early and late
in the season the temperature drops very rapidly when the none sun sets
so multiple layers at the ready but not many deployed when we left.
We had a good game drive seeing many plains game plus Buffalo and black
Rhino of the big 5.
True to form after our sundowner the temperature really dropped and
by now all layers were deployed plus the blankets. As is usual in South
Africa you do the last hour of your evening drive are done under lights.
Arriving back at the lodge we were greeted with hot towels and hot chocolate
A quick change and in for dinner. The food standard and presentation
at River Bend is exceptional. Dinner would have graced many really top
restaurants. Good choice and really well cooked.
Then off to bed because 06.00 will soon the knocking on the door.
Tuesday 29th April 2014
As predicted at 06.00 there was a knock on the door as our wake up call
arrived with our morning tea. Time to get up and get ready . Another
tip always add a layer to start first thing in the morning more than
you returned to the lodge in last night. If you have ever camped you
will know the coldest time is just before dawn. In the morning it is
the reverse of the afternoon, start with the maximum on and take off
as the sun warms up.
The plan had been to go to the main/ public section of the park so we
could see the difference. Normally guests at River Bend do not go into
the public sector unless there has been very heavy rain which can make
driving more difficult on the private section.
However as we were about to get on to the safari truck there was an
almighty roar from the male lions which boomed out across the valley.
Unless you have heard this call at first hand it is hard to explain
just how chilling it can be. Not having seen them the night before we
set out to try to find them. Being so close it surely could not be that
hard. Long Hope Villa is a separate camp sold for sole use often by
families that is run by River Bend. There truck was also mobile so we
set off to find the lions. Well they had over ideas! After about an
hour we gave up and headed the 6 Kms into the main section.
a little about the National Parks system in SA. Set up in the 1930's
the idea was to provide an affordable safari option to all. Kruger was
the first park and has grown to the biggest now being the size of Wales.
Like most National Parks around the world there mission is to show but
not alter what happens in the natural world. Therefore no native species
are taken out and hence the reason this area has no Wilderbeast or Giraffe.
The park has a road system and all viewings are done in your own car
and from the road only. This as you will see shortly has some issues.
In a private reserve or lease such as River Bend you can go off road
for Big 5 sightings only. There is accomadation in the park which is
quite simple but very cost effective. You can also camp but only in
properly fenced areas. Food service is provided mainly cafeteria style.
We set out to go to a high spot to see what we can see. What we found
was that two male Loins had also had the same idea and it was those
that had probably challenging the River Bend lions earlier in the morning.
Good sightings as they lie in the morning sun which was rapidly gaining
strength by now. We then went to the look out point and saw a lone elephant
in the distance. We then ventured around the loops go to the other side
of the mountain to another look out point. En route we spotted the wingless
Addo dung beetle. At first sight exactly the same as an ordinary dung
beetle but when you pick it up you can see the wings are fused together.
Shortly after this we found large amounts of Elephant droppings that
were very fresh. Then we saw fresh tracks of a large Elephant who must
have walked down the room less that 20 minutes before. You can tell
this as the urine marks were still clearly seen. However no sightings
of an Elephant!! About a mile further on in a small clearing we saw
a freshly killed Kudu. First thought was that the Elephants must have
scared the lion away from the kill. Looking at the tracks it was evident
that the Lion had been scared by the Elephants and the elephants had
been scared by the Lion as they had all disappeared into the bush. We
then caught sight of two lionesses in deep cover about 20 yards from
the kill. However remember we were now in the public part of the park
so we could not go 'off road' to get a better view. However it was a
great sighting and also piecing together what had happened was really
We drove a safe distance away for our coffee stop before we set of back
to the lodge. As we went back we saw what we presume were the Elephants
who had the skirmish with the lions at a distance as they made there
way down the hill towards water.
We arrived back at the Lodge only an hour late to have a great breakfast
on the verandah in some really hot sun. We were sad to leave River Bend,
excellent accommodation , first class food and one of the best rangers
in Elias's we have ever had. We are lucky enough to have done a lot
of safari but he added much to our in depth knowledge. We were lucky
to have him to ourselves so he was able to tailor the drive to what
we wanted without having to concern himself about other guests.
We then started to drive back the way we have come past Port Elizabeth
along highway N2 towards Cape Town. Our next stop is to be Kynsna, central
in the Garden Route ANSI the centre of so many things. We are staying
at Kanakop which we have just started to use and a property highly ratted
by Trip Advisor. We find Trip Advisor all to be used with caution. Trends
are often right but do times individual clients views only reflect there
Along the drive it started to rain heavily again and did not stop till
we arrived in Kynsna. Kanakop is situated high above the town with stunning
views of the lagoon. The property is family run with a real sense of
pride in the way it is operated . Everybody is in voted for a welcome
drink with one of resident owners and you do get the sense of staying
with friends rather than in a guest lodge.
More about the rooms and views in the morning but we has dinner at the
Olive Tree in the centre of town and this is a ' locals' restaurant.
Great food and really sensible prices. We return to sleep but the following
is something to note. As we left the restaurant the local police were
stopping a sample of cars at random for licences and road tax checks.
In South Africa you must carry photo ID if you are driving . There licenses
are photo so no real issue if you are from SA. If you are British and
have the old paper only license then you would need to carry your passport.
Wednesday 30th April 2014
Woke up this morning to bright sunshine and a wonderful view of Kynsna
Lagoon. Hopefully we will be able to send you a great photo I took with
the mist rolling into the Heads ( the entrance to the lagoon).
Breakfast is served family style and 3couples were staying last night.
German and 2 British couples. This is the nice thing about staying at
these smaller lodges and B&B's is that you not only meet the local
owners but many other travellers from around the world.. Kanonkop is
a great experience and will add to the range of properties we feature
in Kynsna. You will not be disappointed if you stay here.
10 years ago when we stayed in Kynsna we saw the very start of the development
of Simola golf course. When we went to see it the foundation of the
club house had been laid and the first tee and green laid. We decided
that we should go back and take a look at the course now. This is Jack
Nickcalus course which will mean something if you are a golfer. Now
it is a golf complex with its own hotel, spa and great club house and
top ranked course.
Jack stayed at Kanankop while supervising the building of the course.
Kynsna has 3 good courses, Simolau, Pezula and Kynsna Golf Club. The
is also a good course at Plattenburg Bay and the renown courses at George
are only 40 minutes drive away so a great spot to combine beach and
then took a detour via Brenton on. Sea a with its great beaches to take
a look at small development that is taking place there which mY in the
future other another option in the area. Then we set off on the drive
along the N2 towards Cape Town . It is about a 5-6 hour drive to Cape
Town and you drive through some great farming country. Small rural towns
with often towering mountains to the west. As this is the main route
we have done it countless times and still never tire of it. Our end
destination tonight is Franshoek which is in the wine lands. The area
between Stellenbosch and Franshoek produces some of the best of South
Africa's excellent wines. Franshoek has also become a hot bed of culinary
delights. Some of the nations best restaurants are located here. Great
local ingredients and an easy week end destination from Cape Town.
We are staying at Auberge Clermont which is just outside town and located
on a working wine farm. The rooms all overlook the vines, so close to
town but yet in an I lovely rural position. We have used this property
for a long time and it always exceeds people's expectations
Thursday 1st May 2014
A lot of wind last night but woke up to a real autumn morning. Bright
sunlight but there was a chill in the wind. The setting of Auberge Clermont
amongst the vines really adds to the experience . Breakfast during the
summer is served outside in the courtyard but as winter approaches more
and more they are served inside. A really well thought out fruit plate
plus cereals and some lovely croissants completed the cold section.
Five separate choices of cooked completed a great breakfast experience
Sent some photos back to the office both for the blog and for some upcoming
adverts. We took the scenic drive to Cape Town via Stellenbosch. This
what is called the wine lands.
In very simple terms the better wines are produced in the Franshoek
area while as you travel more towards Stellenbosh and Paarl that is
where the great standard every day drinking are produced. On arrival
in Cape Town we did a site inspection at the Portswood Hotel. Located
within easy walking distance to the V&A Waterfront this and it sister
property are being added to the hotels we offer in Cape Town.
We then checked into the Southern Sun. Cullian Hotel located right in
the heart of Cape Town and easy walking distance to the Cape Town Convention
Centre. We had an afternoon meeting with our South African ground agent
to discus the last year and our plans for next year. This evening an
opening reception at the Raddison Blue hotel tonight. It will be good
to see this hotel after it's recent refit.
Friday 2nd May 2014
My birthday today but it promise to be a hard day at the travel show. 08.15 start and a 18.00 finish followed by an exhibitor party.
The purpose is to meet and discuss both old and new product with suppliers. Rates set at these meetings enable us to offer our clients a keen price while ensuring that we only supply well proven product.
The first 90 minutes are a speed dating session which I am getting a bit old for!
I will report back probably on Sunday on the results of these two days and any new and exciting product.
Question from Mr ST from Durham :
Do all hotels have free WIFI?
This is a question that over the last 3 years has become asked on a very regular basis. The position has changed so much over that time.
The answer is now virtually every property we sell offers free WIFI to our clients. In some areas there can be a useage limit due to the quality of the line but, as we live in a small village in the UK, we have that issue to live with every day anyway.
Remember however, that on some very rural products, such as safari, they probably do not have WIFI at all and many also do not have mobile reception either.
If this is something you just have to have, make sure you let us know when we are working out your trip plan.
What is the cost of fuel and is it safe to drive. Currently fuel is
costing approx. 82p per litre as opposed to and average cost on the
UK of approx. £1.25-£1.30 per litre in the UK. I have driven in South
Africa now for close to 30 years. Never in that time have I ever felt
that I have been in any danger. As in the UK there are areas that are
not safe but you should never be routed even close to those areas. People
do try to sell you things if stopped at a set of traffic lights but
then they do in the USA as well. The other big bonus is that they drive
on the left hand side and the traffic laws/ rules are the same as ours.
We asked if any of you had questions we could answer while on our trip.
Some I will answer just to the person concerned but others are more
general so perhaps best answered on this blog.
Mrs J.D. From Exeter Devon asks is late April/early May. Good time to
travel along the Garden Route?
Great question. The weather is like late September in the UK so can
be more variable and we have already said we have had some real hearty
rain. However we have also had some lovely hot sunshine as well . If
you accept that the evenings will be cooler around 12C and you can get
rain then there are some bargains to be had.
Many hotels and B&B's reduce price or offer added services. If the
weather is not an issue it is. Great time to visit.
Hope that helps.
This question has come up several times about beaches in South Africa.
We are often asked to quote a trip around South Africa and then fly
to Maritius or Dubai for a beach holiday. For most of the time that
our guest travel in South Africa the beaches in South Africa offer everything
that the two other destination do without an extra flight. Along the
Garden Route there are fantastic beaches and on this trip we have seen:
Cape St Francis Jeffries Bay. Plattenburg Bay Brenton on Sea. Wilderness
In addition there are lots of extra beaches at places such as Hermanus
and Anniston Bay as well. If you are in the north then the beaches north
of Durbun and even higher up into KWN offer subtropical temperatures
and fantastic beaches. We have always thought that SA tourism do a poor
job of letting people know how good these beaches are. Try them for
yourselves you will not be disappointed.
Hope that helps.
We have set up a facility for you to email any questions you might want
addressing as we proceed on this trip. We will do our best to answer
them. Please email email@example.com with your questions.
More to follow...
to do next
If you would like to start planning your own amazing South Africa trip