Victoria Falls & South Africa Adventure

Victoria Falls & South Africa Adventure

Written By: AlyT

VICTORIA FALLS

We flew to Johannesberg then directly onto Victoria Falls - We had a beautiful hotel within walking distance of the falls where we were visited daily by deer, wild boar, and although we didnt see any apparently elephants have been known to frequent! A 2 night stop was perfect as really not much more we wanted to see or do other than the falls. 

We walked to the Wild Horizons Lookout Cafe, we got to watch some mad people zipwiring across the gorge!! 

We paid for a guided walking tour of the falls which was very informative and enabled us to take lots of photos and see - definately worth doing. The Victoria Falls are the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. The Local people call it "Mosi-oa-Tunya", it's a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The same evening we did a sunset cruise on the Zambizi river while enjoying a drink and nibbles! This was stunning, we got to see hippos, crocodiles, baboons, birds and elephants! Plus we got to see an amazing sunset.

The town is quite small with a few places to eat and many locals trying to sell their wares. Unfortunately we found them very pushy, so rightly or wrongly we stayed in our little bubble for dinner both nights.

STELLENBOSCH

We flew to Cape Town, picked up our car (really a must in South Africa) and headed to Stellenbosch, a university town in the heart of the wine region for a few nights. This was perfect after a 13-hour flight as its only 45 minutes from the airport. Stellenbosch is a university town in South Africa's Western Cape province. It's surrounded by the vineyards of the Cape Winelands and the mountainous nature reserves of Jonkershoek and Simonsberg. The town's oak-shaded streets are lined with cafes, boutiques and art gallerie

We booked a beautiful boutique hotel close to the centre. Breakfast was served in the gardens every morning with home-made breads and pastries – a perfect start to the day.

We organised a full day’s wine tasting – we were picked up from our hotel and shared the day with just one couple. We visited 3 very different wineries where we got to learn about the grapes, how the wines are processed, taste each winery’s range of wines and tried foods that complement them. Our last visit was to Boschendal, one of the oldest wineries in South Africa located between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the highlight of the trip and as you will find out later worth going back to!!

CAPE TOWN

We travelled back to Cape Town and staying in the Waterfront area, this is quite a touristy area but there are plenty of places to eat and shop and place to travel out to Robben Island. But really Cape Town and the surrounding area is all about the scenery, wildlife and beaches.

We spent a day travelling down to the Cape of Good Hope which is some 75k from Cape Town.

We drove down the east coast stopping off at Boulders Beach where there is a large penquin colony living in their natural environment. You can actually walk on the beach and swim with the penquins, an amazing experience. Again, as this is part of the national park and there is an entry fee.

Often the Cape of Good Hope is thought to be the most southern point of South Africa, but actually it is Cape Agulhas on the Garden Route. The Cape is part of Table Mountain National park and while there is a fee to drive there, definitely well worth it!

On your drive to the southern tip of the Cape you will see amazing deserted beaches, dramatic coastline and wildlife – you will always see the bold baboons playing in the road – beware they have no quarms about trying to get into your car and steal food, definitely not to be messed with!!

Once you reach the carpark, for those with lots of energy you can make the climb up to the lighthouse, for those less energetic you can use the Flying Dutchman Funicular. Once up there, there are great views over the ocean and unreachable beaches and a narrow-rugged path where you can walk to the southern-most point – if the season is right you may see whales breaching!

The drive back along the other coast towards Hout Bay is spectacular and you definitely want to make sure you have plenty of time to stop and take photos and enjoy the scenery. The first worthy stop for a quick photo is Noordhoek Beach, If you just want to take photos you can do this from the road, looking down to the beach but if looking to stretch your legs, there is a short detour.

You cannot miss the Chapmans Peak Drive – a photographer’s dream, with sheer drops to the sea and towering mountains above you as you wind your way along the rocky coastline. Always worth checking that the pass is open as it can be closed. There is a toll to be paid. As you descend down you will have spectacular views of Hout Bay.

Another notable stop is Llandudno Beach, I would like to say this is a quiet, get away from it beach (which it was 15 years ago) it is now obviously, a very popular beach for the young and trendy. There are no shops, cafes etc here so you may decide to give this a miss and continue on to Camps Bay.

Camps Bay is an affluent area of Cape Town, with beautiful white sandy beaches, rock pools, plenty of shops and eating places and has the amazing backdrop of the Twelve Apostles mountain range.

As I mentioned earlier we had an amazing experience tasting wine at Boschendal, so much so we decided to see if we could find a reason to go back! We were in luck – every Sunday they do picnic lunches in either of their gardens – that was it, we were off, we booked our picnic basket on line and headed off.  We drove up the rhododendron lined drive, parked up and found ourselves a table in the shade of the trees. We picked up our basket, ordered our wine off course and settled down for a relaxing afternoon. There was live music playing to add to the ambiance of the afternoon. Well worth it!!

Cape Town has a multitude of first-class restaurants – when we go to Cape Town I always research places to eat and pre-book before we go to avoid disappointment. Unlike holidaying in Europe, it definitely is not sensible to walk around at night looking for somewhere to eat. We would always book a taxi there and back for peace of mind. The only downside to South Africa to be honest.

Good Restaurants range from bistro style, wineries restaurants to first class place. I am tempted to share our recommendations but as they were several years ago I am hesitant to do so.

No visit to Cape Town is complete without visiting Table Mountain, you can hike up to the top (but definitely check out what is involved before you set off) the easiest way is to go up in the cable car, great views of Cape Town and Robben Island – the cable car rotates so no worries about where you stand. (I would highly recommend booking to avoid disappointment or a long wait).

Once you reach the top, as it suggests it is flat!! You can walk some distance so can experience views in every direction.  You can also book to go up for sunset which we did on another trip, was amazing being above the clouds!! There is a café, toilets, shops and museum up there too. Beware though, can be very cold!

Places to see in Stellenbosch:

  • Wine Train
  • Stellenbosch Wine Route
  • Jonkershoek National Park
  • Boschendal Picnic

Things to do in Cape Town:

  • Table Mountain
  • Cape of Good Hope
  • Boulders Beach
  • Camps Bay
  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
  • Cape Point
  • V & A Waterfront
  • Chapman’s Peak Pass

KWAZULU-NATAL

After our great week in the Cape Town and the Western Cape, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Durban. We were super excited as we were about to experience our very first safari. We had a long drive north into KwaZulu-Natal. We were very surprised, the roads were excellent and very quiet.

Our stay was at Thanda Private Safari – set on a 14,000-hectare Big Five private game reserve. well spoilt forever!! We really didn’t know what to expect, maybe basic!! No, we were booked into the tented camp. The 14 tents provide beautiful private viewing decks and en-suite canvas bathrooms. Biggest bed we have ever slept in!! The public facilities consisted of a relaxing reception area, a curio shop, a relaxing lounge area, an enhanced dining tent, a swimming pool. From the moment we arrived we were treated like royalty.

We had two drives a day, the first was a little brutal! An early morning call at 4.30am, a quick coffee and bite to eat before setting off with our driver and spotter in an open land rover which seats up to maybe 12 people for the next 3 to 4 hours. The drivers from each vehicles head of if different directions but keep in contact as if they see animals of interest they radio through. The spotter is looking out for any signs of recent activity of any of the big five. When you get the first sighting of one of the big five – what a thrill!! There is always a mid-drive stop for a drink and something to eat where you get the opportunity to ask lots of questions.

Arriving back about 9am for a hearty breakfast followed by a nice hot shower and a relax, lunch and swim before the afternoon drive.

The afternoon drive starts about 4.30 – again for 3 or 4 hours following same format but looking for whatever you haven’t got to see yet. The time flies and you really don’t want it to end. You are welcomed back with red-carpet, hot towels and a drink and all the staff know your name!!

The food was exceptional, with an abundance of wine and a three-course meal, served either in the lounge or around the fire pit under the stars!!

Three nights was perfect length of time, we got to experience 6 drives which gives you every opportunity to see some incredible animals.

ST LUCIA ESTUARY

We left after the morning drive and headed south stopping off at St Lucia Estuary.  St. Lucia Estuary is completely surrounded by a World Heritage Site – On the west and south, it is bordered by the estuary itself, home to about 800 hippos and 1,200 crocodiles. On the east it is bordered by the warm Indian Ocean, and on the north the Eastern Shores section of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. There is only one road leading into the town.

The town experiences many nighttime visitors – antelopes, leopards, honey badgers, mongooses, bush pigs and hippos have all been seen foraging in town. In fact the hippos make an appearance every night, there are warning signs everywhere!!

We took an hour boat trip where we saw loads of crocodiles and hundreds of hippos!!

We also drove down to the beach, there was lots of security at each carpark entrance and some very interesting signs!! This was a great way to break up the journey and few hours was perfect.

BALLITO

Our last stop before flying home was Ballito, 40k north of Durban. We booked into a beautiful boutique hotel where the food was superb. The hotel was on the beach, had its own pool and spa. Unfortunately, the weather was not good so our idea of relaxing was scuppered and the town really wasn’t somewhere we felt we wanted to walk around. We landed up eating in the hotel every evening, not that it was a problem!!

Now its time to go home!! Bye bye South Africa!

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