We stayed at Bob's Bunkhouse because they are the darling of the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree for hostels in Johannesburg, South Africa. The place was nice enough for a hostel (we even had our own bathroom) - but it's also in the middle of nowhere - and to get anywhere in Jozi expect to pay very hefty taxi fees. Bob and his wife are very nice, and they try hard to provide a safe and social environment - but the reek of cigarettes is everywhere, the place is filthy, and there are no local restaurants, either in walking distance or for delivery (except for very average pizza). With that said, Bob's has quick DSL, a coke machine that dispenses beer, and loads of hot water.
Brilliant little bakery-cafe run by a passionate baker-couple. Great place for brunch. Most hefty steak sandwich I've had anywhere.
Situated in the NE of South Africa in Limpopo Province near the town of Hoedspruit, Pezulu Tree House Game Lodge can be described as an ecologically friendly escape from urban life in the heart of the African bush.
As the name suggests, seven raised tree house units accommodating up to 16 people have been built around local marula trees (the marula berry is used to make Amarula liqueur) providing excellent panoramas of unspoilt natural surroundings.
Consideration for nature has been paramount. Live tree branches pass through these minimal impact wood, reed and thatch structures which are equipped with modern luxuries including en-suite facilities and private balconies for views of the Drakensberg mountains and early morning wildlife.
Hot air Ballooning and game drives are available as is outdoor outdoor dining in a traditional boma, around an African camp fire. There is a rock swimming pool as well as treetop bar and this retreat is ideal for people wishing to experience Africa without compromising luxury.
The Blyde River Canyon as well as Kruger National Park are nearby as well as Moholoholo rehabilitation centre, an endangered species centre and the opportunity to see the big five.
Set-price lunch of gourmet cheese, bread and salads by award winning cheesemaker, set in an elegant farmhouse with a lovely view of green. Everything in your meal is grown and made on the farm.
Off the N2 Highway across from Tsitsikamma Lodge
Calling ahead for reservations and directions is essential
+27 42 280 3879
Semi-classy African bush themed restaurant, where you can try game meats such as warthog, crocodile, kudu, ostrich etc.
If you don't want to commit to a large expensive game steak, try the smoked venison platter starter.
267 Long St
Google map: tinyurl.com/ylbhnu7
Bronx has been in existence for eight years and is the best known gay landmark in South Africa.
Newly launched Cape Quarter has an abundance of home décor, art and artefacts, fashion, beauty, health, restaurants, bars and lifestyle related stores are all delivered in traditional Cape architecture.
This is a really great place to stay, under two hours from Cape Town, close to the most beautiful beaches with warm water. Also close to the southernmost tip of Africa. They have really comfy rooms with a great restaurant that makes the best pizza ever! The kids love it as they can play by in the pool and climbing gym while we sip cocktails and munch pizza. Backpackers vibe with great service. Live music every now and then in the pub as well.
If destination heaven exists, fulfilling every exacting criteria of the jaded traveller, it would have to be Grootbos Nature Reserve on Walker Bay in South Africa.
I was lucky enough to find it when planning a journey from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
I’ve stayed before at places claiming to be “luxury,” which were anything but - but this is reassuringly expensive and did in fact prove to be more than worthy of the description. Well, if it was good enough for Brad Pitt and Kate Moss I should never have doubted it …
Bungalows are set in milkwood forest spread out either side of the main building. For two of us we had a huge lounge, outsize bathroom with bath you plod across to find the taps. There is a second shower room, and outside shower (for the brave or exhibitionist perhaps) on our own private decking, a kitchenette, dressing and storage area. The canopied bed was six foot wide. I lay in the bath looking at colourful birds inches away through the floor to ceiling window, surrounded by candles, then we lay in loungers on the decking, looking down across dunes to the sea as the sun went down.
But to recap. On arrival you are greeted with drinks and sat down to plan your stay - they like you to stay at least two nights as there is a full programme of activities, most of them included in the price. I was whisked straight off to go riding from the hotel’s own stables, in the “fynbos” - the local vegetation which is very pretty, very diverse and smells heavenly. Botanists go crazy apparently - David Bellamy has signed the visitors’ book.
The next day we went whale watching and had close-ups of southern right whales, cape fur seals and even a great white shark. There were only seven guests, the boat was comfortable and there was no danger of seasickness. We were there in October which is a great time to see whales, while the weather is still pleasant enough to swim.
We had a private guided jeep tour and walk in the extensive grounds with one of the local guides Silence, who pointed out plants, a mongoose scuttling across our path, birds - and even a highly venomous puff adder which had crept into the hotel’s ornamental pond and was being safely removed by an expert for relocation. Silence introduced us to weaver birds, bou bou, drongo, cape bulbul with their white-painted eyes, colourful sun birds and sugar birds, olive pigeons, yellow rumped widow, and the resident black harrier.
The restaurant was a dream, reached along the little wooded path from our bungalow, past the swimming pool and into the main central building. Five leisurely but elaborate courses with superb wine, attentive and friendly staff.
What I loved about the place was the combination of the feeling of absolute pampering, with touches like the soft white bathrobes, massive towels and full size up-market toiletries; but also a real sense of outdoor adventure, riding, sharks and unexpected wildlife encounters - it’s the real taste of how South Africa could be in an ideal world, where the staff are happy to take your round the local township and show you how they live, and the knowledge that the owners of Grootbos are aware of the fragility of the local ecology, sponsoring locals to visit the Eden Project to advise on the Fynbos, and giving much needed employment in one of the most outstandingly beautiful spots in the world.
Cape Town to Knysna, en route, the Western Cape hinterland.
If you wish to get away from everything and relax amidst stunning scenery, or prefer to meet the eccentric characters of local communities, there are miles of undiscovered pleasures to be had when traveling the vast expanses of rural South Africa. The best of the Western Cape's hidden gems are found off the beaten track, with news of them spreading via the local grapevine, but I so loved my stays at two particular guest farms that they deserve to be shouted about here.
Traveling east from Cape Town and then heading inland to the mountains and away from the tourist magnets on the coast, you'll find creative communities and an expansive welcome from waiting hosts. The first recommended stop is 'MaLplaas', (translation: Mad Farm, www.malplaas.co.za) in Botrivier where Lil and Mark, the deeply chilled proprietors who stay out of your way unless you beg them to play, offer an eco-friendly retreat in their beautifully decorated cottages, appointed with stylish objets d'art, and set in a secluded valley in a private nature reserve. Solitude and stillness can envelop you here, or if you'd prefer to get close to the wildlife, or carouse with even wilder locals, partying with the best of the Cape Town underground music industry DJ's, musicians and poets is rustled up for you at the drop of a hat. Lil says: "We are the only guest farm at the end of Africa catering for vagabonding nutters - they travel too!" This is indulgence without guilt as MaLplaas even offers carbon offsetting of travel costs with its indigenous tree-planting scheme.
Further on in the journey toward the Garden route, head inland at Mosselbay to find the Ruiterbos community (www.ruiterbos.com) and Peter and Christine Watt’s Percheron stud farm 'Outeniqua Moon' (www.outeniquamoon.co.za), where indulgence takes a less chilled, more family-oriented form. Here you'll be welcomed into the farmhouse to enjoy Christine's superlative cuisine or taken on coach rides for tea and cake on the hills by huge, gentle workhorses, the endangered Percherons that the Watts are dedicated to protecting. "Their survival is more important to our collective consciousness than we realize. They are our last link to a world that depended on horsepower and not machines to feed people" says Christine, who encourages her guests to cuddle the dozing colts. The views are magnificent, from horseback or from the honeymoon suite, looking out across the valley to the blue mountains, and the rooms are truly unique, with eccentric artwork and quaint decorative touches that feel like home. A contemporary bohemian take on 'ye olde colonial homestead', with the warmth and generosity of the hosts seeming equally otherworldly. In the Outeniqua Mountains the spirit of yesteryear lives on.
Stay at a lion park in Johannesburg and get a chance to feed the animals, play with a lion cub or take a cheetah for a walk.
Amazing opportunity to actually play with both normal and white lion cubs before they get big enough to bite. Then see the prides up close from your own car or a park tour vehicle, including a completely white pride.
If you volunteer you get to interact with the animals much more than the standard park visitors. You can also stay at the park in some of their on site luxury tents.
Nestled at the foot of the Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains at an altitude of 4,570 ft. It offers a fantastic range of sporting facilities- tennis, squash, bowls, badminton, swimming pools and a golf course as well as trail riding horses.
The Wellness Centre has a range of massage and health therapies which come in useful after a day's trip by 4X4 up the tortuous mountain pass to Lesotho where you can visit a Basuto mountain village as well as the highest pub in South Africa where a glass of hot gluwein is served in front of a log fire.
The scenery (wild flowers and animals along the way)is breathtaking.
It borders the World Heritage site, the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park an area singled out for its unique natural and cultural beauty.
The website is
Tel +27 33 702-1320
Google map: tinyurl.com/yeb2eog
Set on a rocky outcrop above a watering hole used by passing zebras, warthogs and elephants, tshukudu is luxury in paradise.
Individual wooden lodges (there are six) with sunken baths overlooking the view through floor to ceiling windows. My husband and I spent the first three days of our honeymoon here. Two jeep safaris each morning and evening and very knowledgable guides, we saw lions walk past the front of our jeep less than 10 feet away. But the best thing was the food - six courses introduced to you each evening by the chef with wine chosen for the occasion. Your guide ate with you so you could discuss what had been seen that day. Best. Holiday. Ever.
We were looking for something a little more unconvential than a Kruger safari but which still allowed us total emersion into the South African countryside: Thendele is just the ticket. Nestled in the folds of the Drakensburg Mountains, Thendele Camp sits in an awe-inspiring position overlooking the towering expanse of the Amphitheatre. Nature at its best and most dramatic.
The camp consists of several thatched huts, basic but clean and comfortable. We took the self-catering option, so you really are your own boss. There is a small store on the site but really you need to bring most of your provisions with you. It is not the easiest place to get to and after passing the toll barrier into The Royal Natal National Park, the camp is literally the end of the road! But it is well worth the adventure!
The area is a showcase for the diversity of South Africa's landscape; the numerous hiking trails lead you through cascading waterfalls; lush green hillsides and scarred rockfaces. Just as varied is the wildlife; home to the bearded vulture and black eagle, boks and baboons. Which leads me on to the only danger of a stay at Thendele- the baboons. They have 007 stealth and will take any opportunity to investigate your belongings. So ensure all doors and windows are carefully closed!
Thendele offers seclusion and excitment: a natural high!
After staying in bog standard, even fortress like hotels, with formal at best and surly at worst staff, The Cape Heritage Hotel was a drop into a blissful haven. The Cape Heritage is a boutique style, luxurious yet homely hotel housed in Heritage Square where you can find a host of restaurants just minutes away, in the historic centre of Cape Town. The staff come friendly, helpful and with a touch of dry wit. We were upgraded to a suite which was completely unexpected and the staff humorously didn’t tell us – I went down to tell them that I think we’ve got the wrong room (I was concerned my bank balance wouldn’t cope), and they said we’ve treated you! They even lent us some money so we didn’t have to go to the cashpoint the night we arrived.
The bed was gorgeous – so comfy you didn’t want to leave and you could practically float in the bath it was so deep (not so good for water conservation, but there is a shower).
Breakfast is served in a homely country/modern style kitchen where the girls transfer from reception mode to chef / comedian mode – eggs and beans to order (although they were a little taken by surprise that we wanted our beans hot!)
This hotel truly made our stay in South Africa memorable, comfortable and unique with a personal touch often lacking in many hotels.
Cape Heritage is in my top three hotels to stay in the world – stay anywhere else and you’re missing a treat!
Woolworths (nothing to do with the firm that went under in the UK) is a fantastic source of food if you are self catering in SA. Some products are identical to M&S foods you'd get at home (at rather more competitive prices). Look on the website for store locations before you go - we visited the Cape Town stores but there are others. There are some interesting variations on a theme to take account of local cuisine as well as the usual favourites (the latter very useful if travelling with kids.)
The Donkin Reserve, featuring a lighthouse and a pyramid, is one of the iconic landmarks of PE. The lighthouse is no longer in use, and now houses a military museum.
Sir Rufane Donkin, arrived here in 1820 to oversee the settlement of the embryo town, having been en-route for England when he was requested to remain at the Cape as Acting-Governor. The pyramid was built as a monument to his late lamented wife, Elizabeth Donkin, who had died while he was in still India. He was devastated by her loss, so he named the town Port Elizabeth in her memory.
The reserve is on the brow of a hill overlooking the City Centre and the harbour, and it was decreed that no building in front of it would be high enough to block the views. It is like the balcony of the city, and the views from here, especially at sunrise, are spectacular.
Access from Belmont Terrace, in front of the Edward Hotel.
Google map: tinyurl.com/yhwcysy
The Easy Travels Guidebook is aimed at those independent travellers who want to plan their own trip online and save money in the process. It is written from the perspective of a South African who has travelled extensively throughout the country. The last section of the guidebook deals with the FIFA Football World Cup that takes place in South Africa in June and July 2010.
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