South Africa 2016
South Africa 2016
Sjana Elise Earp
My trip to South Africa was nothing short of AMAZING!
In May this year, The Wild Collective and I teamed up on the trip of a lifetime. One I surely would never, ever forget!
My brother, Sam, and I had just been in Dubai and we boarded a plane bound for Cape Town, South Africa. Unsure of what to expect, I was literally bubbling with excitement. I travel so often with my job, but to me, South Africa had always seemed to be this new and unexplored piece of magic and adventure. I’d seen plenty of beautiful images of the place. I’d done my research, planned places I wanted to explore while I was there. I follow a few Instagrammers and photographers from South Africa and Cape Town specifically, so I was constantly scrolling through their accounts in awe of the incredible landscape, scenery and experience that IS South Africa.
Landing in Cape Town, it was late afternoon. There was a fresh feel in the air and although my eyelids were heavy, my soul was light and energised. Sam (@samearp) and I wandered through the arrivals terminal, out into the carpark and managed to hire a car. A little bubble-like car. Nothing fancy. Just big enough to contain our luggage and our smiles.
Driving toward our first destination, I remember seeing one of the picturesque mountains in the distance. The sun began to set and I will never forget the way the sky danced colourfully around the mountain’s silhouette.
It was only a short drive, probably 20 minutes or so and we had crept our way up into the mountains and through the gates of our new “home”. We were staying at The Cellars-Hohenort Boutique Hotel by McGrath Hotels, but I say “home” because that is what it felt like!
It was as if we were temporary living on a huge piece of land, covered in lush gardens and green grass, endless rows of grapevines, rose bushes, duck ponds and courtyards all overlooked by the breathtaking mountain ranges. It was as if we had somehow found ourselves living amongst the pages of a beautiful fairy tale. And I never wanted to leave!
Our room was more like an apartment, with a very spacious living room (complete with a complimentary fruit bowl and ridiculously comfortable couches), a big bedroom, plenty of wardrobe space, a perfectly petite kitchenette and a huge bathroom to drool over. (You should have seen the BATH; it was perfect for relaxing in when the nights got a little bit cool!).
We’d awake each morning to the sound of happy ducks splashing about in the pond outside our front door, and sunshine trickling through into our lounge room. Breakfasts were either a continental buffet full of lots of fresh fruit, cereals and muesli, freshly squeezed juices, or a hot breakfast from the menu, limited only by our imagination really!
Although it was winter in Cape Town, it was still deliciously warm in the sunshine, so every morning we would grab our plates of breakfast then bask in the glorious light in the courtyard listening to the sound of a nearby waterfall and some sweet singing birds. Once we’d been stuffed like kings and queens at breakfast, we’d set off for a walk around the hotel grounds, through the gardens and vineyards, soaking up the winter sunshine and luxury before packing our daypacks and heading out for a little exploration and adventure. Then dinners were always a taste sensation dining at one of the restaurants available within the hotel grounds. (Note to all soup lovers and connoisseurs: this is where I tasted the best tomato soup I’d ever had to be honest!)
There are plenty of wonderful walks to do in Cape Town (that is one thing I was sure of from my research!) as there are so many mountains and viewing platforms to hike to and from. Staying at The Cellars-Hohenort by McGrath Hotels was such a great location because it meant that we had the peace, quiet and serenity of being perfectly tucked away from the bustle of civilisation, but still close enough that it wasn’t an effort to venture to new places every day.
The Wild Collective helped to create a list of things to do and see in Cape Town. So throughout our time staying there, we did just that! We soaked up as much of Cape Town as we possibly could!
- Table Mountain (hike or cable car)
- Lion's Head (hike)
- Signal Hill (hike)
- Newlands Forest hike
- Camps Bay beach
- Clifton beach
- Boulders Beach (swim or yoga with wild penguins)
- Cape Point Nature reserve (where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet)
- Cape vineyards (Stellenbosch and Franschoek are quaint little towns in the wine region)
- Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela served his jail term)
- Bo-Kapp (super cool and iconic bright colourful buildings in the city)
- V&A Waterfront (shopping and dining)
- Oranjezicht City Farm
- The Old Biscuit Mill Market (All weekend)
- Wellness Warehouse (the best health hub for all natural and organic snacks).
We stayed at The Cellars-Hohenort for a few nights, before bidding adieu to Cape Town and driving about five hours along the Garden Route (world famous drive full of stunning scenery!) to our new hotel in Mossel Bay, Gondwana Game Reserve.
It’s not every day that you are greeted by a herd of zebras when entering the gates of a hotel. It’s not every day that your bedroom overlooks a view so vast and beautiful it almost seems photoshopped! It’s not every day that you can wake up to wild lions outside of your window or elephants taking a drink out of the swimming pool. But at Gondwana, that is just some of the ridiculously awesome things that can and do happen!
Note: Gondwana is all about the conservation and expansion of both flora and fauna as well as eliminating poaching, and limiting environmental impacts.
Upon arrival we were met by some of the biggest smiles I have ever seen, with friendly faces offering us hot towels and a refreshing drink. We checked in, and a 4WD Safari truck (yep, one of those groovy khaki topless cruisers) dropped us at our luxury lodge. And “lodge” is an understatement! It was HUGE!
They were two-storey, three bedroom lodges, with a HUGE kitchen equipped with everything you could imagine. All bedrooms had ensuites and the living room (complete with fireplace) backed on to a deck that ascended into the true nature and beauty that Gondwana was. The staff informed us of everything we needed to know, and helped us arrange safari times for the following day, and then took us to dinner. Dinner was in a huge dome-shaped room. The ceilings were so high and the atmosphere that filled the space was nothing but relaxing. The buildings were all made from wood, straw and other substances that gave the resort a very warm, cosy yet cultural and traditional feel. Every meal we had was in this restaurant and every meal was equally as exquisite! AND the buffet breakfasts had more variety than I had ever seen before — ranging from fruit and spreads to cakes and muffins, assorted breads, cereals, muesli, yoghurt, etc AND you could also order from the menu hot meals and larger servings. I was in heaven.
We were up before the sun each morning, out in search for wildlife at the prime time. Our guides name was Kuhlman (pronounced “cool – man”) and he was rather awesome, to be honest with you! He had a way of making our daily safaris not only interesting and informative, but also very fun and exciting. We saw lions, giraffes, buffalo, elephants (and baby ones too!), zebras, hippopotamus, antelope, wildebeest, white rhinoceros, ostrich and various other animals throughout the park. Each day we took a new route and explored a new terrain. Even if we saw no animals at all the safari was worth it purely for Kuhlman’s company and the incredible views.
During the morning safaris we would stop for hot tea/coffee, fresh fruit and biscuits, and each evening safari we would have some sort of savoury nibblies and a whole Esky FULL of whatever drink tickled your fancy. The safaris were certainly a highlight of our stay at Gondwana Game Reserve, as seeing wild animals in their natural habitat is something so profound and wonderful that I don’t think I will ever be able to fully explain it. You’ll just have to experience it for yourself as it truly was an authentic African safari experience that went above and beyond all of my expectations!
I was equally as upset as I was excited when it was time to leave the Game Reserve. I didn’t want to leave such a wonderful world like Gondwana, but I knew that our final destination would be just as remarkable.
Tintswalo Atlantic Resort is a luxury boutique hotel perfectly described as a little slice of heaven. With a handful of lodges lacing the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, nestled snug between Hout Bay and Cape Town, it was the perfect way to end our time in South Africa. Our villa was right on top of the water and so falling asleep meant dozing off to the humming of the ocean kissing the shoreline, and waking up brought a smile to my face because it smelt like sweet sea breeze and looked like freedom.
We only stayed here for one night, so made the most out of it enjoying an incredible dinner at the hotel’s five-star restaurant. They have an open kitchen and the chefs are so lovely. I gave them a few thumbs-up to say thanks from my table and they seemed to appreciate it, haha. I fell asleep with an epic food baby and woke late for some poolside yoga and to lounge in a shoreside hammock (which is so cool by the way! You have to stay there JUST to lay in that hammock – best hammock spot in the world I’d say!) before checking out and heading to the airport, bound for home.
A huge thanks to Sydne and Roz at The Wild Collective and Kelly at The Asia Collective for helping to make this entire trip possible. Not only was it indescribably wonderful, but it was definitely entirely unforgettable too!
South Africa will forever have a place in my heart!
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