South Africa

Whatever you do - book Katie the Wine Fairy.
— Ginny R.
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TO & FROM

  • Book everything through Elizabeth Bradford (elizabeth@flysaavacations.com, ph.520-696-9833) with South African Airways Vacations . She was responsive and flexible, helping us customize this trip specifically to what we wanted. She is able to secure much better airfare, hotel, and tour deals.  She allowed a trip to another continent feel like a real vacation.
  • Book your safari first then work everything around it. Fly direct to Johannesburg on South African Airways (affiliated with United Airlines) from JFK. Bid on business class tickets a week before the flight as the upgrade is well worth it.  Domestic flights were easy.
  • Our focus was safari, Blyde River Canyon, Cape Town and wine country. I recommend 3-4 nights on safari, 1 night on Blyde River Canyon, 4 nights in Cape Town, and at least 2 nights in Franschhoek.

CAPE TOWN:

Stay

  • Stay near or at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. We used uber to get to restaurants, tourist sites and then would have the restaurants call us a cab back to our hotel. We felt safe the entire time.

Eat & Drink

  • Pot Luck Club: Our absolute favorite, super cool scene-all ages, good cocktails and wine, and the food was so inventive! I had a green curry martini and have been craving one every day since. Secure a table 30 days in advance online. We sat at the bar so we could watch the kitchen. Pot Luck is sister restaurant of Test Kitchen. We did not get into Test Kitchen but were really happy.
  • For lunch there are lots of cool places on Bree Street. We went to Clarke's and loved it. Super local.
  • Bungalow:  Another total local spot, perfect for a sundowner (happy hour) and dinner. Get a reservation ahead of time or show up and eat at the bar. It's on Clifton Beach...ON THE BEACH! Lots of people with kids here.
  • La Colombe was a super fancy treat. It is located about 20 minutes outside of town towards Wine Country. Wine pairings and an option of 5 or 7 courses. Service was impeccable- compares to a Per Se or French Laundry experience in The States. 
  •  Two Oceans:  Ideal lunch with phenomenal views when driving the The Cape of Good Hope.

DO

  • Robben Island Tour is extremely worthwhile. We loved the 45 minute boat ride there and back. We were lucky enough to get to ride on a catamaran one of the ways and see humpback whales, dolphins, and seals. ARRIVE 30-40 MINUTES EARLY even if they tell you to arrive "10 minutes prior" as sometimes the boats leave before scheduled time.
  • Table Mountain: Buy tickets online for your first day in Cape Town. Tickets have a seven day window to use which will allow you to choose a day while you are there without fog and be able to see the whole view.  
  • Drive to Cape of Good Hope. The water looks like an Aquafresh commercial with so many colors of green, aqua, blue, and white. 
  •  Shop Watershed on the V&A Waterfront  for gifts. Somewhat like Chelsea Market but much larger with greater variety. There is a food hall next door for lunch or snacks.

Safari

Stay

  • Serendolla Lodge at Thornybush Reserve: I cannot say enough good things about our experience. Thornybush Reserve is a private reserve outside of Kruger. Serendolla Lodge arranges all game drives (two a day) meals and activities while you are there. Our specific lodge had a limit of 8-10 guests. We each had our own guest house that slept two.  There is one guest house that can hold a family of 6. We loved that we had a small experience where we got to know the other guests and staff. Monica runs the lodge and Chewy is the ranger. They exceeded all our expectations. 
  • Oliver's Restaurant and Lodge, Blyde River Canyon: We had a tour guide Clifford pick up up from Serendolla Lodge and take us on a tour/drive through the Blyde River Canyon. Highlights were Bourke's Potholes, lunch at Harrie's Pancakes, and Lone Creek Falls. Another one of my favorite dinners from trip was at Oliver's, where we stayed. 
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Winelands

stay

  • We stayed at Leeu Estates  The views, sunsets, vineyards, service, beds, shower, and mini bar were beyond all expectations. The owner is a big art collector and each room throughout the hotel features South Africian artwork. The pool is delightful. You feel like you are a part of the Winelands. They have a shuttle to town at your service and it is a short 3-5 minute drive. (We chose to stay in Franschhoek, the Sonoma of the Winelands, the other choice is Stellenbosch which is more like Napa.) 

Do

  • Drink Pinotage: This is the wine of South Africa and we were big fans.
  • We had the absolute best wine tour guide, Katie, from a company called The Wine Fairy. She was very fun and knowledgeable about everything- not just wine.

Inside scoop

  • Get at least 1000 rand in smaller bills (10's, 20's, and 50's) when you exchange money initially. You will need these for tipping and we found that some of the hotels did not offer change. 
  • They separate out VAT (tax) and gratuity line on your bill. Watch this as it was odd on some occasions. 
  • Apply sunscreen, especially in Cape Town.
  • Save your receipts that have a VAT line for reimbursement at the airport. Allow time for the two step process, one check of receipts for verification before you check your bags and then a stop (upstairs in Johannesburg) to receive payment. 
  • Pack a hat and binoculars for your safari.
  • Consider a good camera for safari if you are willing to carry it around.