Indagare member Maggie Cruz recently returned from a vacation in South Africa with her husband. Here are her impressions from the trip.
Tom and I returned from South Africa completely amazed at how extraordinary the trip went. Even a month later, as we look at our bleached white Kudu horns, we still reminisce about all of the fun and incredible times that we shared in South Africa. From landing in Johannesburg until we took off for home, we could not believe that everything went so smoothly. It was one of the top three trips we've ever taken, and with running a marathon in Antarctica to climbing Machu Picchu in the number one and two slots, that is quite exceptional!
To begin with, I am glad we only spent two days in Cape Town in order to visit Franschhoek longer, as this allowed us to relax and tour the wineries both there and in Stellenbosch. That said, we had a magnificent room at the Pod; it was huge, overlooked the pool and had an incredible ocean view. The service was remarkable—one night the bartender taught us a little Afrikaans! It was lovely to return to the hotel during the late afternoon and walk along the shore’s clear waters as the sun was dipping into the ocean.
Our tour guide for the Cape Peninsula was exceptional. He taught us so many things about the native plants and the wildlife of the area. While at Cape Point, he brought us away from the crowds during a beautiful cliffside walk to the lighthouse at the end of the bluff. Afterwards, we drove through the different waterfront towns, which gave us a new perspective of the peninsula and of False Bay. We also saw the cute penguin colony, but skipped the boat tour to see the fur seals. I am not sure what I was expecting for Cape Town, but the landscape was so beautiful and dramatic that it reminded me of California.
Just as the Pod was delightfully close to the fun restaurants and nightlife on Camp's Bay, La Residence in Franschhoek was the opposite: remote and relaxing. The meals were great and the staff took excellent care of us. The chef came out to introduce the menu and the sommelier even came to our room one night to give me a flower and bid us farewell. They put a bottle of Champagne in the room for my husband’s birthday, and the room was so luxurious (we even came home to a bubble bath one evening!) The chauffer for our wine tours was extremely knowledgeable and took us to at least nine wineries. Our favorites were Grande Provence, Delaire Graff, Chamonix, La Motte, Rust en Vrede, Waterford and Haute Cabriere. La Residence did a wonderful job setting up the tours and making sure we had some private time together as well. Even though it rained one day, forcing us to cancel our picnic lunch, the guide arranged for us to eat at the restaurant in the winery.
Grootbos was exactly as you said: a nice respite from the sedentary nature of eating and drinking! On our way there, the driver took us to Birkenhead House to see the stunning property and views, which was such a delight. After a warm welcome during check-in at Grootbos, we took a very interesting cliff walk to the caves, learned about the early Koi Koi peoples and spotted a few whales with their calves swimming just offshore. At the conclusion of the excursion, we were pleasantly surprised to visit the "Cliff House," where we saw more breaching whales and enjoyed some Champagne. Grootbos is such a beautifully serene place and the sunsets were magnificent. My husband enjoyed shark diving, but it was far too cold for me. Instead, I got some great shots of the sharks as well as proof that he actually did it.
Finally, we arrived at Singita Boulders. What an entrance! The views were amazing upon landing onto the Singita airstrip. The design and location of the lodge were fabulous and the people were so friendly. Our room was excellently situated overlooking the river and surprisingly luxurious for such a remote location. After spotting the Big Five in one day, we knew we were in for a great ending to our trip. On my husband’s actual birthday, as we returned from safari the entire staff was lined up to sing happy birthday. I do not think I have ever witnessed a better-executed property. Not just because they were helping to celebrate our special occasion, but also because the service remained impeccable throughout the entire stay.
After repeatedly getting up quite early for safari, what heaven it was to relax poolside on our private deck, while watching baby elephants and their mothers take drinks from the river. Life truly does not get much better than that. Because the wine tasting night at Boulders coincided with our private birthday dinner on our deck—outfitted with rose petals, Champagne and candles—we instead did the wine tasting at Ebony Lodge, and to change things up we decided to have dinner there as well. To be sure, the service and staff at Ebony were just as exceptional. However, the best was to be saved for last. Upon checking out of Boulders, we all noticed that there was a leopard descending on the riverbank right in front of the lobby. Very quietly, everyone in the lodge started to sneak up to the front ledge to watch her slowly hunting a Bushbuck not far away. As she was creeping low, the Buck 'barked' and the leopard darted right at it but just missed. What a great final scene for a send off!
In all, Indagare created such a memorable journey for us. I must say, we fell in love with South Africa and its people, because Indagare allowed for us to see the country’s best. I do think Botswana and Tanzania will be a great encore, and we cannot wait to eventually plan that trip with Indagare.
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