On the 6th August, I departed London for Cape Town to embark on a two week holiday in South Africa. This time I was in tow with my husband and two kids (aged 8 and 11).
We hired a car for the duration of our stay in South Africa. Our first stop was Cape Town for two nights – we stayed in Sea Point at the Winchester Mansions. The location of the property was good and we were able to park the hire car just outside the hotel. They do offer car parking that you can pay for and also a free shuttle that we were able to use to go to the V&A Waterfront. It was great to have the car as we were able to explore the different areas at our own pace. We especially liked Llandudno beach – wow what a little gem, especially at sunset. The kids just loved climbing on the rocks and running in/out of the cold sea …..brrrrrr !! We drove to places like Hout Bay to enjoy the delicious seafood that’s on offer in this area, and around Constantia to take in all the beautiful scenery. We took the kids to the V&A waterfront to mull around the shops and ride on the Cape Wheel. We had booked some activities like zip lining, but due to the changeable weather it was sadly cancelled and Table Mountain was closed due to maintenance. Having said this, it didn’t deter us as there is so much to do in Cape Town that we just found alternative places to visit like Simons Town and Boulders Beach, and just past Boulders Beach, a beautiful hidden gem called Franks beach (here we saw a sea otter eating a squid, which was super lucky to see). Our only regret was that we felt we didn’t have enough time in Cape Town – we could have done with another day or two. You could easily spend a week in the city, and if your clients have the time, I highly recommend they do an absolute minimum of three nights.
Our journey continued to Hermanus, on the way we stopped at Betty’s Bay Marine protected area, and Stony Point penguin/sea bird breeding colony. The entry fee was R25.00 for adults and R15.00 for children. We really enjoyed it and found it less busy then Boulders Beach. We were able to walk on the walkways to see all the penguins, and the scenery was gorgeous. They also had a café and toilets. When we arrived into Hermanus we checked into Lavender Manor Guest Lodge. The location of the guest lodge was perfect as we were only four minutes walk to Grotto Beach, which again, is just a gorgeous stretch of beach as far as the eye can see. It’s classed as a Blue Flag beach. The guest lodge was located around seven minutes drive from the town of Hermanus. They have a cliff walk which is part of the Fernkloof Nature Reserve so we walked along this cliff path for around two hours to get into town. It all depends how fast you walk, and because there are so many beautiful look out points, we stopped quite a bit to take it all in. It was whale season, however sadly we didn’t see any from the land, but we’d been told that guests who had gone out on the boat had seen some. Over the two days we explored Hermanus Town and the Whale Museum, and we also took a drive up to Rotary Way which is a stunning look-out point which looks down on Hermanus. A great recommendation for a restaurant was the Pear Tree in town – a small intimate restaurant with delicious food. You would have to pre book as it gets really busy. Another recommendation if you didn’t want to go into town was Dutchies by Grotto Beach. Just by the Marine Hotel they have a rock pool which the kids spent hours exploring for crabs, star fish etc, so again lots to do over the two days.
On the morning of our departure from Hermanus we thought we’d take one last shot to see whales – we drove to an area called De Kelders which is known for the whales coming quite close to the land as it’s deeper along the coast. It also had a wooden look-out point. We waited for a bit, but sadly the whales were not to be seen this time. That’s nature though – you cannot guarantee it. At least we tried.
From there we carried on driving to our next stop which was Oudtshoorn – the drive was breath-taking with all the scenery and mountain passes. We stopped off at the famous Ronnies ‘Sex’ Shop which is along the Route 62 in Barrydale. It’s a bar and restaurant but has a funny story attached to it …….. Ronnie was building a farm stand. During construction, Ronnie’s friends played a prank on him by painting the word “sex” on his sign. Instead of a farm stand, he left the sign as it was and opened this pub instead. It’s now a ‘must do’ stop if you are driving along this route.
When we arrived at Oudtshoorn we drove to our accommodation De Opstal Country Lodge – what a charming, rustic property. We didn’t have long before we had to drive to Bufflesdrift (only six minute drive) for dinner and then a star gazing experience. The star gazing experience was at Buffelsdrift and run by a gentleman called Jan. It was fascinating looking through the telescopes and seeing planets like Saturn and Jupiter. He kept it very interesting and engaging for the kids so they loved it too. We also got to see the moon and were able to try taking photo’s through the telescope on our mobile phones. The next morning we drove back to Buffelsdrift for our Meerkat experience. This is done on a game vehicle and early in the morning as this is the best time for the Meerkats. Our guide was very knowledgeable and it was fascinating learning all out them. I would recommend it as it’s a different experience. Another regret was not spending another night in Oudtshoorn so that we could have taken the kids to see the Ostriches and Cango Caves – amongst other activities too.
Next stop – Plettenberg Bay. On the way we stopped off at Knysna Quays for a toilet stop and mooch around the shops. We arrived at Hog Hollow to check in and we were then taken down to the Keurbooms river for sunset cruise, where the kids got to doing some SUP (Stand Up Paddling) too. They absolutely loved doing this, they had so much fun. It was very peaceful so they felt like they had the whole river to themselves. After the cruise we went with Andy (the owner) to a bar/ restaurant called Enrico’s for a drink. What a stunning location right by the beach. The kids were able to run down to the beach and play on the rocks while we sat and watched on. The sea, however, is not a swimming beach as there are some riptides, so definitely no swimming that day. We went back to Hog Hollow to eat dinner on site, and what a lovely dining area and food. Breakfast was on the deck in the morning, with stunning views over the Craggs.
The next day we had a full packed day – we went to Hog Hollow Horse Trails to get paired up with our horses for the day. My husband and kids have not been horse riding before so it was super exciting. The process of filling out the forms etc was very smooth, the staff were very friendly and the paddocks not only had horses but an array of rescued dogs and cats, along with some chickens and piglets. Needless to say the kids (including me and my husband) were in our element. Once we were all sorted we took off on our horses for a two hour ride through the forest. Our guide was amazing! Our first stop was Monkeyland where our guide waited with our horses while we went to look around. We paid our entrance fees and then waited for our guide to take us around. It was great to be so close to all the different species of monkeys. Birds of Eden was next door so we could have gone there too, but we decided to get back onto our horses to ride to Bramon Wine Estate for lunch. It was a delicious set lunch with a great variety to suit all tastes. We then headed back to Hog Hollow. That night we went into Plettenberg town for dinner at The Table. Plettenberg Bay is still in my opinion a wonderful place to base yourself along the Garden Route. Lots to do in this area – wish we’d stayed longer! We didn’t get to do any tree top canopying or elephant interactions – the list goes on for activities here.
Now it was time for us to head to the Eastern Cape for safari! On arrival at Kariega we were introduced to our ranger and directed to our accommodation at Main Lodge. The kids were given a Kariega bag with a pencil case and book. We had a quick turnaround before our ranger Brett came to collect us for our afternoon game drive. The sights were good – we saw a large herd of elephants including babies which was amazing. I’d never seen such a large herd in the Eastern Cape before from my previous experiences. On one of the game drives we’d just been to see some Lions and as we drove off our ranger informed us that we had a flat tyre so we had to get it changed – that was adventurous as we stopped and all had to get off the vehicle for Brett to change the tyre. It was handled very professionally and we all felt safe. All in all the game drives were really good and we saw loads. The accommodation was extremely spacious and the food was very nice; they even did a special treat for Logan for his birthday – all the staff came out to sing to him and present him with a full size cake which we shared with all the guests on our dinner table. That was a very nice touch!
Next stop Lalibela, the drive was very easy! Upon arrival we were met at the reception and our bags were loaded into another car while we checked in. Our hire car was taken to be parked for us for the duration of our stay. We were then driven by Elvis to Marks Camp. We received a very warm welcome and were then given an orientation before going to our room. It felt so warm, cosy and welcoming from the start and I immediately felt like we were on safari! The food was very good and the staff were all amazing. One of the evenings we had drumming round the fire/boma before dinner. The rooms were delightful, lovely décor and great for families. The pool area was very nice as it overlooked a watering hole. We saw buffalo at the watering hole too. The game drives were excellent and the sightings were amazing. We got to see two male lions and a female chasing a warthog, which they then took nearby the waterhole at Marks camp where we could hear them growling and bone crunching!
I was blown away by how much they have done to get Lalibela to the standard it is now over the recent months. We liked the fact that there was no WiFi in the rooms – only in the main areas like the dining room and lounge. We also enjoyed the communal dining as we got to meet some lovely people from all over the world. The staff also sang to Logan and presented him with a huge cake for his birthday – we were amazed as we were not expecting them to do this for him as his birthday was the day before we arrived at Lalibela. Such a lovely gesture, and again, we were blown away by the personal touches.
Rob also showed me all the work they do for the community – incredible and very moving to see what they have done for the local people. They actually had a big lunch where they were serving all the kids the day I was there, so Rob was showing me where it had been prepared and where they were taking it too. He also showed me the football courts they are building as well as the clothes library they have set up. He introduced me to one of the gentlemen that teaches the community how to sew. A lot of the products we saw in the shop were handmade by the community. Incredible project and just so heart-warming to see what goes on behind the scenes. We loved everything about Lalibela, and everything about our big family adventure in SA!.
And, just on the property summary front:-
- Winchester Mansions – good location. Very traditional. Great staff and service. Good for families
- Lavender Manor – great location near Grotto Beach. Easy to get into town on foot or taxi or self-drive. Rooms very spacious and décor fits so well with the surroundings. Amazing attention to detail. Stunning views from roof top. Small pool, but with being close to the sea it doesn’t matter that the pool is small. Service was brilliant ! Good for families
- De Opstal – great location. Rustic and charming. Rooms were very large and eclectic décor. Service was amazing – they couldn’t do enough for us, and the owners make this property. Good old fashioned hospitality. Good for families
- Hog Hollow – great location up in the Craggs. Lots of activities to do in the area. Not far to get to Plett. Accommodation was brilliant, we were super lucky to be put in the Villa. Service at Hog Hollow was excellent – very friendly staff. The owners are very hands on too. They were great with the kids. Keurbooms river cruise was excellent, as was the horse riding to Monkeyland and the Bramon Wine Estate. Great for families. Highly recommend a stay at Hog Hollow
- Kariega Main Lodge – good accommodation – spacious. Good food and friendly rangers. Great views. Friendly staff. Great game viewing
- Lalibela Marks Camp – Great for families. Incredible game viewing. Brilliant pool areas for both kids and adults. USP – overlooking the waterhole. Cosy and intimate dining areas. In fact the whole lodge felt very personal and cosy