These reviews are mainly about the places we stayed but include places we visited too. We travelled up from Cap Town through Lesotho to Kruger National Park and then we flew out of Johanesburg
by catsholiday on March 26, 2010
Chapman’s Peak DriveThis spectacular drive known as Chapman’s Peak Drive has been built between the small town of Hout Bay and Noordhoek not too far from Cape Town on the south-western tip of South Africa overlooking the Atlantic Coast, and it has to be one of the most spectacular marine drives anywhere in the world.We left Cape Town quite early in the morning for our leisurely drive along past the Twelve Apostles Mountain peaks along the Chapman’s Peak coast road via Hout’s Bay and through to the Cape of Good Hope.The route is 9km long and has 114 curves and it skirts the rocky coastline of Chapman's Peak which is 593m high and is the southerly extension of Constantia Berg. The drive offers stunning 180° views with many areas along the route where you can stop and take in the scenery in one of the many pull in viewing points or even sit down for a relaxing picnic at one of the larger picnic areas located at one of the many wonderful views.We drive along the Great Ocean Road in South Australia and I have to say that this road is infinitely superior in terms of views and stunning vistas. Ever turn gave a ‘Ohh ‘or ‘Wow’ from one of us with bright blue sky, silver lined sandy coasts and secluded harbour towns nested in safe coves.This is a toll road for which we paid 28 ZAR ( about 11Zar to the £1 while we were there) s and you only had to pay in one direction, the return journey was free so for this small price we were able to experience this stunning drive from two directions which I felt was a bargain.The building of this spectacular road began in 1915 after engineers, geologists and surveyors decided on what they considered to be the best route. This route was along the soft band of shale between the mountain’s granite base and the overlying sandstone. The area needed for the road was blasted into the mountain side and is an amazing piece of road construction. The road was officially opened in 1922. Unfortunately rock falls were a constant threat and a fatal accident in 1999 lead to the closing of Chapman’s Peak Drive in January 2000.The reopening of Chapman’s Peak Drive as a toll road took place in December 2003 as a result of one of the most innovative road engineering projects ever to be undertaken in South Africa. The reconstruction of Chapman’s Peak Drive is an engineering feat that South Africans are justifiably proud of and is regarded as one of the top road engineering projects in the country.We reached the Cape of Good Hope and rushed up the hill to the top to see the last of the Atlantic waves crashing over the huge rocks. We had our young (aged 23 and 26) and actively fit and sporty sons with us and we had to keep up with them so it was a very speedy walk up but once up there we could see why so many sailors dreaded rounding the cape as the waves looked very large and wild. Once again when we got the Cape Point at our next stop we again speed- climbed to the top and not only looked out to see where the Indian Ocean currents met the Atlantic ones but also read about the many ship wrecks which happened off the coast along this area and it once again reminded us of the dangers of this area for ships.Having walked to the top of both points we were now ready for moving on to Boulder’s Bay where we hoped to see some African penguins. As I mentioned at the start of my review, we drove along the great Ocean Road in Australia and although it was a drive with stunning scenery, this drive far outshines the Australian drive. Other coastal drives we have enjoyed include driving along the coast of California from St Louis Obispo to los Angeles, along the coast along the south of France and also pats of the coastal drive in Spain from Barcelona through to Malaga but this drive in South Africa is certainly one of the finest.
by catsholiday on March 29, 2010
We left Cape Town quite early in the morning for our leisurely drive along past the Twelve Apostles Mountain peaks along the Chapman’s Peak coast road via Hout’s Bay and through to the Cape of Good Hope.We drive along the Great Ocean Road in South Australia and I have to say that this road is infinitely superior in terms of views and stunning vistas. Ever turn gave a ‘Ohh ‘or ‘Wow’ from one of us with bright blue sky, silver lined sandy coasts and secluded harbour towns nested in safe coves.We reached the Cape of Good Hope and rushed up the hill to the top to see the last of the Atlantic waves crashing over the huge rocks. We also walked to the top of the peak at cape Point. Having walked to the top of both points we were now ready for moving on to Boulder’s Bay near Simon’s town where we hoped to see some African penguins. We followed signs for penguins and parked our car and then followed more signs for penguins until we reached a kiosk. We paid 35R per person to enter the area and off we went along the first board walk. We were so thrilled to see three penguins resting on some rocks and spent some minutes taking photos before we moved on. As we rounded the corner they were everywhere. I have never seen so many penguins just chilling, lying, standing, drying their wings, kissing and nest digging. We took so many photos I think we almost filled our memory card. They were absolutely beautiful and so not bothered by all the tourists walking along the board walk and photographing them.We must have spent about an hour on both board walks before we really began to feel the need for some food so we reluctantly left our new friends and went along to the restaurant we had seen near the car park with views of the ocean. This was called the ‘Sea Forth’. We ordered various fish and sea food dishes. My husband and I did particularly well with the warm seafood salad as we had so much sea food and also piles of salad. I ate continuously while everyone else ate and was still able to had a plate full of salad and 4 large prawns over to the boys. One son had scampi and chips and the other had Cape salmon and chips as well as sharing half my meal.Both boys were keen to visit a beach and swim in the Indian Ocean so we went back to Boulders Beach and paid another 35R each to get on the beach. Amazingly once we were on the beach we noticed penguins on the rocks around the beach. As we were changing two of the little chaps waddled down between the groups of people and slipped in to the sea. This was where you could swim with the penguins which had read about but thought it had been an error. It was truly an amazing experience.My husband was in the sea with penguins darting around him. It was a little too cold for me but we did go over to the rocks and chat to t he penguins on the rock. One little chap was having a head rolling conversation with my son and we got some stunning photos of this and also as they popped into the sea and swam around our legs.This was the icing on the cake and a truly magical experience to be able to get so close to wild animals and interact with them. They were totally unbothered by people. They apparently do bite but if you were sensible and just stayed quiet near them rather than trying to touch them then they were happy for you to be there.For the price I think this experience would take some beating if you like animals and enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat. This is a memory that will be in my top experiences and I would thoroughly recommend visiting Boulders Bay if you want to see penguins in the wild up very close and even swim with them if you don’t mind the water being a bit fresh. I wouldn’t recommend swimming in winter as we were there in summer in January and it was still a bit too cold for me to go right in the sea!
Robben Island which is just a short boat ride from the mainland in Cape Town is most famous for being the place where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held captive for many years during the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Today it is no longer a prison but has been turned into a museum and guided tours of can be taken of the island to view the various historical sites. The island is an official World Heritage site today.If you would like to take a trip or just want to read more about the place than I can tell you then the website is www.robben-island.org.za. We tried to book at the ticket office down at the V&A waterfront but their internet was down so we ended up booking online. The tickets were 200Rand per person ( about 11 Rand to the £1 when we were there) . We just printed them off on the hotel printer and went along to the Nelson Mandela Gateway building, just by the Clock tower in the V&A waterfront at the appropriate time in the morning. The ticket office is open from 7.30am to 9.00pm daily.When you get to the Nelson Mandela Gateway building you are invited into a display area which shows many of the people who were involved in the fight against Apartheid. There are so very personal black and white photos in the display which gives you an idea of how much suffering there was during this time.. This building has a 120 seat auditorium as well as interactive and multimedia exhibitions as well as conference facilities.You are taken through airport like security machines before boarding the ferry across to the island. It is quite a small ferry with seating up stairs or downstairs out of the wind and sun. The trip across takes about 45 minutes and during the trip you get amazing views of Tabletop Mountain and Cape Town and if you are lucky you might see dolphins or seals. We were lucky enough to see a couple of seals but no dolphins unfortunately.Once you arrive on the island you are welcome by a loud speaker telling you to make you way to the buses. You are loaded on the buses until each is full then the guided tour begins. We had an entertaining guide with a lively sense of humour and a very sound knowledge of the island’s history and some of the people who had been imprisoned on the island.During the visit we stopped at the house where Robert Sobukwe was kept in isolation for most of his life in fact he never enjoyed freedom as he died a prisoner. We saw the historic lighthouse, the guest house where famous dignitaries stay, most recently the FIFA delegates to discuss the World Cup but Nelson Mandela also stayed here after he was a free man and President of South Africa. The limestone Quarry where the political prisoners spent their day digging out lime was another stop on the tour. During their day of hard labour they had a lunch break which they spent educating each other and many got to the level of university education by the end of their prison sentence. In this quarry is a pyramid of large pebbles or stones which is a sort of monument built by former prisoners in an impromptu way. According to our guide when Nelson Mandela and a number of former detainees returned to the quarry after they were free Nelson Mandela picked up a stone and placed it on the ground and others followed suit. The result was a small pyramid of stones. They don’t let the tourists get out at this point as some ignorant people decided it was a nice souvenir to take a stone off this pile and so that the pile was not gradually eroded they have stopped allowing people off the bus at the quarry.The next stop was the actual prison where we were escorted and guided by a former political prisoner who told us about his time in the prison and then escorted us through the the bock where we were able to see the actual cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life imprisoned. It was exactly the same as all the other cells except that they had put back in this cell the prisoner’s kit – bowl. Toilet etc.It was a very interesting tour which involved 45 minutes on the boat each way and about 45 minutes on the bus and then the rest of the time going around the cell blocks with the former detainee. You are not left to wander around by yourself until the end when you walk back from the prison to the harbour to meet the boat and you have about 15 minutes for this walk, to visit the toilets and the souvenir shop.I thought it must be very strange for the guide who was an ex-political prisoner on Robben Island to be showing people round it as a tourist attraction; I bet he never thought that would happen. It was a very interesting tour and I felt it was important to see this in respect for what these people suffered to bring an end to the awful racist regime of Apartheid. It is lovely to see that South Africa is now a truly multi racial society, not everyone is equally wealthy nor do they live in the same sort of houses but it is early days yet and in a couple of generations who knows what it will be like.
by catsholiday on April 11, 2010
De Zeekoe Guest farm, Oudtshorn, South AfricaWe booked the accommodation through roomsforafrica.com as we did with all our other accommodation for our trip to South Africa. This is an excellent site and covers all of South Africa for accommodation with pictures and details of what is available at each place.This is a working farm just outside Oudtshorn which has ostriches and seems to have crops as well as a huge area set aside for meerkat conservation.We had two superior rooms as we were lucky enough to be upgraded from the standard ones we had booked. We had a lovely queen sized bed with silk cushions edged with coloured ostrich feathers. There was a mossie net but I think it was just for decoration as we didn’t see any or get bitten. Our room had a shower and roll top bath in the room with a separate toilet. The boys had a twin room with ensuite bathroom which also had a shower and roll top bath. Beautiful Rooibos bath salts, soap, shampoo and body lotion was also provided in big containers that you were requested not to pinch, if you wanted some to take away they were for sale in reception!The dining and breakfast area over looked the grounds and swimming pool and then the mountains in the distance. Service was excellent and the food was also perfect. We had to pre-order our main course and being in the ostrich capital of the world we all ordered ostrich steak. At the table we were told the starters and they included butternut soup and another soup, smoked salmon with melon which was delicious and not a combination I would have thought of, risotto was also on the menu but we all went for the smoked salmon or soup. The main course was melt in your mouth ostrich steak, local vegetables and a sort of mini donut soaked in cinnamon syrup which sounds very odd but balanced the meal very well. The desserts offered were varied, cheese cake, crumble and then fruit salad and ice cream. The total including beer and wine was 225 ZAR ( 11 ZAR to the £1 when we were there) which we thought was fantastic value for four people and three generous courses plus homemade bread and walnut cheese to keep us going at the start as well.Breakfast was mainly laid out as a buffet with fruit, cereal, homemade bread and cheese, jams and toast and then a full cooked breakfast if you wanted it was part of the deal. We paid 900 ZAR per room including breakfast but that was for a standard room, I’m not sure how much we should have paid for the superior one but it was very luxurious and a perfect place for a romantic getaway.The pool was quite a decent size with about 10 sun loungers around it. As we were sitting reading by the pool one of the members of staff came over and brought us a tray of glasses and ice cold water with a slice of lemon in it which was just what we needed after our ostrich riding and long drive that day to get to Oudtshorn from Cape Town.One of the extras that are offered at this guest house was a chance to see meerkats in the wild. When we had seen it on the internet it was about £250 so we had decided not to bother. However, when we arrived at reception I saw that the price was 450 ZAR which was under £45 so we thought again. The boys decided that 5.30 am was too early to get up so my husband and I went alone. We met up with the guide at the crossroads and another car joined us too. We had to follow the guide to the part of the farm about 7 km away where the meerkats had been seen most recently.The guide was called Devy and his wife had very kindly sent along coffee, tea and all needed for a wake up hot drink. Devy also bought camp chairs for us to sit on while waiting for the meerkats to emerge from their burrow.While we waited for the sun to come up and the meerkats to emerge Devy told us al lot about the way meerkats live. He also explained why so many meerkats are being put into sanctuaries. People buy them as pets but after the initial interest of the meerkat as a baby wears off and the meerkats become mature they then begin to do the two things that are instinctive to meerkats one is of which is to dig. They dig anywhere, on sofas, in gardens, on the owner’s beds, anywhere they are allowed to roam. The other thing they do instinctively is to spread their scent. Meerkats in a family group scent each other every morning before leaving their burrow. Pet meerkats think of their human family as their group and therefore they mark their scent all around the house and on their humans too. Apparently house cat pee is like Chanel number 5 compared to meerkat wee so you can imagine how enthusiastically this sharing of scent is received by the human family. It is when these two basic instincts start to develop that the human owners decide that a meerkat is not a great pet and put it in the sanctuary at best or just into the wild where off course they do not survive as they have not learned to fend for themselves. Our guide was very unhappy about the new craze for meerkats as pets because they are not domesticated and will never be so but once raised as a pet they can never be released into the wild either.When the meerkat family emerged from their burrow they sunned themselves with their chests sticking out for a good 15 minutes while we watched them changing position and keeping guard in turn before they went off hunting for food taking turn at sentry duty and leaving one female behind to babysit in the burrow.It was an amazing experience as they look so cute and the advert for Compare the Market has got the meerkat movement s off just pat. It would have been nice to see the babies but we were a couple of weeks too early however I was very thrilled to be able to see them in the wild. There is no way you would just come upon them as they are really quite small and so well camouflaged that you would drive right passed them without noticing.So we had a wonderful animal experience in Oudtshorn seeing and riding ostriches and then watching the meerkats wake and sun themselves before going off on their morning hunt. This is something I would thoroughly recommend if you ever get to South Africa it is worth making the effort to get to Oudtshorn.
by catsholiday on April 12, 2010
Cape Town has one of the most dramatic settings of any city in the world with the flat topped Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill as its back drop and the Atlantic Ocean to the front. Cape Town is a very cosmopolitan colourful city welcoming 60% of South Africa’s tourists.No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a trip up Table Mountain and the day after we arrived it was a fantastic sunny, clear day so we headed for our visit as it is not always clear and the views both of the Mountain from the bottom and the views of Cape Town from the top are obviously best enjoyed when it is clear and Table Mountain has not got its table cloth covering it. Luckily we had no trouble getting to the cable car as the Peninsula Hotel offered an excellent, free shuttle service to the Mountain which also collected us and took us to the V&A waterfront and then again collected us for our return to the hotel.We bought tickets for the cable car which operates daily from 8.30 till 22.00 daily provided the weather is suitably not windy. The cost was 75 Rands per person (11 Rands to the £1 when we were there) which was pretty reasonable for a return journey and entrance to the Table Mountain part of the Cape Peninsular National Park.The cable cars are huge and hold 65 people. They are circular with windows all around and apparently have water in the bottom to help stabilise them when it is windy. On the way up the floor revolved so that everyone had a chance to view down wards and upwards. It did revolve quite slowly so you were not spinning as you ascended but it was quite a strange sensation none the less. On the way down our cable car floor didn’t revolve but I’m not sure if that was always the case or if it was because the cable car ‘driver’ was busy chatting to a couple of kids and let them talk on the phone and push buttons!When we got to the top we walked around looking at the various views of the city, the peninsular and Robben Island. There were terrific views of the Lion Head Mountain (which actually looks like a male lion sitting to me) and the new football stadium built for the World Cup 2010.There was a variety of flora on the Mountain top but we only saw a few lizards in the way of animal life. It was quite cool up on the top with a swift breeze so that we were unaware of quite how much sun we were getting and the two boys were quite burnt, we seemed to be okay but have been exposed to more sun recently I suppose. The boys spent the next day suffering a little with red noses and arms but they survived although their noses will probably peel!You could spend 10 minutes on the top or hours depending on how long you want to walk around for. There are several trails and lots to see so we spent about an hour and a half up there. There is a gift shop and a restaurant but we didn’t visit either of these, we had taken our own bottles of water with us so had no need for any purchases. There are also shops and cafes at the bottom of the Mountain which sold various souvenirs if you were interested.This is just something you must do if you ever visit Cape Town as it is just so much a part of this city.
Stellenbosch, Paarl and the wine landsWe spent a lovely day touring this area.We started from Cape Town at about 9am and drove to Paarl. Our first stop was the monument the Afrikaans language which is on a hill top not from the Paarl Mountain. This monument seems to be open every day except Christmas Day and New Years day it opens at 8.30 but it stay open longer on the summer months. This is a very interesting monument symbolising the different language influences that make up the Afrikaans language with a cooling fountain and water feature in the middle symbolically bridging the continents of Asia and Africa I believe.We chose to visit one vineyard near Paarl and one near Stellenbosch. The one near Paarl was the Fairview vineyard which I chose because it had a special tower for its goats to climb up and down via a spiral ramp. It also made and sold goats cheeses which you could taste at the same time as you enjoyed your wine tasting. You paid 25 R per person (11 Rands to the £1 when we were there) and you got to taste 6 wines and about the same number of cheeses. We particularly enjoyed this vineyard’s wine names as they had ‘Goat Door’, ‘Goats do Roam’ and the one we didn’t really get was ‘Goat Roti ‘but it might be out lack of wine areas or knowledge. We all found it not that nice a wine either but it is all a matter of taste I guess. The wines were quite reasonable prices at about 48R to about 98Rwith a few over the 100rand price tag. The staff were so friendly and very knowledgeable without being snooty. They offered advice if asked but were not in the least pushy. The cheeses were also a reasonable price and very tasty too – they were about 15 R to 25R in price range which I think is fair and then we saw the same Fairview cheeses in the local Spar supermarket and the ones that were 14.50R were 21R in the supermarket.We then drove on towards Stellenbosch and tried to stop at the Tokara vineyard for lunch as the views are superb over the vineyards but unfortunately they didn’t serve lunch on Mondays so we had to move straight to the other vineyard we had chosen in this area which was Spier. We chose this one as it had a cheetah sanctuary within its facilities.The Spier Hotel is the first luxury hotel in South Africa to be given a Fair Trade Certificate in Tourism. We didn’t stay at the hotel but we did have the most stupendous buffet lunch here. Within the resort there is a craft market and several large tented places with tables and chairs. We were hungry so we followed our noses in the direction of the cooking smells. We found an area with tables and chairs and asked if you had to book, not at all was the reply and the lovely gentleman whisked us over to sit at a table under the most enormous tree with decorated metal hanging lights. We had hardly sat down and ordered some drinks when a lovely young African lady came and painted some white decorations on all of our faces. The drinks arrived with some bread and dips and a large salad. When we had demolished this, remember we had our gannet sons with us,when our waiter came to take us over to the buffet.We had to walk through various other areas before we came to a huge African decorated tent with stalls along the side. Each stall offered different temptations. We could choose from a variety of venison, fish, starch ( this was the rice & potato stall) salads, vegetables, sausages, beef, lamb, chicken – I have honestly never seen such a huge variety and I walked up and down surveying my choices while the male members of the party just stopped at each stall and said ‘yes’ to anything and everything. The boys all went back for seconds but I was stuffed after my first plate load and waited for the dessert run. The desserts were all on one stall but that didn’t limit the selection which was stupendous and there were lots of typically South African choices which I was very pleased to try. After the meal the boys lay stuffed on the sofas under the tree groaning. We all agreed that the meal would take a lot of beating, to be able to cut through a venison steak with a bread and butter knife just shows how tender it was.We had planned a second lot of wine tasting at this vineyard but having enjoyed a bottle of their delicious Chardonnay with our enormous meal, none of us felt up to more tastings o we went off in search of the animals.There were two sections the cheetah sanctuary and the birds of prey. We chose to visit the cheetahs who were all rescued and cheetahs cannot be reintroduced into the wild as they learn to hunt it is not natural within them as it is in lions. All the cheetahs there were hand reared as they were rejected by their mother or something had happened to their mother. You had to pay 25R to enter the area but if you wanted to go into the enclosures and pat the cheetahs then it was 100R to pet an adult and 200R to pet a baby one. All the monies went towards the upkeep of the cheetahs and you could also adopt a cheetah but I suspect that was quite a bit more money and of course the cheetah stayed in the reservation, you didn’t pop it in your bag and take it home with you!After our wine and huge meal we decided it was time to head homewards. My very generous husband was driving and as he is not really keen on wines has volunteered to resist the temptation and was therefore feeling slightly less sleepy that the rest of us. The drive was lovely meandering through vineyards and gently sloping hills and we had a thoroughly pleasant day experiencing the Stellenbosch and Paarl wine lands.I am sure there are other lovely vineyards but I would certain y recommend the three we visited. Fairview with its goat tower and wines with clever names, Tokara with the stunning views and Spiers with the food fit for a king and their lovely cheetah sanctuary.
by catsholiday on May 1, 2010
Bhejane Bush Lodge, Nelspruit, South Africa We booked the accommodation through roomsforafrica.com as we did with all our other accommodation for our trip to South Africa. This is an excellent site and covers all of South Africa for accommodation with pictures and details of what is available at each place.This guest house we assumed would be out of Nelspuit and indeed it was but the directions we got in order to find the place were excellent and we found it easily up quite a long dirt road and then came to an automatic security gate. We tried pressing a button but no luck, we tried phoning a number on our booking form with no luck, we walked to the nearest two houses but neither were any help so we finally got the boys to climb the gate to go and see if anyone was there and ask how to get in. We were a little worried in case there were large dogs but they did arrive safely, got the gate code just at the same time as the owner arrived and put in the code for us at the gate as well.After that rather unfortunate start we were feeling a bit annoyed. They knew we had booked from the UK so should really have emailed us the code with the booking confirmation I feel. The owner said she had tried to ring us but naturally our home number didn’t work as we were not there.Anyway the lady who owned the guesthouse was quite welcoming and showed us to the self catering lodge that was our home for the night. It was a beautiful setting on the farmstead in the bush set amongst huge rocks so that we were totally private. We had a small patio with a couple of director chairs and a very solid wooden coffee table. The garden around the house had a huge avocado tree, several other fruit trees and beyond that grassed area was just bush.Inside the house was a huge living area with three sofas leading to a very large dining area with extremely heavy wooden table and chairs. The kitchen was a full sized kitchen with cooker, fridge/freezer as well as cupboards full of pans, crockery and glasses.She had also provided dishwashing cloths and liquid so there was ample equipment to cook whatever you liked really. There were two bedrooms and one bathroom. Our bedroom had a nice big double bed with lovely cotton sheets and was beautifully made up. The boys had twin beds with a similar set up. Our room had air conditioning and a fan and there was also an air conditioner in the open plan lounge/kitchen/dining area so we put both air conditioners on and the fans and shared the effect of the cooling with the boys.The house was quite rustic with polished concrete floors throughout but they had hung African pictures and various artefacts on the walls to make in homely and Africa in character but I was irritated by the fact that the pictures were hung unevenly in a group of three and one mirror was fixed to the wall on a slight tilt but you could not right it as it was fixed rather than hung on a hook and little things like that show a lack of care to detail I think.There was a lovely infinity pool set with rocks around and in it to create a more natural look but the pump was broken, they had cleaned it but it was not as clear as it could have been. We went in but didn’t put our heads under water and made sure we had showers afterwards. The setting was delightful and views over the farm area made it all very relaxing.The next day we went over to the main house for breakfast which was included in the price. Their house was also lovely with a very high thatched roof in a very African style. The owner had set us up a table outside nicely laid and they invited us in to choose from the breakfast she had laid out. It was very well presented with lots of choice, fresh fruit including strawberries and grapes, cereal, fruit juice, toast and then she cooked those who wanted it a full cooked breakfast to order. As we ate our breakfast we watched the horses being fed and groomed before they were let out to graze on the farm grounds.We had to pay the balance of our account in cash as there was no phone connection or internet there at all. We then drove off down the drive way with the code for the gate. As we approached the gate we found where the horses had all gone to, just in front of the gate on the drive way so the boys and I got out and had to try to push them off the drive way and open the gate for the car to get through without letting the horses out. We were successful and did manage to get the car out leaving horses in but it made for an interesting departure.This was a lovely setting and the accommodation was comfortable and clean and nicely furnished but once again I can’t understand why they put aircon in one room and not the other. If it was two pairs of adults coming as friends then one would have a far superior room to the other and if you have children then surely they are just as likely to get hot as adults.The road leading up to the farm was a dirt road and some parts were a bit rough. We were there when it was very dry but I’m not sure how easy it would be to drive there in a normal car after some rain. No mention is made of the dirt road on the internet and I do think they should point out that it is a dirt road and how long the dirt road is so people can make their minds up if they want to take their car up there prior to booking. If you book like we did over the internet then the deposit of 50% is pre-paid and it is lost if you don’t turn up so you really need to know about the road access situation prior to paying the deposit.It was a comfortable house and had all you could want for a few days stay if you want a very relaxing country retreat. It is only a few miles outside Nelspruit so food can easily be bought for self catering. Apart from the pool and the grounds there is no other entertainment so it would be very much a country escape but it was a nice place for a night’s stop for us on our way up to Kruger National Park which is only a few miles away. It would be a good place to stay if you wanted to visit Kruger but didn’t want to stay in the park I suppose.So yes, it was a pleasant stay but the gate code situation needs sorting as it was not very welcoming .People should also be warned that the track is a dirt road of a couple of miles which could be a problem if it is wet but otherwise a nice self catering accommodation suitable for a family get away rather than two couples because of the fact that one bedroom has no air conditioning which can make it very hot in summer. The house was not screened but we shut all the windows and put on both air conditioners then sprayed the sleeping areas with insect repellent as there were a few mossies around we noticed.
Crane’s Nest Mountain Lodge, Near Lydenburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa We booked the accommodation through roomsforafrica.com as we did with all our other accommodation for our trip to South Africa. This guest house was booked as we wanted somewhere rather nice to stay on our last night with the boys in South Africa and not too far from Blyde River canyon where we were going to visit that day.Unfortunately we had a double puncture in our hire car and managed to get to Sabie to a ‘Super Quick’ tyre company as they were run safe tyres. We had thought it was only one but it turned out to be two completely useless tyres. They were able to order two similar replacements and the manager pointed us in the direction of a place to eat and said come back in a couple of hours. Needless to say this threw out our plans and we were not on the road towards Lydenburg until nearly 3.45.Then to top this off we drove round Lydenburg several times trying to work out the stupid map we had off the internet and eventually I went in to another guest house to ask them where it was. We headed off in the direction she said but after about 20 km my husband thought we must be on the wrong road so we turned around. After some discussion in the car we were debating whether to just give up and go to another guest house and forfeit out £150 deposit or whether to persevere as it was getting dark and there were huge pot holes every now and then that were hard to see in the dusk.We decided to give it a try.This was an awful road and the pot holes were like craters but we wound our way down the 50+km to a turn off. We were now at the point of no return as we were in the middle of nowhere and it was beginning to get dark. Another 15km down a dirt road and eventually we saw a sign for the ‘Crane’s Nest’ so, on we went. However we got to a turn off with ‘Crane’s Nest’ 6km so onwards we went once again and then turned down the farm 6 turn off and onto the property so we thought we were there finally. However the road was awful, far worse than any field I’ve driven over taking the boys to music festivals in the UK. There were huge canyons and craters and cattle grids with logs to get over. It was so bad that even at 5mph the boys and I got out and walked up the drive which was about 1km. So needless to say we were not in the best of humour when we arrived. The owner, Rosemarie greeted us warmly and said she had been worried about us, we explained our day and the fact that we had been looking in Lydenburg for some time too. She was so pleasant that we could not stay annoyed for long. She got one of her assistants, a very smiling man called Jacob to use a large torch to show us where our rooms were. He tried to guide us with the car over a field but my husband refused to take the car up there so we grabbed our luggage and carried it about 50 metres in the dark across a field to two different ‘houses’ or rooms which for us. He left us with the torch and we decided to have a shower before heading to the main house area for drinks and dinner which was part of the deal we had booked.The rooms were lovely we had a big double bed and ensuite bathroom with a shower, toilet and basin. The boys’ room was similar except it had twin beds. Both rooms were built of stone/concrete at the base and then had tent style roofs to give a safari feel to the place. The bathroom was lovely basic but with an African feel to it. We had nice fluffy towels and some soap and shampoo provided. There was also a hair dryer but ours didn’t work which was disappointing as I hadn’t had one for some time by then. Each room or small house was designed that you had a lovely view of both the countryside and mountains in the distance or the pool and garden but none were overlooked by any other one. They all had verandas with table and chairs and a fridge and a sink so you could do a braai or BBQ if you wanted. It was we discovered in the morning, a really beautiful setting and so tastefully designed and decorated. There were little touches like a tray with tea and coffee with rusks, a plate with a couple of apples and a small bowl with sweets as well in each of our rooms. Anyway having had a shower and got changed we resolved to enjoy our last evening with the boys and headed over to the main reception and eating area. We were welcomed once again by Rosemarie who offered us a complementary sherry or juice, which I accepted but the men all went straight to beers. We were joined by a couple of very sweet Staffordshire Bull Terriers who were very well behaved and decided to lie on my feet.Rosemarie then told us what we were having for our meal. We started with a homemade French onion soup with homemade bread which was delicious. The next course was a breast of chicken rolled around some stuffing, fresh vegetables all from their farm followed by Rosemarie’s own Malva tart and custard. The Malva tart is a South African speciality and was extremely tasty and once I am home I shall look up a recipe and try to make it again.We were invited to go and join others sitting out relaxing and chatting after the meal but as we were all so exhausted we decided to call it a day and retire. My husband was already panicking about driving back along the road as another puncture on the drive back to Johannesburg would have been a big problem especially if we were in the middle of nowhere so he did not sleep very well but the room was very comfortable as was the bed .It is just a shame that we were not there longer and had we known about the miles of poor dirt roads we might have rethought booking this place. The next day we felt much better and returned to the main reception area for our breakfast. Once again Rosemarie greeted us and invited us in to the buffet table where there was juice, cereals, muffins and some very unusual grilled fruit with cinnamon, cardamom and star anise flavour. I’d never tried it before but it was quite yummy, apples and bananas mainly which we had with yogurt, it was beautifully laid out on a table against the wall. After we had enjoyed that we were once again invited in to select from boerewors sausages in gravy, a huge omelette/ soufflé with bacon and some corn fritters which I did try and they were very tasty. There were such huge portions it even over- faced the boys who have very hearty appetites.The setting was beautiful, in the middle of nowhere and so quiet. There was a lovely pool and the gardens were obviously well cared for but unfortunately we were not able to stay long enough to enjoy these facilities. Before we left I was able to use the internet to check the boys in for their flight on Rosemarie’s computer and she refused any payment which was very kind. We had to pay the balance of our account and were able to pay by card and the bill was ready with an official receipt too. This was a lovely welcoming guest house but you really needed to be told that a four wheel drive was needed for the farm track. Rosemarie’s husband did say that they provided a shuttle service with a four wheel drive but it was too late by then as we were already there. I would suggest it would be a perfect romantic getaway for a weekend as it is an idyllic setting with luxurious food and lovely comfortable rooms but is was somewhat outin the middle of nowhere so a long way from most places to get to which means you have to be prepared for a long and pretty awful drive in order to get there.
Eagle’s View Guest House, Ficksburg, South Africa We booked the accommodation through roomsforafrica.com as we did with all our other accommodation for our trip to South Africa. This is an excellent site and covers all of South Africa for accommodation with pictures and details of what is available at each place.This guest house was booked as we needed somewhere not far from the border of Lesotho as we had planned to spend the day driving up through Lesotho visiting my husband’s old village and the school where he had taught about 20 years ago. We had also planned to visit Maseru, the capital city of Lesotho on our way up northwards back into South Africa.We found the guest house easily and this one was a home with guest house facilities in the downstairs area. We arrived to a huge automatic gate at the bottom of a very steep driveway. I rang the bell and immediately two huge dogs (a Boxer and a large fluffy Alsatian) arrived barking happily and licked my hand through the gate. The owner followed them down, opened the gate to welcome us in and invited us to park in the garage. He was very apologetic about the fact that his wife was not there to greet us as well.We were shown to put rooms; ours had a lovely big double bed and ensuite bathroom with bath, shower toilet and basin. The boys’ room was similar except it had twin beds and no bath in the ensuite. Both our rooms had doors opening out onto the garden and with a view of the garden and pool and then further to the mountains in the distance. We also had nice fluffy towels in colours that complemented the rooms and they also lent us four large towels for the pool so that we could enjoy sitting on the loungers round the pool and a swim if we wanted too. Inside the house was a large living area with sofas and a huge TV so the men could watch their football. There was also an honesty bar where you could help yourself to drinks on offer and write these in a book so that your bill could be totalled before checking out.This was not self catering and we had not requested an evening meal or lunch so when we arrived we asked about where we could eat and were recommended the Ficksburg Hotel so off we walked to stretch our legs after a few days in the car for long periods. It was a few blocks away but not too long a walk even in the heat.The hotel was very pleasant and we enjoyed a few drinks and an extremely good steak meal. We then found a supermarket for some sandwich stuff for our evening meal as we had had such a huge lunch. We found a very big box of lychees (about 2kg) for about £3.50 which we chomped our way through during the afternoon while sitting round the pool area reading. There was also a table and a few chairs on a mini patio outside our room, another set under a shaded area in the garden and yet another on a larger patio area just by the living room so there were plenty of places where we could sit and relax ore sit to eat our sandwiches later.The owner said that we could use the kitchen and also told us to help ourselves to cold water from the fridge as their tap water was not good for drinking. They were most welcoming without being intrusive and explained that the downstairs living room was just for guests as they had their living area upstairs so just to make ourselves at home. The setting was very pleasant and having negotiated the incredibly steep drive you did get a great view from the house and garden. It was in a very quiet residential area so we were not disturbed at all by any noise. In the evening as we were sitting outside eating the owner very kindly brought us some insect repellent she warned they had a lot of mosquitoes. We duly sprayed ourselves and then of course all our meal had a slight taste too but we were not bitten at least. We also sprayed both rooms with the strong Doom spray before shutting the windows and putting on the fans.The next day we came into the living area for breakfast and were guided upstairs to a small dining area which had a buffet table at the back. It was beautifully laid out with fruit, yogurt, juices, tea, coffee and cereals, fresh toast was made and then a full South African breakfast with boerewors, pancakes, bacon, eggs as well as fried tomatoes and mushrooms. There was so much food it even over faced the boys who have very hearty appetites.We had to pay the balance of our account and were able to pay by card and the bill was ready with an official receipt too. The owners guided us when backing the car down the drive way as it was really hard to see and it was extremely steep and of course the dogs kept wandering around behind as well.This was a lovely welcoming guest house but you were in someone else’s house so there was less privacy however unlike some English B&Bs we were not expected to make ourselves scarce until the evening, we were made to feel very welcome and treated like friends really. We asked about using the internet and they put their computer on and logged us in and when I offered to pay they said we were most welcome and there was no charge.The setting and the accommodation was comfortable and clean and very nicely furnished and we were made to feel very welcome. It was a great stop over place and obviously Ficksburg must be popular as there were quite a number of these small guest houses we noticed as we were walking around. Ficksburg has a big Cherry festival and the owner said that they are always booked for that and of course during the summer and other school holidays. We visited out of season.
Herb Garden Guest house Colesburg, South AfricaWe needed a place to stop and break our journey between Oudtshorn and Lesotho so we chose Colesburg as it was about half way and close to the main road. We booked this accommodation through Roomsforafrica.com as we did all our accommodation in South Africa apart from Kruger and Cape Town. Colesburg is not a big town but obviously gets most of its guest house trade because it is just off the N4 from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The town was full of small guest house and not much else. As we were quite tired and the boys were keen to use the pool we dumped our cases and left them at the guest house while we popped over to a small supermarket to grab a few bits for an evening meal.The pool was in the owner’s garden which was joined to the guest house garden. The gardens of the guest house were lovely and the house was obviously quite old and had a big veranda overlooking the garden. The garden with the pool was really just lawn with a pool in the middle but it served the purpose for cooling us off after our long journey. It was really hot and I managed to do a bit of washing and hang it on the veranda while we sat and enjoyed a cool beer.The hostess/owner was very Afrikaans and welcomed us into the guest house and showed us ore rooms. My husband and i had a double room with small ensuite shower and toilet. The bed had a lovely handmade patchwork quilt on it but the rest of the furniture looked like the sort of stuff that came from the 50s or even earlier. It was all clean but it remind3dc me of my ex-husband’s aunt’s houses in an old country town in Australia, it was very quant. Our room did have air conditioning which as it was quite hot and there were quite a few mosquitoes about we were very grateful.It was supposed to be a self-catering place but it would have been hard with just a micro wave, fridge ad kettle so as we had enjoyed a lunch on our way we decided to go for sandwiches and even that was a challenge as there were only two plates, few knives and no sharp knife at all so cutting up our mangoes was a bit messy. However we managed and also had no problem with our beers and wine as the fridge was really efficient. We managed to freeze some bottles of water to keep our cool bag cool for our journey the next day too.The boys’ room had three single beds and an ensuite shower and toilet but no air conditioning or fan so they were mightily unimpressed. They sprayed they room with insect spray but both were covered in mossie bites the next day and had also been very hoot as they had shut the windows in an attempt to eliminate mossies so all in all they probably wouldn’t recommend their room.The breakfast the next morning was included in the price and was set up in the house with the pool and we were able to sit outside under a roof awning and enjoy the owner’s African Grey parrot chatting to us while we ate. There was quite a good selection of food. Fruit juice, cereals but they were a bit stale I thought then a cooked breakfast for those who wanted it with plenty of fresh toast. Have forgotten if there was any fruit but I seem to think that there may have been some but not a lot of choice. It was quite substantial but nothing special.This was the place that the boys voted least good on our stay. It served a purpose, it was clean and our room was comfortable. The owner was very pleasant and produced a filling breakfast but the boys’ room need fly mesh on the windows and a fan or air conditioning as it was too hot and there were a lot of mosquitoes.All in all it was quite reasonable I think we paid about £80 for both rooms and breakfast but it was not so cheap that you could not expect a fan and insect nets. It was clean and our room was comfortable and the owner was quite welcoming but it would not be somewhere that I would necessarily recommend unless you needed a stopover place like we did but I would insist on a room with air conditioning in the summer months for certain as otherwise you will boil and get eaten alive by the mossies. You certainly could not really self cater either, a sandwich or heating up something in a microwave is the limit and then only a couple of plates we had to share between four of us!
Highgate Ostrich farm, Oudtshorn, South AfricaThis farm is in Oudstshorn, the ostrich capital of the world and is just down the road from another Ostrich farm, Safari Ostrich Farm and also not far from our wonderful guest house De Zeekoe Guest Farm.We paid 66R per person for a full tour (11R per £1 when we were there) which was the most amazing value. We started with our guide looking at an ostrich chariot which was designed to be pulled by four ostriches but apparently it was a failure, it looked like a Ben Hur chariot but the system of braking and steering was requiring a little refinement so it was not used at all. The next place was the feather room where we discovered that ostrich feathers are plucked from live ostriches once a year. They are used mainly for feather dusters as the feather boa industry has lost out in the fashion stakes. We also found that they use the leather of the body, the legs and the skin of its neck for making bags and other leather items. Novelties are also made for tourists out of the leather, feathers and the eggs of course. In the section we watched a man making feather dusters; he can make over 200 per day, using a machine that was over 100 years old. We next visited the electric incubator that held 400 eggs and also saw a really old incubator that ran on paraffin but unfortunately it was not that successful as the smell killed off a lot of the eggs as they are porous and absorbed the poisonous gases.Feeding ostriches was our next stop. We could buy a small bag of corn for a couple of rand and then hand feed some of the ostriches. They pecked from a very flat hand but apart from a strong peck they didn’t hurt at all and these ostriches were quite tame.We then got in our cars and drove with guidance to another part of the ostrich farm where we went into one of the enclosures to meet jack and Susie who had a clutch of eggs that they were incubating. We were told by our guide that these were domesticated and that we were quite safe visiting these ostriches with their eggs but ostriches in the wild would really go for you if you came anywhere near their eggs. Our guide just went over the jack who was taking a turn at egg sitting and just said ‘Of you get Jack’ and Jack obligingly hopped off the eggs. All of us in the group then took turns at standing on the clutch of eggs – they were really amazingly strong.The next stage part was the most entertaining, the chance to sit or ride an ostrich. All of us sat on the ostrich which was in a special holding pen. After that people were offered the chance to ride obne of these enormous birds. While we were sitting on the benches around the pen one of the male ostriches took a liking to us and was very interested in my hat and our toes. It was quite unnerving to have this huge bird observing us quite as closely as they do have very large beaks.All the male members of my little party were keen the ride the ostriches. My husband was sort of led around but the boys had the ostrich bottom smacked and off they went. One of them lasted a few minutes before entertaining everyone by falling off but the other son managed to stay on quite elegantly if you can describe riding an ostrich in any way as elegant.After the tourists had had their turn the experts had a race down a race track on three ostriches and they can apparently run at about 70mph. It was a very quick race and none of them fell off!After this we returned to the original farmstead to go through the shop and pay for the tour and any other souvenirs we chose to buy. We then went and sat on the tables under a huge tree and chairs and enjoyed sandwiches and complimentary water, juice or coffee and tea.I felt we had excellent service from the guide and the tour was such amazing value at about £6 per person for about 2 hours of entertainment. I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Oudtshorn and particularly the Highgate Ostrich farm as everyone on the tour gets the opportunity to ride an ostrich which is not the case in every ostrich farm.
Lower Sabie Camp – Safari tentWe booked our accommodation in Kruger National park thought SAN parks on the internet. As you book your accommodation you also sort out your National Park entrance fee too. We had three nights in the park, two in the safari tents at Lower Sabie and one in a two bed roomed cottage in Skukuza Camp.We had two safari tents which are very luxurious really. They are wooden structures that have tented top parts to them. On the verandas area is the kitchen, braai (BBQ) and a table and chairs to sit on. We did have to keep mov8ng two chairs from one tent to the other as we had our meals outside the different tents but that wasn’t too hard as we were next to each other. The tents were identical and and each one had two single beds which were extremely comfortable and there were two bedside tables with eco lights in lanterns so you could read at night. There was a lovely shower with a huge shower head, toilet and basin in both tents. The tents were completely mosquito proofed and had a central ceiling fan in them too which my husband put on full blast so that I had a blanket over me by the time the night had cooled down! They provided you with towels and soap but I forget now whether shampoo was provided as I had my own various small bottles collected from hotels in other places which I always carry for emergency supplies plus my Lush solid shampoo and conditioner which I also always have with me.On the veranda were a large fridge/freezer and a few shelves which were behind a lockable cage. All the kitchen cupboards had locks on them too and nothing was left out on the sides as baboons were a major problem. You were advised to leave all food locked behind the cages and not leave anything at all in the sink or on the side as you could find yourself attracting baboons and they can be quite nasty when threatened by human proximity. They also may carry rabies so it is a good idea to stay well clear of them.The entire camp is fenced so that animals apart from baboons and monkeys are largely kept out so you are never in any danger in your tents. You are advised to always use a torch when walking around at night as snakes and other animals might be lurking unseen.The camp has a large restaurant and bar area which served food all day. The restaurant only operated at night and I’m not sure what they had on the menu as we didn’t eat there at all. The bar area overlooked the Sabie river and on the second day we had lunch there we were entertained by a group of hippos bathing in the water and grunting just about 100 metres from where we were enjoying or lunch. After the hippo show had ended when they had submerged one very large elephant made an appearance and he was grazing only about 5 metres from us just below the level of the deck where we sitting. It was amazing to be so close to such a huge beast and watch him enjoy munching his way through tons of vegetation without being in the least bit bothered by us.Near the reception area they had an internet area where you paid 1 ZAR per minute (11 to the £1 when we were there) but the minimum was 30 minutes. Just outside this area were the toilets and also some information boards when they put up what animals were spotted and where to give you an idea of which direction to go on your game drives and what animals you might expect to see in the area.There was also a shop on site where you could buy basic vegetables in small quantities as well as meat for braai cooking. We enjoyed boerewors which is a very tasty South African sausage, impala steaks and different cuts of beef too. This was the boys’ treat to us for bringing them on holiday and they bought all the braai stuff and then cooked it all for us too which as very nice and they did an excellent job too. They were also able to buy charcoal and matches at the shop too, beers, water, wine and other drinks were also sold as well as souvenirs and extremely expensive postcards (about £2 per card) so needless to say we didn’t buy any there as they were 5 ZAR at other places – about 50p. I think the food and charcoal was a bit more than in other supermarkets but we didn’t want to risk carrying meat and it getting hot in the car.We found everything we needed was there and that the accommodation and the other facilities were both comfortable and pleasant to sit in and enjoy the scenery and animals that came by. There was no pool which would have been nice but we decided to spend our time between game drives relaxing either round the bar area or on our balcony reading or putting photos on to my little Acer laptop and sorting them out or I wrote notes for my diary and reviews .The animals we saw in Lower Sabie were elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros and impala all very close, a large male lion in the middle of the road then he got up and walked across in front of us to join his two friends. A female leopard and her cubs were also crossing the road then disappeared into the bushes beside us. We saw several herds of zebra crossing the road at different times. Three different groups of hippopotamus were grunting and snorting in different pools and a river. One very small crocodile in a waterhole near the hippos. There were several herds of impala, and of course the gnu or wildebeest, kudu (larger antelope) warthogs and several groups of baboons. It wasn’t just the variety of animals it was how incredibly close we got to them which was so exciting. I would thoroughly recommend staying in the safari tents in this camp as they were so comfortable and had everything you could wish for while at the same time giving you a feeling of being on safari and soaking up the atmosphere on the area.
by catsholiday on May 4, 2010
SKUKUZA CAMP – Elsie Clarke CottageWe booked our accommodation in Kruger National park thought SAN parks on the internet. As you book your accommodation you also sort out your National Park entrance fee too. We had three nights in the park, two in the safari tents at Lower Sabie and one in a two bed roomed cottage in Skukuza Camp. When we arrived at our cottage having checked in at Reception we were greeted by a welcome party of Vervet monkeys. They were very interested as we unpacked our car so we had to make sure we shut the car and boot each load as well as shutting the door to the cottage just in case we ended up with extra guests in the form of monkeys. One of the larger monkeys sat on the outside window sill of the bedroom and I was able to put my hand on his hand from inside the window. Once we had finished unpacking they lost interest and went to see what was on offer up at the restaurant and bar area. We had a two bed roomed cottage which was called Elsie Clarke’s cottage which was presumably done in memory of this lady but I’m not sure who she was and it didn’t say anywhere in the cottage. The cottage was really a bungalow with a long open are with a full kitchen with cooker and large fridge freezer at one end leading to a dining are then a sitting area and all this was in front of the two bedrooms. Both bedrooms had two single beds in them, a wardrobe and not a lot else. They also both had large ensuite bathrooms with shower, basin and toilet in them. Both rooms had both air conditioning and a fan but this time the one in the boys’ room worked really well whereas ours was a little less cool but once night fell it was fine. All the windows and doors had insect screens so we were not bothered at all by mosquitoes. We did put on insect repellent while we were outside eating but there did not seem to be too many about at all and it was for our stay in Kruger that we had to get the incredibly expensive Malaria pills at £5 a pill – we paid a total of £245 just for the Malaria pills for the boys 3 day visit to Kruger national Park and our 3 days in Kruger plus 3 days in Etosha National Park in Namibia, not of the other areas were Malarial areas!They provided you with towels and soap but no shampoo was provided but as I had my own various small bottles collected from hotels in other places which I always carry for emergency supplies plus my Lush solid shampoo and conditioner which I also always have with me this did not really matter to us.On the large concrete floored veranda there was a table and four chairs. In the garden beyond was the braai or BBQ which we once again made good use of as the boys cooked the braai but this time I cooked the veggies inside on the cooker.The entire camp is fenced so that animals apart from baboons and monkeys are largely kept out so you are never in any danger in the camp area. There were rondavels and tents available here too as well as places where you could pitch your own tent but that must be pretty hot in the summer .You are advised to always use a torch when walking around at night as snakes and other animals might be lurking unseen.The camp has a large restaurant and bar area which served food all day. The restaurant only operated at night and I’m not sure what they had on the menu as we didn’t eat there at all. The bar area overlooked a river and had huge trees all around the large thatched covered area. When we had our lunch there we were amazed to see a huge number of small bats hanging from the middle of the inside thatched roof area looking down at the diners. We were also entertained by groups of monkeys trying to get left overs from tables as they were vacated and also emptying the bins in order to find some tasty treasure but meanwhile throwing all the useless and inedible packaging all around. One cheeky monkey sat at an empty table and got out a sauce bottle, managed to pen the lid and was tipping it into his mouth before one of the waiters came and removed it. We did tell him that the monkey had been licking it but I’m not sure what was done. We all decided not to have any sauce with our meal at this time. My sons ordered the same meal as one of them had tried in Sabie but when it came it was not nearly as nice as the Sabie one. I asked for a salad but there was no salad and I had enjoyed a nice salad in Sabie so we were a bit unimpressed with Skukuza snack bar compared to the one in Sabie although the prices were pretty much the same.Near the snack bar area they had an internet area where you paid 1 ZAR per minute (11 to the £1 when we were there) but the minimum was 30 minutes. Just nearby there were some toilet blocks and the shop was also near this area. The reception area was a long walk back to the gate of the Camp area but there was not much else there that was of interest to us. There were no animal spotting boards that we could see which we had made good use of when we were at the Lower Sabie Rest Camp.This shop sold pretty similar things to the one in Sabie; you could buy basic vegetables in small quantities as well as meat for braai cooking. We bought more boerewors which is a very tasty South African sausage and kudu steaks for our braai this time. We still had a few vegetables and enough charcoal left from Sabie and this was our last self- catering night so we had to use everything up or end up throwing stuff away which I hate doing. We found everything we needed was there and that the accommodation and the other facilities were both comfortable and pleasant to sit in and enjoy the scenery and animals that came by. This was a much larger site than Sabie and there was a nice pool which was nice to relax and cool off in but this swim cost one son his new swimming shorts as he left them in the shower cubicle when we left as he had hung them there to dry but he forgot.We were only at this camp for one night but I think we all preferred Sabie despite the fact this site had the pool. The atmosphere was friendlier, we saw more animals on our game drives and the food at the snack bar was nicer. We also preferred the safari tents to the cottage as they felt more like being on safari and were very comfortable, Our cottage was lovely but it just lacked the African safari charm of the tent accommodation we had had in Sabie and if you had to choose to visit one campsite then Sabie was much more interesting for seeing animals on the game drives.The animals we saw in Skukuza were elephants, giraffes, Vervet monkeys, buffalo, duiker (very small antelope, Bush buck, impala, kudu (larger antelope) warthogs and rhinoceros.I would thoroughly recommend staying in the safari tents in Sabie rather than a cottage in Skukuza as we found we saw many more animals from our game drives in Sabie Both camps were very comfortable, clean and well set out for privacy and convenience and in both camps we had everything you could wish but Sabie did give you more of the feeling of being on safari and soaking up the atmosphere on the area.
by catsholiday on July 12, 2010
WHERE IS KRUGER NATIONAL PARK?Kruger is in the north eastern area of South Africa to the west is Limpopo and to the south is Mpumalanga two South African provinces. In the north is Zimbabwe, and if you travel east you will come to MozambiqueWHAT WILL I SEE IN THE PARK?If you really look hard and know what you are looking for you could see 147 different species of mammal in the park however all the Big Five game animals (lions, elephants, rhinoceros, buffalos and leopards)are found at Kruger National Park There are more species of mammals in this park than any other African Game Reserve . Just in case you think this is a private game park with imported animals this park only has wild animals that are native to the area. All the animals are wild and dangerous so naturally getting out of your car is prohibited unless in the few demarcated areas. These are the few hides which normally overlook waterholes. You sit quietly within the fenced and secure hide and watch; we saw a few crocodiles at one hide.WHERE SHOULD I STAY?You can do day trips into the park from outside but I would seriously suggest staying within the park. I would also suggest staying at a couple of rest camps in different parts of the park so that you get a chance to see a variety of animals and eco systems. We stayed at Lower Sabie and Skukuza which are quite a way apart and very different areas. The park has 21 official rest camps which offer all types of accommodation options from camping through to luxury options and have differing facilities - some are more basic whereas others have communal swimming pools and other facilities. I suggest you look at the official website: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/ and here you can select the camps that suit as well as the accommodation type and also pay the entrance fee prior to going which is what we did. OKAY NOW TO THE ACTUAL ANIMAL SAFARISSadly for those who like to lie around on holiday the animals in Kruger are early risers so the best time to see animals is early morning ( getting up while it is still dark at about 4.30) and late afternoon from about 4 o’ clock onwards, although good sightings can be made any time of the day. I have read that some people say that Kruger has become crowded and there are traffic jams when an animals is spotted. Well from my experience this is far from the truth. We passed the occasional car and sometimes there were two or three cars in the same spot but in realty we had many areas to ourselves so I think that is an exaggeration. As Kruger is the largest game reserves and has such a wide variety of vegetation you would be very unlucky to miss seeing a variety of animals. You do have to drive slowly and it is better if there are a few of you looking around as the animals can be quite hard to see. There were four of us looking and we saw all the 'Big Five' animals (lions, elephants, rhinoceros, African buffalo, and leopards) as well as hippos, cheetahs, hyenas, and a number of different antelope from the sweet faced impala through to larger kudu and so many more. A lot of people having see the ‘Lion King’ expect little vegetation and crowds of animals but Kruger has quite thick vegetation and we tended to see animals as they crossed the road or if they were at the side of the road as if they went into the scrubby bush they disappeared really quickly as they are so well camouflaged. You would think a giraffe would stick out like a sore thumb but they don’t, you have to keep your eyes open and look for a movement or a change in shadows in order to spot the animals. Having said that we did come across a male lion lying in the road and his other three mates were lying or walking very close to the roadside which at this spot was quite grassy. He lay there for quite a while and by the time he stretched and got up there were about five cars on either side of him waiting for him to move. Animals always have the right of way so you just wait.We saw herds of elephants splashing in the river not so far from us on a few occasions. Up close one very large herd crossing the road and one male looked straight at us, my husband had the car in reverse ready to move in case he didn’t like us. Just close to the restaurant at Lower Sabie one large elephant was grazing just below us.Hippos we saw in the hippo pool just outside Sabie rest camp. You only really saw their heads coming up and down as they walk around in the pool. Sometimes their huge mouths open as they yawn. Another day there were a large number wallowing in the river beside Lower Sabie restaurant which we watched while enjoying our lunch.Leopards are very tricky to spot , sorry about the word play, but once again we were so lucky as a mother with her cubs crossed the road in front of us. Cheetahs are very rare to see as there are only about 200 in the whole of Kruger and we were not lucky enough to see any.Zebras are herd animals and tend to like the grassier areas and we did see a number of these. They are so lovely and look so amazingly clean and healthy with chubby hind quarters.Warthogs like Pumba, in the Lion King are hilarious as they stick their tails up as they run off and we did see quite few in various parts of the park.Secretary birds again looking just like the cartoon version, strutting around in the grass.Buffalo, we got in the middle of a huge herd with youngsters this was a little worrying at times but they just looked at us as we drove very slowly between them to get out.Giraffes we saw quite a few of at different times around the park. They are so beautiful and look at you with such a superior air as they calmly wander across the road just in front of your car.Baboons were often seen but it was lovely to see the families with babies clinging to mother’s backs. Something you are very likely to see are antelope, mainly the lovely impala. SUMMARY:If you would like to go on safari and drive yourself then Kruger in the park to visit. We saw so many animals and we spent about four days in the park at the two different rest camps.
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