Our 21 day South African “Investment Trip” was over the top in so many ways: tailor made itinerary by Carla and Deidre @ Salty Travel with revisions, figuring out and responding to our “wants”, including:
*Cape Town/Presidents Hotel @Bantry Bay - 2 bedroom 2 en-suite bath sitting room and kitchenette, delicious European & full breakfast (eggs cooked to order), delightful staff and daily chocolates!
*Hermanus/Baleens Hotel - unique in style but very comfortable and close proximity to the beautiful beach, delicious cooked to order breakfast.
*Albertinia/Garden Route Game Lodge - “posh” and lovely, 2 adventure filled Safari drives (including ‘happy hour’ adult refreshments), delicious meals served in the Lodge with well appointed tables (linens, floral centerpieces), private and comfortable ‘mini’ self contained lodges with water hole views of animals coming in for a dip or drink.
*Knysna/Belvidere Manor - European styled bungalow 2 bed 2 bath, living room, fireplace and full kitchen fronting a large lawn with a swimming pool and lawn game courts from the lagoon-bay to the east and the Belvidere Manor to the west, Spectacular Service, delicious food and delightful Pub onsite! Clearly one of our favorites!
*Addo National Elephant/Schotia Private Game Reserve - our in the bush private ‘huts’ en-suite full bath, freestanding fireplace, beverage center, and a resident wild cat that guarded our residence,.fabulous guide who shared his outstanding knowledge of animals, habitats, and made the Safaris memorable!
*Kwalucia Private Safari Retreat - the absolute “highlight” of our trip - fabulous B & B hosted by Adrian and Marie Joubert, private, secluded, restful, beautiful extra large rooms with en-suite, personalized service, incredible, delicious, traditional South African food that made our stay EXTRA SPECIAL! Adrian also suggested a whale watching boat trip that also included deep sea fishing - catching a yellow fin tuna that was then prepared and served for our breakfast -SPECTACULAR memories and adventure on the water. Incredible atmosphere, service and friendship!
*Ermelo/Ermelo Inn - a quick overnight enroute to the Panorama Route Scenic drive. Adequate but very ho-hum compared to other “stays” - please note there were very FEW choices in Ermelo.
*Graskop/Graskop Inn - traditional, historical Inn with so much character! Individually designed/decorated en-suite rooms by South African artists & designers. This stay was treasured as we enjoyed an evening ‘a cappella’ serenade by hotel staff during dinner! The warm fun loving staff made this overnight stay WONDERFUL!
*Hoedspruit-Kruger Orpen Gate/ Tremisana Safari Lodge & Marc’s Treehouse Lodge - this was the most unique and in some ways least accommodating of our wonderful stays! We ‘chose’ this Safari lodging because it sounded fun, unique and accommodating. The bottom line - unique/yes, fun/yes because of kitchen & Safari staff, unique / NOT delivered as advertised - treehouses were anything but! ALL would never pass an inspection codes in the USA! We signed a liability waiver for good reason - so many unsafe situations (unsafe tree rooted walking paths to accommodations, poor lighting, electrical issues that left several guests “shocked” while showering, etc...) MAINTENANCE issues too numerous to list! YET, this accommodation will remain a favorite in spite of its ruggedness and disrepair (that could easily be corrected with a bit of infrastructure investment) because of the wonderful staff and fellow GUESTS (from around the world) that provided many discussions and giggles in a friendship forming environment. I can’t thank the cooks enough for a very special birthday cake with candles that was baked in the tiniest of ovens!
*Johannesburg /The Capital-on Bath - Carla had booked a 2 bedroom apartment, but we were initially placed in two separate rooms far apart in the hotel... after producing our printed itinerary to the staff a correction was quickly made and our accommodations were TOP NOTCH! The service was wonderful as well.
Tours arranged for by Carla and staff:
*Cape Town - Hop-on Hop-off - great way to see the city, becoming familiar with the surroundings (would highly recommend). It would have been nice to have pre-paid vouchers for Table Mountain but now reflecting back - we were very fortunate to even get to the top due to erratic weather!
*Robben Island Museum Tour - prearranged/prepaid tickets made this MUST SEE Cape Town landmark a wonderful trip without waiting in walk-up lines.
NOT INCLUDED ON ITINERARY-Cape Point/Boulder Beach/Cape of Good Hope private tour arranged by another private tour company once we realized the time and difficulty of doing it “self drive” - highly recommended when in Cape Town! .
*Spier Wine Farm - fabulous, wonderful setting, great wines and knowledgeable staff! Thanks for the recommendation!
*Garden Route Game Lodge - absolutely “posh” but a bit contrived as far as animals in “natural” environments. Being familiar with San Diego Zoo Park - not much different but the Garden Route Game Lodge is a whole lot farther away!
*Knysna - Knysna Eco Adventure/Featherbed Eco reserve (outstanding). In spite of a rainy day, we loved this active hiking Eco Tour! The Lodge, newly rebuilt after being leveled by a wildfire in 2017 was AMAZING! The buffet style lunch was incredible offering locally sourced fresh foods, some cooked South African meats, soups, salads, and Malva pudding or ice cream sundae bar!
*Addo Elephant Park - Schotia Private Game Reserve Safari included 2 dusk drives, 2 dawn break drives and 2 nighttime after dinner drives - EXCELLENT Safari GUIDE/Naturalist. Additional Safari to Addo Elephant National Park - outstanding opportunities to see over 8,000 + elephants in their natural surroundings.
*St. Lucia - Hippo & Croc Sunset Cruise - at best “okay” crowded with boats on the estuary.
*iSimangaliso Wetland Park Tour - UNESCO World Heritage Site - absolutely WONDERFUL!
One of the best Guides we had our whole trip! We didn’t get to snorkel due to high winds/waves but were allowed to wander the beach for two hours and then stopped at several beach heads on the tour!
NOT INCLUDED ON ITINERARY: but arranged by B & B host - a pre dawn departure whale watching (migration season) and deep sea fishing tour by a private provider... breath taking, incredible, thrilling and a MUST DO tour in St. Lucia!
Cape Town delivery - seamless in the pouring rain - however we didn’t notice a sizable dent as a pre-existing damage during the initial inspection. When loading our luggage we then noticed the dent and took “time and date stamped” photos - we then presented photos at drop off in Port Elizabeth with no problems and no incurred charges!
Durban - airport pickup very easy but time consuming.
Hoedspruit /Eastgate Airport - Very Easy once we found The airport!
Schotia Game Reserve - drove right past it! Poorly marked! We were 1/2 hour late checking in and missed part of the afternoon game drive - Schotia Reserve was very accommodating and quickly made adjustments to deliver us to the tour already underway in the bush!
Hoedspruit Airport - directions took us to the South African Air Force Airport and after several local inquiries and our own GPS locator we finally found the Eastgate Private Airport/airstrip 1 hour later than anticipated!
SIM Card: unfortunately, not being familiar with SIM card replacement on my apple iPhone we thought we had accomplished the set up when in actuality we had NOT! We did rectify the issue six days into the trip. Fortunately, we did not have the EMERGENCY of NEED to use the SIM card but we did have the USA based SIM card with us and could have used it for an expensive option if absolutely needed. Very minor detail that was easily corrected.
OVERALL - our itinerary was wonderful and the website information was easy to refer to, maps were primarily correct (our experience with Google or Garmin GPS is 95% accurate) useful and helpful. We certainly appreciated Carla’s accommodating us via Skype on several occasions - even though our emailing was equally useful - talking to and seeing who you are working with is MOST ASSURING! The importance of working with local travel specialists ie, Carla, Deidre and Shonna @ Salty Travel is ADVANTAGEOUS ! We would HIGHLY RECOMMEND others to use Kim Kim Travel and their localized selected travel specialists.