Absolutely wonderful trip! We had a fabulous ...
South Africa | Oct 28 - Nov 7, 2022

Charlotte
Charlotte Z.
Chicago, IL | Reviewed on Nov 14, 2022

Absolutely wonderful trip! We had a fabulous time in South Africa.

To start off, we stayed at the Hotel Onyx. It was a great location - not far from the airport or the tourist-friendly waterfront area, but not itself in a crowded or tourist-heavy area. Enough street activity that you felt safe walking around, but nothing loud to keep you up at night. The hospitality from the staff was first rate. Our room was beautiful and gave us a great view. The breakfast spread was expansive and the... read more

Absolutely wonderful trip! We had a fabulous time in South Africa.

To start off, we stayed at the Hotel Onyx. It was a great location - not far from the airport or the tourist-friendly waterfront area, but not itself in a crowded or tourist-heavy area. Enough street activity that you felt safe walking around, but nothing loud to keep you up at night. The hospitality from the staff was first rate. Our room was beautiful and gave us a great view. The breakfast spread was expansive and the waitstaff was very attentive. We never ordered off the menu because the continental offerings were more than enough food to get us started. We took advantage of all the amenities - the lounge on the 4th floor, the pool, and the spa. All were great and lovely options to have. The lounge especially was a great option for those in-between times when you didn't want to be in your hotel room, but maybe too tired to be out at a bar or restaurant. The spa was beautifully soothing and the massage I received was the perfect ending to our stay in Cape Town before a long flight home. 10/10 would definitely recommend.

We walked to the V&A waterfront and kept walking along the path curving along the north side of the city, along Mouille Point. We walked for about an hour and a half, finally stopping for a drink and snack at the Hussar Grill along the seafront. We walked through Green Point Park, which was abuzz with families picnicking in the shade, before uber-ing back to our hotel. After a short rest, we hopped in the car and drove down to coast to the Cape of Good Hope. We saw our first wildlife - some ostriches and springbok were along the roadside. There were only a few tourists, so we were able to climb up a few of the boulder paths to the top and got our picture with the sign. We drove back north along the False Bay coast, and stopped in Simon's Town to see if we could still see some penguins. The very helpful parking lot attendant told us the beach was closed for the day, but we could still walk along the path. I'm so glad we took him up on it, because we had such a unique experience - all the penguins had come in off the beach for the night and were nestled along the fenced boardwalk, and we had the place to ourselves to see the penguins get ready to sleep for the night. It was a top rate experience. That educated us on parking attendants and learned that tipping those folks was a wise investment to feel your vehicle was secure. We ate dinner at Dixie's in Glencairn and had a great meal. The hospitality from all the folks we interacted with in SA was really stand out.

The drive to Hermanus was pretty simple and straightforward. The Guest House was beautifully appointed in a French country style and a major change from the urban hotel in Cape Town. We were again greetly very warmly by the host/receptionist, who directed us to the parking and our room. We had an amazing balcony that faced the water with doors that opened spanning the length of the balcony. Unfortunately, the weather was quite windy, so we weren't able to take full advantage of the beaches or waterside offerings. I walked along the beachwalk that started directly outside our hotel and was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and get a sense of Hermanus. I walked to the quaint little downtown area and perused the many artist galleries and shops. We went out in the downtown for dinner and had a lovely meal. We returned in the morning and purchased some art to remember our trip by. We had a quick stay in Hermanus. It was a lovely, quaint beach town that we didn't get to know very well, but we were charmed by what we were able to see/experience.

It was a long drive to Knysna, but the landscape and scenery were enrapturing. My husband comes from a dairy farming family, so he really enjoyed seeing the farmland and cattle. We were advised by one of the gallerists in Hermanus to stop by a farmstall along the way, and I'm glad we took his advice. We stopped by a farm stall and roadside shopping area, where we picked up some locally made snacks and adorable keepsakes for us and friends and family back home.

The Brenton on Sea guest house was a luxurious stay, and if anyone is interested in true beach time, I highly recommend it. Again, the weather was quite windy for our stay, so we weren't able to use it as such, but I still greatly enjoyed walking along the beach picking up shells and watching the waves. It was both mine and my husband's first times touching the Indian Ocean. Our room had a deck that looked out to the ocean and a walking path that led directly down to the beach. That was great and felt very special. We drove back into Knysna and east towards Plettenberg Bay to check out the area. On our full day in Knysna, we found a place that offered 4-wheeling (4x4) rides, which was a fun stop. Chase had been wanting to golf, so we popped into the Knysna Golf Club and he was able to scoop up the 3:30 tee time for the same day.

We had a bit of a nightmare the next morning when we woke up to realize our 3:30 am alarm had never gone off and we were going to miss our flight from George. That is when the travel agency came in clutch and were able to reschedule us out of Cape Town and, overall, we only landed about 30 minutes later than originally scheduled. It was a stressful morning, but we were grateful to have someone on call to help us. And boy, am I so glad we didn't lose a day at the Thabamati. I am in love with that place.

We have never stayed at a place so beautifully designed as Thabamati. Mich and Charlie are wonderful hosts, and again, the staff were incredibly friendly and accommodating. We both so enjoyed our time there and could rave about it at length. But I will summarize to say - the accommodations were beautiful and luxurious. The food was incredible - every meal was a delight. Charlie and Caswell were a great guide/tracker team, and their approach to game drives were incredibly respectful of the animals, which made me feel very comfortable. Their knowledge was incredibly deep and broad. I am an "animal nerd" and peppered them with questions - none of which they could not answer. We saw lots of animals, and even on the "slower" rides, it was a joy to take in the scenery, and Charlie didn't shy away from calling out every bird and bug to really give us an in-depth knowledge of the place.

We were sad to leave, but excited to experience our next stop. We are low key, flexible travelers and I would encourage anyone who is traveling from the Timbavati to Sabi Sands to bring that same attitude. It is a very long drive from one to the other - about 3.5 hours. A lot of the roads are dirt and ridden with potholes, which makes for very slow-going. Only about 1/3 of the drive is on paved roads where you can drive with some speed. You also travel through some villages, which is a real opportunity for humility, gratitude, and reflection about the developed vs the developing world and the history of colonialism by the white Europeans into black Africa. We drove through both on our way to and from the Sabi Sands, and both of our drivers were friendly and chatty about village life. I was glad to have learned from them about what day-to-day life is like.

By the end of our time in Nkhoro, I really came to enjoy it, but it was a real adjustment from Thabamati. Coming from a lodge of 4 tents, only 3 of which were occupied, a lodge of 8 fully-booked tents felt like a huge change. There were a majority German tourists there, so we weren't really able to chat with any of the other guests our first night. However, the game drive our first evening was a very good night of animal sightings. That was really the saving grace in our first 24 hours. And luckily, all 10 of the Germans left the next morning, so the rest of our game drives were only with one other Dutch couple, who were our age and much chattier. Our guide, Deon, was also much younger than Charlie at Thabamati, and while he was also incredibly knowledgeable about the animals and the Sabi Sands overall, you could tell he was still getting his "sea legs" with working with the tracker, while also operating the vehicle and keeping track of the radio. The general attitude was also different from Thabamati. Because there are so many more reserves in the Sabi Sands, the radios were almost constantly going off, and there was a bit more of a frantic attitude when one car would report a sighting to rush to get there. It by no means felt exploitative or invasive to the animals, it was a little more competitive than Thabamati. However, the animal sightings were top notch. We saw some incredible sights and some really rare animals, which was very special. My advice for future planners would be to start with Nkorho, then move to Thabamti, because Thabamati is a superior stay, but Nkorho had better animal sightings. But we still saw the Big 5 at both. Another minor disappointment was that at Nkorho, the ranger was away for the week, so we weren't able to go on a game walk there, like we were able to at Thabamati. Overall, I'd say Thabamati was a 10/10 and Nkorho was a 8.5/10. Still a wonderful experience, but Thabamati is hard to top.

Our travel on the way back home went very smoothly. We had about 6 hours once we landed back in Cape Town before our flight out of the country, so we returned to Hotel Onyx, where they didn't blink an eye when we asked if we could stash our luggage there. That is when I took advantage of the spa, which was very enjoyable and soothing before 24 hours of straight travel. After the massage, we walked back along the V&A Waterfront and got dinner and a drink in the shadow of Table Mountain, which was a beautiful way to say goodbye to a place we had really come to love!

One small area of improvement for KimKim. As we got closer to the start of our trip, I thought of a few different logistical questions. I was a little disappointed in the nature of the answers - they were quite vague and didn't really give me what I was looking for. In the future, I'd recommend a bit more in-depth answers or a more personal touch. I felt like I needed to look elsewhere (which is what I was trying to avoid) to really get the real answers I wanted. However, I was overall very pleased with our experience with KimKim. We definitely wouldn't have found the accommodations they booked for us, and I was very thankful to have someone hand me an itinerary with every booking and activity listed in one place, as well as a resource to fall back on when/if anything went awry.

We both thought of this trip as a trip-of-a-lifetime, but I think we might be back! We so enjoyed our time and everything was absolutely beyond our wildest expectations.

Hotel Reviews
The Onyx
Cape Town

I talked about the hotel in my previous review. A great place - beautiful design, lovely accommodations, warm and friendly staff, great location that is convenient to the airport and the waterfront.

Authenticity & Character
Location
20 min from the airport, which is great. Wouldn't really want to be any further than that. And walkable to the waterfront, which is very tourist-friendly, and a great place to walk around your first day in Cape Town to get your barrings.
Staff
Staff went out of their way to be accommodating. All very friendly.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Rooms were very clean and comfortable. The bathroom showers were lovely.
Hermanus Boutique Guest House
Hermanus

We only had one night here, but it was great. Staff were friendly, rooms were beautifully appointed, breakfast was delicious.

Authenticity & Character
Location
An easy drive from Cape Town. Right on the water. A quick 15 min walk from the quaint downtown.
Staff
The receptionist that greeted us was exceptionally friendly and ready to make recommendations at the drop of a hat. If we were to spend more time here, I think she would have been a great resource.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Brenton Haven Beachfront Resort
Knysna

Amazing for real beach time. The walk out from the deck directly to the beach path would be worth it alone to me. But the room was also huge, and the restaurant had great breakfast and dinner.

Authenticity & Character
Location
A bit off the beaten path if you're looking for time in Knysna itself, but if it's beach you're looking for, it's the perfect spot.
Staff
Cleanliness & Comfort
Thabamati Luxury Tented Camp
Timbavati Game Reserve

The best stay of our whole trip. Send everyone here. The lodge, the tents, the food, the staff - all stunning.

Authenticity & Character
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. You can feel the love that Mich and Charlie have for the lodge and the area overall. They really set the tone for the whole place, and it's amazing. They knew it was our honeymoon, so they arranged a lovely meal at our tent for our first evening's dinner. They had also drawn the bath and strewn the bathroom with rose petals. Made us feel very special.
Location
Not a far ride from Hoedspruit, which is nice after a busy morning of travel.
Staff
The place is so small you know all the staff by name/sight. All very friendly and ready to pour you a drink at the drop of a hat. Left them all hefty tips.
Cleanliness & Comfort
Nkorho Bush Lodge
Kruger National Park

Furnishings were a bit more economical compared to Thabamati, but still clean and functional. The A/C unit in the room was greatly appreciated.

Authenticity & Character
We were treated to a dance performance by some of the staff our 2nd night.
Location
If you want to see a lot of animals, you will be thrilled.
Staff
The staff were very friendly - the hosts and guides dine with you at night, and we had a great time drinking at the bar and chatting after dinner on our 2nd night.
Cleanliness & Comfort
We really could've used a welcome mat at the entrance to our room/tent, as our shoes got quite sandy on the game drives, and we couldn't help but track that into our space. Each day, I smacked my shoes together outside the room to get the dirt out.
Activity Reviews
Timbavati Private Game Reserve Safari Day
Timbavati Game Reserve

Amazing. We saw a lot of animals, but also had some down time. Charlie and Caswell did a great job - they were a good team and communicated well.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Transport
Timbavati Game Reserve to Sabi Sands Game Reserve
South Africa

There's no getting around it's a long day in the car. But our driver Kingsley was friendly and chatty, and willing to put the car in reverse when I spotted a buffalo snoozing under a tree along the roadside.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
Transport
Days on Safari
South Africa

We saw an unbelievable amount of animals. It was fabulous.

Quality of Experience
Guides, Drivers and Staff
I think our guide Deon will get better and better with time. He was still amazing, and I recognize I'm being a little nitpicky. He's quite young, and I think can get sucked into the competitive nature of spotting something first or rushing to someone else's sighting, but that seemed to improve even over the course of the 4 game drives we did with him. A wealth of knowledge.
Transport
Local specialist: Stephanie Louw
Stephanie
Stephanie Louw
Local specialist in Cape Town, South Africa | Reviewed on Nov 21, 2022

Hi Charlotte,
Thank you for your review! I hope to welcome you back again!
Stephanie