South Africa is one of my favourite destinations in the world, purely for the fact it is so diverse with so many things to see and do. The experience here is like no other! Having been countless times, it is somewhere that never fails to excite me and it almost feels like a second home now. I recently went on my perfect trip, which included going on safari to witness some unbelievable scenery and fantastic wildlife viewing, then I savoured a little bit of Cape Town to enjoy some amazing food and beautiful beaches. Finally, it’s onto the stunning winelands to sample some of the local vineyards.
We started our journey at Marataba, which is a family-run safari lodge set in the malaria-free Marakele National Park, which is 27,000 hectares of private land located in the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains, offering scenery quite different to how you imagine your typical African plains to be.
It is made up of two lodge – a safari lodge made up of 15 tented suites and a mountain lodge which comprises just five eco lodges. The great thing about them is you get such a different experience at each one. At the safari lodge you feel like you are really amongst it all, with antelopes strolling up to your tent and at mountain lodge, you’re looking over the stunning endless views of the savannah.
Aside from the lodges, you can also spend the night in the Thabametsi treehouse. My husband and I did this and it truly was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience! I loved the fact we were also given an iPad with an app which helped us identify all the bird and insect noises around us. The lodge will pack you a picnic basket for your both your breakfast and dinner, with your drinks of choice. It goes without saying, the food at Marataba is excellent. I thought I’d be really scared of all the bush noises, but it’s amazing how relaxed I actually felt and I slept so well. You’re given a walkie-talkie so the guides are always on hand, just in case you have any issues. The next morning, I was sat on the deck of the treehouse with a cup of tea (yes, they really have thought of everything) and was feeling a bit disappointed we hadn’t had any wildlife encounters. As soon as that thought entered my head, a hyena walked past below!
The guides are all trained at the on-site college. They’re all incredibly enthusiastic, have so much energy and enthusiasm and are extremely knowledgeable. We saw all of the Big Five and they were also able to show us some of the Little Five (elephant shrew, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise, antlion and rhino beetle)! It was amazing and very encouraging to see so many rhinos. The usual safari protocol is morning coffee or sundowners in the bush, but not only do Marataba do this but they also have a lovely set up on a boat for morning coffee or evening sundowners, which is great for checking out the hippos. The experience here was amazing to say the least. We absolutely loved it and it’s not hard to see why it was voted the third best lodge in Africa in the 2018 Condé Nast Traveller awards.
Captivating city and coastline
After our incredible safari, it was time to chill out on the beach for three nights at my favourite Camps Bay property: Sea Five. It is such a beautiful property with a real beach-house feel with whitewashed woods to give that laid-back feeling.
Breakfast at Sea Five is very good, but you are also within walking distance of cafés and restaurants found along the beach. Be sure to check out the local catch at the comically named Codfather or have some sushi at Paranga. Sea Five is just a three-minute walk from the beach, offering amazing views of the mountain and ocean as soon as you walk through the door. From Camps Bay, it’s easy to explore the centre of Cape Town, its iconic Table Mountain or just relax by Sea Five’s beautiful infinity pool.
From Camps Bay, we took a 15-minute drive to The Silo hotel, which is situated at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The Silo is in a great location, close by to the shops and restaurants of the waterfront. I would highly recommend The Silo for a first-timer to South Africa, for its ease of location and finding your bearings. The Silo such an interesting building, as it was an old grain silo dating back to 1921. A lot of the Cape Town residents cannot stop raving about this property and it’s easy to see why. It’s very different to any other hotel I’ve previously experienced and I think it’s fair to say it’s probably one of the nicest places I’ve ever stayed! From the inside and outside, the architecture is absolutely stunning. There is just so much attention to detail here, especially in each individually styled room. Families are also welcome here and the beautiful two-bedroom suites are perfect for families. There was a water shortage while I was in Cape Town, but the level of service at The Silo meant that you could still enjoy a bath (with that stunning view) as they had a desalination plant installed so guests weren’t affected.
The Silo offers amazing views of Table Mountain and the waterfront from its huge, stunning windows! Also, it’s worth checking out the incredible views from the ground floor looking up at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which operates in the bottom half of the building. As you might have gathered by now, I’m a bit of a foodie. Breakfast is my favourite meal and the breakfast here did not disappoint – it was set up like an afternoon tea. My whole experience was a real feeling of high standard and quality. The hotel really looks after the residents of the hotel and puts them first, including up at the pool, which is the perfect place to spend a hot sunny African afternoon. Even if you aren’t staying at The Silo, do try and at least go for dinner or a cocktail.
Wonderful wine region
From Cape Town, we then travelled an hour out to the Winelands of Franschhoek to stay at Mont Rochelle. I last stayed here four years ago when it had not long opened, but it was so lovely to return where the standards are just as high and the upkeep of the property has been superbly maintained. My whole experience here was just so good! Every stay here comes with a complimentary wine tasting at Mont Rochelle’s private vineyard. Their award-winning wines are great and the wine-tasting room is always full of laughter and is just a really welcoming environment. I can highly recommend one of the organised cellar visits, too. A really fun thing to do is to take one of the organised picnics and go off for a hike – there are plenty of quiet spots within the 100-acre estate. The staff here are excellent and really make you feel like you’re at home.
There’s also the newly renovated four-bedroom Manor House, which can be hired out exclusively for families or as a great retreat for a group of friends celebrating. The Manor House has not just one but two pools, a gym and a private kitchen. If private dining isn’t your thing, the main Miko restaurant is also excellent. It’s worth mentioning that Mont Rochelle is also on the Wine Tram route. I’ll be honest, I had quite low expectations for the wine tram, as I’m not a huge fan of organised day trips but this was brilliant! I’ve been visiting the vineyards around the South African wine region for quite a few years and have got to know some really well, but the wine tram takes you to a wide variety of different ones that you might not have necessarily heard of.
Naturally, I thought I’d end on a foodie note! Reuben’s has always been one of my favourite restaurants in Franschhoek village and I felt heartbroken when I saw it was no longer there. However, it had just moved to a new location in Franschhoek and thankfully it’s still lovely, so I’d definitely recommend popping in there when you’re in the area!
Inspired by Melanie’s trip? Here’s her itinerary below:
– Overnight flight from London to Johannesburg
– 1 night at Safari Lodge (Marataba)
– 1 night in the Thabametsi Treehouse (Marataba)
– 2 nights at Mountain Lodge
– 3 nights at Sea Five, Camps Bay Cape Town
– 2 nights at The Silo, Cape Town
– 3 nights at Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek
– Overnight flight from Cape Town to London