The Allure of South Africa - Tour Leader Report by Donna Rombough | Craig Travel

The Allure of South Africa - Tour Leader Report by Donna Rombough

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This wonderful world offers countless incredible places to explore.   Still, I love to return to South Africa. My latest visit was this past October 2015, having had the pleasure of escorting and sharing this unforgettable adventure with a wonderful group of travellers.

South Africa simply bursts with diversity and surprise at every turn. There is something for everyone, not only in the sights, but in the experiences.  This is a country exploding with diversity, teasing its visitors with its stunning sights, modern cities, old cultures and traditions, incredible wildlife, charming towns and a vibrant and tumultuous history.

Our tour began in sophisticated Capetown.  On my first visit many years ago, I had no clue what to expect.  On this latest visit, I knew what to expect and couldn’t wait to get there!  The city’s location on the tip of a small peninsula with the stunning Table Mountain as its backdrop, colourful boats bobbing in the bay, and the water’s edge lined with open air restaurants and shops, makes Capetown a sight to behold; charm at its best.   In Capetown, as in many parts of the country, you will find the whitewashed, elegant-looking Cape Dutch architecture, along with British monuments, reminders of the early settlers and the British occupation.

South Africa is known worldwide for its fine wines and a visit to the wine region is a must.  Just an hour from Capetown we wandered the charming town of Stellenbosch. Here, we visited the Boschendal Estate for a tour and tasting of five of its fine wines as we sat at wrought-iron tables under very old and lovely oak trees.  A lovely lunch of delicious African cuisine followed in the vineyard’s charming dining room.

A visit to an ostrich farm was great fun and cheering on several group members who were brave enough to ride an ostrich, was a highlight of the day.  Everyone enjoyed a delightful lunch that included, of course, ostrich meat, ostrich egg dishes, delicious salads and freshly baked breads.   Shopping for ostrich products (leathers and food items) was also a treat at the farm.  Did you know that ostrich eggs have such a thick, tough shell that one stand on them without breaking them?  And we did!

Another day, it was a visit to a crèche (nursery school) and a soup kitchen where we were able to meet the locals who counted on this kitchen for their daily meal.  That evening, the group was split into small groups for private dinners at the homes of South Africans who treated us to a traditional dinner.  The following day we shared stories from our home visits the night before.

One cannot visit South Africa without a safari adventure or two, or more!  What an incredible experience to view, so very up close, the magnificent wildlife in Kruger Park.  On our entry to the park, we spotted elephant, rhino and water buffalo, the first three of the “big five.”  Our accommodation was at marvelous Kruger Gate Lodge, a property which became one of the groups favourite on the tour.  The morning after our arrival, we departed the hotel at 5:15, breakfast boxes in hand and soon were treated to a magnificent sunrise as we headed into the wilderness in hopes of finding the remaining two of the “big five", the leopard and lion.   The open-air jeeps, 9 passengers per jeep, allowed for excellent viewing opportunities and by noon, we had completed our quest, as we spotted a leopard and two lions.  We were very fortunate to spot two wild dogs and were told this was a rare sighting.  Also sighted were hyena, baboons, bush buck, water buck, helmeted guinea fowl, kudu, zebra, steenbok and many birds.  Later, at our beautiful lodge, we enjoyed sundowner refreshments as we sat at the outdoor bar, watching wildlife wander on the grasslands before us. To experience wild animals in their natural habitat is really very humbling and precious…nature at its finest.

Pretoria is a beautiful city and we had the good fortune to spend time there when the stunning jacaranda trees were in full bloom.  Marvelous old trees provided a spectacular canopy of mauve over entire streets and when the blossoms fell, we walked and drove over a carpet of beauty!

Following our South African adventure, we headed to Botswana and the beautiful Chobe Game Lodge, set on the banks of the Chobe River.  It is the only permanent lodge within the park.  Chobe Park is home to more than 45,000 elephants, many lions, buffalo, leopard and countless other species of animals and birds.  The lodge itself is enchanting and tranquil, the food delicious with lots of choice, the staff charming and very accommodating.    Its’ safari guides are  female and very knowledgeable about the animals, the area and their country.  They are also very adept at looking after their safari vehicles, as we learned while watching them change a flat tire that blew mid-safari.  We enjoyed an exciting three days of game viewing, before heading to our next destination….Victoria Falls.  

South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe have been experiencing drought-like conditions for several years and this has affected the availability of food and water for the animals, as well as the amount of water at Victoria Falls, which is located on the Zambesi River.  However, rising almost twice as high as Niagara Falls, the falls are still spectacular.  Our stay at the luxurious and elegant Victoria Falls hotel, in view of the falls, was a magnificent way to end our adventure. 

Our memories are our most precious souvenirs.  But this journey is exceptional.  So many highlights!  So much to delight the senses!  Such diversity!  Capetown’s stunning Kirstenbosch Gardens; the colourful homes of the Malay Quarter; face painting at our welcome dinner; riding an ostrich; lunch at Chez Alina, a local home in Soweto; visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-eight years and meeting former prisoners and hearing their stories; exquisite African cuisine; colourful dancing; meeting the locals; touching the lives of the poor at a soup kitchen supported by Craig Travel and its travellers; animals wild and free as God intended; experiencing first-hand the heartbeat of this incredible nation at every turn and in so many ways.  And our incredible guide, Beverley, whose talent, knowledge, caring and charming personality brought it all together as no one else could.

This is but a glimpse of the many experiences encountered, enjoyed and still wildly alive in our memories.  And as usual, we had a wonderful group of travellers with whom to share this unforgettable adventure.

For more on our latest South African journeys, click here

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