If it’s a stylish city break, action-packed safari OR dramatic scenery you’re after then look no further than South Africa, a Sally and Alice Travel Co. favourite since day one.
A stunning windswept coastline, varied safari options, world-class food and wine and the country’s crown jewel, the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, all amount to South Africa being a one-stop holiday destination. The Western Cape is best explored by a self-drive holiday taking in Cape Town, the Winelands and surrounding mountains and beaches of the Whale Coast. Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest and best-known game reserve but we find that neighbouring private reserves within the exclusive Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve benefit from far less tourist traffic and equally high game densities.
The Eastern Cape contains a string of glorious wild beaches which make up the Garden Route as well as a number of malaria-free safari areas, perfect for families or those on a self-drive tour. If it's peace and quiet you seek then head across country to the wild and dusty plains of the Northern Cape where Africa’s largest and arguably most beautiful private game reserve, Tswalu Kalahari, never has more than 30 visitors at any one time. We have travelled the length and breadth of South Africa; a country which has an abundance of owner-run character properties and award-winning luxury hotels.
TO S&A DO LIST
- Be sure to book an action-packed day out in Cape Town with Escape + Explore, Africa’s leading adventure guides who offer everything from surfing, to hiking, to SUP-ing, all imbued with a great sense of fun!
- From late July through to September the nature reserve surrounding Grootbos turns into a tapestry of lush, colourful fynbos and flowers - a paradise for nature lovers and budding botanists
- Take an interactive Uthando tour from Cape Town, you'll meet some remarkable people and be inspired by the incredible work the not-for-profit company is doing in the area
When it comes to safari lodges in South Africa there is something to suit everyone so we feel rather weak at the knees attempting to give an overview. For romantics who prefer their safari to be under canvas, Tanda Tula is one of the best authentic camps in the country, owned and managed by Don and Nina Scott together with their passionate and dedicated team. Meaning 'love of the quiet', the 12 East African styled tents sit peacefully on the shaded banks of the Nlharalumi riverbed. The romance of this classic safari camp is enhanced by low impact game viewing, nature walks, and novel sundowners in the bushveld. For a more affordable option Garonga Safari Camp is a rustic yet luxurious tented camp complete with a sleep-out platform, bush bath and spa and a warm and friendly atmosphere thanks to owner Bernie Smith. The seven-room Makanyi Private Game Lodge balances full-on luxury with the feel of a family home thanks to owner Jess Gold. Makanyi is special in that it's set in a section of the Timbavati where there are no other lodges, just a few private homes, so you really feel like you have the entire bush to yourself. For great game viewing from your private terrace head to Charl and Maria’s Brink’s Chitwa Chitwa, a stylish lodge which overlooks a waterhole in the exclusive Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, an area known for its big cat sightings. Top luxury lodges Leopard Hills and Dulini Lodge are also favourites in Sabi Sands, but for impeccable service, prestigious guides and award-winning lodge design you can’t beat Singita whose 4 South African properties Singita Ebony, Singita Boulders, Singita Sweni and Singita Lebombo each have a unique character. Our top malaria-free safari options are in the Madikwe Game Reserve, where Morukuru, Madikwe Safari Lodge, and Jamala Madikwe all deserve a mention, as well as the Eastern Cape where Kwandwe sits in a private reserve of 54,000 acres of pristine wilderness, home to the big 5. For a one of a kind safari experience in South Africa, Tswalu Game Reserve extends over an enormous 1000 square kilometres of Kalahari sandveld in the north of the country, a wonderful private wilderness which contains an excellent range of wildlife, notably including the classic black-mane lions, cheetahs, wild-dogs, caracals and aardvarks. The area is shared by just two small lodges at Tswalu Kalahari meaning privacy and exclusivity is guaranteed. The main lodge Tswalu Motse is built from local stone, red clay and typical Kalahari thatch as well as a spa and pool whilst the 5 bedroom Tswalu Tarkuni is for exclusive use, a wonderful option for families. Activities include vehicle safari, walking safari and horse-back safari.
In Cape Town you can’t beat the sea views and impeccable service at Ellerman House which is perched up high in Bantry Bay. Further along Kloof Road, overlooking Clifton’s ‘designer’ beaches, is the stylish Cape View Clifton, where the young interior designer owner and her dynamic team have created the most beautiful ocean-facing villa which you can rent by the room or exclusively. Downtown in the vibrant City Bowl within easy reach of fabulous restuarants and good shopping, couples will love boutique bolt-holes Cape Cadogan and Kensington Place whilst families will appreciate the ease of independent living but with access to full hotel services in More Quarter’s luxury 1 and 2 bedroom self-catering apartments, giving an independent style of living but with access to full hotel services. Those who prefer a larger and more traditional hotel will enjoy the elegant Cape Grace which is located at the heart of V&A Waterfront’s buzzy tourist hub, whilst just across the water creative souls will be drawn to the striking Silo Hotel. Standing alongside the brand new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa which houses the largest collection of contemporary African art in the world, this luxurious 28-bedroomed hotel - spread over three floors and topped off with a rooftop pool – is the latest hotel masterpiece from the unstoppable team behind The Royal Portfolio. Alternatively, if you’re the kind of person who’d rather be completely removed from the hustle and bustle of a busy city, then you should consider a stay in the pretty suburb of Constantia, home to renowned wine estates and numerous award-winning restaurants. Foodies and golf enthusiasts alike should consider a stay at Steenberg Estate whilst families will love the space of Cellars-Hohenort.
In the Winelands, boutique hotels and guesthouses revolve around gastronomic delights. Newly refurbished Le Quartier Francais and next-door sister property Leeu House are perfectly situated in the heart of Franschhoek within walking distance to a superb choice of fine-dining restaurants. For an authentic farm experience in the heart of the Cape Winelands, between Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, the farm at Boschendal offers 22 gorgeous restored cottages, a delightful Farmshop, Deli and bakery along with an on-site restaurant. Nearby Babylonstoren is also a working farm and wine estate famous for its incredible organic gardens, excellent restaurant ‘Babel’ and chic minimalist cottages which blend history with contemporary design. Just outside of Franschhoek, La Petite Ferme is a family-operated farm renowned for its very popular restaurant and lovely views - accommodation is in nine suite rooms and a handful of self-catering cottages, all to a very high standard. For unbeatable views, Richard Branson’s Mont Rochelle sits atop a hill just outside of Franschhoek and is well suited to families and couples alike, whilst down the road La Cle de Montagnes is a collection of 4 exclusive use villas ranging from 2 – 4 bedrooms, each individually styled with private pools and a really lovely team of staff – this is the ideal option for families or groups of friends travelling together. Finally, the jewels in the Cape Winelands crown...Delaire Graff Lodges and Spa, a world-leading destination for wine and art lovers in an unrivalled setting. Each individual lodge has breathtaking, uninterrupted views of the Stellenbosch Valley, there are two restaurants, a state-of-the-art winery, a destination Spa and beautifully landscaped gardens dotted with stunning Dylan Lewis sculptures. Just outside of Franschhoek, La Residence is set around a palm-lined courtyard with a large infinity pool with sumptuous Louis Quatorze styled public areas filled with an impressive collection of South African art and eleven impressive guest suites, each individually designed and decorated in owner Liz Biden’s eclectic style.
With a wild and windswept coastline on both the warm Indian Ocean and icy Atlantic, South Africa boasts numerous beaches for surfers and swimmers alike, although those specifically looking for a tropical beach holiday should continue on to Mozambique or Mauritius. One of our favourite places to relax on the wild west coast is Strandloper Ocean Lodge, set in the dunes on the beachfront in the quaint fishing village of Paternoster. At Birkenhead House in Hermanus guests can watch whales from the refined luxury of their private ocean-facing suites. Morukuru Ocean House is one of the very best coastal lodges in Southern Africa, an extremely stylish property set in a prime position in the lovely De Hoop Wildlife Reserve designed for a single group of 6 to 10 guests in 5 bedrooms. Along the Garden Route, we love The Plettenberg in Plettenberg Bay, an elegant hotel built on a dramatic rocky headland that separates the two main swimming beaches. Finally, we couldn’t fail to mention the Oyster Box which opened its doors in 1947 and has since become one of Africa's best loved hotels. Standing majestically on Umhlanga's prestigious beachfront within easy access to Durban, the Oyster Box is an ideal place to spend a few nights before venturing off on safari or up into the Drakensberg Mountains or battlefield tours.
For more of a rural stay, Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse sustains fine luxury in a fabulous historic homestead on a working farm and nature reserve with a lake, mountains, and vineyards beyond. Whilst still officially in the Cape Winelands and convenient to Cape Town and Franschhoek, Bartholemeus Klip is a rural retreat where guests can enjoy peace and quiet, warm hospitality, stunning views and (gargantuan amounts of) heavenly country food. The beautifully restored Victorian farmhouse is set beneath a spectacular mountain range, and is surrounded by well-kept farmland and a 10,000 acre nature reserve. 3 hours north of Cape Town lies 5-star luxury wellness retreat Bushmans Kloof, set on a vast private reserve in the shadow of the Cederberg Mountains. Activities include nature drives and guided rock art walks – you’ll find about 130 San Bushmen Rock art sites throughout this reserve. For a coastal escape just outside of Cape Town, couples will be wowed by Tintswalo Atlantic, nestled in woodland at the water’s edge on a private nature reserve, with each individually decorated suite boasting panoramic views of Hout Bay.
LOOKING TO EXTEND YOUR TRIP?
A holiday or safari in South Africa combines well with beach time in Mozambique or Mauritius, or safari in neighbouring Botswana or Namibia...