South Africa (September 2013)
If you were looking for a truly special vacation that fulfilled a lot of your travel fantasies you might start thinking of a city with beautiful bays, fantastic scenery and exotic nightlife so Rio might come to mind. But you also like good wine so perhaps a stay in Bordeaux might add to the experience. You're also an adventurer so a safari in Kenya enjoying the outdoors but also creature comforts would be a great finale. Then you add up the time and the cost of traveling to Rio, Bordeaux and Kenya and think there must be an alternative. There is. Come with us for an adventure in South Africa combining the spectacular scenery and nightlife of Cape Town, a stay in a charming town in the Winelands and a luxury safari lodge on the Botswana Border. Deluxe accommodations, great food, wine tasting and lions and you don't have to share the experience with a crowd, just you and five other adventurers. Best of all the properties are either gay owned or gay-friendly.
Having departed the previous evening from the United States you arrive in the late afternoon in Cape Town where you are met and escorted to your luxury boutique hotel located on the slopes of table Mountain and offering breathtaking views of the city, the harbor and the surrounding mountains. If you still have energy after your trip there are a wide variety of restaurants and cafes in the area.
After breakfast you meet your guide and head off to tour the highlights of Cape Town known affectionately as the Mother City. During your morning tour you will take in the Houses of Parliament, the Castle, built between 1666 and 1679 and lively Greenmarket Square with its daily market. Depending on the weather and visibility you can take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain to enjoy spectacular views of the city and the peninsula. As you come back down from the mountain make a stop at Bo-Kaap, home to the Cape Malay community with its cobbled streets and brightly colored houses. You will then stop at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront where you have lunch. After lunch your guide will take you to the Clock Tower also known as the Nelson Mandela gateway where you board a ferry to Robben Island. Your guide will not accompany you but there are guides on the island to explain the history of the island. The island was a training and defense station in World War II and has also served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment which became world famous as the prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. After your tour the ferry takes you back to the V & A waterfront where you can either make an evening of it or take a taxi back to your hotel and the many dining establishments around it. The hotel's restaurant by the pool is also a nice alternative. (Breakfast and Lunch included)
Today you embark on a full day tour of the Cape Peninsula. Take in the beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay before crossing over to Hout Bay. From here you drive to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve via Chapman's Peak, one of the most breathtaking coastal drives, where you will board a funicular to get to the top of the Peninsula to witness the symbolic meeting of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and enjoy spectacular views over False Bay. After lunch continue to Simonstown, the naval base, and visit the African penguin breeding colony at Boulders Beach. Then stop at the world-renowned Kirstenbosch Gardens before returning to your hotel. (Breakfast and Lunch included)
After breakfast you leave Cape Town via the apple growing area of Elgin, to the renowned Hamilton Russell Vineyards located in the "Heaven and Earth Valley". You have the chance to visit the vineyard and try some of their excellent wines then on to Hermanus, the best land-based whale watching spot in the world. June to November is the vest time to see the Southern Right Whales as they move in as close as 150 feet from the shore. There is time for you to wander around the town of Hermanus before returning towards Cape Town via the dramatic Platinum Coast. This route winds past beautiful bays such as Betty's Bay and Pringle Bay, where you will stop at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. This beautiful, secluded garden is set between mountain and sea, in the heart of the Cape Fynbos (natural shrub land) region encompassing 27 acres of cultivated fynbos gardens as well as large sections of pristine natural fynbos. This splendid coastal route continues to Gordon's Bay and then takes you back to Cape Town late this afternoon. Since this will be your last night in Cape Town we can suggest some great venues to close out your stay (Breakfast included)
Today you will travel with a food and wine expert to the Winelands area outside of Cape Town. If you are in a hurry you can drive it in about an hour but we're not in a hurry so it will take us the better part of a day. You will certainly taste some good wines but this journey is focused more on the educational aspects you are exposed to. During your odyssey you will taste olive oil, olives and wine, cheese and wine and especially chocolate and wine. You will be savoring a variety of foods and while we will stop an excellent restaurant along the way, how much you want to eat is up to you. In the late afternoon we arrive at the oak-lined avenues of Stellenbosch the second oldest town in the country and a major center of learning as well as wine. Your hotel, the oldest existing hotel in the country is also right in the centre of the attraction so you have plenty of options this evening. (Breakfast and Food/Wine Tastings Included)
After breakfast you meet up with your guide and begin a delightful drive through superb mountain ranges, vineyards and Cape Dutch homesteads. The Winelands have three major wine centers built around a specific town. The first on our trip will be Stellenbosch since you are already there you will start with some wine tasting in the vineyards just outside of town. Onward over the scenic Helshoogte Pass to Franschhoek, founded by French Huguenots over 350 years ago, and widely regarded as the culinary capital of South Africa. Its beautiful setting and café lined streets will charm you and you will have lunch with wine and a further wine tasting at one of the renowned estates in the area. Your final stop is the town of Paarl, at the foot of a cluster of remarkable granite domes where you do your last wine tasting of the day before returning to Stellenbosch (Breakfast and Lunch Included)
In the morning you will be escorted to Cape Town airport where you board a flight bound for Johannesburg the commercial centre of South Africa. Upon arrival you are transferred to a shuttle flight that will take you to Madikwe where a representative of your luxury lodge will meet you and escort you to the lodge. Depending on the time of your arrival you may have time for an afternoon game drive before enjoying a candlelight dinner with wine under the stars ( Breakfast and Dinner included)
One of South Africa's newer and prime safari destinations, the Madikwe Game reserve is situated in the malaria free North West Province, bordering Botswana. This "big five" reserve spans 185,000 acres making it one of the largest game reserves in South Africa. It is particularly renowned for its wild dog reintroduction in the east, as well as the unusual gemsbok, tsessebe and springbok. The lions in Madikwe originate from Etosha in Namibia, and are known to hunt very large prey such as giraffe and eland which requires immense strength and makes for impressive sightings. You can take a morning and an afternoon game drive although many times you can see good game from your sala at your villa. The Lodge has only five villas each accommodating two guests so it offers a very intimate and elegant African experience. (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Included)
After your morning game drive and breakfast you are transferred to the airstrip for the flight to Johannesburg where you connect with your international flight. (Breakfast included)
Cape Town – Kensington Place Hotel
Kensington Place is an exclusive and "off the wall" boutique hotel, set on the slopes of Table Mountain, in the vibrant suburb of Higgovale. The hotel is surrounded by a lush landscaped garden with an intimate plunge pool and a wide terrace offering breathtaking views of the city, harbor and surrounding mountains. Nominated one of the Top 101 Hotels in the World in 2006, Kensington Place has an intimate bar, dining room and lounge with a fireplace and a music library. The 8 luxurious rooms each have private terraces and are styled in a unique blend of textures, original artworks from mostly South African artists and contemporary detail with marble baths, DVD players, audio visual facilities with iPod docking, a laptop and Skype. Enjoy the warm hospitality, relaxing in the garden, and outdoor dining by the pool, exploring the wide variety of restaurants and cafés in the area or making use of the complimentary gym membership.
Stellenbosch – Oude Werf Hotel
Oude Werf Hotel is South Africa's oldest existing hotel; it was established in 1802 and is situated in the centre of historic Stellenbosch, within walking distance of all the attractions. The elegant "1802 Restaurant" is renowned for its traditional and international cuisine and the remains of a little 1709 church, which can be seen beneath the floorboards of the Oude Werf Hotel kitchen, are of great historical interest. There are 32 tastefully appointed en-suite bedrooms are all individually styled with antiques collected over the years. Modern facilities in the rooms include easy chairs, satellite television, hairdryer, air-conditioning, mini-fridge, safe deposit boxes and tea/coffee making facilities. Enjoy excellent hospitality, fine dining, wireless internet connectivity, a beauty salon, an art gallery, an in-house tour guide and a heated swimming pool in the tranquil garden, all presented in a distinctive Georgian style.
Madikwe Game Reserve – Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge
Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge is situated in the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa's North West province. The main lounge of this stylish safari lodge exudes royal opulence, where crisp white sofas are splashed with silky silver and burgundy throws. The heavy dark wood furnishings of the library cabinets blend in well with the white screeded concrete floors and sections of natural stone stacked walls. Crackling fireplaces, low exposed wooden roof trusses and well placed lanterns, warm the interiors, while roof to floor glass doors fold away to wide decks, with views of the open savanna and a nearby waterhole. Silver service dining is enjoyed indoors or al fresco in the stone framed boma. The 5 free standing villas present shear extravagance and total privacy. The stark white flooring, linens, mosquito netting and furnishings are contrasted by heavy dark woods and colourful African oil paintings. There is space for indoor or outdoor private dining and the comfy sitting areas are set beside the fireplace. The en-suite bathrooms offer luxury amenities and cool tiled finishes, free standing bath tubs and double showers. The expansive outdoor decks boast private salas, rim flow pools and outdoor showers. View passing game from the privacy of your villa, or go on exciting Big Five game drives with experienced guides. The birding and star gazing in Madikwe are equally remarkable.