Destinations - South Africa

"It was a wonderful experience. South Africa certainly has something for everyone."

Sandra from our Carmarthen branch tells us in her own words about her trip to South Africa

Words: Sandra Walters, The Travel House Carmarthen

On a wet and windy day, not uncommon in South Wales, I decided to swot up on my product knowledge with an online training session. A few weeks later I was contacted by Tourism South Africa who told me as a result of the training I had won a trip to South Africa to experience all the wonders of this country for myself.

There were three different itineraries planned in total for a number of excited travel agents. Cape Town and The Garden Route, The Panorama Route and the Guateng and North West Province. The latter was the group I was allocated to. If I am completely honest I knew nothing about this area before travel.

All three groups met at Heathrow Terminal 2 ready for our South African Airways flight to Johannesburg. The flight was 11 hours in total and they are just 2 hours ahead of GMT. The flight was great, the cabin staff were very pleasant and the on board services and dining was good.

When I arrived into Johannesburg the groups split up and were introduced to our respective hosts who would be looking after us. I travelled by bus out to Pretoria around an hour away from Johannesburg. My first night was spent in Pretoria at The Court Classique hotel. This is a centrally located hotel and was a 3*+. The food was excellent and the rooms were very comfortable, a great location for anyone spending time in Pretoria.

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa also known as The Jacaranda City due to the sheer amount of Jacaranda trees within the area. Unfortunately they hadn't blossomed that early in September so we missed the amazing sight. I enjoyed a City Cycle Tour of Pretoria which showed all the areas off the beaten track not normally travelled by tourists, It was quite an experience.

The following day I headed up to Hartbeespoort Dam area, a very upmarket area where wealthy residents spend their weekends in holiday homes on the banks of the dam. It sits within the Magaliesberg Mountain range. En route I stopped off at the Chameleon Village which is a huge indoor market filled with crafts from all over Africa.

I checked into The Cocomo Guest House for two nights which was very comfortable and again the food was excellent. After breakfast I set off to the Harties Cableway, a cable car which takes you up to the highest point. The view from up there was fantastic with hang gliders soaring overhead.....rather them than me!

Moving on to Sun City..

Sun International's flagship resort is as popular today as it was when it was first built in 1979. Whether it's a romantic stay with your partner, a wild weekend with friends or a holiday with the whole family, Sun City Resort has it all. Located on the border of the Pilanesberg National Game Park, and just a 2-hour drive from Johannesburg, or a short 40-minute flight, Sun City is the perfect getaway destination. Here there is something for everyone with accommodation ranging from 3* to 5*.

I then checked into the Ivory Tree Lodge within the Pilanesberg National Park. Our party arrived too late to go on the evening game drive so I had time to relax and unpack before dinner. Bleary eyed my group met the next morning at 6am. After a cup of coffee and some freshly baked muffins I got into our safari vehicle for the morning game drive. Pilanesberg is a National Park and is open to self-drive vehicles. You have to stay on the tarmacked roads and obviously inside your vehicle but is a great option for people who like to arrange their own activities.

Within the park you will hopefully see the Big Five. I had the privilege to see Cheetah hunting with her three cubs. I then spent two nights in the Ivory Tree Lodge before moving north up to the Botswana border. From here I spent the next two nights in two different Private Game Lodges. The first was Thakadu River Camp situated in Madikwe Game Reserve, sleeping in tented safari suites, this particular lodge was my favourite.

Bahamas The Safari..

This is the way the Safari works: early morning wake up call, coffee and muffins before the drive. A half way coffee break is provided before heading back to lodge for 9-9.30 am ready for breakfast. The rest of the morning and early afternoon is for relaxing at the pool. In the afternoon you meet your guide for 'high tea' which includes coffee, tea cakes and biscuits before your game drive. Half way through this drive just as the sun is setting they find somewhere in the bush for you to enjoy a sunset drink. This can be anywhere as unlike the National Parks, these rangers can take you off road to the wildlife. This is a bit scary but very exciting. The sun sets really quickly and it goes dark in no time so you spend about an hour or two driving through the reserve with your headlights and a long range flash light. The rangers are then spotting and pointing out any nocturnal animals I wouldn't have seen previously.

You arrive back at the lodge for about 7.30pm just in time for dinner. This is usually in an outside area called the Boma. Everyone is sat around a fire pit and the chefs are outside with you, cooking in the warm African evening air.

The second night I stayed in Jacl's Safari Lodge, again I had a tented safari suite. Here I laid in bed listening to lions across the way roaring! A bit unnerving but something I will never forget. Both Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves are Malaria free. When the safari was over I headed back to Johannesburg and stayed in the Sandton area. This area has great transport links into the city and a direct rail link to the airport. The evening was spent in Melrose Arch. This area is described as urban dynamism, day and night. The street-based layout favours pedestrians, combining modernism and green design innovation in extraordinary ways, all contributing to the 24/7 buzz. Here you can enjoy over 20 restaurants and coffee shops, eclectic boutiques and a luxury health club. It is always bustling with boutique browsers and has a fantastic cafe culture.

My last day in South Africa was spent in Soweto. This is still very much the 'townships' area of Johannesburg but not off limits. Some of my travelling companions decided on a cycling tour of Soweto, but myself and eight others took on a walking tour. We started at the Hector Pieterson Memorial. The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, situated in Orlando, Soweto, commemorates the role of the country's students in the struggle against apartheid and in particular the role played by the school children who took part in the Soweto protests of 1976.

Bahamas Then I had a chance to visit Nelson Mandela house in Vilazaki Street. It is now a museum and very interesting but very busy with tourists. This is where he lived with his wife and family before his imprisonment. Also on this street is the house of Bishop Desmond Tutu. Vilazaki Street is the only street in the world that can claim two Nobel Peace Prize Winners. This day completed my time in The North West Provence. It was a wonderful experience. South Africa certainly has something for everyone.

If you are interested in travelling to Cape Town you may like to take your chances at a shark diving experience, sea kayaking or an amazing helicopter flight over Table Mountain.

There is so much to see and do and with the current South African Rand exchange rate we still get a good return for the GBP.

To find more about South Africa or to book your holiday please call us on 01267 221700

Article Reference: 000109