Because our agency is not an IATAN agency, I am always looking for companies that recognize CLIA agencies. On a cold January morning, I was previewing my cherished edition of FAM news and behold I came across Goway Travel. In my 15 years of booking travel, tours to South Africa were relatively new for our agency. We then contacted Goway, the Africa Experts and members of ASTOA. I spoke with Mr. Firdosh Bulsara in the Toronto Office who explained we could design our own FAM. Because we had never been to South Africa, Mr.Glenn Griffin and Mr. Bulsara were truly “the experts” in planning our FAM. We explained that we were planning on putting a group together, but that our clients were afraid of taking an anti malaria drug (which is necessary when traveling to Northeast South Africa), as many of them are senior citizens and already on a multitude of medications. Goway returned with what turned out to be the perfect fit for our clients.
Goway obtained consolidator air on South African Airlines, which turned out to be a real treat. The seats offered ample leg room and each seat had it’s own entertainment console so the 14 ½ hour flight was quite enjoyable. The food and service was very good.
We arrived on time in Cape Town and were met and greeted by Thompsons Tours and taken to Le Vendome Hotel, which is listed as a small luxury hotel in the Sea Point area. There was nothing small about Le Vendome with the amenities and decorated in the French style with pleasing colors and a friendly staff. We immediately felt welcomed by everyone and enjoyed the site inspection given by the owner and general manager. The hotel mission is to make everyone feel at home with impeccable service and attention to detail. The breakfast buffet was wonderful overlooking the pristine pool courtyard. A 24-hour business center with room for business groups up to 300 is a definite plus. This was truly a 5 star hotel and will certainly be high on our recommendation list.
While staying in the Cape Town area, we took tours with Thompsons and each and every guide was an expert with a professional and friendly attitude. Our half day city tour was very informative and our cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain is one that everyone should recommend; we could have spent much more time up at the top so will do that on our next trip back. The view from the top is breathtaking and not to be missed.
Our tour to the Cape Peninsula was a full day tour and again well worth it. We visited Cape Horn, made a stop at a viewpoint overlooking the Cape Horn site and got to see baboon that were looking for unsuspecting tourists with food. Be advised, DO NOT FEED the animals for both their and your protection. The South African penguins the Boulders in False Bay were a sight to see. There are only 3,000 in existence and this area is protected and hopefully will increase in size. A lunch stop at a beach restaurant provided a tasty lunch of fresh seafood while watching people playing on the beach. Our bus ride continued on to Taut Bay where we boarded a boat to visit a colony of seals just outside the bay. The road leaving the bay gives a spectacular view on the return to Cape Town, where we stopped at the famed Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; also a stop not to be missed.
Our next full day tour was north to the winelands region. Our first stop at Seidelberg winery tour ended with an outdoor tasting under a beautiful shade tree overlooking the valley. The next stop was in Paarl to the Afrikaans Monument, which is the only monument devoted to a language, and offers a sweeping view of the surrounding area. Stops were also made in Franschhoek at the Huguenot Memorial, a lunch stop, and a final stop at Simonsig Winery for another tasting.
We then flew on to Port Elizabeth and were met by Johann Engelbrecht of Shield Tours who transferred us to Addo National Elephant Park for an overnight and three game drives. The park now offers The Big Seven drives, and we were not disappointed. I would recommend staying two nights in a Rondavel which has air conditioning and overlooks a watering hole that was visited by many elephants throughout the day and night. For those taking the evening drive and do not have their own car, purchase something from the grocery shop so that you have something to eat because the restaurant is closed when you return from the night viewing.
Johann picked us up the next morning very punctual as usual and drove us to Kariega Game Preserve, which was another treat for animal viewing. Johann was very knowledgeable about the whole area, and a very personable guide. We stayed at Ukhozi Lodge, which accommodates 20 guests in ten superbly appointed suites decorated in African motif. The meals, which were included with the package, were exceptional with detailed service; the open-air restaurant with its huge fireplace lounge area was truly enjoyable. The guide on our drive was an excellent source of animal data and truly enjoyed her work; we saw many zebra, antelope, white rhino, and giraffe. We also took a relaxing boat ride down Bushmans River and viewed more animal and bird life while sipping on refreshing cool drinks. Kariega will be getting lion in April and will be able to offer Big Five drives in September making it definitely on the high list of recommendations. Again, in being in a malaria free zone, it is ideal for our clients.
After leaving Kariega, we returned to Port Elizabeth to board a flight to Johannesburg where we were again greeted by Thompsons and taken to the Hotel Michelangelo located in Sandton which is an exclusive suburb of Johannesburg. The Michelangelo is a five star property with the Sandton Mall attached for shopping that will please even the fussiest of shoppers.
Again, thank you to FAM News for directing us to Goway Travel, which turned out for us to be really the true Africa Experts. We look forward to booking many groups thru their very capable group department. The package is ideal for the client who wants first class accommodations in a malaria free zone without giving up viewing the Big Seven.
With a fantastic sunset while sipping sundowners, how could anyone not want to return to South Africa? We’ll be back!!