First Class Experiences with Daniel Gathercole, Managing Director at First Class Holidays
Before I set off on this trip, I already knew I would love it. It was my perfect holiday, combining everything I love in one trip, a city break on the waterfront, stunning scenery, wildlife and adventure and then 6 days relaxing on a beautiful Mozambiquan island at the end.
It more than lived up to my expectations.
We started off in Capetown, staying at the beautiful One and Only Waterfront hotel. This hotel is situated at the V&A Waterfront and is a fantastic location for not only exploring the waterfront area, but also exploring other parts of Cape Town.
The hotel itself was definitely 5*. It’s not cheap but is well worth the price tag and the décor, food and service is top notch. We stayed on an island room, but having done a site inspection, all the rooms are of incredible standard. The suites are on another level.
Stepping outside the hotel, you are a few minutes’ walk from lots of seals and if you’re lucky, potentially more wildlife at the marina. Shops and restaurants are aplenty, and the area has a real buzz about it.
We hired a car and drove to cape point, stopping at the very rustic Hout Bay where you can do boat trips to see seal and potentially whales. Given we had seen many seals in Cape Town, we gave this a miss and headed to Cape Point. The walk to the point is lovely and the views are stunning, but it’s when you get off the beaten track you really see how beautiful this area is. We stopped at Buffel’s Bay Beach where a family of Baboons entertained us for a good half an hour. The natural beach and inviting sea were tempting until you stuck a toe in to realise how cold the water was. This is a lovely place for a walk and to collect some shells.
On the way back from here we stopped at Boulders Beach to see the African penguins. Although it did feel a little bit like a zoo at first having to pay for entry and stay on the walkway, you do realise why, and it was well worth it to see these quirky birds in their natural habitat.
Picture: Boulders Beach
Having headed back to the hotel, that evening we went for a lovely meal at Kloof Street House. Set in a grand Victorian House, this trendy restaurant was not only good value for money, but the food was fantastic.
The next day we ventured into the city and explored Bo-Kaap, famous for its colourful houses and unique artwork. Close to here was Long Street, home to some cool antique shops and markets. I must admit, I felt safe walking around in Cape Town at day and night.
That evening, we went on a short helicopter tour around the city with NAC. This was a great way to see the city and in particular Table Mountain and the views were dramatic.
Picture: Our view from the Helicopter
On our 4th day we headed to the winelands, stopping at Stellenbosch for a mooch around the town, before we took a slight detour to The Delaire Graff Estate to check out some expensive diamonds (thankfully no purchase was made) and taste some nice wine and enjoy the views.
Before we topped the limit, we headed to our hotel in Franschhoek, Franschhoek Country House, a small hotel just outside of the town with a heated pool, and a very family friendly feel to it.
We stayed in one of the two cottages which had a balcony overlooking the wine tram and with an upstairs living room/dining area.
We ventured into Franschhoek town as they had a local Market on. It’s on every Saturday and Sunday, so if you happen to be there on a weekend, it’s well worth a visit.
Our first dinner was at the majestic Grand Provence vineyard, close to our hotel. The food and the wine were stunning, and I can highly recommend this place.
The next day we took the wine tram and stopped at five different vineyards, all unique in their own way. The wine tram can be quite confusing, and it took me a while to work it out (maybe that says more about me or maybe it was the wine), but once you realise that you just need to pick one of the five colour routes, and they are all very similar and all do nice wine tastings, you’re good to go.
Picture: Rickety Bridge Winery
Our favourite winery was Klein Goederust mainly because of the setting and the views, but they were all worth visiting and the wine was lovely.
Picture: Klein Goederust Winery
The next morning, we drove to the airport to drop off the rental car, and then flew to Kruger (Nelspruit).
We arrived at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge at 3pm to be greeted with lots of smiling faces, a cold towel, a cocktail and an la carte lunch. The afternoon game drive was starting at 4pm and I was so excited.
Picture: Our suite at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge
Our guide and spotter were lovely, and I couldn’t believe the number of animals we saw in just 3 hours. We saw the big 5 on the first drive, but my favourite moment was when we followed a cheetah who was chilling after a big meal.
Picture: A full up Cheetah in Sabi Sands
To be so close to these amazing animals was incredible and way better than I imagined. The next day we saw a magical moment when we saw a giraffe out stare a Leopard.
Picture: A Giraffe telling a leopard to stay away, Sabi Sands
We did another 3 drives at Sabi Sabi and visited the 3 other lodges they have at Sabi Sands. Earth Lodge is stunning and very modern, with 8 suites all with private pools and amazing views, but the other lodge to catch my eye was Selati, which was very traditional, with antique furniture and stunning panoramic views and only 7 suites.
We stayed 2 nights at Sabi Sabi before we headed to our next Safari lodge, Leopard Hills. Ran by Duncan, Louise and their children for the last 25 years, this lodge has a family feel to it and was very different to Earth lodge. We liked both, but in different ways and the game drives were also surprisingly different, with different terrains, wildlife sightings and guiding styles.
Picture: A yawning Lion, Sabi Sands
The views over the suite at Leopard Hills were unreal, you could see giraffes and elephants and we even spotted a crocodile with our binoculars. Baboons were playing around the lodge and one room even had a leopard sunning itself on the lounger. We also had a baby impala born right outside our suite. It was all surreal.
We ended up seeing so many more animals on our next 4 drives, meaning we saw Lions, Buffalo, Elephants, Giraffes, Crocodile, Hippo’s, Rhinos, Leopards, Cheetah’s, African Wild Dogs, Hyenas, Mongoose, Ostrich, Wart Hogs, Baboons and lots and lots of Impala.
Picture: A baby elephant and his Mum, Sabi Sands
On each evening safari you stop at around 6.30pm for a drink and a snack and a chance to catch the sunset and see the animals in a different way. This happens at most lodges and these moments along with going on two bushwalks were my favourite, you just feel so close to the animals and although it’s a little scary, you feel safe with the guides.
Picture: A sleeping Leopard, Sabi Sands
Picture: Hippos at Sunset, Sabi Sands
We really didn’t want to leave Leopard Hills, I could have done another 2 nights here easily, the safari, along with the lodge, the food, the views, the friendliness of the staff was 5* plus. But, after one last game drive at 5am, followed by some amazing French toast, we departed for Bazaruto Island, in Mozambique.
Bazaruto Island is a 45-minute speed boat from Vilankulos in South Mozambique. We flew there from Kruger in just over an hour and this is a great alternative to other Indian Ocean hotspots like Mauritius and Seychelles.
The plane and speed boat alone were exciting as the views of the coastline and all the islands were spectacular.
Picture: The view from the plane, Mozambique
We stayed at the Anantara Bazaruto Island, a 5* All Inclusive hotel with beach lodges, and an abundance of activities including Sand Dune Boarding, Diving, Snorkelling, Horse riding and more.
We were greeted by a traditional Mozambiquan dance and drums and lots of smiling staff which immediately made you feel welcome.
Our room was directly on the pristine natural beach with crystal clear waters and a sea temperature warmer than bathwater.
After all the 4.30am wake ups at the safari lodges, 6 nights here was a real chance for us to chill out in a perfect setting. I love swimming in the sea, but also a cheeky cocktail by the pool so this hotel gave us the chance to do both, especially with a swim up bar and all-day lunch/snack menu.
When we felt we needed to stretch our legs, we ventured down the beach into a nearby village, which was fantasticating as well as a very humbling experiencing to see how the islanders live. It reminds you that you don’t need much in life to be happy.
We sampled the horse riding, went on a sunset boat trip on a traditional Dhow boat and went snorkelling in nearby Paradise Island.
Picture: Coming back from Paradise Island, Mozambique
The sunsets on this island were spectacular and I recommend going up to the spa for a cocktail and the best sunset views.
Picture: Sunsets at the Spa, Anantara Bazaruto Island
The hotel staff are so nice. It has around 300 staff and the majority are either from the island or nearby town of Vilankulos.
After 6 nights it was time to depart, and we were once again treated to a traditional Mozambiquan dance to bid us farewell. We had chance to spend an hour in the town of Vilankulos and go the local market which was a great experience. Once again, the people were so friendly and welcoming.
Before we departed back to the UK, we had an opportunistic 7 hours in Joburg, so we used to time to catch the train to Sandton, only 13 minutes from Johannesburg International airport. Here we went to Nelson Mandella Square and had a lovely final meal in a restaurant called Tang. We then had a chance to do some last-minute shopping in the mall, so if you have a few hours to spare, this is a good option.
Picture: Nelson Mandella Square, Johannesburg
Since I got back, I haven’t stopped talking about the trip and have concluded it’s probably my favourite ever holiday. Many people on our return said to me, its sounds like a once in a lifetime trip, to which my reply was, not if we do it again!
I guess that’s the beauty of travel, and as much as I love going to new places, both South Africa and Mozambique are places I will see again…very soon!
Whether you're seeking relaxation on pristine beaches, wildlife encounters, gourmet dining, or outback adventures, South Africa has something to offer. Contact us today on 0161 888 5632 or [email protected] to plan your bespoke holiday in South Africa and embark on the journey of a lifetime.