I always had a dream about taking a group of English language learners to South Africa and Ajimba made my dreams cometrue this July 2018!
They organised a spectacular package where I could, with my group, enjoy all the highlights of Kwa Zulu Natal has to offer. With a splendid mixture of safari and wild animals, mixed with the delights of the Drakensburg Mountains and the breath-taking scenery. My group and I completed over 155 hours of English language training with a wonder Zulu flair. We even mastered some Zulu phrases. Our trip was so well planned we could concentrate on all the delights the regions offers.
The accommodated was superb! Food amazing and the friendliness of all who we came across made our trip a success, not only for learning, but for storing amazing memories and exciting adventures. Our journey entailed a variety of highlights from “Hippoday”; to “Cheetah Day; to interaction with elephants; to enjoying the Tale of Two Cities Tour in Durban; to whale watching in St. Lucia; to visiting the highest pub in Africa after journeying up the Sani Pass to Lesotho; to only name a few!!!
The Natal Midlands did not disappoint us with wonderful tales of the rich history of the region around awarming inviting fire, plus the joy of savouring good South African wines and food in wonderful accommodation. All in all a great success. Thank you Ajimba!!
South Africa is a beautiful country - two years ago we were able to experience this during a two-week holiday in the Cape Town region. So it was obvious, that it would be South Africa again, but this time the East.
After a flight via Paris to Johannesburg we started our round trip with our first overnight stay at The Peech Hotel in Melrose, Johannesburg. Wonderfully relaxed, clear arrangement with a pretty garden and pool in the feel-good district Melrose. Since we were quite flat after the overnight flight, our 17-year-old daughter, my husband and I took it easy and "chilled" the day in the garden. In the evening we ate, slept and enjoyed the first day of discovery. From Johannesburg we went by rental car to the Mpumalange Highlands, spending the night in the simple but cosy Misty Mountain Lodge - with a fireplace in the bedroom and a great view. It was quite cold, but the fireplace and the electric blankets in the beds were great. The next day we drove the Panorama Route. Absolute highlight "Blyde River Canyon" and the Bourke´s Luck Potholes.
The itinerary included another night in the Misty MountainLodge. It is more advisable to drive the Panorama Route and then head for the next destination, the Umlani Bush Camp in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. Umlani Bush Camp - expensive, but worth every cent. The overnight cabins are basic, the beds comfortable and the bathroom rudimentary. Electricity for lights is available - mobile phone recharging is possible in the small shop. And everything is just perfect! The surroundings are beautiful, nature, animals and perception are in the foreground. The food was delicious and we especially enjoyed the conversations with the staff of the lodge during dinner. Afterwards all guests sat cozily around a fire (Bush TV), told or dreamed about the day, the game drives or whatever was going on behind their foreheads. The Game Drives were great - all Big Five without Jeep traffic jams, very calm and relaxed, short hikes to the giraffes with the guide and a fantastic starry sky. Finally we know what the Southern Cross looks like! 2 nights in the Umlani are a must. Those who can afford 3 nights should do so.
After 2 days we continued through the Orpen Gate and the Kruger National Park with many animal sightings further south. After several holidays in Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya with large herds of animals we found the Kruger experience ok. The landscape is beautiful, but somehow we lacked atmosphere - everything is so perfect. In any case plan a lot of time. From Orpen Gate to Malalane Gate it took us about 7 hours - at a comfortable ride, but you are not allowed to go faster than 50 km/h.
We spent the night in the Mhlati Guest Cottage and continued the next day to Swaziland. The border control is for us Europeans with the pleasure of the open borders a real experience. Parking, getting out, passport control in one bungalow, then show the car papers in another. Attention also here you need an English birth certificate for minors. The journey continued to Mkhaya Game Reserve Stone Camp. You need time for that! The road conditions are partly unbelievable, one Pothole follows the next and more than 40 kilometers per hour are not possible over long distances or an axle break threatens. So better not. But as the Africans always say: "You have the clock, we have the time". At 16:00 o'clock we were picked up punctually at the meeting point by the ranger and brought by Game Drive to the Stone Camp. This is really an experience. You spend the night in open huts - no fear of cold: the blankets are very warm and hot water bottles are also available. And no fear of wild animals either: there are no big predators there and the monkeys only romp through the hut when you are not there. The monkeys like tea and sweets very much...
In the evening there was a super tasty meal at the fire, followed by a dance performance by the staff - it's a shame that they don't save it - nice, but superfluous. The next morning at the crack of dawn another Game Drive and then we went back to the car at 09:00 o'clock. The accommodation is really nice, but the stay is very short. You simply have to know that and then decide whether the price-performance ratio is right for you. So back to the car, departure from Swaziland - same procedure, but at Mananga Border Point the whole really former Eastern Bloc charm. The border between South Africa and Swaziland seems to be particularly worth protecting.
St. Lucia at the beach was next on the agenda - our daughter was happy. Finally relaxation and sunbathing. And finally the weather was better. The first week we sometimes had a good freeze - we had layered clothes with us, so everything was fine. According to reports it was an exceptional week in South Africa. After that we really enjoyed the warmth and the sun. St. Lucia is a very pleasant little holiday resort, many restaurants, beautiful beaches and the highlight on the way to the most beautiful beach at Cape Vidal a game drive with the possibility to see buffalos, rhinos, zebras... to see. The place is simply good in between: relaxed civilization in beautiful surroundings. We spent the night in the Avalone Guest House. The garden is awesome, the rooms ok, the breakfast super.
Afterwards we went via Durban - not worth mentioning and easy to leave - to the Drakensberge. Our absolute highlight - my goodness, that's beautiful. We spent 2 nights in the comfortably equipped Montusi Mountain Lodge with a direct view to the "Amphitheater". And finally movement: 2 hikes in spectacular nature, on very good and signposted hiking trails. For hikers there are many possibilities and for those who like, there is a challenge. And for those who like to eat well, the Montusi Mountain Lodge is the perfect place. Delicious! If you are planning the Drakensberge, then you should definitely visit the Montusi Mountain Lodge. We would have liked to renounce Durban in order to spend another day in the Drakensberg Mountains.
From the Drakensberg we went back to the airport in Johannesburg. We could refuel our rental car directly at a somewhat hidden gas station, felt in the middle of the airport. And a few words about the rental car: We didn't need a four-wheel drive for the route and the season. That was Holger Asche's recommendation - we saved the money in the right place. If you also plan to cross the border in Swaziland, remember to get an authorization from the car rental company - preferably in duplicate.
A very positive customer experience at the end. Almost every evening the agency contacted us, asked how we were doing and if we needed any tips or would like some. Yes, we did, and so we got very helpful advice and even if we didn't like Durban, the restaurant recommendation was the hit. What steaks! :-)
South Africa - again for sure. Next time from Paternoster to Addo National Park.