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Cox & Kings Customer Review: South Africa

Cox & Kings Customer Review: South Africa

access_time October 10, 2016 chat_bubble_outline 0 comments 3085 views

There’s something about South Africa that makes you want to smile, says Ninan Oommen. With fascinating historical sites, vibrant bazaars, dramatic landscapes, rugged wildlife and a mishmash of cultures, the Rainbow Nation had been on his bucket list for years. Some research and a lot of planning later, he and his wife were ready for their South African sojourn. Read about it here, and if you’re keen on perfection, try Cox & Kings’ South African Adventure for the complete experience.

All Photo Credits: Ninan Oommen

Day 1: Touchdown in South Africa

We touched down in Cape Town, excited for our holiday but tired after a 16-hour flight from India. A prominent economic centre, Cape Town is considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities, with breath-taking harbours and, of course, the Table Mountain. We headed to our hotel for a quick bite and some rest before going out to explore the city’s relaxed, multi-racial paradoxical character. It was fun strolling about the city, interacting with warm locals at the nearby eatery and hearing their take on the city’s rich heritage.

 

We took a leisurely stroll across Cape Town's refurbished waterfront

We took a leisurely stroll across Cape Town’s refurbished waterfront

Day 2: Exploring Cape Town

We woke up to a sumptuous breakfast and quickly readied to explore the many sights and sounds of the city. A short drive later, we were at the base of Table Mountain waiting for the cable cars that would take us to the top for a breath-taking view of the town and its surroundings. We’re glad we braved the long queues, because the trip and the view from the top was an amazing, wonderfully awe-inspiring sight!

 

Posing in front of Table Mountain

Posing in front of Table Mountain

Once back down, we visited the Malay Quarter, strolled across the majestic V&A Waterfront, stood in line for the Cape Giant Wheel, and shopped at the famous Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. We stopped at Nobel Square and posed with larger-than-life statues of South Africa’s four Nobel laureates, standing proud against the Table Mountain. All in all, it was a busy but fantastic day!

 

Waiting for my turn on the Cape Giant Wheel

Waiting for my turn on the Cape Giant Wheel

 

Posing with the country's four Nobel Laureates at Noble Square

Posing with the country’s four Nobel Laureates at Noble Square

Day 3: Wine, Cheese & A Culinary Adventure

While there was still a lot to see and do in Cape Town, we opted to explore its legendary vineyards, which have a 300-year tradition of wine-making. The tour started off in style with wine and cheese at the town of Paarl, with its iconic Dutch architecture and the scenic Paarl Wine Route. By mid-day we’d reached the Franschhoek, also known as the country’s gourmet capital, just in time for a freshly prepared lunch and some much-needed rest.

Finally, we visited the renowned Stellenbosch Vineyards, one of the country’s leading wine producers and exporters with its unique portfolio of exceptional brands. We spent a couple of hours at the grand 15,000-hectare estate, learning about the different types of wines and sampling the best wine and cheese combinations and it was a while before we were ready to call it a day.

 

My wife and I made the most of our wine tasting sessions

My wife and I made the most of our wine tasting sessions

Day 4: Road Trip & A Sunset Cruise

Rested, we made an early exit from Cape Town, heading east along the scenic Garden Route towards Knysna. After the long drive, we were ready to be pampered and that’s exactly what happened once we reached our final destination.

After checking into the hotel, we left for a private sunset cruise aboard the John Benn, a double-decker heritage boat that is also one of the best floating restaurants in Knysna. We enjoyed great food and an even better view as the sun set over the horizon. It tends to get a bit chilly once the sun sets, so you may want to carry a light jacket or cardigan along with you.

 

Lunch aboard John Benn, a magnificent floating restaurant, is an absolute must

Lunch aboard John Benn, a magnificent floating restaurant, is an absolute must

Day 5: The Best Of Nature & Wildlife

On our agenda today was the intriguing city of Oudtshoorn, also known as the world’s Ostrich Capital, where we got to interact with the magnificent birds on an ostrich farm. This town is also famous for the spectacular Cango Caves, Africa’s largest cave system that extends over 5kms. Sculpted by nature, these amazing limestone formations are said to have been inhabited over 80,000 years ago and are counted among one of the world’s greatest natural wonders today.

 

Playing Peekaboo with the birds at the Ostrich Capital

Playing Peekaboo with the birds at the Ostrich Capital

 

My wife, at the entry to Cango Caves

My wife, at the entry to Cango Caves

 

Inside the spectacular Cango Caves

Inside the spectacular Cango Caves

We also had quick stop-overs at the Monkey Land Sanctuary, Birds of Eden and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary. Apart from being the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary, Monkey Land has a 128-metre suspended canopy bridge that is a thrill to cross.

 

It's fun to see these lemur partake of their daily feast in Monkey Land

It’s fun to see these lemur partake of their daily feast in Monkey Land

Next door stands the Birds of Eden, the world’s largest free-flight bird aviary (50 meters high and covering 23,000 square meters of forest), which has more than 280 species of African birds.

 

The blue crane, the national bird of South Africa, is a funny looking bird

The blue crane, the national bird of South Africa, is a funny looking bird

A few kilometres away is Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, home to big cats such as lions (both white and tawny), cheetahs, tigers (Siberian, Bengal and white), leopards (spotted and black), jaguars, pumas, caracals, and other animal species such as zebra, springbuck, honey badger and various snake species.

 

If you're lucky, you'll see cheetahs just lounging around

If you’re lucky, you’ll see cheetahs just lounging around

 

You might even catch a glimpse of the majestic tiger as it cools off under the trees

You might even catch a glimpse of the majestic tiger as it cools off under the trees

Day 6: Big Five In The Wilderness Experience

Today, we visited the 11,000-hectare Gondwana Private Game Reserve. A genuine free-roaming Big Five reserve, this is also home to a number of smaller animals and exotic birds. After sampling some mouth-watering delicacies at the lodge, we set out for an afternoon game drive, which was three hours of exciting scenes and stunning wildlife.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for pudus, the smallest deer in the world

Keep your eyes peeled for pudus, the smallest deer in the world

 

Prepare for a riot of colours and exotic birds that makes the journey worthwhile

Prepare for a riot of colours and exotic birds that makes the journey worthwhile

Day 7: A Fantastic Day In The Wild

We woke up to the sound of animals and the wind through the trees. The malaria-free Gondwana Game Reserve is set near the Outeniqua mountains, close to Mossel Bay along the Garden Route. The private reserve has the distinction of being the only Big Five fynbos (a cape floral kingdom) in the world.

 

This tree-climbing leopard was almost invisible against the foliage

This tree-climbing leopard was almost invisible against the foliage

We had fun on both our morning and afternoon game drives across the open grasslands and indigenous fynbos and encountered a wide variety of wildlife. Apart from the Big Five, this reserve is a refuge for a number of endangered species like the cape mountain zebra and the south-central black rhino.

 

You're lucky if you come across the stately rhino, especially up close

You’re lucky if you come across the stately rhino, especially up close

Day 8: A Colourful City of Contrasts

After a thrilling day in the wild, we were ready to leave for Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest and most vibrant city. Once we’d checked into our hotel, we set out to explore the many tourist attractions and incredible entertainment and leisure options on offer. It was fun soaking in the city’s contrasts, from shiny shopping malls to pop-up street markets, and interesting but peaceful museums to the fast-paced city life.

 

Ready for some rest and relaxation at the fantastic Peermont Metcourt

Ready for some rest and relaxation at the fantastic Peermont Metcourt

 

Be sure to stop in at Soweto, Nelson Mandela's hometown

Be sure to stop in at Soweto, Nelson Mandela’s hometown

 

Savour mouth-watering traditional soul food for a true African meal

Savour mouth-watering traditional soul food for a true African meal

We also made sure we visited Soweto, home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Southwest of the city, this suburban area was at the forefront of the fight against apartheid.

Day 9: Bidding Adieu To The Golden City

Staying out late the previous night meant we woke up later than usual, just in time for a filling breakfast. As we packed up and left for the airport, we had a bittersweet moment, where we were eager to return home but reluctant to bid farewell to the gentle, fun people of South Africa.

 

Its colourful culture, upbeat music and warm people left us with memories we will never forget. Believe me when I tell you that if you want to enjoy this country to the maximum, a short South African package is not an option!

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About The Author

Ninan Oommen

Ninan Oommen

 

Ninan is a retired professional, who finds ways to indulge his passion for travel and storytelling. Since his first taste of travel at the age of 16, he has been to over 20 countries and stacked up a lot of happy memories. When he’s not chasing his dreams, he spends his time reading, watching educational/travel TV shows, supporting social causes and playing scrabble.

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