Weekend getaway, close by, Miami Beach. Just pack a bathing suit and go.

I ticked off another destination on my bucket list and, in retrospect, am finding it hard to determine which vacation I loved more: the South African Safari http://singita.com/ or a recent trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Aperitif on the beach at sunset, in Grand Cayman, is priceless

"Positano, like Capri is more of a way of life than a tourist destination.  La Marina Grande is the small main beach."

Quechua ladies of Peru

These two teenagers fighting were so amazingly close you could hear their tusks clanking

South Africa

Many websites and travel books caution foreigners of the dangers of driving in South Africa. While the number of car jackings (and other violent crimes) nationwide should not be discounted, the most stringent warnings seem primarily to pertain to driving around Johannesburg, not Cape Town, during the day. So as not to get turned around, we took the precaution of getting a GPS for the car we rented in Cape Town to drive to the wine country. We dubbed our GPS “Lana” since the sultry, dreamy voice reminded me of that of Lana Turner.

 

  Cape Town


Cape Grace Hotel http://www.capegrace.com

The Cape Grace is the epitome of luxury, right down to the attentive and warm hotel staff. The rooms are large and comfortable with superb mattresses, big bathrooms and ample closets and dressing areas. The best views are found in rooms facing Table Mountain. The view of the port on the other side of the hotel is also pretty, simply less majestic. Extremely well located, right on the waterfront, the Cape Grace is within walking distance of restaurants and several sights, including the fantastic Aquarium http://www.aquarium.co.za which is equally enjoyable for children and adults alike.

 

Table Mountain


http://sa-venues.com/attractionswc/table-mountain.htm

A ten minute taxi drive from the Cape Grace, Table Mountain usually has waits of close to an hour for the cable car that takes visitors up the mountain in a few minutes. But it is well worth the wait (which it is worth noting is comparable on the way down, too). The views from the top (and from the cable car, which rotates around as it ascends and descends) are spectacular, not to be missed.

 

Franschoek, wine country

Wine tasting in South Africa is very affordable. For a small fee (in some wineries 30 RAN, about $3.00) one can taste multiple wines. In a large vineyard such as Boschendal, three people willing to share can sample eighteen wines for this price.

 

Le Quartier Francaise

We stayed at Le Quartier Francais http://www.lqf.co.za in “The Cottage” an enormous 2 bedroom, 2 and a half bathrooms suite with a well appointed kitchen, dining room, living room and private plunge pool in the backyard. Security is high, with white iron bars on the windows and folding gates on the French doors that are locked each evening plus outdoor motion detectors (which, with high winds at night, tend to go off often). But the place is very comfortable in its rusticity, a home away from home. The Relais et Chateaux rooms are located across the street in a walled property centered around lush gardens and a pool. The rooms are sumptuous, beautifully decorated, each with a modern music system and television.

The property has two restaurants. One is The Tasting Room, with simple decoration, actually minimal. The chef, Margot Janse, offers two tasting menus. The most memorable dishes were the squid ink marshmallow with lobster, and the foie gras ice cream with the ham and foie gras square. There was a great collection of South African wines at reasonable prices. Bistro ICI is the casual dining room with more home cooking. Once can sit “outside” in a covered area by the garden which is very pleasant.


Fois Gras

Squid

 

Kruger National Park

We flew from Cape Town to Nilspruit, then transferred to an eight-seater propeller plane. Our ranger, JD, and our tracker, Lawrence, met us a the landing strip and took us to our lodge.

 

Singita Ebony Lodge

http://www.singita.com/index.php/game-reserves/lodges-and-camps-in-south.... An elegant and luxurious lodge at the edge of the Sand River, Singita is the gold standard in this region. Rooms overlook a sand river that sometimes attracts animals.


The safari drives are great. Starting with one very early in the morning (5:30AM) and one in the evening (4:30PM), and each lasting three hours. They were continuously feeding us, tea at 5:15AM, a full English breakfast at 8:30-9:00AM, lunch at 1:00PM, afternoon tea at 4:00PM with finger sandwiches. During the evening drive we always stopped someplace to have cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and finally dinner at 10:00PM. The stops in the middle of the jungle were most enjoyable and memorable.

It is incredible how close we were able to get to the animals to watch them in the wild without disturbing them. We sat and watched two herds of breeding elephants for an hour and were equally enamored with a herd of water buffalo munching its way across the dirt path. Some of the other animals we spotted: Bush Bucks, Zebras, Rhinos, Kudus, Giraffes, Wildebeests, Water Buck, Impalas, Scrub Hare, Grey Daikku, Hyaena, a family of Wart Hogs, Savannah Baboons, Hippos, Vervet Monkeys, Leopard, Jackals, Giant lizards, Mongoose, and a large porcupine. The monkeys were everywhere, especially near the lodge at meal times; one even climbed out of a tree to steal my muffin one morning. Others played and ran between the trees next to our private pool.


Vervet Monkeys

A Leopard at night

Elephants Playing

Zebras

Rhinos

JD and Lawrence also spotted a ton of insects and birds, including a flat head chameleon (eagle-eyed Lawrence spied that one during a night drive!), Bark spiders, an Eagle, Giant Eagle Owl, a Southern yellow billed Hornbill, Lilac breasted Roller bird, Golden Orb spiders, millipedes, Vultures, a hammerhead bird, Yellow bill Stork, and a Leopard Tortoise who is part of the “Little Five”; small animals with big game names; including Lion ant, Leopard tortoise, Elephant shrew, Rhino beetle and Buffalo weaver.


Holding a Chameleon

Golden Orb Spider

A Leopard Tortoise

We would like to thank the crew at Singita, especially JD and Lawrence, for making this a memorable trip, one which will be hard to top.