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Trip Report December 2017

Dublin, Ireland
Destination Expert
for Dublin
Level Contributor
5 049 posts
212 reviews
Trip Report December 2017

Dates: 29th November 2017 – 13th December 2017

Flights with British Airways:

Outbound; Dublin – London Heathrow – Jo’berg – Cape Town

Inbound; Port Elizabeth – Cape Town – London Gatwick – Dublin

Route: Cape Town > Stellenbosch > Knysna > The Crags > Safari (Kariega)

Day 1:

Arrived at Dublin airport and checked in at the Aer Lingus desk. We were advised that our luggage would be checked through to Cape Town. Flew overnight via London Heathrow to Jo’berg. It was well worth paying the extra for the exit seats on the Heathrow – Jo’berg flight for the extra legroom!

Day 2:

Arrived Jo’berg and while following signs for domestic connections, noticed other signs advising that domestic luggage had to be collected and re-checked. We had been told our luggage would go straight through to Cape Town but said we would check with the BA desk anyway. Good job we did as we ended up having to collect and re-check it to Cape Town! Worth noting if you’re doing a domestic connection on Jo’berg, you always need to collect your luggage.

Arrived in Cape Town and checked into Protea Breakwater Lodge.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

In short, great location about a 5 min walk from the V&A Waterfront but room was TINY. There are definitely better hotels to stay in in the same price bracket. Next time we’ll try the Radisson Red down the V&A Waterfront.

We had tickets booked on the 3pm ferry to Robben Island which was a great trip to “keep us going” for the day.

Robben Island Review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

That evening we strolled around the V&A Waterfront and Victoria Wharf where there are an abundance of restaurants to choose from. In the end we just wanted something quick and simple so went for Gibson’s burgers which had a lovely view out over the marina.

Day 3:

Early wake up call! We were hiking Table Mountain and had to meet our guide Steph @ 5.45 at their offices on Long Street. We used a company called Abseil Africa; full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

I would highly recommend getting a guide. We’re pretty fit but having the guide for the hike was invaluable. Arrived at Table Mountain about 6am and set off up Platteklip Gorge. It took us about 2.5-3 hours however we had lots of stop offs to talk about the plant and animal life there as well as photo ops and to learn about the history of Table Mountain from Steph who was super knowledgeable. We also stopped off for a mid-hike breakfast! Ensure you wear walking shoes (trainers are fine) and bring at least 2L of water per person as well as energy snacks.

The view from the top was just outstanding and totally worth the hike if you’re able for it. Much more satisfying than getting off a cable car! We had booked the hike & abseil combo package but I chickened out of the abseil when I got there. My husband still went ahead and really enjoyed it. The abseil goes down about 120m and there is then a short (20min) hike back to the top. We enjoyed some lunch at the café and then chilled out with some beers enjoying the sun up there before getting the cable car back down and getting an Uber back to V&A Waterfront.

When we returned that afternoon we had a quick look around the shopping centre before heading back for a nap before dinner.

We decided this was going to be our “nice” dinner night and so booked into The Butcher Shop & Grill; full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

We had the most amazing steak dinners and it still cost about half of what it would do in Dublin. Well worth the visit but ensure you book in advance. After dinner we Uber’d back to V&A and had cocktail at Bascule whiskey & cocktail bar. Great little spot overlooking a small marina with an extensive cocktail and whiskey menu.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

Day 4:

Today we had been planning on climbing Lion’s Head but decided to take it easy after our expedition the day before. After grabbing some breakfast at the V&A food market (review here https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW ), we decided to do the typical tourist thing and head off on the HOHO bus. This was a great way of getting an overview of the city in an afternoon although we really do wish we had more time in Cape Town so that we could have hopped off at more stops and visited some of the museums. One of the places we did hop off at was Jewel Africa who offer a free diamond and tanzanite experience. It was quite interesting to find out how diamonds are made although I did fall in love with a beautiful Tanzanite ring which I was sorely tempted to invest in. I walked away and instead sent the details to a diamond dealer friend of mine who incidentally told me to walk away as it seemed too good to be true!

That afternoon there was a rugby game on (Wales V South Africa) so as big rugby fans we wanted to catch the game. We were going to find a sports bar but instead I after some research I came across a beer festival that was happening pretty close by! Here we were able to watch the game, got chatting to some locals and got to taste lots of South African beers and ciders. Perfect way to spend an afternoon!

Considering our long drive the next day we headed back to V&A early that evening, had a little glass of wine overlooking the water and grabbed some food on the way back to the hotel to pack.

Overall we felt like 3 nights in Cape Town was too short and really would have loved a 4th!

Day 5:

Our transfer picked us up after breakfast and brought us back to Cape Town airport where we had car hire arranged with First Car Rental where we had a Nissan Qashqai SUV booked. They tried to fob us off with some sort of Ford “SUV” that was smaller than a Kuga. We told them no way and straight away changed it for the Qashqai which was sitting at the other end of the car park. Chancers!

From here we were heading to Spier Wine Farm & Hotel in Stellenbosch for 2 nights which is only about 40 min from the airport. As we got there before check-in time we decided to head into Stellenbosch itself for some lunch before heading to the hotel.

Review of Spier Hotel & Wine Farm: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

 

On driving into Stellenbosch we thought oh dear…what have we driven into. It looked a bit like a ghetto! So I pulled out the name of a bar which had been recommended to me by a family member called Craft Wheat & Hops and we made our way there which was in a MUCH nicer part of the town. Moral of the story….never believe Google Maps when it says it’s bringing you to the centre of a town! We stopped at Craft Wheat & Hops and a lunchtime drink and food. Everything here was delicious from the G&Ts to the tapas, although be warned, the tapas are huge and we ordered way too much! I’d highly recommend stopping here.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

We then made our way to Spier which was one of my favourite places I’ve ever stayed at. So much more than a hotel…it’s got vineyards, Segway tours, 3 restaurants, craft market, farmhouse kitchen, picnics, eagle encounters, guest bikes and a spa among other things.

We checked in with the fantastic William taking our bags to our room, not far from reception. Our room was HUGE! Especially after being confined to the box we stayed in in Cape Town!

That evening we went out on the Sundowner Segway tour which was SO much fun. Our guides Maurice and Speedo were so funny and really made the tour for us. Make sure to wrap up on the evening tour though as it can get quite chilly.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

That evening we dined at the hotel restaurant as Hoghouse was closed and Restaurant 8 was booked out. We actually opted for the buffet which was delicious. My friend had sent a bottle of wine for my birthday so after dinner when we were sitting out on the terrace all of the staff can out and gave me a South African rendition of Happy Birthday…so sweet!

Day 6:

After a fabulous breakfast (they do the most perfect poached eggs) we took out some of the hotel guest bikes and did a 10k circuit around the vineyards. We then wandered around the Spier craft market before settling into a wine tasting around midday where we ended up buying a bottle of their most expensive wine to take home…oops! We had a huge lunch at Hog House before I was booked into the spa for 3 hours that afternoon. My husband decided to go back to the Segway boys for a couple of hours while I was being pampered.

That night we actually just sat on the terrace with a cheese board and some wine before heading into the sofas in front of the fireplace where the manager Darlington had made a huge big fire for us. The perfect end to our time at Spier. Again, we felt 2 nights was too short and 3 would have been perfect.

We would have loved to have had a picnic on the grounds from the Farmhouse kitchen but instead we decided to order one and take it with us on our road trip the next day.

Day 7:

Packed our bags at Spier and after breakfast, headed off to collect our picnic before getting on the road.

We were SO sorry to leave Spier; special shout outs to William, Darlington and Fungisayi who made our stay so special.

Today we were driving to our next destination, Knysna. In hindsight, we should have skipped Knysna altogether. We diverted to Hermanus for lunch and soaked up Hermanus for a couple of hours before getting back on the road.

We arrived at Amanzi Island Lodge just before 9pm that night. I can’t fault the lodge or the staff here but Leisure Island was like a retirement village. We ate dinner at the lodge that night and there wasn’t a sinner around at all. After a little glass of wine on our terrace after dinner before heading to bed.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

Day 8:

Went to breakfast and again, not another person to be seen at the lodge, despite the fact there were apparently other guests staying there. We decided to get out of there for the day and after enjoying the Segway tour in Spier so much, decided to do the Knysna Segway tour. Turns out it was actually run by the village charlatan so nowhere near as enjoyable as Spier! Even the segways themselves didn’t feel as sturdy.

We then drove the 1hr+ up to Bloukrans Bridge where my husband wanted to do the bungee jump.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

That afternoon before heading back to the lodge we decided to drive into Knysna itself to scope out some options for dinner. Turns out the town itself is not very desirable although we eventually discovered the waterfront which had some restaurants. We returned to the lodge on Leisure Island and used the shuttle service to being us back to the town for dinner as there are no bars or restaurants on the island itself. We went for late dinner (9pm) not realising the Knysna basically shuts down early and we were having the tables and chairs removed from around us by 10.30pm!

 

Dined at Dry Dock, full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

When we returned to the lodge that night we decided that Knysna was definitely not our sort of place and packed our bags with the intention of leaving first thing the next morning!

Day 9:

Had the car packed up by 8am and went up for breakfast….finally….other people were there! We checked out and vowed never to return to Knysna again. Next stop was about 45 min away, a place called Hog Hollow in The Crags.

I had been really looking forward to Hog Hollow and it did not disappoint.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

We dropped our luggage here early, checked in over a glass of bubbles and then headed off to do the Zip Line Canopy Tour in Tsitsikamma.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

On the way back we dropped into MonkeyLand which was a 5 min drive from Hog Hollow

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

We’re a social sort of couple and so had been reading about the communal dining at Hog Hollow which we were really looking forward to. Both nights we opted for the communal dining and had the BEST fun. We got chatting to others (of all ages) who were doing a similar kind of trip to us and spent the night swapping stories over dinner before retiring to the deck and boma (outdoor fire) with a bottle of wine. Bliss!

Day 9:

Up early for a delicious Hog Hollow breakfast before heading off to the Elephant Sanctuary.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

 

We returned to Hog for lunch as we were then booked into the Cheetah walk at the nearby sanctuary but unfortunately the 38C degree heat got the better of us so we chilled on the deck and by the pool for a glorious afternoon before dining communally again.

We really wish we had more time here too. Ideally we would have skipped Knysna altogether and done 4 nights here…at least. I would happily do a whole week here there is so much to do and see in the vicinity as well as the lodge being an amazing, social place to stay.

Days 10-12:

We were finally going on safari…the whole reason for our South African trip and a major tick off the bucket list.

We were heading to The River Lodge @ Kariega Game Reserve.

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

We drive up to Port Elizabeth early that morning (after Hog arranged to do an early breakfast for us) where we dropped the car and were picked up by our transfer. Transfer took about 1hr 20 min and we were there on time for lunch (2pm) and the afternoon game drive (4pm).

Here we had 2 game drives per day (6am and 4pm) and we were even treated to a night time game drive by our amazing ranger, Trust.

We saw everything from Impala, Lions, Giraffes, Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos and even a massive Porcupine! Trust seriously had a 6th sense for these animals and made our safari everything we could have dreamed of.

Every evening everyone dined together along with their ranger which was wonderful. Again, we got to know so many people here who were doing the same sort of trip as ours and got to swap our stories over food and wine.

We found 3 nights here to be the perfect amount of time to ensure you got to see all the animals.

 

Day 13:

Early transfer back to PE before flying back to Cape Town.

We had a 9 hour layover in Cape Town which allowed us to head back to the V&A for some lovely lunch and drinks overlooking the water before doing some last min present shopping!

Full review here: https:/…SHOW_USER_REVIEW

Overall our trip was everything we imagined it to be and the only thing we would have changed would have been Knysna. But we have fallen in love with South African as a country and with it’s amazing people (and food). We will be back at the earliest opportunity!!

5 replies to this topic
UK
Level Contributor
15 posts
5 reviews
1. Re: Trip Report December 2017

Great trip review, well done most informative,glad to see how much you

enjoyed your visit,it's a wonderful country. We have been coming for

twenty years and still can't get enough.

Pittsburgh
Level Contributor
6 posts
7 reviews
2. Re: Trip Report December 2017

Thanks for a great review. We are planning our first trip. Your detailed comments gave us a great "feel" to build on.

London, United...
2 posts
3. Re: Trip Report December 2017

Many thanks for posting such a detailed and inspiring review, lots of ideas for a trip I'm hoping to book for the end of January (2018). Please could I ask if your time in Cape Town was affected by the drought currently being experienced?

Dublin, Ireland
Destination Expert
for Dublin
Level Contributor
5 049 posts
212 reviews
4. Re: Trip Report December 2017

Glad you enjoyed it!

I wouldn’t say we were “affected” really. There was lots of awareness of the situation and we were acutely aware not to waste any water but we were still able to shower and wash as normal.

London, United...
2 posts
5. Re: Trip Report December 2017

that's good to know, many thanks

Reply to: Trip Report December 2017
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