We connected with Valentino after reading other reviews on TripAdvisor. He did not disappoint. We wanted a South African experience that was about politics and history as much as about scenery and animals, and Valentino designed multiple tours for us that met our desires. He picked us up at airports, helped with our luggage, and even arranged for (and pushed) wheelchairs for my husband. By the end of our trip, he felt like a family member.
We spent almost four weeks in South Africa, but part of that time involved a business meeting for me in Pretoria. While I was working, Valentino and another guide, Maggie, accompanied my husband to several places in the city, including used book stores (a particular fondness for my husband, that resulted in having to purchase another suitcase for the trip home). The night before leaving Pretoria, Valentino accompanied us to an excellent Indian restaurant, then picked us up early the following morning for the trip to Kruger National Park. We spent three nights at the luxurious Kambaku Safari Lodge (we had been upgraded), which went to great lengths to accommodate my husband with vegetarian meals. Our guides for the safari were exceptionally good, pointing out the animals in the wild and making sure we got to see the Big 5 (elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard, cape buffalo -- the 5 most difficult animals to hunt). After that, Valentino picked us up and drove us to Phalaborwa, where we stayed another four nights, right outside one of the entrance gates to Kruger. For three days, Valentino drove us in his comfortable van through the park, while also making sure we were well taken care of. He quickly learned that I like to shop for local mementos, so he made sure he gave me lots of opportunities. Seeing animals in the wild that you've only seen in zoos was part of what made this the trip of a lifetime. I don't think I will ever go to a zoo again. During the drive to and from Kruger, Valentino stopped at Bourkes Luck Potholes and the 3 Rondawels, beautiful natural sites. A group of schoolchildren at the 3 Rondawels were intrigued by my husband's white beard and hair, and a number of selfies were shot with him. He was as much of an attraction as the scenery!
About shopping, I ended up giving away many of my purchases as gifts to friends. I didn't purchase enough to keep for myself. Poor planning on my part, but the jewelry is unique and inexpensive, and I wish I'd bought more.
While in Johannesburg, Valentino took us to Soweto and to the homes of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu (Mandela's home can be toured) and we ate at a local restaurant. The Apartheid Museum was incredibly moving -- we spent hours there, but could have spent more, had we been physically able. The Maropeng Museum (the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site) was also amazing and well worth a visit.
In Cape Town, Jamie, a local guide arranged by Valentino, took us to Table Mountain and on tours of the wine farms and Cape Point. We saw penguins at Boulders Beach, took in the fabulous views from Table Mountain, and visited the Cape of Good Hope Nature Preserve. Jamie, too, was very knowledgeable about the politics and environmental issues in South Africa, and answered our questions willingly. We visited Robben Island, where Mandela spent such a large part of his life (which became sort of an adventure when my husband's wheelchair, borrowed from the hotel, broke). Jamie was well-known by the wine farms, who seemed especially courteous to us. My favorite was Meerlust -- which unfortunately is a difficult label to find in the US.
We also enjoyed our time with Jay, another guide arranged by Valentino. He took us to the District 6 museum and on tours of the townships around Cape Town. He joined us for lunch, including a lovely little place in Cape Town that served delicious masala dosa. Jay offered additional perspectives on the history and politics of the country and also took us to used bookstores. We decided against driving down to Cape Agulhaus, the southernmost tip of the African continent, but spent time instead driving along the western coast to Hermanus, a lovely spot not unlike beach towns in the US -- only the whales come to Hermanus in the winter. We, of course, missed them, but there was a little craft fair going on in the town that we enjoyed immensely.
As someone who works in disabilities, be prepared for some difficulties in South Africa. While wheelchairs can be found, they are not very durable, and the walkways at some of the tourist sites were not always smooth going. Indoors, of course, there isn't a problem. There is an awareness of disabilities, but nothing like you would see in the US. South Africa simply isn't there yet, but they are working on it.
Through all of our travels with Valentino, he was knowledgeable and informative. He took time to explain things and respond to our questions; he made sure our needs were met; he took us to local restaurants and helped us order (including introducing us to Amarula, a liqueur that we brought home); he took care of every detail. He was probably the best tour guide we have ever experienced. The other guides that he arranged -- Maggie in and around Pretoria; Jamie and Jay in Cape Town -- were also good, but Valentino was, in my mind, just exceptional.
We highly recommend Famba Famba Tour Design Specialists, whether you want the "trip of a lifetime" like ours, or visits to a specific spot, like Soweto or the Apartheid Museum. We knew we would probably never be able to return to South Africa, and we were glad we placed our trip in Valentino's hands.
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