SOUTH AFRICA: Sabi Sabi rangers are allowed to go off-road, making even better experiences
South Africa might currently be in the spotlight on a global scale for hosting World Cup 2010 but honeymooner JULIA WHITE enjoyed a very personal experience with the country…
WITH millions of couples going on honeymoon
each year it can be easy to find yourself on a contrived conveyor belt of romance.
Tour operators offer rose petals on a plate, ‘romantic’ dinners for two in a row of other pairings and over-priced novelty spa treatments.
This wasn’t a bandwagon my new husband and I wanted to jump on and so we went in search of a more personal honeymoon to South Africa
– with intimacy as our top priority.Click here now for amazing deals to Cape Town!Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
in the Sabi Sands region of South Africa’s Kruger National Park fitted the bill perfectly.
From the moment we jetted in to Selati Lodge via small Federal Air plane from Johannesburg airport we were given the kind of treatment honeymooners dream of.
Lodge manager Zulch toased our arrival with a bottle of champagne and we shared a drink with our safari ranger KG while we settled into our “out of Africa”-themed surroundings.
With just eight suites, the colonial style lodge combines top-end luxury with true intimacy.
Although plush, our spacious Lourenco Marques Suite came minus a flat-screen TV, preserving the authentic feel of the surrounding bush. For more incredible safari deals click here now!
And with limited electricity (oil lamps and lanterns instead) and limited internet access it was a refreshing escape from modern day reality and a revitalising break from modern technology.
As luxurious as the accommodation feels, this is not a ‘Disney’ experience – the threat of animals straying into the grounds is very real.
During our stay an elephant poked its trunk into our neighbour’s outdoor shower and after dark the rangers escort you back to your lodge, just in case any hyenas or big cats cross your path.
While your every need is catered for, safari is inevitably a communal experience. All safaris and meals are spent with the other guests and evenings passed together in the well-stocked lodge bar.
Sabi Sabi rangers have more freedom than other nearby reserves, allowing them to venture off-road to track animals that have been spotted away from the sandy paths that weave through the Kruger bush.
This resulted in spine-tingling experiences - tracking a pack of lions as it stalked buffalo and a breathtakingly close encounter with a beautifully graceful leopard.
Led by the ranger, we even climbed out of our four-wheel open-top vehicle and followed a journey of giraffes on foot, as they ambled across an open field.
And we were also given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share sundowners just meters from a herd of rhinos.
Meanwhile, the sheer bliss isn’t restricted to the game drives. The Lodge boasts a small swimming pool, a masseuse and a dining area that looks out onto a waterhole, so you can enjoy your breakfast while watching a zebra have his, or an elephant cools down in the beating sun. All meals are cooked to order, and the chef personally details your dinner options, tailoring all courses to your fancy.
Reluctantly leaving Sabi Sabi for our next stop Cape Town, we wondered if we’d still be able to count on the personal touch.
But Rodwell House
in the quaint seaside village of St James picked up the baton seamlessly.
The 5* boutique hotel within a Great Gatsby-style converted mansion is nestled between the Kalk Bay Mountains and False Bay.
The hotel also prides itself on quality, not quantity, housing only eight spacious suites.
Owner Robin’s three passions, food, wine and art are united here in a tantalising and original way.
On arrival we were given a complimentary glass of chilled white wine as we settled into our spacious and stylish room, complete with all the mod cons you’d expect in a top class hotel.
The downstairs rooms of the hotel house Robin’s sizeable collection of early 20th century art and modern paintings by local artists.
Nothing was too much trouble for the excellent hotel staff and at our request, Robin personally escorted us on a day trip of the local winelands in Stellenbosch.
A world away from the typical tours in which you’re ferried on and off coaches to meet staff of the vineyards who are employed simply to entertain tourists, Robin’s itinerary gave us the unique opportunity to meet the wine makers themselves.
We spent a blissful day traversing the idyllic countryside, sampling chardonnays, merlots and cabernets, with the engaging and entertaining for company.
At Uva Mira we tasted wine with the winemaker, at Overgaauw we were shown around by a man whose family connection to the vineyard goes back hundreds of years, and at the other end of the scale we took in Rustenberg – a larger and more commercial operation.
On his recommendation, Robin dropped us in the small town of Franschoek for lunch where we sampled the locally acclaimed Reubens Bistro which did not disappoint.
Back in St James,the hotel boasts the best of the local restaurants.
And what the waiting staff at the Titanium Bistro lack in airs and graces, they make up for in friendliness and amiability.
If Rodwell House set the standard for service, our final stop, One&Only Cape Town
passed with flying colours.
From the moment we were introduced to our own personal butler, we knew we were in for a treat.
The first city centre hotel in Sol Kerzner’s boutique chain goes above and beyond the call of duty with tiny touches like a pillow and a scent menu in the room, for you to select your personal preference.
The superb food, luxurious facilities and outstanding service are everything you would expect from a luxury hotel.
All set against the breathtaking backdrop of Table Mountain.
The service by the pool may almost have been too attentive (if that’s possible) with staff rushing to assist us moving beds, putting up umbrellas – and even offering to polish our sunglasses!
The same standards were found at the world-renowned spa which is nestled in its own private island and feels like you’re stepping into another world. There we indulged in a private couples’ massage after unwinding in a sweetly scented, dimly lit relaxation suite with spacious hydro bath.
And the care and attention continued as the sun went down as we spent a fascinating evening with the hotel’s sommelier Eric at the chef’s table of Gordon Ramsay’s Maze.
Eric could not have been more thorough or knowledgeable as he took us on a mouth-watering journey and education through South African wines.
Learning to identify sparkling, white and red varieties by colour, nose (smell) and palette (taste) at our leisure was the perfect prelude to what would be one of the best steaks we’d tasted, alongside garlic fries with a bravas sauce which could have been wolfed down by the truckload.
The same was true for the food at Nobu (the other famous restaurant to have aligned itself with the brand) where we sampled melt in the mouth black cod and succulent Wagyu beef, not to mention a perfect blend of yellowtail sashimi and jalapeno.
In true One&Only style the hotel does not lose sight of its surroundings.
Not only is the décor modern African to tone in with Table Mountain, the extensive Evolution bar offers drinks with a South African twist – like biltong vodka cocktails.
But it was the high tea in the hotel lobby that really left us drooling. Finger sandwiches, bite-sized delectable sweet treats and a tea that comes with an egg timer for precise brewing time.
As with everything in this hotel, it was perfectly thought out and highly indulgent. GETTING THERE:
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to Johanesburg daily. Fares start from £759.95 including taxes.
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to Cape Town daily from October to March. Fares start from £811.95 including tax. These can be booked either online at www.virginatlantic.com
or by calling reservations on 08448 747747.
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is a member of Great Hotels of the World – a collection of the world’s finest hotels and resorts. Double rooms start from £395 per person per night. For more information or to book please visit www.ghotw.com or call 020 7380 3658.
For Rodwell House rates see their website www.rodwellhouse.co.za
One&Only Cape Town rooms start at approx £535 for a Marina room per night on B&B basis, based on two sharing and is inclusive of VAT (price valid between 13 July - 30 September). For more information go to www.oneandonlyresorts.com