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Top 5 Private Game Reserves in South Africa

South Africa is beyond famous for its’ incredible game reserves and lodges. People flock from all around the world to experience Africa in one of our top class facilities. Some just back a tent and trundle off but others seek out SA’s most luxurious and exclusive wildlife experiences. As far as we’re concerned, we’d be more than happy to stay at ANY of these reserves, but here are our Top 5!

1. Singita – Sabi Sand

It’s no secret Singita has been winning awards for some time now and although all of their private reserves are spectacular, Sabi Sand is regarded as uniquely special. With three magnificent but warm lodges set on a massive plot of Big 5 rich land, it’s easy to see why Singita Sabi Sand was recently ranked number 9 in the Condé Nast travellers awards in the Middle East, Africa and India Ocean.

2. Londolozi

One of the original pioneering Private Game Reserves of the ecotourism industry in South Africa and an unashamedly family run, stand alone operation, conservation is at the core of their ethics. World renowned as one of Africas finest game lodges, Londolozi was the first game reserve in the world to be accorded Relais & Chateaux status, with each of its’ 5 lodges committed to luxurious accommodation, fine cuisine and exceptional service.

3. Thanda

Wildlife, romance and exclusivity meet at Thanda Private Game Reserve – an award-winning safari destination in northern Zululand.Originally purchased as degraded cattle farms, Thanda’s wildlife management has concentrated on an extensive rehabilitation project, which included reintroducing the Big Five. The newly added Luxury Tented Camp is the epitome of oppulent colonial safari-style, perfect for guests who are searching for an authentic safari experience!

4. Shamwari

Home to Africas Big 5 and is situated in the Eastern Cape of South Africa Shamwari has received numerous international awards, including the Worlds Leading Conservation Company and Game Reserve for many consecutive years.Luxury safari accommodation is offered in 7 different 5-star lodges on the 25 000 hectare reserve. From rustic treetop hideaways to colonial bush mansions, Shamwari will make your safari dreams come true.

5. Phinda

Phinda is unique in that is includes seven distinct habitats – a magnificent tapestry of woodland, grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marshes and pans. At Phinda intimate encounters and rare discoveries can be experienced firsthand. With unspoiled beaches and spectacular reefs nearby, and an abundance of wildlife, Phinda offers the perfect bush and beach adventure. Six luxury lodges, each set in varying environments, provide exclusivity and privacy deeply set in the natural environment.

Reconnect at Rhino River Lodge

The African bushveld feels like a vast and never-ending space when you’re in the midst of it, but it’s at these times that you feel the most intimate connection to this natural environment and its inhabitants.

At Rhino River Lodge in Zululand, the small team aims to give each guest that uniquely personal nature high.
“We want them to get an intimate look at nature, so that all of our guests leave with a renewed appreciation of the bush, mindful of the importance of conservation and how it can play a role creating a space where people can relax, and hopefully re-awakening that childlike thrill of seeing a special nature moment – be it as simple as examining an intricate leaf or looking up at the stars, or as complex as negotiating a bush walk round an extremely rate and hugely endangered black rhino,” says manager Shona Lawson.

She’s one of a group of just 15 people who total the workforce at this quaint lodge within the 23,000 hectare Zululand Rhino Reserve. The lodge consists of four luxury en-suite rooms plus there are also two rustic family cottages that can accommodate up to four people.
Reserve manager Dale Airton leads the team with Shona, head ranger Isaac Gumede and support rangers Jenine and Jason take on the wildlife and bushveld challenges. In addition there are 3 trackers who also work on the grounds and 7 ladies who run the kitchen and housekeeping services. Continue reading

A wedding with a Vaal River view

An hour long drive to the Vaal River from Johannesburg seemed endless and the excitement could not be contained as we anticipated the celebration of my sister’s wedding. The sky was overcast and the wind was relentless but we were determined to commit to all the festivities.

A convoy of cars snaked along the N1S highway towards Bloemfontein. After driving through the Grasmere Tollgate the open road led the way to one of Sasolburg’s diverse venues. Situated on the banks of the Vaal River, Riverside Beach Club is a paradise for boat lovers and water skiers who have access to over 60 km of waters.

The 70 hectare nature and game farm also offers camping and lapa facilities for private functions. The largest Gemsbok lapa seating a maximum of 200 people was prepared to serve as the reception venue for my sister’s wedding. White draping with fairy lights covered the ceiling and the floor was covered with crisp white Tiffany chairs and white-clothed tables. Crystal centre pieces were delicately placed alongside pearl balls and mirrored flower boxes. This Gemsbok lapa was transformed to fulfil the bride and groom’s wedding dream.

A sign welcoming guests to the boat club appears along a narrow driveway leading to the main area of the farm. One can also see many rows of boat locker facilities. The club has one of the largestboat locker rentalfacilities on the Barrage Reservoir however; it is only members who have access to boat locker facilities that can enjoy more than 1kmof privateriver frontage and additional facilities. My uncle is one of these members and it is his boat that transported me, the bride and groom, the groomsmen and the bridesmaids across the river to the smaller lapa where anexcited congregation waited for the bridal party. Continue reading

24 hours in paradise

It’s a sorry state of affairs when you sneak off for a weeknight getaway in the winelands and you pack your laptops, external hard drives, USBs and flash drives because you intend to work while you are away.
As it turned out, we couldn’t connect to the wifi at Holden Manz and the 3G was iffy. It was all we could do to manage to keep the world updated with our pictures on Instagram. So, work went very quickly out of the window and I swear it had nothing to do with the complimentary bottle of estate rose in the room, nor the pre-dinner drinks. Not even the wine with our meal. The lack of connectivity was a blessing in disguise, forcing us to kick back, relax and enjoy the gorgeous surroundings, excellent food and great company.

The Franschhoek valley is one of my favourite places in the Western Cape. A little – okay, a lot – more commercial than it used to be, but that’s mainly in the “village”.
I visit fairly often, but this was the first time I had reached the Monument and turned right. We stopped to take pictures of orchards of blossoming fruit trees on a glorious not-quite-yet-spring day before turning off to Holden Manz, where the Franschhoek and Stony Brook rivers converge on the 22-hectare farm.

The Cape Dutch-style guest house and spa has a light, airy communal area with couches on the deck overlooking the lawns, gazebo and small lake complete with Egyptian geese. The long courtyard has a water feature filled with monster Koi, and everywhere you look there is art. For all intents and purposes, the Holden Manz guest house is a gallery.
Instead of the high tea laid out, we klapped that first bottle of wine on the patio of our room, with its view of the vineyards and mountains. In the right light, and if you squint just so, you’ll be able to spot the massive elephant in the rocks; the region was once called “Olifantshoek” (Elephant’s Corner) on account of this.

The cellar, wine tasting room and restaurant are situated a short distance away. It can be walked, but we drove to our dinner prepared by executive chef Cheyne Morrisby, who has cooked for celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss – and now us. The menu is tweaked seasonally, and the estate tries to grow as much of its own produce as possible; the next day when we took an exploratory stroll accompanied by the enthusiastic trio of resident dogs, besides the orchard and vegetable garden, we discovered a coop full of chickens and turkeys. The former are so far earmarked for eggs only, but I suspect the gobblers will see their fate come Christmas.

Cheyne’s menu is deeply Pacific Rim inspired, with lots of coconut, miso, lotus root and so on. Presentation for several dishes is artful arrangements of colour and shape on unglazed black tiles.
Miss Christy started with the recommended warm Asian mushroom salad with cucumber kimchi and braised pistachio puree which was delicious. I had the grilled tiger prawns (thankfully entirely shelled, lord I hate having to take the face off my food) atop a perfect lemon and pea risotto with garlic croutons, also good.

We followed with duck breast with sweet miso, sweet potato puree, and red wine and star anise syrup for her, and pork belly with sweetcorn and cumin puree, coconut and potato dumplings (a bucket of those to go, please), soy and maple, lotus root crisps, and airy crackling for me.
I had to admit defeat but Christy had the Belgian chocolate mousse with salted caramel to finish. I had more wine.

When we got back to our room, the fire had been lit to warm it in anticipation of our return and I embraced my inner cavewoman by feeding it into a roaring blaze. With more wine, of course. Bliss.
Needless to say, the next morning got off to a very slow start and it was extremely difficult to get out of the wonderfully comfortable bed.

We eventually declared ourselves presentable enough not to frighten anyone and took our breakfast, of Earl Grey tea and what Christy claimed to be the best eggs Royale she’s ever had, in the dining area.

It was with great reluctance we finally headed back to the smoggy city. So what if we had to work all weekend?

Daily Collection

B & Being in Umhlanga – linger by the seaside

Long before it was the buzzing metropolis it is today, Umhlanga was the favoured holiday destination of many an in-lander.

Famous for its’ laid-back village-ish charm, fabulous surf conditions and gorgeous year-round weather, Umhlanga has grown somewhat since those infant days of tourism.

Today, it’s glorious beaches are popular not only popular with the Gauteng holiday-makers, but attracts business people and foreign tourists as well.

Whether you’re just popping in for a quick business visit, staying the weekend for a romantic break, or bringing the whole family for a December vacation, Umhlanga has a wide range of B&B accommodation available – most notably the award-winning Teremok Marine and Sandals.

The old barn that became beautiful

Magdel Brink loves nothing more than to creating unforgettable dream weddings for her clients at Groenrivier Function Center in the picturesque Riebeek Valley.

Today the popular venue encompasses three gorgeous venues, suitable for weddings or corporate functions and the main function centre boasts a 250m stoep with panoramic views of the Cape’s fruit-growing region.

But it wasn’t always the sophisticated space it is today. “In 1979 we built a barn to store our farm implements and vehicles,” remembered Magdel.

“Little did we know that the same rustic building would serve as my very own wedding venue in 1987. In 1999 we celebrated my father in law’s 70th birthday party in similar style, once again facing the tedious task of moving farm implements and vehicles out of the barn on the Friday and back in on the Monday. Following the success of both functions, my husband suggested that we transform “The Barn” into a function centre. With the help of my close friend Malita Joubert who successfully heads up the catering side of my business, we hosted our first wedding in the new Groenrivier Function Centre in December 1999.” Continue reading

Make yourself at home at The Residence

All it takes is a quick chat with Edgar Rudge (jnr) to see why The Residence Boutique Hotel is the top-rated hotel in Johannesburg on Tripadvisor and came tops in our recent poll.

The hotel is of particular personal interest to him as it’s also his home.
“The house was originally my private residence, but as things developed and the adjoining property (ex Chinese consulate) came up for sale, I decided to convert the two properties into a small boutique Hotel,” Edgar explained.
A trained architect by trade, who now works in the steel industry, Edgar relished the chance to use his creativity to stamp his own mark of style onto the interior and exterior spaces at The Residence.
“This is our first dabble in the hospitality industry. I have travelled extensively and been fortunate to stay at many of the great hotels of the world. I always wanted to bring back these experiences to our property in South Africa. I have taken much of my inspiration from two of the best hotels in the world – The Peninsula in Hong Kong and the Oriental in Bangkok ,” said Edgar.

Opulence and luxury are the words that come to mind when you hear what kind of exclusive facilities guests can enjoy at The Residence. A private spa with sauna and steam room, a rooftop bar that overlooks the city, two swimming pools, several private lounges, a piano bar and tennis court all contribute to the “private resort” feel.

“I believe our attention to detail in the luxurious suites, private Jacuzzis on the balconies, outdoor showers, complimentary mini bars, personalised stationery and a team that is always willing to go that extra mile for each and every guest has contributed to the popularity of The Residence,” he said. Continue reading

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Fabulous Franschoek – Food & Wine Heaven!

Just 45 minutes outside of Cape Town, you will find a magnificent haven of beauty and tranquility where food and wine lovers flock to sample some of the best that South Africa has to offer.

The fertile grounds of Franschoek have nurtured more than just top quality vines. Some of the country’s top chefs have sharpened their skills in the kitchens of this winelands paradise and many continue to dazzle local and international visitors with their talents.

But Franschoek isn’t just for foodies. The scenery is so picturesque and the atmosphere so peaceful, it’s the perfect place to escape city life and enjoy some fresh air, outdoor activities and even a spot of shopping!

This is just a small collection of some Franschoek gems that we hope to expand on in the near future! If you have any favourite Franschoek haunts, we would love to add them!

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Botrivier Beauties – A charming wine journey!

It was an article on 2Oceansvibe blog that inspired us to create this collection. The writer, Harry Haddon detailed a unique wine trip that allowed him to explore the small but verdant valley of Botrivier.
According to him, there are a number of wine farms in the area today, “but it’s small enough for you to take it very easy and still visit all of them”, which makes Botrivier a fabulous weekend trip.

Savour the delightful Chenins of the area or revel in a tasty Pinotage as you take in the picturesque scenery and warm, small-town charm.

“I love Botrivier. I am not sure if it was the old cottage, games of rummy infront of the well stoked fire in the kitchen over a few bottles of Beaumont Pinotage. Wait. That’s exactly why. Neils form Luddite said to us as we left, “Enjoy Botrivier, it’s the centre of the universe” and that is exactly the feeling we left with. Rolling green hills, a meandering river, fine wine, and a fire in the kitchen. The rest of the world fades away quickly when in Botrivier,” writes Harry.

 

Get your kicks in the Karoo

Want to get away from it all, but with the option of either lazing around all weekend doing nothing, or having a bit of a jol? I have just the place for you.
The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is about two and a half hours drive, without stops, from Cape Town on the legendary Route 62, which runs all the way to Port Elizabeth – a scenic and infinitely more interesting alternative to the N2. Okay, well not exactly on the route itself, but down the sudden and unexpected right turn off the wide place in the road that is the Barrydale most people know.
From Cape Town you take the N1, turn right at Worcester and right again at Robertson. This puts you on a very long wine route, one of the longest in the world, they say – which is always a good thing.

The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is one of those beautiful old-fashioned small town places where the locals all hang out in the bar and are very friendly (sometimes overly so), where visitors come to loll in the gorgeous lounge areas decorated in quirky queer style (lift the cushions on the chairs, if you’re not a prude). There are just 15 individually created rooms. Some are basic, some are more extravagant, all offer comfort, peace and the creature comforts you need, like tea and coffee. This is not, however, the hotel you come to watch TV in your room.
I’ve been there three times in the past year, each time in the company of musicians playing gigs in the bar, so by definition, they have not been entirely relaxing trips. Continue reading

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Friendly Plett – A Garden Route Great!

TripAdvisor recently recognised Plettenberg Bay as the number three most popular ‘Beach & Sun Destination in Africa’ and the 8th most popular ‘Outdoor & Adventure Destinations in Africa’, but its no surprise to those who live and holiday there regularly.
Nature and adventure are synonymous with Plett from the famous flora and forests to wildlife sanctuaries and breath-taking ocean life. For those with a taste for adrenaline, sky-diving, kayaking, shark-diving, motorcycling and bungee jumping are just a few of the activities on offer.

According to kulula.com, Plett is also the friendliest holiday destination in South Africa. After undertaking their ‘Friendliest Destinations Survey’ in 2011, surveying over 1500 people from across the country, Plett locals were found to give the biggest smiles and warmest welcome.

In our collection, you’ll find a sample of what’s on offer in Friendly Plett, but you’ll need to go there to experience it first-hand!

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Exclusive Kruger – 5 Star Big 5

For some, going to the Kruger National Park is all about getting back to nature, sleeping under the stars, cooking potjie on the fire and creeping to the loo in the middle of the night hoping you won’t bump into anything with large teeth.

But for those that can afford it, a luxury Kruger experience can be even more relaxing. In this collection we’ve listed five star game lodges within the boundaries of the Kruger Park itself. There are only a handful that fall into the category, although there are many situated just on the border, or inside neighbouring reserves.

Singita Lebombo in particular is a star amongst our picks. The Singita group have made a name for themselves for providing exactly what travellers expect from a 5 star experience and a little extra on top. Jock Safari Lodge is also highly rated on Trip Advisor, with many reviewers describing their stays as, ‘heavenly’.

While not all of us may be able to experience Kruger in this manner, at least we can rest assured that we live in a country where we have the luxury of such a magnificent natural wonder on our doorstep.

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Roger Goode’s Chart Toppers – Follow the DJ

There’s no doubt Roger Goode has firmly implanted himself as one of the country’s most popular & sought after DJ’s. He’s on the road a lot, but that means he gets to discover some of South Africa’s best party venues, hotels and restaurants along the way.

We chatted to Roger a while back and he gave us some insight into his hectic schedule and some of his favourite places in his hometown of Jozi as well as in some of the other places he travels to regularly.

“What do you hope to give people when you play?,” we asked him, to which he replied:
“Eargasms. Ha! But really, it’s that vibe you get when you love a song, or you feel a beat and you get up and dance and nothing else matters but that moment. It’s giving people an escape, a couple of hours to have a good time without stresses.”