After a few weeks of jet-setting in the southern hemisphere we finally pinned down Clare, our South Africa guru, to get her insider recommendations on her favourite country in Africa.
Why do you love South Africa? Or do you? We can’t just assume….
There’s so much to do here from the city buzz to rolling valleys, rugged coastline and safari, and they’re all spectacular. Being a true foodie, wine lover, and outdoor enthusiast (with admittedly, a distinct love of the odd bit of R&R) South Africa truly ticks all of the boxes, and much, much more.
What’s your favourite part of visiting SA?
I’d really have to say the people. Everyone was so incredibly warm and welcoming wherever I went. Some of my friends and family were sceptical about my travel to this part of the world having read some less than glowing news articles, but I couldn’t have been more swayed by the charm of South Africans. Absolutely nothing is too much for them to organise, and they really will go out their way to make visitors feel completely at home – utter bliss when you’re travelling solo and ready for a good natter!
We’re yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love Cape Town, but where’s your favourite place to stay?
Arriving in Cape Town after an 18 hour flight, I couldn’t have been more excited to sink into my large and seriously inviting bed at the Cape Grace. It’s on the bustling Waterfront (albeit tucked away enough to still be peaceful) and is the ideal spot to head out for an evening stroll and dinner at one of the nearby seafood restaurants. The day beds in the spa are the perfect place to read a good book and take in the glorious views up to Table Mountain. For something a bit livelier I’d probably head down to the hotel’s Bascule Bar for a cocktail, or try to choose from one of their 400 whiskies.
Top tip: every evening the Cape Grace offers complimentary wine tasting hosted by one of the hugely informative sommeliers – it’s a great way to meet other guests and to swot up on your wine facts.
If you had to give a personal recommendation for family trips to South Africa, where would you suggest?
If you’re headed to the Winelands then Boschendal caters for even the fussiest family member. There’s a wonderful farm school where children are looked after by qualified childminders and taught all about foraging, outdoor cooking and upcycling – maybe even enough to teach the parents a trick or two! Each child receives their pair of wellies and hat, ready to explore the greater countryside. For the more active, there are mountain bike and hiking trails galore as well as horse riding and plenty of farm tours. If you’re craving some adult time, ask for a babysitter and sample some of the seriously good food in their fine-dining restaurant, the Werf.
Top Tip: If you’re there on a Friday during the summer, be sure to check out the evening market.
Where’s your secret hotspot that no-one really knows about?
Morukuru Beach Lodge is one of those gems that you don’t want to shout too much about for fear of it being fully booked for evermore. The drive there isn’t for the faint hearted but boy is it worth it! Spend the day doing nature drives (in a safari vehicle with heated seats no less!) and ocean walks along the beach, before arriving back to warming hot chocolates laced with Amarula. Afterwards enjoy drinks and delicious food with your fellow guests, all whilst lapping up the most incredible sea views. I was too busy watching the whales out the window to eat my breakfast – I think I counted 8 at one time, incredible!
Top Tip: Take an early morning stroll over the sand dunes and you will more than likely find the place to yourself to really appreciate the stunning views.
This is a hotly debated topic at Extraordinary Africa HQ, but where would you choose to go for safari?
Tanda Tula. Set in the Timbavati Nature Reserve on the edge of Kruger, it epitomises the rustic safari camp vibe. All rooms here are tented but seriously well kitted out. There’s something rather romantic (with possibly some nervousness mixed in) about lying in bed, looking straight out of your tent and knowing that any form of wildlife could quite happily wander up to within a few feet of where you’re lying. Rest assured though, the wonderful staff here will ensure that your nerves are kept well under control!
Top tip: Keep your eyes peeled for the elusive white lion, known to be seen from time to time in the Timbavati
As an outdoors lover, where would you go for an active adventure?
Set just outside Plettenberg Bay, Hog Hollow is the perfect place for lovers of the outdoors. The huge rooms here are perched amongst the trees with large decks offering sweeping views over the valley. There are a wealth of activities to choose from whilst staying at Hog Hollow; hikes for even the most serious of walkers, adventure playgrounds for the younger members of the family, various animal sanctuaries to visit, horse riding (which Hog Hollow are well known for), or for those wanting to put their feet up, a quiet day on the beach. And the best bit after a busy day of exploring is to curl up by the warming fire pit for a sundowner with your fellow guests.
Top tip: There’s a great walk down the valley and up the other side (not for the faint hearted!) to Birds of Eden or the Monkey Sanctuary and once you’re finished, you can ask for a complimentary lift back to save those weary feet.
If you were sending a friend on honeymoon to South Africa, where would you recommend for romance?
For a serious dose of romance, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Dulini River Lodge. Sleeping just twelve guests in six suites, this is the perfect place to escape the rat race and indulge in some well-earned R&R. Each suite is vast, with the sort of bed you could easily get lost in. The shower and bath make the most of the wonderful views out to the river bed, and on warm days there’s a hugely inviting (heated) plunge pool out on deck where I happily spent a few minutes lapping up the peaceful surroundings while watching a herd of elephants slowly walking past. There was so much love in the air that one of the other guests assumed the manager, who had kindly offered to eat with me, must have been my newlywed husband…
Top tip: Do try their ChocaMocharula (hot chocolate, coffee, amarula) mix as a sundowner on a chilly game drive, it certainly warms those cockles.
You’re known in the EA office for your love of good food: where would you recommend to fellow foodies?
The winelands (and Cape Town for that matter) are renowned for seriously good food, and drink. So picking one is an arduous task, however, Babylonstoren is just one of those places that oozes foodie charm in the bucket loads. There’s a serious ethos here encompassing ‘from nature to plate’, and nearly everything found on the menu in the various restaurants, and for sale in the farm shop, comes direct from the farm. Not only is the main restaurant here (Babel) award winning and with utterly scrummy food, their harvest tables at breakfast are also a true work of art. If you’re lucky enough to be staying here in one of their charming cottages, we’d highly recommend scouting out some goodies in the farm shop to take back to your private state of the art kitchen via the chefs in the main restaurant who will more than happily provide you with some top notch cooking tips. If you’re after a bit of an Italian twist, do be sure to head to the bakery on a Monday or Friday for their Italian inspired homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas. After all that eating, walk it off with an informative tour of the farm grounds to see exactly where all their delicious food originates from, followed by a warming glass of red in the tasting room…
Top tip: If you’re looking for somewhere to propose, there’s an island in the middle of the lake which is called the “yes spot”, and staff will do everything to make it magical.