This past three weeks have comprised a number of firsts for us, first time in both South Africa and Zambia, but also it was the first time we have used a travel agent, rather than planning and scheduling everything myself. Overall, the past three weeks were a raging success, and as expected, we experienced mostly positives, but also a couple of negatives.
Although we left all the booking of hotels, flights and arranging transport to our agent at Pembury Tours, it wasn’t a group holiday, as all tours and transits were just Judi and I. In summary, we are extremely satisfied with this company, our assigned agent was excellent and she even provided a booklet of detailed information on all stops, which we found invaluable.
If returning to Africa, we would definitely use them again, as it removes a huge workload from me.
Prior to arriving in South Africa, we were open minded, but also somewhat apprehensive to what we would experience. We have read many news reports about troubles, and my uncle returned to UK after over 30 years, walking away from a sizeable business.
1). Cape Town – is a beautiful city, both vibrant and cosmopolitan, which we believe results from the combination of British, Dutch and Asian cultures. We stayed at the Victoria & Alfred Hotel, on the waterfront. All aspects of this fabulous hotel are top notch – rooms, staff and catering. The waterfront is an amazing mix of marine industry, including a functioning shipyard, marinas, multi-million dollar homes, large mall and numerous cafes, restaurants and pubs.. We felt completely safe, even walking around in the evening.
For activities, we thoroughly enjoyed Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape of Good Hope and downtown. However, Cape Town has so much more to offer, which is an excellent excuse to return in the future.
2). Stellenbosch – a small town in the centre of the Western Cape winelands, but it is also a substantial university town. Therefore, you have an interesting mix of students, wine enthusiasts and tourists, frequenting the numerous downtown restaurants and cafes.
The streets are lined on both sides by oak trees, which were introduced for making wine barrels. However, due to climate the trees grow too quickly and the wood is porous, which probably isn’t ideal for making wine barrels.
We stayed at the Oude Werf Hotel, which is located downtown and close to numerous cafes and restaurants. The staff were exceptional, the room huge and rustic, but the catering was ghastly.
3). Arathusa Lodge – definitely the high point, with everything being first class. Our room again was huge, with the only negative being the walk to the lodge, especially with lions, leopards and hyena in the vicinity. The game drives were spectacular, definitely superior to what we experienced in Kenya and Tanzania.
All meals were excellent, more towards good home cooking rather than fine dining. Our fellow guests and the Rangers created an excellent atmosphere, where we met some great people and established many new friendships.
4). Olivers Lodge, White River – this was a one night stop, as it permitted us to partake in the last AM game drive and breakfast before leaving Arathusa. This meant we couldn’t catch the daily flight to Livingstone from the local airport.
The room was massive, about 1,000 square feet, consisting of large and separate sitting room and bedroom, with 2 bathrooms and a deck overlooking the gardens and golf course. At check-in and in the restaurant you were treated like long lost family, rather than guests. Judi was very happy as the restaurant has a resident cat, which happily came to the table to scrounge, when each course was delivered.
Dinner was exceptional, with the tomato soup being the best we ever tasted. Breakfast consisted of a fruit plate, cold cereals & yogurts, meat/cheese plate, cooked breakfast, fresh pasties and toast. Almost forgot tea and coffee.
While the Zambezi River sunset cruise and Victoria Falls were excellent, our hotel was a huge disappointment. The Royal Livingstone charge developed country 5-star prices, but in reality are no better than budget hotels similar to Motel 6. Our room was badly maintained and meals ghastly, being returned numerous times due to under-cooking.
Suffice to say we will never return to this facility and cannot recommend it to anybody.