Lions five feet away? Cheetah walks? Phenomenal accommodations that are so luxurious that leaving the hotel is a sad event? Riding on the most luxurious train in the world?
This is all available in one of the most sought after world destinations, according to Condé Naste Traveler Magazine who recently rated Cape Town as the second best city in the world 2012. It is assumed of course, that flying first class, commercial or private, is a given. BUT if that is not in your budget, go anyway, and allow a day to rest when you arrive….
WHERE TO STAY
The Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas and Spa -Egoli/Johannesburg
This exceptional all-suite hotel is situated on ten prime acres of land in the heart of Sandhurst, amongst opulent mansions and close to Sandton City, the largest shopping center in Johannesburg. Within close proximity to the central business district and the two major shopping areas in Johannesburg, the Saxon has been voted the World’s Leading Boutique Hotel every year since 2001.
Here at the Saxon is where Nelson Mandela edited his best-selling autobiography, “A Long Walk To Freedom”. The serenity, the renowned luxurious guest rooms, the outstanding concierge services and the food are hallmarks of the Saxon. This hotel is where returning royalty, nobility, statesmen, Nobel prize-winners and celebrities have called it a home away from home.
This exclusive luxury hotel epitomizes/personifies authentic African elegance, combined with discretely personalized attention to detail. The Saxon’s contemporary African interior is a tempered mixture of novel Eastern influences and African artifacts.
There are 24 suites in the Saxon main hotel and three Villas, adding an additional 29 suites – each incorporating a strong element of African Art, state-of-the-art facilities, writing desk, in suite laptop and wireless Internet access. One of my favorite rooms at the hotel is the well-stocked library with traditional weaponry and artifacts and is a haven of peace and quiet.
George Cohen, the hotel’s general manager since opening, is both knowledgeable and friendly. His attention to detail and service permeate to every staff member. Nothing is too much to ask for during your stay. I recommend a visit to see the Villas and to use the spa services – as they say in South Africa – Stunning!
Professional butlers are included in the Presidential Suites and in the truly majestic Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite. David Higgs is the Executive Chef. His culinary skills can meet or exceed any world famous chef one can think of. His use of textures and flavors, coupled with innovation, creativity and an unrivaled ability to perfectly recreate old classics, are second to none. So is the wine selection.
Rates start around ZAR 8,00.00 (US $1,000.00) per night, making it the most expensive hotel in the country and probably in Africa. They are warranted, simply because the rooms are amazingly decorated and comfortable, the security is impressive. The public areas such as the lounges, pool, cigar bar and especially the service and the food are outstanding . The Saxon simply makes you feel good! A stay here should be a top contender for your bucket-list.
Ulusaba Private Game Reserve
Sir Richard Branson calls this un-spoilt, game rich, 13, 500 hecatares, his South African home and often visits with his family. As far as private game reserves go, Ulusaba is in the top three. The Ulusaba Private Game Reserve is set in the heart of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve that borders to the south west of the sprawling Kruger National Park in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province. Ulusaba is accessible by air as well as by car. Ulusaba has 21 rooms and suites spread over two lodges. Rock Lodge is ‘Heaven in Heaven’, perched high on the summit of a koppie (rocky hill) with views over miles of the South African bush below.
Nearly 500 meters away is Safari Lodge, known as ‘Heaven on Earth’ and is built “tree-house” style. Built along the banks of a dry riverbed, Safari Lodge guests cross swing bridges between the exquisite tree house style rooms. For the ultimate experience, guests can share their time between both lodges.
Aside from the exceptional personal service, be prepared to see an amazing range of animals and 350 species of birds in the game reserve, particularly as animals from the neighboring Kruger Park can cross ranges into Sabi Sands. The Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Black Rhinoceros, Leopard and Cape Buffalo) are in abundance. We were fortunate in that we saw numerous sightings of leopards, lions and lionesses, playful elephants, rhinos, hippos and wild dogs.
Once you have settled in to your room of choice, of which all are extremely comfortable and well furnished, you will appreciate the stillness, solitude and the smells of nature. Your daily routine looks like this: Game Drive – 5:30am wakeup call from your game ranger for coffee and light snacks, at 6:00 am you start your game drive. Dress warmly (in cool winter months) layering is advised. You return at about 10am to an extremely, nice, large communal and à la carte breakfast, whilst sharing stories and sightings with the rest of the guests and rangers. Thereafter, you can relax in your room, work out, take advantage of the Aroma Boma Virgin Touch Salon, catch up on world news, as Internet is available, or just have lunch at whatever time you choose.
The afternoon game drive begins around 4:30 pm. One of the most enjoyable highlights of the afternoon drive is “the Sundowner” – cocktails with snacks such as nuts, biltong (beef jerky) and chocolates. When you return, you can freshen up and then prepare yourself for an outstanding dinner around 8pm.
The food at Ulusaba is superb, as is the South African wine collection. Try the Haute Cabriere Chardonnay Pinot Noir. (I am a owner in this winery) . Whether you eat in a Boma (outside) or in the main lodge, the atmosphere, both literally and figuratively, makes the trip so worthwhile. You will be fast asleep by 10:00 pm ready to repeat the day’s earlier activities. Both Ian and Corinne are exceptional culinary masters, whose dishes are as good as can be found at any 5-star restaurant in the world.
Both our game ranger and Shangaan (a native tribe of South Africa) tracker seemed exceptionally knowledgeable on a complex range of topics, from the diversity of wildlife and fauna, to animal behaviors, tracking techniques, astrology, geology, local tribes/myths and even weaponry (they have to carry rifles, so makes sense!).
Highly recommended is a walking safari with a game ranger. Not only is it exciting, but being close to nature in the bush, with animals all around, is an experience unlike many others. It is like being underwater and knowing sharks are possibly close by. It definitely changes your perspective and comfort zone. And the appreciation that your ranger is competent and has a rifle is most apparent when you hear the call of the wild!.
Rates, aka Tariffs, depending on time of year, range R4750 (US $550) to R14,700 (US $1650) per night , per person, all inclusive. Rate conversion as of October 23, 2012 $1.00 equals R8.75.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Sabi Sabi offers four completely separate luxurious, all-suite, award-winning lodges with very distinct characters and atmospheres – those of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. The “Yesterday” experience is the romantic Selati Camp; “Today”, the more contemporary lodges are the Bush Lodge and the Little Bush Camp and “Tomorrow” is the ground-breaking Earth Lodge.
Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge with its 13 ultra-luxurious suites is the only choice if you want to enjoy a South African eco safari. This eco safari lodge has many unique features and is designed using green techniques.
What sets the sumptuous Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge apart from almost all of the private game reserves in South Africa, is that this upscale reserve combines opulence with environmental sensitivity, truly great food and outstanding service, treating the senses to a fusion of comfort and the untamed wilderness. Drienie, the general manager, is like a genie – ask her for anything and it expeditiously appears. The service at the Earth Lodge is amazingly excellent!
Each of the suites at this luxury lodge features individually designed furniture, a private plunge pool, en-suite glass fronted bathroom and indoor and outdoor shower. The natural wooden sculptures by renowned South African artist Geoffrey Armstrong add a powerful magic.
The Earth Lodge is committed to ecologically sustainable tourism, and has been built in a sustainable way, which makes it one of the most eco friendly African safari destinations for the discerning traveler.
This eco safari lodge has many unique features, especially the design of the rooms. It is both fascinating and stunning to see your room upon arrival. Taking time to observe the natural materials and green techniques is in and of itself, very rewarding.
As with all private game reserves, game drives are the main feature and highlight of your safari. Your daily routine looks like this: Game Drive – 5: 30am wake up for coffee and light snacks, at 6:00 am you start your game drive. You return at about 10am to enjoy an extremely tasty buffet of fruit, breads, hot foods per your request , all while getting to meet and speak to the other guests, if you so choose. Conversations are predominantly about sightings and the best part, beside the food, is your ranger dines with you and your Land Rover fellow passengers.
The Big Five are in abundance, as are many other species of animals such as giraffes, warthogs, cheetahs, and so many different bird species. Best of all, we experienced the sighting of a rare Honey Badger. Take a walk around the main reception area. Its contemporary look, though very natural, blends in with the bushveld. You can relax and rejuvenate body and mind with a sensual massage at the Amani Spa at Earth Lodge; or feel your cares drift away while in the meditation area. In the middle of the day, you can sunbathe by your own private plunge pool, while reading a book from the library.
The game rangers ensure that you experience the beauty of the African night on an evening safari where you will catch a glimpse of the many nocturnal animals that live in the African bush. Those with an interest in the stars can also use the lodge observatory and enjoy the beauty of the African night.
Solitude and service are two of the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of the lodge and to that end have instituted a child policy: Children are not permitted at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, unless the entire camp is privately booked.
Rates, aka Tariffs, begin at R9300 (US $1100) up to R17,000 (US $2,000) per night (Amber Suite), per person, per night and depending on time of year. All meals and drinks are included. These rates available through December 31, 2012. Rate conversion as of October 23, 2012 $1.00 equals R8.75.
Rovos Rail Luxury Train
What a thrill it is to go back to a bygone era of travel on a train as luxurious as Rovos Rail.
Rovos Rail, otherwise known as “The Most Luxurious Train in the World” is, indisputably the world’s most luxurious train with an international reputation for world-class travel experiences. It is a fantastic and slow way to travel and a great way to relax and de-stress with the country air and the dream ride enhancing the whole experience.
The 5 -star treatment begins at the rail station in Pretoria with Champagne, sandwiches and red carpet service. Meeting fellow passengers and inspecting the Rovos Rail’s steam engine put you in the right frame of mind immediately. You can even pull the train’s steam whistle!
Each of the carriages on the Rovos Rail have been impeccably and lovingly restored to capture the lavishness of a bygone era with each of the carriages carrying its own story. Some date back nearly a hundred years, others have transported royalty—but all are utterly opulent. It is the only train in the world with a private bathroom in each cabin. The library carriage offers peace and solitude. There are no radios or television sets on board and the use of mobile phones and laptops are confined to the privacy of your suites only. Smoking is only allowed in the privacy of your suite and in the Club Lounge. Land line phone service is available at each town the train stops.
Train stops in Kimberly, to see the Black Hole , and a stop in Matjiesfontein to see a South African museum, chock-full of historical memorabilia, gives you a chance to stretch your legs and make phone calls, if needed. Plus the museum is fascinating, especially their collection toilet bowls, costumes of the day and a fully-stocked 1930’s apothecary.
If you embrace the atmosphere around the nostalgia, unexpected stops in the middle of the Karoo giving you the opportunity to walk for an hour, you will have an experience for life. The scenery, especially going from 5,000 feet above to sea level, is outstanding, especially as you approach Cape Town.
Rovan Ros and his family, throughout the whole train, have painstakingly ensured that every detail has been considered: wood-paneled walls feature intricate art. Traditional furniture and finery recall turn-of-the-century elegance. The linens are soft and cosy, the bathroom is more than adequate in each cabin, especially the Royal Suite. The Victorian dining room provides world-class ambiance for five-star cuisine, and suites are the most spacious in the world, melding Edwardian elegance with modern amenities. A fine selection of wines are available, such as Haute Cabriere – try the new Unwooded Pinot/ Chardonnay.
The food was exceptional, the service marvelous and the staff goes out of their way to ensure your enjoyment and cater to your every need. Meeting people in the Observation carriage, while the professional bar men and women fix your favorite drink, whether tea, wine or liquor, coupled with deserts and sandwiches, is part of what makes this rail trip so entertaining.
This is truly a travel experience unlike any other—travelling through a storied land in unmatched luxury… riding on a legendary “iron horse” with a singularly velvet touch.
Rovos offers Cape To Cairo trips, trips to Victoria Falls and Safari and Golf trips.
Cape Grace Hotel
Sheltered beneath the familiar shape of Table Mountain, Cape Town is the birthplace of modern South Africa, as well as an historic port with a vital role in overseas trade between Europe and the East. Perhaps the most picturesque city in all of Africa, the city presides over a coastline of stunning grandeur, mountains rising above the seashore, and romantic, outlying vineyards whose proprietors have been practicing the art of winemaking since the 18th century.
The Cape Grace Hotel is situated on the West Quay of Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront with Table Mountain as its majestic backdrop. “The Waterfront”, as it is known, is home to many shops and upscale boutiques and superb restaurants such as Willoughby’s, Sevruga, Melissa’s and Balducci’s.
A not to be missed sojourn would be to Robben Island. The ferry for Robben Island, the former political prison where Nelson Mandela and his partners in the struggle against apartheid were held captive for decades, is set on an island about 30 minutes from mainland Cape Town. The hotel’s concierge is excellent in obtaining tickets to all events and tours.
This elegant luxury hotel’s architecture reflects the strong French historical influence on the Cape. Furniture of the finest design and quality grace the public and private rooms. Each room has lounge areas, walk-in dressing rooms, bathrooms with separate showers and double vanities, so as to cater for the privacy and individuality of its guests. A CD player and DVD machine is also available for in-room entertainment. These spacious suites, with their French doors, open out onto generously sized balconies overlooking Signal Hill, the yacht basin, the working harbor and Table Mountain – the perfect setting for a private dining experience.
Other hotel facilities include a contemporary and private restaurant, cigar bar and selection therein. All are outstanding. Just beyond the doors of the hotel, the V&A Waterfront provides a choice of international cuisines, a range of boutiques, arts and crafts centers, and the world-renowned aquarium.
Two to three weeks are more than adequate and tours to all South Africa’s places of interest , both in Johannesburg and Cape Town and are readily available from the hotel’s concierges. Table Mountain, Robben Island , the Kirstenbosch Gardens and the wine country tours to Franschoek and Stellenbosch, will make your trip memorable.
WHERE TO PLAY
Pinnacle Point Beach & Golf Resort
Your first stop should be at Pinnacle Point just outside Mossel Bay. Superbly situated close to Mossel Bay on the edge of the magnificent coastline that signals the gateway to the Garden Route, Pinnacle Point epitomizes coastal luxury and exclusive living. This development, especially the golf course, will knock your socks off. Sure there is Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, Kingsbarn, Torrey Pines and Cape Kidnappers, and they are marvelous, but Pinnacle Point is in a class of its own! It’s the new Garden of Eden of golf. Pinnacle Point was recently voted one of the top ten golf courses in the world – it’s that good!
Nestled in an unspoilt natural paradise, embraced by the warm Indian Ocean, Pinnacle Point is situated at the gateway to the Garden Route in South Africa. The resort is just a 3-hour drive from Cape Town and a 20-minute drive from George International Airport, which in turn is only a short 1-hour flight from Cape Town International Airport. Pinnacle Point lies on a huge property of 400 hectares right at the sea and looks down on four kilometers of spectacular coastline and boasts dramatic cliff-side holes and over 1000 hectares of unspoiled beachfront of which 100 is a nature reserve. The championship course was designed by Darren Clarke and Peter Matcovitch, who himself called it the most dramatic course he had ever worked on. Several of the holes are situated right above the ocean. The emerald green fairways and tees provide the perfect surface for making shots and the bent grass greens will ensure a challenging and entertaining game. The views, especially from the ultra modern clubhouse, are awe inspiring, with dramatic coastal views of the ocean from all areas of the course. Some of the holes are situated along the cliff side. In addition to this, the natural beauty of the indigenous flora and fauna complete this unique golfing experience. In fact, the resort is home to indigenous wildlife, bird life and 264 varieties of fynbos – a nature lover’s delight!
The resort consists of eighty-two luxurious lodges and nineteen lavish villas, each comprised of two to four bedrooms en-suite. A picturesque swimming pool with snack bar and magnificent clubhouse with restaurant complete this total resort experience.
When you need a break from golf or the weather is unforgiving, there is also a casino right at the entrance to the development. The new Pinnacle Boutique Hotel will open in December.
Ernie Els’ Oubaai Golf Course – Herold’s Bay
Oubaai, an 18-hole Championship Golf Course, is just 8 kilometers from George and approximately 60 kilometers from Knysna. It is also near Herold’s Bay (and his beloved Bosvelt Saloon bar) which is one of his favorite holiday homes. His father Neels, lives two doors down. Ernie and his team have taken full advantage of the spectacular site they were given. Playing the course, your views and outlooks take in forest, sea, river and mountain – Spectacular!
The dramatic golf clubhouse overlooks the 16th, 17th and 18th greens and offers open air terraces and panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, Outeniqua Mountains, natural forests and the Gwaing River Valley.
Not only is the course memorable and scenic, the course also fairly displays challenges and hazards whilst affording players the opportunity to use a full range of shots and plan strategically for individual holes. More importantly, it flows so well. Ernie did a magnificent job in his approach to golf course design which is primarily centered on flexibility and enhancement of the surrounding environment. Concepts are molded according to the landscape and not vice versa.
Simply stated, Oubaai is spectacular and of championship quality.
Oubaai Golf Club 011-27- 44-851-0131
Simola Golf and Country Estate – Knysna
If you have time to spare and do decide to play another round, try the newly completed Jack Nicklaus – Golden Bear 18 hole parkland style championship course at Simola . The course was designed to challenge the professional and inspire the amateur.
The luxurious 5 star Simola Lodge and Country Club’s facilities include a gourmet restaurant, pro shop and heated outdoor swimming pool with breathtaking views over the Knysna Lagoon to the warm Indian Ocean.
Steenberg Hotel & Golf
Twenty minutes away from the bustling center of Cape Town is the amazing 5-Star Steenberg Hotel, award winning winery and golf course. The 30-bedroom hotel nestles in the tranquil Constantia Valley, against the slopes of the Steenberg Mountain. It is, without doubt, the ultimate Cape experience. This luxurious estate is designated as a National Monument and is the oldest wine farm in the Cape Peninsula. The scenery is breathtaking and its championship golf course is outstanding.
Steenberg offers the elegant and exclusive Catharina’s restaurant, a producing wine cellar, and all the facilities of a top-class country hotel, your’s to enjoy at whatever pace you choose.
This stunning boutique hotel is a haven of serenity with a choice of 30 elegant, air-conditioned rooms, the best being the contemporary design rooms, rather than those more chintz-clad—housed in the original manor house, barn and jonkershuis (house of the eldest son). Each en-suite room is tastefully furnished with exquisite antiques and all rooms overlook the vineyards, golf course or manicured gardens. These beautifully renovated white-walled Cape Dutch buildings are grouped around a large manicured grass courtyard.
Amenities include an on-site hairstylist and beauty consultant and a gymnasium. Guests can shed their cares and surrender themselves to the upper level quality of personal service, unique to a small luxury hotel.
The Steenberg golf course is a wonderful golfing experience and is well known for its hybrid design by renowned South African golf course architect, Pete Matkovitch.
Opened in 1995, the course attracts golfers wanting a total golfing experience. Tradition is represented by aprons of bent grass around the greens that allow for the bump and run—a shot rarely seen in South Africa, where robust kikuyu grass usually takes this option off the table. The radical hybrid change instituted comes in the shape of sand- and water-protected island greens and waste areas (a la Pete Dye?) hugging entire fairways.
The club house has recently undergone an extensive renovation. Remember, irrespective of your score, you’ll want to try a glass of Steenberg’s stunning merlot at the nineteenth hole. Yardage: 7,025. Par: 72.
Steenberg Estate, Tokai Road, Tokai, Cape Town;
Greens Fees: $77 (hotel guest), $49 (with member). The golf course is open only to hotel guests and members.
Rooms: $280–$380. Suites: $600–$700.
The Royal Cape Golf Club
If you love playing a traditional, old-time golf course that stirs your soul and sense of history, then Royal Cape Golf Club is just the right place. Royal Cape Golfplatz The Royal Cape Golf Course lies only 15 minutes away from the city center of Cape Town. Access from Cape Town is via the M5 in the direction of Muizenberg. Turn-off at the “Ottery / Wynberg” exit, and then turn right. Driveway is sign-posted.
The Royal Cape Golf Club is the oldest golf course in South Africa. It was founded as early as 1885 by the British General Sir Henry Torrens, who had taken over the command of the troops at the Cape and immediately laid out a golf course in front of his military camp in Wynberg. It received the attribute “Royal” in 1910 by the Duke of Connaught, who represented King George V at the opening of the first parliament of the South African Union. The Royal Cape Golf Course is famous for its superb scenic beauty, but also known to be windy and difficult to play. Pars are rarely possible. The course has been host to numerous competitions. Nine times the South African Open took place at the Royal Cape already. In 1965, Gary Player won the tournament with a record of 273 Scores (4 rounds = 15 under par). The green fee is R500; considered high for a local, but equivalent to just $50 and with a caddie, add another $11.
Tel: +27 (0)21 7616551, Fax: (0)21 7975246, email@example.com
Pearl Valley Golf Estate
Home to the South African Open, owned by Dubai based Leisurecorp, the Jack Nicklaus designed Pearl Valley lies in the Franschhoek Valley which is only 45 minutes from Cape Town.Visiting Franschoek is an experience in and of itself, as eight of South Africa’s “Top 100” restaurants are found in Franschooek, known as the gourmet capital of the country.
The 170-hectare championship golf course (par 72) is in the heart of the Cape Winelands. This upscale American-style gated residential development is set against the stunning backdrop of the Drakenstein and Simonsberg Mountains, and bordered by vineyards with The Berg River water hazard running through it.
This fairly flat and largely uninterrupted terrain fits with the environment and enabled Nicklaus the freedom to develop hole strategies making this a golf course the golfer has to think his/her way around.
In its engineering and planning detail, the course is very rare. It is crossed by roads in only three places, and the drainage system allows play to continue just minutes after a severe cloudburst.
It is one of the most visually spectacular golf courses in the Cape – and from the tips, one of the most challenging.
Their management are exceptionally friendly, competent and make you feel like a king. All the staff are extremely courteous.
The state-of-the-art clubhouse is spectacular as is the food. Accommodations are available onsite or in a variety of hotels in the Franschhoek and Paarl areas.
Story by Barry Lotz – Barry Lotz, J.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, the California Golf Writers Association, and serves both as a Consultant and Mediator to the golf industry. He is also the author of numerous books, including “333 Best Web Sites for Golfers”, “How to Build Business Relationships through Golf” which is in the Top Ten Golf Business Book’s bestseller list. His latest book,” The Right Mind for Golf”, released in February, 2012 is already in its third printing. He can be reached at www.pgtaa.com or firstname.lastname@example.org