Today, South Africa is the best country in the world to visit! Due to the strength of the US dollar, you basically are getting a minimum 2 for 1 on goods and services. (R14 to $1.00).
Since leaving South Africa many moons ago, I have returned at least 20 times, if not more. It is one of the most beautiful countries inhabited by wonderful people, in wonderful destinations.
Getting to South Africa, whether Johannesburg or Cape Town, is a long flight from the West Coast (24 hours actual flying), and the most recommended air carrier is Qatar Airways from LAX or Atlanta. The service on Qatar’s Business Class/First Class, is beyond amazing. The seats with their oversized TVs and sleeping pods are so enjoyable and on-call food service is over the top.
The Tintswalo Group, without any fear of contradiction, is simply South Africa’s best collection of 5-star boutique hotels I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
Tintswalo is a Shangaan expression meaning “the intangible feeling of love, gratitude and peace bestowed upon someone offering you a meaningful and worthy gift”, and personifies the owners, Ernest and Gaye Corbett, and their second generation of family member’s Warwick and Lisa Goosen (née Corbett), family and business philosophy.
Starting off in Johannesburg, the country’s business center, staying at the Tintswalo at Waterfall, you are removed from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. This is not your typical “business hotel”. The ambience and welcomness, if there is such a word, is so very inviting from the moment you enter through the massive front doors. The staff, their attitude, and their service are way above average, without being overbearing.
Tintswalo at Waterfall lies within the elite Waterfall Equestrian Estate. Perfectly located within the city’s proximity and only a five minute drive from the Mall of Africa, South Africa’s largest, this 5-star luxury boutique hotel and business facility enjoys all the conveniences of urban living, as well as the open spaces and natural beauty of the estate grounds. The hotel overlooks a lush polo field, a kilometer-long expanse of green lawn, as well as a sizable dam, which attracts local bird life all year round.
The hotel was designed to be a lavish, double-volume barn, decorated with equestrian paraphernalia and beautiful horse-themed artworks. The hotel offers a quirky countryside experience to city-dwellers seeking a respite from the stresses of a metropolitan lifestyle.
If you are in the mood for a spa visit, the Waterfall Spa on the property offers an extensive range of relaxing spa, beauty and body treatments, from facials, massages, manicures & pedicures and waxing. The spa offers top of the line products and features brands such as Dermologica, Mary Cohr and O.P.I. and Waterfall Body products.
There are packages for ladies, men, couples and groups, and the staff can customize packages to suit your needs.
Each of the 16 spacious suites are individually decorated to the colors and characteristics of specific horse breeds. All suites boast a private balcony, a super-king or twin bed setup and all the comforts of a 5-star hotel. The suites are fully air-conditioned and equipped with DSTV, a bar fridge, tea and coffee facilities, heated floors and heated towel rails, a luxurious, modern bathroom with a bath and separate shower, and deluxe amenities.
The level of detail that has gone into creating a unique experience that is both authentic and immersive is sometimes breathtaking. Rates as of September (R14.5 to $1.00): $275 for a single, $365.00 double (two persons).
A decadent English breakfast feast is included in each guest’s stay.
With candlelit tables and fire places roaring, dinner at Tintswalo at Waterfall is set to impress. The fresh aroma of lemon infused asparagus being sautéed while the scent of seared salmon is lingering in the air, sets the mood for an evening to be remembered.
These meals can be paired with a superb selection of wines and rounded off with fine cognacs, whiskeys and Cuban cigars.
Tintswalo Safari Lodge – recognized as one of the top 5 safari lodges in the Kruger National Park by Forbes and Connoisseur Golf & Travel Report.
Sharing an unfenced boundary with the renowned Kruger National Park, the private Manyeleti Game Reserve, is a pristine wilderness reserve nestled between the Sabi Sand, Timbavati and Kruger Park. The Manyeleti abounds in big five game and spectacular bird watching and is home to the luxurious Tintswalo Safari Lodge and Tintswalo Manor House. Boasting one of the lowest vehicle densities in the Greater Kruger, Tintswalo Manor House guests are spoiled to uninterrupted game viewing experiences in an almost untouched African wilderness.
Tintswalo Manor House is a fully-catered, home style villa with 4 double or twin rooms, and an additional adjoining room suitable for two children. Hosting up to ten people, Tintswalo Manor House offers an idyllic safari getaway to families or traveling groups.
The lodge is equipped with fireplaces, heaters, blankets and cozy couches for guests to stay warm. Cuisine, like freshly baked breads, soups and hearty winter dishes, warm visitors from the inside out. Curl up on the couch with a good book, the fire-crackling, and a delicious glass of red wine – all while listening to the sounds of nature and embracing the best parts of both summer and winter.
The 8 lodge suites are authentically decorated to reflect the intricate luxuries of colonial times and evoke the adventures of 19th-century explorers after which they’re named; such as Livingstone, Stanley and Burton to name a few. Up to 16 visitors can be accommodated at the Lodge Suites.
Winter in the bush is magical and, for me, the best time to visit the Kruger National Park. This year was no exception. The bushveld is significantly more open this year as a result of the extremely dry weather, with bare trees and lower grass, causing animals to migrate towards watering holes in search of water. Some camps are even pumping in water to these watering holes to help ensure the well-being of these magnificent animals.
Visibility of game is exceptionally heightened and guests are privy to active wildlife and unbeatable animal sightings, so much so, that we saw the Big 5 on our first day! The Lodge’s tracker and guide were true bush professionals and their knowledge encyclopedic. We even got to see an Aardvark! Our guides, Christof, and Foster (our game tracker), had not seen one in the past 13 years.
One of the most intriguing sites was that of a funeral of vultures, all 20+ sitting on a tree awaiting their turn on a carcass that the lions were not quite finished devouring.
Of course, early 5 a.m. wake up calls for game viewing are a bit rough, though hot water bottles and blankets are on the open air tracking vehicle. And, at some point along the crisp, fresh drive, the guides stop at a special place with a view, for hot chocolate, coffee or tea, and biscuits, dried fruit, game biltong (jerky) and nuts, offering a truly warming and soul soothing experience.
One morning we even had a full breakfast, with eggs, sausage, bacon and toast cooked to perfection over open fires, while sitting at beautifully set tables in a dry river bend … What an unexpected treat, without any uninvited visitors looking for a quick meal!
There is also an evening drive prior to dinner and this too is awesome, especially for viewing the stars and experiencing a “Sundowner”, aka Happy Hour, with cocktails at sun down.
Tintswalo Safari Lodge is situated a short drive from the nearest local airport in Hoedspruit, or a scenic six-hour drive / shuttle from Johannesburg for those who enjoy a road-trip and excellent roads.
Suite rates vary, and include all meals the standard of which is excellent, as is the service.
Per person from $400 to $700 per night. Manor House rates from $275 to $350+ per person per night.
Tintswalo Atlantic – the Hidden Gem of Cape Town
There are many beautiful beach hotels throughout the world. The 5-star luxury Tintswalo Atlantic Lodge has to be one of the top ten boutique hotels anywhere! What an amazing venue. And it is only twenty minutes from downtown Cape Town.
The hotel boasts an exclusive and unique shoreline location within the protected Table Mountain National Park, one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage Sites, situated just outside of Hout Bay, on the scenic Chapman’s Peak drive. The pebbled beach directly in front of the lodge is secluded and sheltered from winds. There is excellent access to the natural beauty found along the mountainside’s winding hiking trails.
This gorgeous, dramatic and romantic destination needs to be on your Bucket List! When we sent some photos to a friend, she replied “you didn’t say you were travelling to heaven”. And every vista is truly “heavenly”.
Superlatives cannot do the hotel justice. From its location, the structure, the access, the rooms, the service, the food and the staff, attention to details are the hallmarks of Tintswalo Atlantic. Every member of the staff is so amazingly kind, attentive, professional and genuinely pleasant.
Your first thrill is the arrival from the entrance – the drive down to the lodge (at the base of Chapman’s Peak), from there makes you realize you are going somewhere very special. You are greeted with champagne and smiling faces. The warm hospitality didn’t stop until we left 2 1/2 days later.
All 10 Island Suites, as well as the Presidential Suite, face the Atlantic Ocean with breath-taking panoramic views of the Sentinel shown in the photo and Hout Bay. All the suites are uniquely themed after different islands and feature chandeliers, warm décor, and wooden floors. All come with sitting areas, satellite TV, fireplaces and balconies. Airy bathrooms offer free-standing tubs with water views.
The regal Presidential suite, sitting above the other suites, is stunning, opulent and luxurious. The two master suites, each with the largest and most lavish bathrooms I have ever enjoyed, together with heated floors and fireplaces in each room are tantalizing. The enormous bath overlooking the waters of Hout Bay was, without a doubt, my wife’s favorite feature. And to top it off, there is another room, the sitting area, also with a fireplace, making being spoiled a wonderful experience.
Having all your meals at the lodge is simply amazing with the sea lapping against the rocks making a wonderful backdrop. The menu choices available for breakfast, lunch and dinner are terrific. The chefs produce exquisite and orgasmic cuisine. You really do not want, or need, to leave the lodge. Cuban cigars are available as is Sherry to enjoy on your balcony.
Don’t forget to ask for your personal wishing rock at reception before leaving. You do really want to wish to come back regularly when you toss the rock, specifically over your left shoulder into the ocean.
Melissa and Ryno, the GMs are superb hosts who make Tintswalo even more fabulous.
Rates will vary depending on the season. Expect to pay somewhere between $400 – $700 per couple, per night, for one of the suites. The Presidential Suite is going to come in at about $2,000.00 per couple per night. Breakfast, house drinks, coffee and teas are included. Guests who join you for dinner will be in the $50-$60 per person range without wine. (R14.5 to US dollar at time of writing).
If you are not able to stay overnight, at least try and make a reservation for breakfast, lunch, or early dinner – you will not be disappointed!
One obviously has to get from Johannesburg/Kruger National Park to Cape Town or vice versa. You can fly, drive or take “The Train”. Leaving from the Johannesburg and Game Reserve area, “The Train” leaves from Pretoria which is about 40 minutes north of Johannesburg and about 5 hours by car from the Kruger national Park.
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 puts 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 days gone by 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.
The Rovos Rail stops in Kimberly, to see the Black Hole, (a once-operational diamond mine, which descends a staggering 840m below the earth), and a stop in Matjiesfontein to see a South African museum, chock-full of historical and interesting memorabilia. Plus the museum is fascinating, especially their collection of toilet bowls, costumes of the day, and a fully-stocked 1930’s apothecary. Giving you a chance to stretch your legs and fully experience the countryside, a 5K walk alongside the rail is offered outside of Matjiesfontein. Rovos personnel accompany you just in case you experience any difficulty.
If you embrace the atmosphere around the nostalgia, and embrace 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 have painstakingly ensured that every detail has been considered; wood-paneled walls featuring intricate art and traditional furniture and finery recall turn-of-the-century elegance.
The linens are soft and cozy, 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 very spacious, melding Edwardian elegance with modern amenities. A fine selection of Cape wines are available, such as Haute Cabriere – try the Chardonnay Pinot Noir. What a great wine!
Led by Daphne, the train master, 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.
Go Visit South Africa – It’s a Trip of a Lifetime!
Rovos offers Cape to Cairo trips,
trips to Victoria Falls and Safari and Golf trips.
RATES: CAPE TOWN
October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018
Pullman Suites R 18,950 – $1350
Deluxe Suites R 28,650 – $2046
Royal Suites R 38,150 – $2725
PRICE PER PERSON SHARING includes:
accommodation, meals and excursions as well
as all beverages, incl. alcohol, while on board.
Single supplement +50% on all suites
Story By Barry Lotz