Browsing Tag

luxury travel

View of Plettenberg Bay from the Robberg Nature Reserve

From the Beach to the Desert, Part I: Plettenberg Bay

Earlier this month I visited Plettenberg Bay (a.k.a. Plett), one of South Africa’s most popular beach towns, for the first time. Plett is part of the drop-dead gorgeous piece of coastline east of Cape Town called the Garden Route, near the border between the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape provinces. The visit was part of a media trip to Plett and Oudtshoorn, a desert town about an hour from the Garden Route. (More on Oudtshoorn in the next post.) Sky Villa, Plettenberg Bay I stayed at the Sky Villa Boutique Hotel, a luxurious property at the top of a steep hill overlooking Plett. Sky Villa used to be a private villa (hence the name) and was converted into a hotel a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed the vibe at Sky Villa, which is quirky and luxurious at the same time. The decor is an interesting combination of whimsical and modern, with really beautiful art, and I like that the place doesn’t take itself too seriously despite being high-end. (Room rates start at R2200, or about $144, for a mountain-facing room and run upward to R4950 for the presidential suite.) Also, I normally don’t care about TVs in […]

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Bedroom in the deluxe suite at Mhondoro Safari Lodge

Mhondoro: Ultimate Luxury in the South African Bush

I have safaried in every possible fashion during my years in Africa. I’ve done low-budget camping trips, high-end tented camps, mid-range SANPark self-drives, river safaris, and walking safaris. You name it, I’ve probably done it. But when it comes to flat-out luxury I don’t think any of these past trips compare to my recent weekend at Mhondoro Safari Lodge and Villa. Mhondoro is in the Welgevonden Game Reserve in central Limpopo, less than three hours from Joburg. Welgevonden is a private, Big 5 game reserve (meaning all the “Big 5” animals — lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, and elephant — live there) and there is no self-driving allowed, so the only vehicles driving around are those belonging to the reserve’s small number of lodges. This sense of exclusiveness makes for excellent game-viewing as at any one time there are a very limited number of people — and a huge number of wild animals — hanging around in Welgevonden. Yes, it costs a lot. But the money helps preserve a huge, beautiful piece of wilderness and keep the animals (many of which are critically endangered) safe within it. There are 21 lodges in Welgevonden. They all look pretty nice online but I […]

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Cheetahs on the Hunt in Welgevonden Game Reserve

Over the recent long weekend I spent two days at Mhondoro Safari Lodge in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, which is in the Waterberg region of Limpopo. This trip amazed me in several ways, the first of which was how close Welgevonden is to Joburg (about two-and-a-half hours), and the second of which was how luxurious and fantastic Mhondoro is. It’s definitely one of the top three nicest (if not the nicest) safari lodges I’ve ever been to. The third most amazing thing about Welgevonden was, of course, the animals. I’ll have a lot more to say about Mhondoro in my next post. But I don’t want my cheetah hunt story to get lost in the shuffle of that post so I’m telling it here. I have been a travel writer in Africa for nearly a decade and during that time I have participated in dozens, if not hundreds, of game drives and bush walks and other wildlife viewing experiences. But the Holy Grail of wildlife viewing — watching big cats on a hunt — eluded me until my trip to Welgevonden. Cheetahs on the Hunt in Welgevonden Spoiler alert: I didn’t see anything kill anything else. (I’m not sure that’s […]

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Rovos Rail train outside Matjiesfontein

Living It Up on the World’s Most Luxurious Train

I took a ride on the Rovos Rail. The Rovos Rail, which bills itself as the world’s most luxurious train. I don’t consider myself a “luxury travel” writer. I generally blog about everyday places and things I happen to be doing anyway, or things I could at least conceivably afford to do if I wanted to. But every once in a while I receive an invitation to do something so luxurious and fantastic and magical that I simply can’t say no, because it would mean turning down the opportunity of a lifetime. Such was the case for my trip on the Rovos Rail. The Rovos describes itself as “the most luxurious train in the world” and I have every reason to believe this. I rode the train for two days and two nights, from Pretoria to Cape Town, and I can’t imagine how the trip could have been much more luxurious than it was. The old-school Rovos Rail cars on a brief stop outside Matjiesfontein, Western Cape. The best thing about my Rovos Rail experience was I could invite a plus-one. So I invited my mom and it was an offer she couldn’t refuse. Convincing Mom to leave warm, sunny South […]

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View and wine glasses at Jordan Wines in Stellenbosch

11 Spectacular Views in Stellenbosch

I recently received an invitation to participate in a blogging campaign called #Stellenblog. #Stellenblog is an annual weeklong event in which bloggers/social media influencers from around South Africa and the world go to Stellenbosch — a university town outside Cape Town that is the center of South Africa’s wine industry — and hang around eating/drinking/having fun. The #Stellenblog crew, clockwise from top left: Fhatuwani, Trudy, Samuel (doing his best to hide), Lauren, Becki, Vuyo, me, and Audrey. Not shown: Ongama, Dawid, and Mark. Sounds like a tough job, right? Okay, I lie. Drinking/eating/having fun is not tough at all, especially not in Stellenbosch. If you go to Stellenbosch, on someone else’s dime, and don’t drink/eat/fun yourself to within an inch of your life, then there is probably something seriously wrong with you. Like maybe you don’t have taste buds. Or your heart is made of stone. So last week wasn’t hard. But the hard part of this job comes now, as I wade through more than 3000 photos and try to figure out how to tell the story of #Stellenblog. I will start with the view. Stellenbosch is drop-dead gorgeous, especially in the fall when the grape vines and grass and leaves […]

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Pansy shell on Bazaruto beach

Three Days in a Mozambican Paradise

Yes, I’m a travel blogger, and yes, I travel a lot for work. Yes, I often field sarcastic Facebook comments like, “Wow, what a rough life you have!” or, “I wish could quit my REAL job and become a blogger like you.” I usually resent these comments. Travel blogging is harder than it looks and most of my travel is far from glamorous. My most recent trip to Mozambican paradise, however, was an exception. This trip was every bit as glamorous as it looked and you should resent me for it. Looking down on the town of Vilanculos, Mozambique, during my helicopter ride to Benguerra Island. We flew from Johannesburg to Vilanculos with Airlink, as part of a campaign to promote Airlink’s flights around Southern Africa. (Incidentally, the flight from Joburg to Vilanculos is ridiculously short — like an hour and 15 minutes. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to fly from Joburg to Durban.) Once in Vilanculos, we took a 10-minute helicopter ride to Benguerra Island, the second-largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago. A birds-eye view of Benguerra Island at low tide. The helicopter dropped my colleague Frances and I off at Benguerra Island’s Azura Retreat. Azura is literally paradise. My villa at […]

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W Hotel Room in Istanbul

Listen Up, Hotels: My 5 Most Annoying Hotel Room Quirks

This post has been bouncing around in my head for a while but I’ve been hesitant to write it. I generally try to highlight positive travel experiences in my blog, and nitpicking about hotel rooms doesn’t fit that theme. Also no one likes a whiner, and whining about little issues in hotel rooms seems so #FirstWorldProblems. I’ve been fortunate to stay in many lovely hotels: Who am I to complain? However. There are a few hotel room quirks that I’ve observed over and over and some of them seem to be increasing in frequency, to my great bewilderment. I have decided it is my responsibility as a frequent traveler and blogger to point out these annoying quirks, in hopes that they might be rectified or averted in the future. If I can convince just one hotel room designer to decide against placing the toilet in full view of the bed, then writing this post will be worth it. Here are my top five most annoying hotel room quirks. Note that I don’t have photos to illustrate all of these quirks, as it doesn’t usually occur to me to take photos of things that I hate. Annoying Hotel Quirk #5: Poor lighting Low light can be […]

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Heather in tub at Brahman Hills

48 Hours in the Midlands

I recently received an invitation to spend a weekend at Brahman Hills in the Midlands. For those not from South Africa, the Midlands is a region in KwaZulu Natal Province between Durban and the Drakensberg Mountains. The Midlands used to be mostly farmland but has now become a popular tourist destination. I accepted the invitation because: 1) I’d seen photos of the self-catering cottages at Brahman Hills and I knew that each one has its own hot tub; and 2) My birthday was coming up and this was a good excuse for a birthday weekend away. The hot tub at Brahman Hills was awesome, as expected. I think this photo speaks for itself. The indoor tub isn’t bad either. I don’t normally do bath photos but this bath is too nice not to show off. (Photo: Ray) But even without the incredible bathing options, Brahman Hills is a fantastic place for a getaway. And the Midlands are lovely — quiet, quaint, relaxing, and fun. It’s impossible not to have an enjoyable weekend there. Two Nights at Brahman Hills I was fascinated by Brahman Hills. Already knowing that it was a fancy lodge and wedding venue, when we got there I was surprised to […]

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Makuleke community drama song

Pafuri: A Beautiful Place With an Ugly History, Turned Beautiful Again

Once upon a time, the Makuleke people lived on a triangle-shaped piece of land, bordered by two rivers, at the intersection of three countries. The land was beautiful and fertile, with a huge diversity of animals and the mightiest trees in the world. This triangle was called Pafuri. In 1969, at the height of South Africa’s apartheid, the Makuleke were “removed” from the Pafuri Triangle so the area could be incorporated into the Kruger National Park. Men with guns drove trucks into the Makuleke villages, rounded up the people, and drove them to a barren piece of land a couple of hours away. The people — mostly women, children, and elderly men, as the younger men were away working — were dumped and given tents to sleep in. The men with guns left, and the Makuleke had to start over. This is a grossly oversimplified description of what happened. I’m a blogger, not a historian. A typical scene in the Pafuri Triangle, on a bridge overlooking the Luvuvhu River. It probably looked much the same in 1969. A traditional home in the area where the Makuleke were forcibly removed, 90 minutes’ drive from the Pafuri Triangle. When democracy came to South Africa in the 1990s, […]

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Sunset on the hiking trail above Walkersons

48 Hours in Dullstroom

Last weekend I was invited to spend two nights at Walkersons Hotel and Spa in Dullstroom, a holiday town halfway between Joburg and Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga Province. I had been to Dullstroom briefly once before, and while I found it quaint I wouldn’t have considered spending a weekend there. Dullstroom is known as a fly-fishing destination and I don’t fish. A man fly-fishes at sunset on a dam at Walkersons. (Photo by Ray) However, I’m not one to turn down a weekend at a five-star hotel. So I went to Dullstroom and brought Ray with me. In the end, we didn’t want to leave. We arrived at Walkersons on Friday afternoon and I was useless for the first five hours, having suffered a bout of food poisoning the night before. I collapsed onto the cloud-like bed and slept until dinner. Our suite at Walkersons, which looked out onto the lake. But despite my slow start we managed to do a ton of fun things during our two days in this tiny town. Here’s a run-down. Where We Stayed in Dullstroom Walkersons is an English-manor-style hotel on a sprawling estate just outside Dullstroom. The main building, with its 19th-century antiques and fox-hunt […]

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Four Days, Four Massages: The Perfect Holiday in Mauritius

As previously mentioned, I recently visited Mauritius courtesy of Constance Hotels. This was one of those trips in which I spend the whole time ogling everything around me and marvelling at the blogging miracles that have led me to get invited to things like this. Anyway, it happened. It was every bit as wonderful as you would imagine. Sunrise at Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius. Mauritius is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) off the southeast coast of Africa (east of Madagascar). Mauritius was uninhabited until the Dutch established a colony there in 1638, and now has a population of about about 1.3 million. French is the main language in Mauritius and most of the residents there are of South- and East-Asian descent. And as I told you before, everything in Mauritius is beautiful. Candid shot in the Centre de Flacq market. I spent almost my whole stay at two hotel/resorts and didn’t have the chance to really explore the culture in Mauritius. But what I did see made me want to go back and learn more. Mauritius felt nothing like any other country I’ve visited; it’s Africa, India, and the Caribbean rolled into one. I stayed for three days at […]

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A Tale of Three Durban Hotels

A bit of background: Ray and I planned a trip to the Wild Coast, which you can read about in this dramatic series of posts. The Wild Coast is too far from Joburg to drive to in one day so we stopped in Durban along the way, and then again on the way back. (In fact, we realized that some parts of the Wild Coast are also too far from Durban to drive to in one day. Refer to the dramatic series above.) As we were on a tight budget for our Wild Coast trip, I used my travel blogger status to negotiate free stays at two different Tsogo Sun hotels one on either side of the journey. (We paid for the rest of the trip on our own. Someday soon I’m going to write a whole post about the politics of blogger freebies.) As I mentioned in a previous post, I used to shun big-chain hotels but I’ve recently come to realize that they have their advantages. On our first night of the trip we rolled into “the Golden Mile” (the local name for Durban’s beachfront) and checked in to the Garden Court Marine Parade, a mid-range hotel with rooms starting at R1250 ($100). Our newly renovated […]

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