A relaxing trip through South Africa with Jennie Bond
Jennie and Jim took a tailor-made holiday in South Africa with Africa Sky. Here is what they had to say about their relaxing journey the the country's Cape region...
Africa has always held a special place in my heart. As the BBC's Royal Correspondent I was lucky enough to travel quite widely around this extraordinary continent.
I went to Angola with Princess Diana, to Lesotho with Prince Charles, to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with the Princess Royal and to South Africa with the Queen.
So when the chance came to visit South Africa again at the end of a Cunard voyage from the Seychelles, I was keen to show my husband, Jim, what a great place it is.
Rather than just winging it, I decided to call on the expertise of Africa Sky. I said I didn’t want anything too complicated or taxing – we’re not so young anymore – but we’d like to see something of the Cape region with a bit of beach time, some wine tasting and a look at the wildlife.
And they were brilliant.
Within a few days, they came up with a perfect itinerary which worked smoothly and was stress free.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference: for example, they arranged for a car to meet us as we disembarked the ship in Cape Town - instead of leaving us to make our own way to the car rental depot.
A big Toyota 4x4 was waiting for us and we set off down the coast to a seaside town called Kommetjie. Africa Sky had booked the most stunning hotel for us right on a huge stretch of golden sand called Long Beach.
The Last Word really lives up to its name when it comes to luxurious boutique hotels: elegant, sophisticated, stunning. Our beautiful suite, with big glass doors which folded all the way back, seemed almost to be part of the beach. The sounds and smell of the sea pervaded the room, and the hardy surfers in the chilly Atlantic water were a constant source of entertainment.
We spent three days there, exploring the Cape by car and on foot. There were many magical moments: one of the most joyous was as we stood alone on a remote beach and two magnificent ostriches strutted by - almost in touching distance.
Next, on Africa Sky's recommendation, we headed up to the wine region of the Franschhoek Valley, where the burnished colours of autumn made the scenery even more dramatic.
Our mission here was wine-tasting; and we were certainly spoiled for choice. Every few hundred yards, fantastic looking vineyards invited us to sample their wares. We succumbed to a couple - and were seriously impressed by the quality of South African wines these days.
What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!
After another night of pure indulgence at The Last Word's sister hotel in Franschhoek (complete with candlelit suite and champagne on ice) we headed off for the final leg of our trip. Our destination: Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo.
We've been on safari in the Masai Mara, but this was a very different experience. Sanbona covers some 60,000 hectares of semi-desert terrain, so you really feel the heat and dust of Africa. The Big Five roam here freely, but they're not always easy to find: which makes each sighting very special. And the thrill of the chase, over miles of rough tracks and dry riverbeds is an adventure in itself.
We stayed in a very luxurious lodge called Tilney Manor; the suite was spacious and really comfortable, the food and wine excellent.
But, of course, Sanbona is all about the wildlife and we were lucky enough to get quite close to elephants, rhino, giraffe and best of all, a cheetah on a Springbok kill.
Our ranger, Chris, was a joy to be with and, after working there for nine years, there's very little he doesn't know about Sanbona.
And our abiding memory of our wonderful South African sojourn will probably be of Chris laying out a small tablecloth on the bonnet of his Safari truck, and pouring sundowners for us in the middle of the bush, as our evening game drive came to a close.
When the time came to head back to the UK, I made a late change of plan and asked Africa Sky to see if we could stay at the third The Last Word in the group: this one in Constantia, a convenient half hour from the airport. They sorted out the change promptly and courteously, and arranged for the car to be picked up from the hotel.
So we had one last night of total indulgence in the lap of Last Word luxury. It was a delightful end to a fabulous holiday.
We would like to thank Jennie & Jim for sharing their story with us and hope to welcome you on another holiday soon.
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