An Educational Trip To South Africa

Jenny Galliven April 26, 2024

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Departing from Christchurch on 24 Feb 2024, this is Jenny’s once in a lifetime experience update about her adventure. 

Destination: Franschhoek 

After 19 hours of flying from Christchurch New Zealand, we headed an hour from Cape Town to Franschhoek, a wine region that is very relaxed & scenic.  
Our accommodation at Franschhoek Country House was a very welcome experience after such a long trip. The rooms are the size of a small house and the property is amazing and includes lovely breakfasts . The restaurant “Monneaux” has a great reputation in a region renowned for food as wellas wine, but sadly we didn’t have time to eat dinner here.  Another time perhaps! The staff were great, and we received impeccable service. A high-end property, but the feeling is relaxed and comfortable. The Franschhoek village is just 1 km away and Franschhoek Country House offer a free shuttle. The town itself is filled with boutiques, galleries, wine cellars, markets and cafes. Lovely architecture, nice to stroll around and of course to eat & drink. We were lucky enough to be there on a weekend, so the market was on, with live music playing and lots of locals having jugs of Pims, or Mimosa breakfasts.  It has a really cool atmosphere suited for all. 

Destination: The Cape Winelands 

 A wine tour by tram is a must! This also includes buses that look like a trams where they don’t have the tram lines to connect.  Wine tasting, winemaking tours, excellent cuisine and magnificent scenery collectively create an irresistible attraction for international and local travellers alike. South Africa's winelands stretch from the Cape Overberg  in the south-western Cape, through the Little Karoo and the West Coast into the adjacent province of the Northern Cape. Most Cape wine estates are characterised by classic Cape Dutch-style buildings and massive vineyards with picturesque mountains as a backdrop. There is also a distinct European influence in number of regions, thanks to the arrival of French Huguenot, Dutch and German settlers during the 18th century.  Our venture was on mini buses and we did a couple of wineries. The tastings are a normal-sized glass of wine, not a tasting like we do here in NZ.  Tasting = drinking in South Africa, don’t self drive! 
We visited  Bochendal and Delaire Graf wine farms. These were filled with stunning scenery and some very fine tastings! 


Destination: Cape Town waterfront area 

We spent a day and night in cape town. Going up Table Mountain by gondola was an incredible experience, with lovely views on the way and at the summit and cute “dassies” (A dassie is the local name for a Rock Hyrax, a new animal for me!) . By taking a  walking tour through the Green Market the city’s oldest market and Dutch East Indian Markets, Nelson Mandela etc. we learnt about the adversity individuals went through. The Slave Lodge, where the Dutch East India company kept their slaves who worked to grow food etc. They had to work about 35 years to earn their freedom. Hotels located near the waterfront are priced well in this area of Cape Town. We wouldn’t recommend walking around central cape town, but the waterfront area is very safe, with 24 hour security.  Full of restaurants, shops, buskers, great seafood places. 


Destination: Phinda. This is when things got really exciting! 

As we flew into Phinda airstrip the pilots pointed out 3 lionesses not too far from the runway. After we disembarked the Phinda rangers said to quickly jump in the safari vehicles and we'll take a closer look at them. So we did that, and the male lion then strolled out of the bushes to check up on his girls! What a welcome!  We arrived at the andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge to a warm welcome and we were absolutely buzzing. After settling in to our beautiful accommodation,  we headed out on a game drive about 5pm. We saw nyala, impala, a herd of buffalo, and then the incredible sighting of a mother cheetah with 3 cubs. In the distance a white rhino. A stork, an eagle and other birdlife as well. After stopping for our "sundowner" G & T's we drove back in the dark with a spotlight out. 5 hyena paid us a visit, they were amazingly graceful, more like cats than dogs. An owl and a chameleon were also spotted after dark. I was just in awe of everything, so excited and such a privileged to be there! 

From andBeyond Phinda Forest Lodge it is a 2 hour drive to the beach, where you can see nesting sea turtles. The Lodge itself is amazing, non intrusive staff, full mini bar, full bottles of wine + spirits plus bento box of treats/food/snacks on offer in your room.  The rooms are isolated so you feel like you are completely on your own, but they aren’t actually far apart. They have a  family room also to suit different travellers and it is set out extremely well. There are 6 different lodges within in the Phinda reserve.  Another is the Phinda Mountain Lodge to experience a different lodge and region of the reserve. Sadly we just stayed one night at Mountain Lodge, but what a setting, it's just insanely good! The location is very different to the Forest Lodge, the scenery is really different, With wraparound views of the spectacular Ubombo mountain range and the surrounding Zululand bush which shows how vast the reserve is . Both lodges are special in their own way.   

A thing to note was that we only ever saw 2 trucks on our game drives, so you really feel the exclusivity and immersed in nature. There is also a tracker and a driver on each game drive.   We were fortunate to view the Phinda Rock Lodge (think Fred Flintstone!) Phinda Homestead, for private small groups, Phinda Vlei Lodge and Phinda Zuka Lodge. . I can’t imagine any client being disappointed in any of the lodges.