Sunday, November 11, 2007

South Africa & Zimbabwe - By Pam

Hello everyone..
I just returned from two weeks in SA and Zimbabwe.I took six lady friends with me and planned the trip with our Virtuoso onsite Trans Africa Safaris. I have used them many times for clients with great success so I was confident they would do a good job for us. It was undoubtly one of my best trips and it was done with perfection.

Accommodations, guides and activities were spectacular. Leslie and Jennifer Paterson were very responsive to all our needs and were always ready to accommodate any changes or address any concerns as well as keeping the cost under control. They also very graciously invited us to dinner at their home in Capetown with some of their SA friends which was a thoroughly enjoyable evening for all. Their were also beautiful gifts in our hotel rooms when we arrived....made by SA artisans...with a note saying they were from me!
Capetown is a destination in itself and has a spectacular setting on the water.We opted to stay at the Victoria and Albert Hotel which was very comfortable & service oriented. It is slightly less expensive than Cape Grace hotel which is just next door. The waterfront shops and scenery were very enjoyable.
Our guide (Chris) in Capetown was superb..I don't know if he enjoyed us more or we him! Our first day we went to Robben Island ..the ferry leaves right from the harbor. This was where Mandela was imprisoned for many years. It is a good learning experience and a nice boat trip to the island. South Africa should be very proud of its accomplishments in bringing peace and prosperity to their country. You may remember that there was an imbargo on travel to SA during apartheid and the country did not really open up until 1996.
We spent one day going to the Cape of Good Hope and had a wonderful seafood meal at the Black Marlin.We saw African penguins and baboons and ostriches along the way.

The next day we toured the wine country with a visit to the lovely town of Stellenbosch. I would have enjoyed a night or two just staying there at the hotel in town. Again we had a glorious lunch at La Petite Ferme overlooking the vineyards..Napa has nothing on this countryside..the scenery is gorgeous and the food even can see we did alot of eating !!
Our next destination was Phinda Game Reserve which is operated by CC Africa which has over 40 camps in all parts of Africa.We stayed at Phinda Forest Lodge.

We flew to Durban, you can also go to Richards Bay. We used commercial airlines as opposed to private air charters. Phinda is noted for having some of the best games..and we saw it all...lions, giraffe, elephants, cheetah, black and white rhinos. We missed the elusive leopard and we loved to tease our cute young ranger Luke about it.Our day began typically with a wake up and coffee at 6am and then off on the range rover until 10..a coffee break was usually planned half way with complete service at a picturesque setting. Then back for breakfast and a nap! Again another meal..lunch at 1 and another game drive in the afternoon to watch the sunset with cocktails served on the vlei. Phinda has several other camps that are even more deluxe..Phinda Vlei, Phinda Zuka and Getty House.
After three nights we were off to Jburg for an overnight at the very convenient
and deluxe Intercontinental Hotel at the airport before we flew to Vic Falls the
next day. Of course I debated about going to Zimbabwe as opposed to Zambia but I am glad we made the choice of Vic Falls Hotel..a true old world classic and they do a great job despite the economic and political disaster that Mugagbe has created. We enjoyed a walking tour to the spectacular falls.
Our last stop was ..Matetsi Water Camp..also CC Africa on the Zambezi river.
It was only a 45 minute drive from Vic Falls.

We enjoyed the change of scenery..our rooms looked out to the river and we could hear the hippos roaring. The staff there was wonderful. They made us feel so welcome and comfortable..even though there were secuity guards and locked rooms at night I felt very safe. I was alone in a single room by then. The rooms were over the top with luxury linens and outdoor and indoor showers and large tubs and bathrooms. Our last night we came home from our game drive and there was a warm bubble bath waiting for each of us! The food and service was done with elegance and imagination.

In case you send anyone to Zimbabwe...only bring US $ and do not use CC!!
We flew back to Jburg and then came home to the USA.
I flew BA via London and still think that is the best way to go to split
up the journey. Some flew SAA out of NYC but it is a crowded long flight.
Again, I attribute the success of the trip to Trans Africa and Lesley and Jennifer Paterson. Every day was an adventure and planned perfectly. South Africa is truly all about the animals and the people ...I do not know which I enjoyed more!
Please let me know if I can answer any questions. I also want to thank Renee and Cliff for taking care of some of my clients while I was gone. I always feel confident that they can handle any situation and it is one of the many strengths of The Travel Exchange.
Pam Van Rensselaer-Long
Virtuoso Associate | Travel Exchange
125 Main Street | Westport CT 06880
860 674 8700

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