We’ve just returned from the most spectacular 14 day journey through South Africa! This was my birthday trip “Tanyauary” and we splurged on this itinerary and air travel. It’s summer in South Africa in January, which made it the perfect time to get away from the Dallas freezing temps. Here’s our exact itinerary which takes you from Johannesburg to our safaris with Singita and on to Cape Town and the Western Cape Winelands.
I am detailing our exact itinerary below. This was custom designed by our travel agent Melanie Lake (email her HERE), who partnered with her South African experts at Abercrombie & Kent. I gave Melanie some guidance on how I wanted the trip to flow and insisted that we use Singita properties for our safaris. This was simply due to the fact that I have stayed with Singita before while on safari in Tanzania and loved the luxury experience! They have a focus on conservation and education, which I absolutely love.
Getting there: We splurged on this trip and booked the QSuite with Qater Airways. Our routing was Dallas to Doha, Qatar and then connecting after a 4 hour layover to Johannesburg, South Africa. The service on this airline is impeccable and like nothing we have ever experienced. We were blown away by things like a la cart dining, great amenities and flight attendants who really cared about us! Travel Tip: If you are traveling with someone and want to have your QSuite seats make a double bed, select seats E & F, which face backwards.
The Qater Airways Al Mourjan business lounge in the Doha airport is a luxury! Take a shower, relax, enjoy spa services, eat, and simply unwind in the most beautiful setting. The luxury stores in the Doha airport are all open 24/7! Did I mention that the bar is a Louis Vuitton lounge? WOW! If you want to see our flight experience, click here.
We landed and were met by an Abercrombie & Kent staff member to walk us through customs/immigration and helped retrieve our checked bags. He handed us off to Bill, another A & K greeter who welcomed us, gave us a quick trip/itinerary orientation and a lovely gift. From there our driver took us to Fairlawns Boutique Hotel, which is located in the Sandton area of Johannesburg. We were in a Grand Chateau Suite for 2 nights. The hotel is a little carved out oasis in the middle of the city.
This is our exact itinerary and we would travel these destinations in this order again. Johannesburg, Singita Boulders Lodge, Singita Lebombo Lodge, Cape Town and Western Cape Winelands. Including travel days, we were gone 14 days.
We’ve learned to simply relax, unpack and have a lovely dinner on arrival day. Pete and I no longer ‘storm it’ the first day like we used to. The next morning we woke up refreshed and met our Abercrombie & Kent guide Tefo Legobate in the lobby of our hotel and set off for a full day tour of Johannesburg City and Soweto.
The extensive city tour included a panoramic view of the city, a drive through the central business district, as well as the cultural district of Johannesburg. The Soweto tour included a visit to the Nelson Mandela and Apartheid Museum, the original Soweto home of Nelson Mandela, as well as the Hector Pieterson memorial and museum, where the state-of-the- art multi-media centre depicts scenes leading up to the student uprising of 16 June 1976. We also stopped at the Regina Mundi Catholic Church where the students had gathered on the day of the march in 1976.
That night we ventured out to Nelson Mandela Square and had dinner at The Butcher Shop & Grill which was excellent. The hotel had a driver for us, which made it easy to get around.
Singita Sabi Sands – Boulders Lodge
We were met by our driver at our hotel and taken to Federal Air for our light aircraft flight to Singita Boulders Lodge. The flying time is approximately one hour and 30 minutes. Packing Tip: The luggage restriction of 20kg (44lbs) per person in SOFT BAGS is strictly enforced. Each person is allowed 1 checked back and 1 carry on. This Patagonia duffle bag and backpack really works well on African safari trips that involve smaller planes.
The Sabi Sands Game Reserve is a 160,000 acre private reserve (concession), pioneered by local landowners and conservation enthusiasts in the 1950s. It shares its unfenced 50 kilometer eastern border with its world-renowned neighbor, Kruger National Park (which is nearly 5 million acres). Home to the Big 5, and particularly famous for regular sightings of the elusive leopard, Sabi Sands Reserve is one of the most game-rich parks in southern Africa. Named for the two rivers that run through it, Sabi River and Sand River, the reserve is home to great numbers of diverse game and more than 300 bird species.
As soon as we arrived on the airstrip, we were met by a Singita Boulders Lodge representative Dan Hartman and transferred to the lodge. The transfer time is approximately 10 minutes.
Set along the boulder-strewn banks of the Sand River in Singita’s privately owned reserve within Sabi Sand, Singita Boulders Lodge has a unique sense of place and seamlessly merges the light, shapes and mood of its environment. Expansive decks and walkways invite continuous engagements with the surrounding wilderness, while each of the glass-fronted suites features spacious interiors, a fireplace, private deck, outdoor shower and heated pool. Handmade furnishings and luxurious, textured fabrics echo the raw African beauty outside. We were in a Boulders Lodge King Suite for 3 nights and it was divine!
Since we arrived in early afternoon, we went ahead and did our first game drive with our field guide Dan Hartman and tracker Kevin Sibuyi. Within 10 minutes we saw lions! In fact, we saw 4 out of the Big 5 on our first day! Lions, Cape Buffalo, Elephants and Black Rhino’s (Leopard is the 5th). We had a lovely sundowner and headed back to the lodge for a delicious meal. Our stay at Singita Boulders Lodge is where we celebrated my birthday and the staff were so kind. They had a birthday cake for me and serenaded me with a traditional African birthday song. I’ll never forget it! The General Manager of Singita Boulders Lodge is Jodi Routledge.
Over the course of our 4 days/3 nights with Dan and Kevin, we had lovely sundowners (happy hour on game drives while you watch the sunset), what Pete called a ‘Sun Upper’ (game drives in the early morning with a coffee break) and tons of fun discussions. They were so knowledgeable about wildlife and much more. We did indeed see a male leopard and I featured him in this Instagram Reel.
Travel Tip: We packed our safari clothes in packing cubes which was so helpful in keeping them separated in our duffle bags. Also, Singita resorts include laundry service for free. This helps immensely when packing. Also, all of our safari clothes were insect repellent pretreated. We were never bitten by any insects!
Singita Lebombo – Kruger National Park
On our final morning, our field guide Dan took us to the airstrip.We departed on Federal Air shared light aircraft flight to Singita Lebombo. The flying time is approximately 30 minutes.
Known as Big Game Country, the Kruger National Park has several luxurious private reserves within its borders, with breathtaking scenery, rich biodiversity and amazing wildlife encounters. Indulge in luxury and comfort in private reserves adjoining Kruger Park and imagine open air dining or traditional cuisine under an African sky, superior personalized service, sensational game viewing and the adventure of a South African safari. Guests are able to encounter the famed Big Five, hundreds of birds, ancient trees, mighty rivers and much, much more. There are so many different kinds of antelope, fat crocodiles sunning themselves on sandbanks, hyenas mooching along, and, if you’re very lucky, a pack of wild dogs on the prowl.
Upon arrival at the airstrip, we were met by Singita Lebombo Lodge representative Evidence Nkuna and transferred to the lodge. The transfer time is approximately 45 minutes.
Suspended high above the N’wanetsi River, in a private concession in the Kruger National Park, the dramatic cliffside setting of Singita Lebombo Lodge’s contemporary glass-walled suites ensures spectacular views of the world-renowned Kruger National Park. The lodge’s cutting-edge design is cleverly integrated into its wilderness setting, where everything defers to nature and airy spaces welcome the breathtaking surrounds inside. We were in a Lebombo King Suite for 3 nights and it was exceptional!
Our field guide Evidence Nkuna and tracker Daniel Sibuyi were seasoned Singita staff members. Our twice daily game drives with them were amazing, again yielding in us seeing the Big 5 and much more. In fact, Pete got to witness a kill. Two male lions with one warthog, and the warthog lost. Thankfully, I wasn’t there to see it. They planned a very special sundowner for us to celebrate “Tanyauary” and my birthday. Not to be outdone by the Singita Boulders property, Lebombo Lodge planned a special birthday cake and serenaded me with a song that night at dinner. Every detail was perfection!
I highly recommend all Singita properties and splitting your time between several lodges if time permits. They each have their own rhythm, look and feel. They think of everything and no detail is left off. Gourmet dining, an amazing wine list and wine cellar, experts in game drives, a conservationist mindset and a joyful, caring staff sets them apart from other luxury safari resorts. The General Manager Darren van der Merwe sets the tone at Singita Lebombo with excellence.
Our 4 days/3 nights with Evidence and Daniel led us along the South Africa/Mozambique border on a game drive, many discussions about wildlife and great bird watching. They really care about your daily experience which includes a 5 AM wake-up call followed by a 5:30 AM escorted walk to the main lodge so you are ready for the morning game drive. The same routine is repeated in the afternoon around 4:30 PM. Game drives are offered twice daily and last around 3 hours, depending on what you are seeing. All of the game drives are optional but we always wanted to go.
Travel Tip: You can request your guide/tracker team at any Singita resort. Returning guests often do this.
Evidence drove us from Singita Lebombo to the Singita air strip so we could catch our Federal Air shared light aircraft flight to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.The flying time is approximately one hour. From there, we flew from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport on a scheduled Airlink jet to Cape Town. On arrival at Cape Town International Airport, an A & K representative met us and assisted us through to the arrivals hall and on to our transfer to the Victoria & Alfred Hotel, located in Cape Town’s beautifully restored waterfront district. We were in a Piazza King Facing Suite for 4 nights.
Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city at the centre of South Africa’s rich, multi-stranded history and heritage. The city offers a wealth of culinary experiences, unique shopping and adventures are second to none. Colloquially called the Mother City, it is known for its beautiful harbour, natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region and for landmarks such as Table Mountain and Cape Point.
We met our A & K guide Lucy in the reception area of our hotel and departed for our full-day Cape Point tour. The focus of the tour is visiting the famous ‘Cape Point’, situated within the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. While traveling along the Atlantic coast, through the Hout Bay valley and over the famous Chapman’s Peak Drive, we occasionally stopped at various points of interest. Our full day tour included entrance fees to Cape Point Nature Reserve, the Cape Point Funicular, and Boulders Beach where we met African Penguins (it’s nesting season). We loved having lunch at the farm to table concept of The Foodbarn Cafe & Tapas, which features chef Franck Dangereux. So delicious!
We were picked up at our hotel by Lucy (we had the same amazing guide for 3 days) in the reception area and departed on a full-day tour of the Winelands.
Day 1: Our day started with a tour of the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden which is not to be missed! We then visited Waterford Estate and Boschendal and enjoyed an amazing wine tasting and lunch at Babylonstoren. You can actually stay there too! It’s a huge, sprawling property that includes a spa. These wineries are in the Stellenbosch area of the Western Cape.
Day 2: We started our morning with a stop by the Cape Town City and Farm Market. Y’all, I’ve never seen such beautiful, large organic produce. It also had beautiful antiques, baked goods, coffee stands and so much more. The day included wine tasting visits to Constantia Glen and Buitenverwachting. We had wine tasting and lunch at The Bistro, which is located at Klein Constantia winery. All were exceptional! These wineries are in the Constantia area of the Western Cape. I worked with my friend Tracy Rathbun in Dallas to get South African vineyard/winery recommendations. After all, she’s a restaurateur and knows her food and wines (Shinsei, Dea and Lovers Seafood & Market). Her suggestions did not disappoint. Heads up: You do need reservations for all of the wine tastings and lunches in the winelands. Plan ahead!
There are endless excellent restaurants in Cape Town. We did not make advance dining reservations because we always had a late lunch and wine tasting. You might want to check out FYN, Pier, The Silo Hotel Rooftop, Harbour House and Waterside.
Travel Tip: You can break this portion of the trip down and spend time in a Cape Town hotel as well as a hotel in the winelands. There are lots of beautiful luxury lodging locations in the winelands. We decided to day trip it and stay in one hotel for the end of our trip.
On our final morning, our driver picked us up at the Victoria & Alfred Hotel and took us to Cape Town International Airport. This was about a 30 minute drive. Abercrombie & Kent VIP treatment continued with escorted service to get our bags checked in and through passport control. Our flight route on the return was Cape Town to Doha, Qatar with a 2 hour layover. We then connected on to Dallas – all on Qatar Airways again while enjoying the QSuite on the long-haul flight. We were so glad we invested in these business class tickets because after traveling through South Africa, we were exhausted – in a good way.
There is just something magical about Africa that stays with you like no other destination. It’s pure, unguarded and you see nature at work. The circle of life – like it should be. We feel like it took 14 days including the travel time to get it all in. This itinerary was perfect and we wouldn’t change a thing.
We can’t wait to go back to Africa! Where should we go next? Leave us a comment.
xoxo – Tanya and Pete
P.S. Immunization requirements and recommended medications vary by country in Africa. As always, consult with your physician before traveling. We made appointments with Passport Heath and took care of everything at their location. This is all based on your departure date.
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