Notten’s Bush Camp

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For years I have had friends, colleagues and clients of mine rave about Nottens Bush Camp, and until recently, I have not had the chance to visit. This seems a bit crazy considering the amount of time I have spent in the Greater Kruger area! Nottens Bush Camp is located in the Sabi Sands reserve, which borders on the Kruger Park. Wildlife roams freely between the park and the reserve with no fencing in between. The Sabi Sands is well-known for its fantastic predator sightings, specifically lion and leopard, and we were not disappointed. From our first game drive, the Nottens rangers and trackers had their keen spotting eyes ready. Our first sighting that we came upon was a pride of about 14 lion tearing away at a recent buffalo kill. And what a sighting it was! Each lion, including the little cubs, was literally gouging themselves on the buffalo meat, despite their bulging bellies. Some of the members of the pride were so exhausted after eating for the last couple of hours that they were eating half asleep! One thing for sure was that not a scrap of the meat or the carcass was going to go to waste, and on returning to the kill the next day, there was practically nothing left.

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Besides this incredible lion sighting, we had the rare opportunity to track two male leopards that were fighting over the same territory. The older male, whose original claim was to this particular territory, was protecting his domain and had therefore injured the younger male, although thankfully not fatally. We watched as he attempted to chase the younger male out of his territory. On a number of occasions both the leopards passed right next to the vehicle, so close that I could have touched them as they were passing. A unique aspect of the Sabi Sands reserve is that leopards, usually shy and elusive animals, have been tracked by vehicles for such a long time for photographic safaris that they have become ‘habituated’, and do not consider vehicles as a threat. Hence our opportunity to get so close.

There is an abundance of other wildlife varieties in the reserve including buffalo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra, impala and kudu. But excellent guides and plenty of wildlife is not the only quality that makes Nottens special. The camp staff are the soul of the camp and their warm greetings, friendly manner and positive attitude make Nottens feel like a ‘home away from home’. The camp is owner run and managed and most of the staff have been their many years, and their love of the camp and the wilderness shines through in every aspect. Nothing is too much of a problem, and we could not have asked for better service. The food was outstanding, although we ate far too much!

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I am not going to elaborate on all the ‘little touches’ that were added to our stay as then I would spoil it for anyone planning to visit. Rather come and stay and see for yourselves. Nottens Bush Camp is a truly authentic safari camp and will suit all those travelers who are looking for a ‘real’ wilderness safari experience with all the luxuries that you would like, but without the ‘frills’. To find out more about Notten’s Bush Camp, please contact Janine@inspired2explore.com

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Cape Town City Sightseeing Tour

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The Hop-on Hop-off City Sightseeing bus is definitely the best way to see Cape Town in two days. The busses run daily and there are two main bus routes which you can choose – The Blue Mini Peninsula Tour and The Red City Tour. We decided to do the Blue Tour beginning at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens situated at the base of world famous Table Mountain. From Kirstenbosch the bus takes you along Rhodes drive towards the bustling town of Hout Bay. Rhodes drive is a beautiful scenic road which winds along the mountain side giving you breathtaking views of the mountain above and valley below. Although it was a cool winter’s day the sun was shining bright and there was not a cloud in the sky, so we decided to sit at the top of the bus and enjoy the wonderful views.

As the bus makes its way towards Hout Bay you have the opportunity to hop off at the change point at Constantia Nek, where another bus waits to pick you up. From here the bus takes you to the Constantia Valley Wine Farms and you can choose where you would like to get off. We decided to visit Jonkershuis Wine Farm which is nestled in the middle of the Groot Constantia Wine Estate. The area is surrounded by old oak trees and the famous Groot Constantia Vineyards. After a little tour of the Wine Estate we treated ourselves to a coffee at the quaint bistro set in the gardens of the farm. The bistro is set in a brilliant position with panoramic views of the whole peninsula. We sat enjoying the peaceful surrounding and spectacular views before we had to make our way back to the bus.

From Jonkershuis Wine Farm, you will be taken back to the Constantia Neck change point to get onto the bus travelling onwards towards Hout Bay. Before you enter the main town of Hout Bay you will see signs for “World of Birds” which is the largest bird park in Africa and it is definitely worth visiting if you have not been there before. There are over three thousand birds (and small animals) of different species which are kept in spacious walk through aviaries, allowing you to feel close with nature. We had visited the bird sanctuary before so we continued our way through to the main town of Hout Bay. The next stop is Mariners Wharf, which is based at Hout Bay Harbour. It is a marvellous little hub made up of restaurants, shops, markets and where locals and tourists come to enjoy a good meal, shop or take a stroll down the peer to look at the old fisherman ships.

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From Hout the Bay we continued towards the coastal road which takes you to Camps Bay. This coastal road allows for breathtaking views of the ocean and is also a good place to spot whales or dolphins. As the bus makes its way towards Camps Bay, you will pass the little beach town of Llandundo. Llandundo is renowned for its magnificent houses, spectacular views and unspoilt beaches. I would definitely recommend spending a day here soaking up the sun or simply enjoying a sundowner on the beach watching the sun setting over the ocean. If you feeling adventurous you can also take a walk to Sandy Bay – a nudist beach just a ten minute stroll from Llandudno.

Our next stop was Camps Bay – one of Cape Town’s most favourable destinations. With its long stretches of white sandy beaches and streets lined with palm trees, it has become a very a very popular spot for the young & trendy and rich & famous. We decided to jump off the bus here and take a gentle stroll along the beach before having a bite to eat at one of the little restaurants located just off the main beach road. It was a beautiful sunny winter’s day and we enjoyed a delicious meal as we watched the waves gently breaking on the white sand.

Our last stop was the V&A Waterfront. We had been to the waterfront many times so we decided to take the City Sightseeing Canal Cruise, where you will get the opportunity to see the waterfront from a completely different angle. This is a hop-on hop-off cruise, so you might decide to spend some time at any of the stops along the way and rejoin a boat later. The cruise includes a trip through the V&A Waterfront’s beautiful canal and stops at the One and Only, the City Lodge and the Harbour Bridge before arriving at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. While you cruise along the canals you will also enjoy seeing the many luxury apartments rising above on either side of the canal, owed mainly by the rich and famous. Don’t miss out on this exciting Cape Town experience!

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A Weekend in the Countryside

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Instead of having a get-together with all my family and friends to celebrate my birthday this year, my husband and I decided to go away to the countryside for the weekend. We chose Blue Gum Country Estate for our romantic getaway. Blue Gum Country Estate is located close to the quaint village of Stanford (about 20 mins from Hermanus) – it’s close enough to town that you won’t get bored, but far enough from town that you feel totally away from it all. This wonderful intimate country lodge with only 10 rooms is a fantastic spot for couples, families and groups of friends to spend a couple of days relaxing.

We were greeted on arrival by Anton, one of the lodge managers, and shown to our beautiful room, the honeymoon suite, which overlooks the vineyards. Waiting in the room for us was a decadent cheese platter and a two glasses of port which made us feel very welcome. But we were not here to spend our time indoors, so being a beautiful sunny winter’s day; we decided to take a walk on the property up the mountain path behind the lodge. When we got to the top, which wasn’t a strenuous walk at all and can be achieved by anyone that is reasonably fit, we were rewarded with spectacular views of the valley down below and the surrounding countryside. The perfect spot for a sundowner drink!

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After freshening up after the walk, we made our way to the cosy bar for pre-dinner drinks and snacks, where we were met once again by Anton who was the perfect host. We were taken through to dinner, which is a 3 course affair at the estate, and we were not disappointed. The food was out of this world and I can only applaud the chef for his choice of meals – the starter was a curried apple soup, something I would not have ever expected for a soup, but absolutely delicious. The main course of lamb and potatoes was to die for, not to mention the lemon cake desert. For anyone who is a lover of fine dining and food, this is the place to come. The restaurant is also open to non-guests so is the perfect place to go for a romantic night out if you are staying in the area.

We had a wonderful night’s sleep and woke up to the sounds of the birds and insects outside, before indulging in a wonderful 3 course breakfast of cereals, croissants & muffins, and a full English breakfast. Our stomachs full we were ready to head out for the day to explore the surrounding countryside. Not far from the estate is the nature reserve of Salmonsdam which offers outstanding hiking trails and plenty of mountain streams for swimming in the summer months. After a walk in the reserve we continued onto Platbos, a privately owned indigenous forest. Walking through the forest we encountered many different species of birds and trees, a troop of baboons, and some antelope spoor…probably duiker….although unfortunately we were not lucky enough to even catch a glimpse of the antelope. We ended off the day with a stop in the village of Stanford known for its preserved Victorian cottages, its craft beer made in the nearby Birkenhead brewery, its wine farms, and its quaint coffee shops and restaurants serving country-style food and mouth-watering pastries.

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For those visiting Blue Gum Country Estate there are also plenty of other activities available in the area so a 2 – 3 days stay is recommend. Drive to Hermanus in whale season and spot the whales from the cliffs, spend the day on the quiet beaches of De Kelders, go shark cage diving in Gansbaai, cycle along the country roads, taste some wine, or just relax. Blue Gum Country Lodge is the perfect weekend getaway since it is only a 2 hour drive from Cape Town. And it is also the perfect stop en-route to the Garden Route. To learn more about the BLUE GUM COUNTRY ESTATE and the surrounding area, please contactJanine@inspired2explore.com

Tamodi Lodge and Stables

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Tamodi Lodge and Stables was the perfect stop over on our way back to Cape Town for a night of luxury after a week spent with family at Sundays River just north of Port Elizabeth. Tamodi Lodge is situated on the hills above a valley overlooking a magnificent indigenous forest and the breathtakingly beautiful Outeniqua Mountains. We left fairly early that morning so we could take a slow drive back along the cape coastline and enjoy the views of the exquisite scenery that we were driving through. As we approached the garden route it seemed more spectacular than ever and it reminded us how lucky we were to be living in a country of such majestic beauty.

We continued to make our way along the garden route admiring the luscious scenery now glistening from the rain that had been coming down all day. Quite unaware of the time, we noticed signs to Plettenburg Bay approaching us and realised the turnoff to the lodge must be close by. As we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Owen Johnson, who is the owner of Tamodi Lodge and Stables. He helped us with our bags and offered us a glass of marvellous red wine before showing us to our room. It was a cold rainy afternoon and it felt good to be inside the cozy lodge and to feel the warmth of the fireplace that had just been lit in the large open plan lounge. Our bedroom was beautifully decorated with modern furniture built with wood and stone and the glorious large bath was positioned wonderfully overlooking the views of the valleys below. We made ourselves at home and took a long glorious bath before we joining Owen and the other guests around the fireplace in the lounge, where he told us a little background about the lodge and the area around.

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That evening we went for dinner to a wonderful little pizza restaurant called Enrico’s about 10 minutes down the road from the lodge. The restaurant is situated near the sea and although the night was cold and wet it was lovely watching the waves crashing from the table where we ate. We enjoyed a fabulous pizza and after a great night out it was easy to fall asleep on our large comfortable king size bed. We woke up early that morning to the chirping noises of our 6 month old trying to tell us that he was awake and we were happy to see that there was a ray of sunshine peaking through the clouds as we slowly arose for the day. We got ready for breakfast which was being served on the wooden deck overlooking the pool and beautiful views below. We were delighted to see all the scumptious food laid out ready for us to eat. There was a fullet buffet of cereals, fresh yoghurt, fruits, croissants and scones which was being served as well as a cooked breakfast of all sorts. We ate as much as our hearts desired before retiring to the deck chairs to sit and relax before making our way back home to Cape Town after our wonderful stay.