As an official countdown to Travel Week SA, scheduled for 23-29 September with local holiday discounts up to 50% on www.shotleft.co.za, we were invited by South African Tourism to explore Gauteng and North West. On this 4-day #shotleft experience we got to learn more about different places, chase adventures and even have relaxing spa treatments.
Our journey kicked off in Johannesburg, we took the M1 South towards Soweto, our first destination being Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, where we hopped on Tuk-Tuks(auto rickshaws) for a short tour that saw us visit former miner hostels where almost every two-bedroom establishment ran an entrepreneurial venture like selling kotas (quarter loafs sandwiches) or flavoured ice lollies. We also got to snack on braaied “Isbindi ne Thumbu”(Liver and colon) served with Uphuthu(crumbly pap).
We then rickshawed back to the backpacker premises, wore traditional Zulu attire, sat at “The Circle of Unity”, sipped on a choice of Chibuku(traditionally brewed beer) or Mageu(non-alcoholic drink made of fermented mielie pap) and immersed ourselves in transitional ceremony procedures like grunting at the pleasure or displeasure of the drink tastings: Haaaaaaaaaa! Lunch was next and we feasted on delicious stews, starch and veggies cooked in drie-foot pots, popularly known to lock in food flavours.
Adventure followed, as we headed to the iconic Soweto Towers, for an adrenaline charged hour. Each of us had the opportunity to sign up for preferred activities such as Scad Freefalling, bungee jumping and quad biking. I booked the highest Scad Freefall in the world, because I had never tried it before and the thought of landing on an air mattress from a 45-metre drop was a total thrill. The fall itself was short, but still exhilarating. Something I will definitely do again (video footage to be shared on my Instagram feed.) Also snuck in a lekker 30min quad bike jol.
Then we overnighted at the only hotel in Soweto, named The Soweto Hotel & Conference Centre situated in the historically rich Kliptown area. This was a four-star boutique hotel that made for a decent night’s rest with their spacious rooms, uniquely decorated with monochrome pictures of South African freedom fighters.
Our roadtrip continued and we found ourselves in Hartebeespoort, this is where we checked out “Little Paris” for a quick photo op. We also enjoyed panoramic views of the North West and its neighbouring areas from aerial cableway cars at Aerial Cableway Hartebeespoort. Would recommend this activity to anyone looking for an experience full of great scenery.
Made our way back to Gauteng for our stay at Misty Hills Hotel, which was a complete treat. Shortly after checking in at the hotel, we each popped into the spa for head, neck and back massages. Once that was done, we prepared for an all-you-can eat meaty dinner with ten (10) different types of three (3) game meats. Twas an awesome eating experience, as such ***I will be giving away a Carnivore voucher for two(2) people, this Saturday 28 September 2019 between 15h00 and 18h00 via my Instagram Account***
Lastly, the Maropeng Museum and Sterkfontein Caves visits within The Cradle of Humankind were proper highlights, because we got to check out fossils, enter cave sites and retrace steps of human evolution.
Gotta love South Africa for its local flavour, culture, heritage and history!
the garden route
I was recently invited to join a 5-day #shotleft excursion to the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, Eastern Cape. This journey had a group of us, exploring the Garden Route with multiple pitstops from George to Makhanda. Trust that we discovered interesting spots along the way, each one providing a unique South African experience.
This is what we got up to:
We landed at George Airport and after an hourlong drive, this was our first stop. Knysna is in the Western Cape province and popular for its outdoor activities like boat cruises, kayaking, surfing and paragliding. Got off the shuttle and checked into a restaurant named Cruise Café, for a quick bite. It offered a cool environment with a deck overlooking the Knysna Lagoon. Their menu consisted out of seafood and modern cuisine, spoilt for choice, I was left unsure of what to eat, so made it a point to convince everyone else to order different dishes, so that I could taste a bit of everything from their plates. Some of the top selections were Blue Cheese Spring Rolls, Venison Samoosas, Venison Fillet with grilled vegetables herb infused couscous and port sauce, Calamari and good ol’ Fish and Chips.
Also went for a sunset cruise on a paddle-cruiser, this was an unforgettable 90 minute experience, that had us in a relaxed atmoshphere with yummy sundowners on hand whilst taking in incredible 360 lagoon views.
After the sunset cruise in Knysna, we drove for 30 minutes towards Plettenberg Bay and overnighted at Redbourne Country Lodge, a 4-star establishment with amazing views of fynbos. Our welcome dinner is what stood out for me, because it was a classic braai buffet prepared with love by their in-house chef Sifundo, we enjoyed mucnhing on an assortment of meats and salads. Also appreciated that our rooms were spacious, clean and comfortable. Making for a peaceful night’s rest before hitting the road again.
Our drive continued for an hour and we finally made it to Tsitsikamma otherwise known as the ”Garden of the Garden Route” this marked our entry into the Eastern Cape – The Adventure Province, trust that this part of our experience gave us an adrenaline rush. A lot of activities were on offer, we took up a 60 minute Tsitsikamma Segway Tour, which began with a 15 minute training session then we embarked on a journey into the Storms River Village, ended on a route that had us two-wheeling in the indegious forest.
Another highlight was bungee jumping at the Bloukrans Bridge, which happens to be the highest commercial bridge in the world. We ziplined to the jump point, got harnessed according to our weight, danced to ease the nerves then plunged into the air to embrace nature’s beauty from 216m high. Here’s a full list of activities in the area.
ST FRANCIS BAY
This made for our fourth spot, only a 90 minute drive from Tsitsikamma. We overnighted here and indulged in amazing seafood at Christy’s Seafood and Grill for dinner. Everything was fresh and expertly prepared. I would recommend the following: a) for apptisers, Oysters served on ice with lemon slices and Tobasco Sauce or the Mussel Pot in a garlic and creamy white wine sauce b) for mains definitely have to go for the Captain’s Seafood Platter for 2 made up of Hake Goujons, Line Fish, Fried Calamari Strips and Heads, Grilled Calamari Tubes, Mussels and Large Prawns or the P2 Sushi Combo which consisted out of Sashimi, Nigiri, Roses, California Rolls, Rainbow Rolls and Maki.
Off to Jay-Bay we went for more adventure. I have always known it for its surfing events, but had a different activity planned for us on this trip. It took about 30 minutes to reach Featherfoot Horse Riding and Beach Trails. This is where we got matched with horses depending on skill level(beginner, intermediate and advanced), hopped on their backs and headed to the beach for a chilled 2 hour ride. We passed through indigenous fynbos and crossed a river and even spotted flamingos. Definitely something to try!
After an hour on the road, we arrived in this major port to discover a dope food spot named Two Olives Restaurant and Tapas Bar. This restaurant totally restored my faith in PE, as my previous experiences had no highlights beyond spotting churches on almost every corner. Two Olives’s menu had tapas and traditional food options and we tried most of what they had to offer. Top selections were the Tempura Prawns with a ponzo dipping sauce, Braised Oxtail served with puree mash and carrots, Portuguese Trinchado (spicy beef stew in red wine with olives), Lamb pizza( mozzarella, slow roasted lamb, onions, mushrooms and spinach) and cheese springrolls. Deliciousness galore!
Another one of those 90 minute drives saw us in Makhanda formerly known as Grahamstown, the final destination of our roadtrip. This is where we would attend the National Arts Festival and learn more about the performing arts: dance, music, theatre and comedy. Downloaded the app and personally signed up for shows that would feed my culture and live music cravings. Particularly enjoyed Umthombo, a professional high energy dance theatre production with awesome costume designs. It narrated a tale of African culture and traditions. Walked out of there feeling proud of the local talent and standard of quality performances that was maintained throughout.
Would definitely sign up for this again!
Truth be told I had never heard of this stunning fruit filled area, before an opportunity came my way for some midweek adventures with my travel partner in April 2019. Elgin Valley forms part of the Western Cape province and is just an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Trust that @Refiloe_thee_tourist and I explored almost every inch of the place and here are some reasons why we fell in love with it:
OLD MAC DADDY
Did not know what to expect when we headed to what would be our home for a few days, but boy was Old Mac Daddy Luxury Trailer Park a pleasant surprise. Set against a backdrop of pine slopes and mountains, it offers the most amazing views. Another thing that made it interesting were the 12 uniquely themed Airsteam Trailers, that were designed by some of Cape Town’s top artists and designers.
The trailers had quirky names to match their whimsical interiors, mine had honeycomb features and was named ‘Give Bees a Chance’ and Refiloe’s was ‘Life Before Colour’ with black and white vintage details. Other accommodation options were self-catering villas and tented camps. Appreciated the fact that there were lots of things to do on premise, we enjoyed wholesome meals at the restaurant, hiked up the mountains, chilled by the pool and enjoyed some activities by the private beach by learning how to do zorbing (a tricky yet fun exercise), also did some paddleboarding, kayaking and sipped on delicious cocktails from Daddy’s Beach and Bar whilst there. For bookings contact Old Mac Daddy
Wine anyone?! South Hill, was a place where we found ourselves on more than one occasion, it was not only picturesque, but also offered great tasting cool climate wines. Enjoyed sipping on Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Rose, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. My top pick being the Sauvignon Blanc, because of its guava aroma and crisp taste. For a full list of wine tasting options check out their website
CAPE CANOPY TOUR
Thrill of the chase. Would never miss a chance to zipline and take in nature’s beauty. Elgin was no different, took up a 4-hour eco-adventure in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This tour had a suspension bridge, multiple waterfalls and saw us jumping off 11 slides all varying in speed, distance(320m longest) and height(110m highest.) My ultimate favourite being slide #7 which was named ‘Hang Around’ and saw us having an opportunity to glance at natural pools from elevated platforms. Do check out Canopy Tour SA and look out for their 50% discount promotion this Winter, valid nationwide for June midweek bookings, promo code JUNEMIDWEEKZIP
THE HICKORY SHACK
Had a special lunch date at this traditional BBQ Smokehouse. Met the owner ‘Jay’ who without hesitation, dedicated time to walk us through the Pit Master’s space to show us the process of selecting wood for flavouring purposes, smoking carefully selected meats and making great tasting sauces. We tasted delicious slow cooked meals, namely the brisket, pulled pork, ribs and sausages that were paired with craft beers and ciders. Somehow also found space to fit in a fresh cheesecake and chocolate brownie with ice cream. Twas lovely, even took a little bit of The Hickory Shack away with us, in the form of yummy homemade BBQ and Chilli sauces. Check it out here
Went rolling at the Railway Market and this was nothing short of fun. An hour long tour of Oak Valley Farm, was the highlight of this experience, we explored the orchards, farmlands and vineyards on off-road Segways. Also made a few stops to chat, take pics and learn about the history of the farm and its surrounds. Everyone should try this, book your adventure
Elgin Valley was just amazing: apples, wine, food, nature and adventure. What more could a girl ask for?
My romantic partner and I have been paying this establishment frequent visits for the last 3 years and it has always proven to be an ideal place for both fun and relaxation.
Seasons Golf, Leisure & Spa, is located in a golf estate which is also home to some wildlife, it can be found just outside of Pretoria/ Johannesburg. Its facilities include accommodation, a spa, water park, tennis court and outdoor gym to name a few.
We love our privacy and usually book a week long stay in a self-catering Premium Villa, which comes equipped with a kitchenette, 3 bedrooms(main with an ensuite bathroom and the other two with a shared bathroom and guest toilet setup) , a patio with braai area and a splash pool.
Everything in the villa makes for a comfortable, uninterrupted getaway. Also, nothing like starting up fires for dinner and dipping in a private splash pool to cool off. Visit Seasons Spa for bookings.
In terms of spa facilities, Seasons is word-class and offers treatments to suit every need. Our top pick being the half day package which starts in a private couple’s pod and ends with lunch, shared all details in this blog post.
For kid-like fun, time was spent at the water park, where we chose to let loose and slide down all the monster tubes. Two options were available in this case, one with two parallel short tubes that have you end up in a splash pool and another tube with a long spiral tube which landed you in a bigger pool.
This water park also included access to pools without tubes, where one could just enjoy a swim, soak or enjoy creating more splashes like I did lol.
Also, took up solo horseriding(must-do activity) at a farm that was nearby Seasons Resort. Hartebeesport has many scenic trails, but I would recommend Horse and Trails Unlimited, as their horses have easy commands, suitable for every skill level from beginner to advanced.
Harties is home and has my heart forever!
For the last few years, I have been spending New Year’s in Cape Town. This last trip was a bit different as I had actual downtime for leisurely activities instead of just work events. Also, Refiloe Kobeli aka Refiloe_Thee_Tourist my travel partner was in town, which made times more exciting.
Here are some of the things we got up to:
Landed on the 30 December and wanted to spend the last days of 2018 experiencing special moments, so a sunset cruise that sails away from the V&A Waterfront was just fitting. We were on The Mirage 760, at sea for 2 hours, enjoying beautiful views, jamming to awesome music and sip sipping. Check The Mirage to book yourself a cruise.
Wine tasting is a given when in the Western Cape, but we took it a bit further by visiting Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate and learning the science behind making the perfect blend.
Into anything that has a fruity flavour, so was only too excited to get to it! Our Wine Advisor Tshepo was amazing and the whole experience took 1.5 hours, included a duck parade as a form of entertainment and we walked away with customised wine bottles that can be stored for up to 5 years. Cant wait for it to mature. You can book your own experience here.
As a lover of all creatures, a drive to Boulder’s Beach was quite necessary. This place offers the best views for penguin watching. Also, got to enjoy a little dip in the warm waters at a nearby beach. Entrance fees R30/adult, R10/child(different rates apply for other nationalities.)
Always have to make a stop at this culturally rich spot filled with colourful buildings and vintage cars. It’s unfortunate that the residents have been fighting to preserve their heritage and may seem a bit hostile to visitors, but that takes away nothing from its beauty. Totally instagrammable!
There were two places just outside of Cape Town that had been on my radar for over 3 years, finally took a drive to the furthest point being Paternoster. Then made some time to chill at Langebaan on our way back to The Mother City. Both towns are a must see and reminiscent of Greece with their white- blue buildings and beaches. Spare at least 3 hours for a one-way drive.
Can’t wait for our next Cape Town festive season getaway!
Nothing like a summertime road trip on the smooth South African national roads, so Refiloe Kobeli aka @Refiloe_Thee_Tourist ( my travel partner) and I seized the moment and planned an Mpumalanga Girls Trip.
Mpumalanga was an obvious choice, because we wanted a destination that wasn’t too far, yet offered lush mountainous vibes. It took us a total of 3 hours to reach Nelspruit and an additional hour to reach Sabie, a forestry town which served as our base.
Sabie was located right at the centre of things, as you could drive towards one end and be headed towards the Panorama Route or choose the opposite direction where one would find The Kruger National Park.
On that note, here are a few cool things to do in Mpumalanga:
THE BIG SWING
This activity is for adrenaline junkies and involves jumping off a 135m platform, experiencing a 3 second free fall followed by a relaxing swinging motion while admiring waterfall views. Costs R300/person, for bookings contact Tours and Tickets.
BOURKE'S LUCK POTHOLES
Visited this natural water feature made up of a series of huge cylindrical potholes in the bedrock of the river that mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon. Entrance fees R55/adult, R20/child/pensioner.
Also went to God’s Window where we hiked up to an altitude of 900m, to take in panoramic views of the lowveld and see as far as Mozambique. Entrance fees R15/adult, R10/child/pensioner.
Another special stop was at The Three Rondawels, also known as the three sisters, which are gigantic peaks of quartzite shale that resemble South African round hut-like dwellings with their sheer rock walls tower that is more than 700 m above the surrounding landscape. Entrance fees R25/adult, R15/child/pensioner (includes Blyde River Canyon viewpoint.)
LONE CREEK FALLS
We took a short walk through the forest to discover this 68m high National Monument. The bottom of the falls offered the perfect opportunity for a quick splash and there were also toilets and picnic facilities available. Entrance fees R20/person, or R200/bus.
THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
This is a place where we enjoyed a morning safari which lasted about 6 hours, the open air vehicle allowed us to spot The Big Five (Lions, Rhinos, Buffalos, Leopards and Elephants) all in one day. Costs R790/ person, for bookings contact Tours and Tickets.
WHITE RIVER RAFTING
Our last activity in this province was white river rafting. Learned how to paddle through rapids and shallow waters for 3km. Twas quite a relaxing experience. An important thing to note is that there are Hippos and Crocodiles in the river, but it’s a safe exercise for the most part. Costs R280/person, for bookings contact Tours and Tickets.
Really enjoyed our time in the Place of the Rising Sun!
Great food, amazing views and tranquility, have made this Game Lodge & Bush Spa one of my favourite hideaways in Gauteng.
This lovely establishment sits around a dam and includes 37 luxury en-suite thatched chalets, an Executive Suite, and a Honeymoon Suite.
We always stay in the Honeymoon Suite, which is isolated from all the other chalets and common areas, meaning no cell reception and internet connectivity.
Inside the suite is a beautiful open plan setup, with textured wooden finishes and floral accents. It also has a kitchenette, TV and useful electrical appliances.
Often enjoyed the private patio, as I spent time there birdwatching and appreciating pretty sunsets. A boma was another awesome perk.
The spa facility, offers a variety of Thai and aromatherapy massages, note that their hot stone massages have always been a delight for me(treatment bookings required.)
Overlooking the dam is the pool bar, perfect for yummy cocktail sipping and quick dips to cool off.
Other activities available on site or in the surrounds are hiking, canoeing and game drives at the nearby Dinokeng Game Reserve.
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