Last month Robyn Stalson, the General Manager of our US Office, visited a few of our favourite properties across Southern Africa. Starting in Cape Town, the 10-day journey included an overnight trip aboard the Blue Train, cruising the mighty Chobe River on the Zambezi Queen, and staying at three luxurious lodges close to Victoria Falls.
I chatted to Robyn about the fantastic accommodation and activities that she and her husband experienced along the way.
Tintswalo Atlantic, Seaside Luxury in Cape Town
“We began our trip at the stunning Tintswalo Atlansic lodge, tucked away on a pebble beach below Chapman’s Peak Drive. This is the only hotel allowed within the boundaries of the Table Mountain National Park (one of South Africa’s 8 World Heritage Sites) so the location is wonderfully private.
“Tintswalo was completely rebuilt after a ravaging fire that destroyed the lodge in 2015. The fire also burned down many of the trees on the mountain which, on the positive side, opened up the breath-taking vistas.”
- 5-star luxury right on the Atlantic Ocean between Hout Bay and Cape Town
- Each suite is unique, yet all have magnificent ocean views – even from the bathtub!
- Take in the sunsets while enjoying canapes and drinks on the deck
- Settle into a comfy hammock, perfectly located on the pebble beach
- Swimming pool right next to the ocean
- Fireplaces provide great ambiance during the colder winter months
- Enjoy gourmet food and wine prepared and paired by top chefs
- Watch the lights twinkle at night from the hamlets and fishing villages across the bay
- Be prepared for the reverberating sound of waves crashing at night!
Blue Train, Rail Journey across South Africa
“After two nights at Tintswalo, we set off early to Cape Town Station to board the world-renowned Blue Train. Our overnight journey took us from Cape Town to Pretoria, crossing the country in true old-world style.
“Our first day took us through mountains, vineyards and farmland; then the next day it was on to the unique beauty of the semi-desert Karoo. The final portion of our journey passed by huge stretches of informal settlements; a stark contrast to the luxury of the train, and an opportunity to acknowledge how fortunate we are.
At Maatjiesfontein we popped in for a beer and a song at the famous Lord Milner Hotel, and were taken in a red, double-decker bus on a quick tour of the town. Later during dinner we were stranded for a couple of hours in the Karoo, but we were too busy enjoying the endless supply of food and wine to pay much attention until our replacement locomotive arrived.”
- This luxurious train journey is a South African tradition
- Suites are beautifully appointed and have an en-suite bathroom & shower
- Excellent, personalised service
- Décor has a retro luxury feel with rich wood panelling and brass inlays
- Watch South Africa’s stunning scenery flicker past your window
- One short, but very entertaining stop in Maatjiesfontein
- Sit down to traditional high tea and a jacket-and-tie dinner
131 on Herbert Baker, Exclusive Refuge in Pretoria
“On arrival in Pretoria we were transferred to 131 on Herbert Baker. Part of the exclusive Mantis Collection of privately owned properties, this boutique hotel lies in the leafy suburb of Groenkloof – bordering the Groenkloof Nature Reserve.
“That evening my best friend from South Africa and her boyfriend joined my husband and I for a short, but sumptuous reunion dinner in the elegant dining room. All in all, 131 on Herbert Baker offered a peaceful retreat, before our transfer the next morning to OR Tambo International Airport and our flight to Botswana.”
- Take in the wonderful panoramic views out over Pretoria
- Staying here gives you an exclusive refuge from the bustle of the city
- Beautifully appointed rooms with meticulous attention to detail
- Superb service and cuisine
- Weather permitting, high tea is served on the front lawns
Zambezi Queen, Floating Boutique Hotel
“Our flight to Kasane took 1.5 hours. After touching down in Botswana, we entered and exited Kasane immigration offices within an hour, and were then taken by water taxi to the Namibian border (Impalila Island). After going through Namibian immigration, we were transferred by boat to the Zambezi Queen – also a member of the Mantis Collection.
“The luxury houseboat Zambezi Queen cruises the Chobe River, which forms the border between Namibia and Chobe National Park (in Botswana). During our 2-night stay the game viewing was off the charts! Imagine watching about 400 buffalo swimming from one island to the next to escape a pride of lion, only to be hijacked by two huge crocodiles! We also saw plenty of elephant, hippo, water monitors and an abundance of birds.
“Another highlight was meeting the other guests on the boat. We considered ourselves amongst the privileged few to enjoy and share this experience.”
- Unsurpassed elegance and luxurious comfort
- Spectacular game viewing
- First-class service
- Gourmet cuisine (with all meals included)
- Floor-to-ceiling glass windows let in the beautiful riverside scenery
- 14 tastefully decorated, air-conditioned suites
- Unobstructed views of the river and stunning sunsets from your king-size bed
- Plenty of activities: tiger fishing, birding, water safaris, visit to a local village
The Elephant Camp, Luxury Close to The Falls
“After two incredible days, we reluctantly left the Chobe River and retraced our steps to Kasane. Once we’d cleared immigration we were met by a Ulysses Tour driver who took us to the Zimbabwe border where, after purchasing our Visas ($30 per person), we were transferred by Wild Horizons to our fabulous accommodation at The Elephant Camp. Everything went smoothly with someone always close at hand to steer us in the right direction.
“The lodge lies in its own private concession within the Victoria Falls National Park. Activities here include elephant interactions and close-up encounters with “Sylvester” their Ambassador Cheetah (cared for by the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust). Meeting Sylvester was a wonderful treat, although this kind of big cat interaction, as well as elephant-back safaris, are being phased out by many lodges.
“The focus of our stay was visiting Victoria Falls (more in the next section). Along with organising trips to the falls, The Elephant Camp can arrange a full menu of adventure activities such as bungee jumping, helicopter flights, high wire activities and white-river rafting – worth it for sure! After all, Victoria Falls is considered the Adrenaline Capital of Southern Africa.”
- Just a 15-minute drive from Victoria Falls
- This small, intimate lodge is ideal for exclusive use and family travel
- 8 wonderfully luxurious tents, each with a viewing deck and plunge pool
- My favourite amenity was our bath, which had a view of the gorge
- From the dining area, we could see the spray rising up from Victoria Falls
- Relaxing atmosphere where you can come and go at leisure
- Stay includes a tour of the falls with lunch at the Lookout Café
- Village tours and adventure-type activities can be organised from the lodge
- Spa treatments and walking safaris are also available
Visit to the Zimbabwe Side of Victoria Falls
“We then visited the mighty Victoria Falls, which were at their fullest! We were grateful for the heavy black raincoats which were provided as we were soon drenched by the spray. It was invigorating and the Falls stood up to their reputation as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
“As part of our tour we also enjoyed a complimentary lunch at the Lookout Café, including drinks. This café has an incredible location perched above the turbulent rapids of the Zambezi River, and overhanging the spectacular chasm of the Batoka Gorge.
“We also stopped in at the elegant Victoria Falls Hotel for High Tea. I had been there several times as a young girl with my family and was anxious to revisit those early memories. The hotel is as stately as ever, while the sprawling lawns present a mesmerizing view of the Victoria Falls Bridge and spray which, lucky for us, was framed that afternoon by a beautiful rainbow.
Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma, Zambezi River Views
“After breakfast on our second morning, we were ushered across the border by Wild Horizons to Zambia. Once through immigration ($50.00 per person) we were transferred to Sanctuary Sussi & Chuma. Named after David Livingstone’s faithful friends, this five-star lodge lies in the Mosi-oa-Tuya (Smoke that thunders) National Park.
“The main lodge has a spectacular raised bar and lounge deck, and an infinity pool that seems to flow into the Zambezi River. We stayed in one of the treehouses, and were entertained by the troop of vervet monkeys that played in the treetops.
“A short bush walk in a nearby reserve took us to see a family of white rhino. There’s been no poaching in Zambia for several years, partially due to armed rangers who watch over the wildlife. That evening we went on a sunset cruise, and our boat got stuck for about 45 minutes very close to a pod of hippo! Although exhilarating, we were pleased when our guide fixed the engine and we arrived safely back to be greeted by a romantic fire burning brightly under the stars.
“Sanctuary Retreats have a philanthropy project at Nakatindi Village and School in Livingstone. Our tour of the village included a stop at the successful Chipego Bike Shop, run by local women who repair old bicycles from the US and UK, and sell them to the villagers.”
- All accommodation offers a private view of the Zambezi River
- 12 luxury treehouses, built into the canopy of giant ebony trees
- 2 well-appointed cottages, each with their own private chef and guide
- Meals and activities are included in the rates
- Animals often wander through the grounds, under the canopy walkways
- Activities include tours of the Falls, Zambezi River cruises and fishing
- See the great work being done at Nakatindi Village and School
- Guided walking safaris to see rhino
- Close to Chobe National Park
Royal Chundu: Award-Winning River & Island Lodge
“For our last stop we were transferred by Bushtracks to the award-winning Royal Chundu Lodge (about an hour’s drive from Victoria Falls). Royal Chundu has two lodges: River Lodge and Island Lodge. Due to the fairly low occupancy that night (just prior to the busy season) we were happily upgraded to an Island Villa.
“We were also treated to a white-water raft trip with a stop at a private island for a gourmet lunch with open bar. Hammocks were strung up with comfy pillows alongside the river for a relaxing nap. After our day’s activities were returned to our villa to experience a top-of-the-line spa treatment in the privacy of our suite.”
- Sophisticated tranquility
- Gourmet Zambian cuisine with unsurpassed service
- River Lodge: 10 villas on a private stretch of the Zambezi River
- Island Lodge: 4 villas on a remote island upstream of the main lodge
- Island Villas are surrounded by unique baobabs
- The best treat is the elegant bathtub on your private deck
- Activities include: cruises, birding, fishing, canoeing and white-water rafting
- About an hour from Victoria Falls, so visit the Falls immediately on arrival in Livingstone or on the day you leave.
These 10 days were truly an unforgettable adventure. If my journey inspires you to travel to Southern Africa, then drop us a message so we can help you create an African adventure of your own.