Spotlight on... SOUTH AFRICA

From culture and gastronomy by the sea to wildlife wonders in the northern savannahs, Y&YW discovers two very different sides to this honeymoon-perfect country
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COAST

Y&YW’s art director Elliott Wilmot travelled along Cape Town’s coastline visiting vineyards, spotting wildlife and enjoying adrenaline-inducing activities along the way

I always wondered how celebrities look so amazing as they step off planes after a long-haul flight, but on my recent trip to Cape Town I finally discovered the secret. My stress-free travel started as I waved my suitcase off down the road after AirPortr, a luggage courier service that has collaborated with British Airways, picked it up from my home. I wouldn’t see my case again until I landed in Cape Town, so I happily set off with nothing to carry. Before the flight I relaxed in style away from the busy departure gates in the British Airways Club Lounge, waiting to board the new direct flight from Gatwick Airport. The time difference between the two countries is only one hour, so after enjoying a three-course meal and plenty of sleep on a fully at bed in Club World, I arrived in South Africa ready to head straight off for the adventures ahead. 

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FANTASTIC BEASTS

Blue skies and glistening water framed the road on the most beautiful coastal drive as
we headed away from the city, travelling along Clarence Drive, and making our way to Gansbaai, where we stayed for the next couple of days. Our first stop was Stony Point, which is home to thousands of African penguins. The little feathery creatures were everywhere as we walked along a purpose-built wooden walkway, and every so often a head poked out from underneath – I tried desperately to get a penguin selfie, but I just wasn’t quick enough. After a brief stop at the small coastal town of Keinmond, we pulled into the harbour at Van Dyks Bay and were greeted by rows of boats with huge cages hanging from the sides. I wasn’t ready for what I was about to let myself in for. “Yes, I’ll do it,” I said, before suddenly realising I’d just signed up to being put in a cage surrounded by great white sharks. What was I thinking? Well, I survived to tell the tale – it was an incredible experience sharing the water with such majestic beasts. 

Sundown at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Sundown at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

Like most people, indulging in lots of lovely food and drink is a holiday priority for me. And I certainly had the chance to do just that at the luxury hotels scattered along the Western Cape coastline that I visited. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is set in the mountains with panoramic sea views, and is just perfect for honeymooners. I experienced the ora and fauna safari followed by a beautiful tasting-menu dinner, which included semi-cured ostrich llet, in an outdoor “boma” restaurant. For a more traditional option there’s the Grand Roche Hotel, located in the Paarl wine region, which has a gourmet “braai” – a large barbecue meat feast – on the menu. 

Sublime views at Creation Wines
Sublime views at Creation Wines

By this point in the trip I’d already tried lots of wines and was starting to feel like quite the sommelier, but the best was yet to come. We travelled in an open-sided wine hopper (like a safari Jeep) to Creation Wines, a well-known vineyard with a view of Mount Babylon. We were met by owner Carolyn Martin in the restaurant, who introduced two wines per course and explained why each wine had been chosen. I’d never seen so many wine glasses on a table at one time – it was a truly unique experience in the most perfect setting.

Bath time for two at One & Only Cape Town
Bath time for two at One & Only Cape Town

After the tranquillity of cruising the South African coastline I was ready to see what the city had to offer. I wasn’t disappointed when I opened the door of my hotel room at One&Only Cape Town to the most breathtaking view of Table Mountain and the marina. Luxurious touches are everywhere you look at this five-star hotel, from the huge bathroom with a bath made for two to the king-size bed that made me feel like I was sleeping on clouds. 

One & Only Cape Town
One & Only Cape Town

WATER WORLD

After a delicious breakfast, we headed straight to the lagoon, which sweeps around an island in front of the hotel, and where you’ll find the pool, island suites and spa. We met our guide Ingram from Escape+Explore, a company that arranges private Cape adventures. First on our itinerary was paddleboarding. I followed the instructions, but as I attempted to stand up I lost my balance and began to perform what looked like an African tribal dance on water. Luckily, I didn’t fall in, and it wasn’t long before I was gliding around the lagoon. 

The colourful Bo-Kaap neighbourhood 
Image: Getty Images
The colourful Bo-Kaap neighbourhood Image: Getty Images

Bikes were our next mode of transport and are a great way to explore the city. We spotted seals in the Victoria and Alfred basins and marina and saw the large sculptures scattered along the coastline, including a large pair of Nelson Mandela’s glasses, which look out to Robben Island. We also made time for lunch at the Shortmarket Club, visited Bo-Kaap, a former township where you’ll nd pretty cobbled streets lined with brightly coloured houses, and saw amazing art in the hip area of Woodstock. We did a street-art tour with an organisation that invites artists from all over the world to come and create paintings on local residents’ houses. And, of course, we took a cable car up Table Mountain for 360-degree views of the city and coast. 

After days spent exploring, I was happy to stay at the resort in the evenings and sample the delights of the three outstanding eateries on offer: Isola, a Mediterranean restaurant; the world- renowned Nobu; and Reuben’s, which serves dishes created by local chef Reuben Riffel, while you sit dwarfed by a huge glass-walled wine cellar that spans several floors. Feeling happy and content after yet another gastronomic experience, I headed to bed wondering how I’d manage back at home without six different wines every night with my dinner. 

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GO THERE

British Airways is the only carrier to offer direct non-stop services from Gatwick Airport and Heathrow to Cape Town. Fares start from £795pp, ba.com. Elliott dived with thegreatwhitehouse.co.za. For more information on One&Only Cape Town, visit oneandonlyresorts.com. For more information on AirPortr + Bag Check-In, visit airportr.com/ba

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COUNTRYSIDE

Y&YW’s art editor Katie Phipps witnessed wildlife documentary-worthy displays at luxury safari lodgings in Kruger National Park 

It was dusk in Kruger National Park, South Africa, as we hurtled across the sun-baked landscape in an open-top Jeep, our eyes transfixed by a magnificent lion as it slowly stalked a herd of buffalo that had just come into view. “The buffalo don’t know the lions are there because of the direction of the wind,” our experienced guide Barney explained, and within seconds the lion made its move. With a flash of the lion’s tail and a great plume of dust, the nearby birds flew away and the other animals slunk back into the bushes. We couldn’t quite believe we’d been lucky enough to witness a scene that you would only expect to see on a big-budget TV documentary. “Now we just need to see a live birth,” one of my safari companions joked. The following morning, it wasn’t long before our tracker spotted something in the undergrowth – an antelope in labour! We watched as the impala gave birth to a cute calf with long spindly legs – another life-long dream ticked. We shouldn’t have been surprised, Barney and our tracker Arab’s knowledge of the bush is second to none, so they knew where to find the animal action.

We stopped off for some much-needed hot chocolate with Amarula (an alcoholic spirit made from South Africa’s marula trees) in a dried-up river bed and icked through some of the best photographs from the morning’s game drive before we headed back to our lodge. My favourites included a family of elephants smothering themselves in dust to cool off and a heavily pregnant leopard taking a drink from a nearby pool. 

Safari Lodge Cottage at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge
Safari Lodge Cottage at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge

WONDERFULLY WILD

While I loved being out in the bush I also couldn’t wait to get back to our luxurious base – the andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge, which is tucked under a canopy of mopane and tamboti trees overlooking a private watering hole with the hazy outline of the land beyond. Every morning, I woke up to the African sun streaming through my windows and headed straight to my private outdoor shower while listening to the chorus of animals and birds as the bush woke up. There are 20 thatched huts, all newly renovated with colonial-style decor and all the luxuries you could possibly want but wouldn’t expect to be possible in such a remote place. 

Swimming pool at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge
Swimming pool at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge

On safari, it’s normal to get up at 5.30am, so you can enjoy game drives early in the morning and later in the afternoon, when the sun is less ferocious and the animals are more active. I struggled with the early alarm call, but soon woke up when presented with freshly baked biscuits, cakes and other tempting goodies. I loved these tasty treats so much that the staff often packaged a bundle up for me to nibble on while bouncing along the sandy tracks. In between game drives, you can swap your boots and fleeces for flip-flops and bikinis to enjoy some R&R by the pool or a couples’ massage in the lodge’s spa. For lunch each day, I chose from a mix of brightly coloured salads, fragrant curries and sumptuous chocolaty desserts from the buffet. 

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MAGICAL EXPERIENCE

Once you’re relaxed and ready for an adventure, you can go on a walking safari and track your favourite animals on foot. We set out in search of one of Kruger’s most endangered animals, the rhino. After a tense walk away from the safe compounds of our Jeep we came across a mud trail and huge footprints etched into the sand leading to a rhino just metres away from us. It was amazing being so close to a wild animal and we were sad to learn that the number of black rhino in Kruger is declining due to poaching. Thankfully, andBeyond is part of a campaign to stop poachers killing the rhinos in Kruger, with ground and air surveillance, rhino notching and an initiative to take them to safer parts of the world such as Botswana. 

Breakfast set up by andBeyond in the African bush
Breakfast set up by andBeyond in the African bush

It’s not just the animals that surprised us at every turn; the staff at the lodge pulled out all the stops to make sure we left with the most wonderful memories. One day, just as my supply of biscuits was about to run, out we pulled up at a magical spot in the bush where a private breakfast table was set up. The chefs were busy rustling up a feast of sautéed potatoes, bacon, roast vegetables and a table crammed with cold meats, fruit, and the most delicious banana bread.  

Boma dining
Boma dining

The surprises didn’t stop there and another night we enjoyed a rather dramatic dinner in the middle of the bush after a dusk game drive. As we were nishing our delicious barbecue dinner, bright blue ashes of lightening illuminated the sky and the hum of the bush was muffled by crashes of thunder. It’s exhilarating to feel so in touch with the landscape and exposed to the natural elements. For a romantic and slightly less dramatic setting, there’s an enchanting outdoor boma restaurant area back at the lodge, which is lit up with festoon lights and lanterns for the ultimate honeymoon dinner. 

On the last night after our final game drive, Barney took a detour to a neighbouring watering hole. The sun was setting, casting an orange glow across the landscape, and a pod of about 30 hippos bobbed their heads out of the water. The hippos weren’t the main attraction, though, as a gin bar had been set up with an array of exotic cocktails such as Turkish delight, and rosemary and pepper. As the sun dropped beyond the horizon, with a gin cocktail in hand, I realised I was truly in love with this country and its amazing wildlife. 

GO THERE

Mahlatini Luxury Travel offers a three-night stay at andBeyond Ngala Safari Lodge starting from £2200 per person sharing a cottage on an all-inclusive basis. Price includes international flights with South African Airways, road transfers and scheduled safari activities, mahlatini.com 

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