We have arrived in Cape Town, after our safari in the eastern parks of South Africa. While I have mentioned our lodging, I have not highlighted how much we have enjoyed each location. We have rented an apartment, our first Air BnB rental, for the week. But, let me back up to each prior location (other than the airport hotel).
Our first two nights were spent at Mount Sheba Lodge. While this is near the Panoramic Route, it is well hidden from the motor coaches. In fact, it is so well hidden that you have to take a number of dirt, forest service roads to get to it. But, pass by those farms of pine and eucalypis trees to find the old forest in which Mount Sheba Lodge hides itself. The walls are plaster and the roofs thatched with open beam ceilings. Our units had living quarters and bathrooms downstairs and a loft bedroom. Each unit had a coal burning fireplace, which was cozy with the rain and fog that we had while there. The dinning room served a set meal each evening. The white linens and individualized service brought elegance to the meal.
In Kruger National Park, we stayed in two Rest Camps, Satara in the central region of the park, and Pretoriuskop in the souther region. These have hotel style lodges, individual rondawel’s, which we used, and camping facilities mixed together. The ronawels are based on the traditional round homes with thatched roofs. These are cleverly arranged with a patio seating and grilling area, beds inside and a bathroom tucked around the corner. Pretoriuskop had slightly larger rondawels, which had recently be remodeled. Satara had more aggressive veret monkeys which went after my dried peaches on the patio while I tried to get photos of the rooms before cluttering them up. Each rest camp had dinning facilities. We found these to be more appetizing for breakfast, even though they were out of yogurt, than for dinner. However, the menu selection and service may have been related to the ongoing labor disputes, which I address earlier.
Reilly’s Rock Lodge, in Swaziland, gets the award for charm. It is an old game park house, which has been remodeled into a guest lodge. Situated on the top of the mountain in the middle of the Mlilwane Game Park, the setting could not be better. Because the game park is set up for grazing animals, you can take walks without concern for lions dinning on you. The lodge is shaded by a small forest of trees, which attract all colors of birds. The lodge comprises several buildings, offering sleeping quarters and sitting rooms in separate buildings from dinning facilities. The weather allowed guests to eat outside, around a fire, for out dinner. While we stayed only one night, this was a location that you could easily spend several days without finding every corner. Our deck hosted at least 16 chairs to try out.
At Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, we stayed at the Hiltop Lodge. The road to Hiltop Lodge is long and steep. It is best taken as part of a game viewing drive. Do not expect to get there quickly. We had a two bedroom unit at the end of one of the many driveways. The fence to the game reserve was only feet from our balcony. One morning, nyala looked at us across the fence. The ammenidies were more modern than the rondawels in Kruger, but we used them less, as the meals at the dinning room were worth the price. The labor disputes in other parts of the country did not appear to be disrupting service here. I found plenty of yogurt with the buffet breakfasts. The buffet dinners offered so many different options that we just had to get another plate full.
Shakaland took the randawel concept to a literal village concept. Built around the movie set village, the lodging winds across a hill with pathways between each rondawel. They are brightly painted with traditional designs. The samplings frame the half-dome thatching, with the sleeping area in most of the space and bathrooms positioned behind the beds. Shakaland caters more to tour groups, and therefore hosts several bus groups at a time. This helps pay the bills, but also changes the atmosphere from the game parks. This theme park feel makes ignoring the traditional performances all too easy. While the musician hammer out rhythms on marimbas, the guests drink too much and talk right over the music (those ugly-American tourist!). When the dancers invite audience members to join them, they end up with a few men who have difficulty getting out of their seats, after doing to much drinking at the bar, and can barely lift there feet off the ground. They then crowd the buffet lines for dinner. At least many of them slept in when we had breakfast.
Cathedral Peaks Hotel in the Drankensberg Mountains had stunning views. The rooms met the standard for any high end hotel, but if we did not have views of the canyons, we might as well have been at the City Lodge at the airport. But, we did not spend much time in the rooms, and when we did our eyes were closed. Get up early for the buffet breakfast. Do some hiking and have an appetite for tea on the deck or in the lounge. Then be ready for a leisurely meal back in the dinning room. And, with the gardens and birds flying around, who cares what the rooms look like.
The Piazza Apartment in Cape Town would be our final South Africa destination. We would also be here for a week, so we could unpack. Without a guide and with a rental car, driving a manual transmission while remembering to stay on the left side of the road, we were glad that getting to the heart of Cape Town was so easy. If you stepped off the balcony, which I do not recommend, you would be on the roof of the Groote church. The Cathedral Church of St. George was just around the corner, as was the Company Garden. The view of Table Mountain was unobstructed, except for one oversized hotel. The apartment comes with a secured parking space too. We did have a half-flight of stairs to ascend, but once the luggage was in this was not a problem. The unit has two levels with kitchen, sitting area, and one bedroom/bath on the lower level. The upper level is a large bedroom with bath. If we had more vacation time, we could stay here longer.