I have attempted to write this review several times, but then I sighed and dreamed of Africa (as Meryl Streep would say). I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to many places in the world, but my experience in South Africa rises to the top.
We went in August, which is South Africa’s spring. It is a good time to see wildlife as the trees and bushes are not completely in leaf offering good views of animals.
Like most, I was the winning bid at a charity auction for a South Africa photo safari for 2 at Zulu Nyala private game reserve. But don’t feel that is the only way to get there, I recommend it highly as a fulfilling and exciting experience.
We stayed at the Game Lodge. There is also a nearby Safari Lodge which is an older facility with charm, but I believe we got the best accommodations at the Game Lodge. We were first placed in a newer standard room that featured double sinks. However, based upon reviews, we asked to be moved to the rooms overlooking the swimming pool which has view of the valley. I think it is a toss-up as to which is the better spot as the newer rooms have quieter A/C and updated fixtures. I was greeted by grazing nyalas outside my front door in the newer wing availing themselves of the native landscaping. We only had cute lizards to entertain us as wildlife by the swimming pools along with an occasional monkey.
First of all, let go of the “American gotta do it/have it now” preoccupation, or you will be frustrated. South Africa has its own rhythm and one can get what is needed in reasonable time.
We booked our lodgings through Zulu Nyala which included being picked up and delivered to/from the airports and guides in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. It made things a lot easier. We worked with a travel agent to get our South Africa interior flights as it was complicated to mesh the stops and drive times with the local airlines online.
My friends and I opted to begin the trip by staying at the Country Manor in Johannesburg and adding a week in Cape Town, all organized through Zulu Nyala. We opted not to drive, being unsure about driving on the “wrong” side of the road. We were met at the airports by guides or drivers promptly and the price of transfers was included because we booked the extra trips.
After a long flight, it was nice to have a gentle entry into South Africa at the Country Manor. We appreciated guide Patrick's suggestion to visit the nearby Lion Park before we headed to the airport for Richards Bay. At the Lion Park, we were able to get great pictures of large cats and posed with lion cubs, and fed handsome giraffes.
Our time at Zulu Nyala was magical and beyond my expectations. Jacques was attentive and worked hard to provide us a special experience. We were invited to walk into the bush to look at a mother cheetah and her babies. I would recommend bringing your own DEET bug spray, as our guide’s can was depleted. I had brought a liquid insect repellent and friends brought wipes. Not good for protecting ankles. I also wish I brought bicycle ankle cuffs as we were warned to check for ticks after our trek. Be sure to wear long pants on the treks because there are many thorny bushes around.
The food at The Game Lodge was very good (I ate warthog and impala - not something every American can say!). Don’t miss the stuffed gem squash. The wine selection is good and reasonably priced so give it all a try if you enjoy that sort of thing.
The side trips away from Zulu Nyala were great fun, but the trip to Nompondo Primary School touched me and my friend deeply. The children are precious and we left money with the principal for school uniforms. We wanted to send school supplies but were sad to discover how expensive it is to mail them, which made it prohibitive. One might consider bringing inflatable globes, pencils and writing tablets to give to the school. I brought a calendar from my home state and gave it to a teacher. I was invited to draw a map of the United States on the blackboard and showed the children where I live. The school is neat as a pin with dirt floors. The children are given meals out of their spotless kitchen and children tend the garden that helps supplement the meals.
Mdu was our guide and he was excellent. He had a very effective and heartwarming way of telling us about the village, the school and the Zulu household we visited.
Our trip to Durban was brief and good. We saw the spice market (where I got excellent fish/poultry and beef rubs) and toured the city center architecture. We were scheduled to see the soccer stadium, but didn't have time. Even if we had had the time, we agreed we would rather have seen more of the port and learned of its history.
The visit to Cape Town and wine country was absolutely wonderful and made all the better by having Charley Regis Nsayi as our guide. He was superb and made our trip to the coast fabulous. He was very happy to accommodate our requests and shared many insights about South Africa we wouldn't have otherwise known. I would be happy to share Charley’s contact information to anyone who wants to engage him.
Wine country was awesome and I became a fan of pinotage. Pinotage was bred in South Africa in 1925 as a cross between the pinot noir and Hermitage grapes. Groot Consantia was founded in 1685 and is representative of the Dutch heritage in wine making in the area. We ate at the Junkerhuis restaurant at the winery and enjoyed the pinotage with the traditional South African bobotie (sort of like a lamb version of meatloaf in the USA). We also enjoyed KWV (founded in 1918) wines and I brought home a unique Cape Tawny dessert wine from there. I also enjoyed the Speir winery, founded in 1692. Quite a history as well as good wine to enjoy. I wish more South African wines were available in the United States.
If you want to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, try to book in advance or you may be disappointed. I was told the trip to the island was booked 2 months in advance, but to check at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront ticket agent because cancellations occur. I wasn’t lucky and wasn’t able to see the island.
I could go on and on (like, don’t miss Table Mountain or The Boulders to see penguins, Cape of Good Hope where the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet), but do make this trip of a life time!
Either a standard room in the newer section or near the swimming pool.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.