Trip Report from Southern Africa:
Properties with Personality (Part 2)
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Hi <<First Name>>,

Brooke and I have been happy to hear from many of you who receive these Trip Reports. Some of you have even said that you share sections of the information with your clients, and we hope you continue doing so. It’s great that these Trips Reports can be another tool to help you share the best of Africa with your clients, and help you to plan itineraries on their behalf. 

Part 2 of our Southern Africa Trip Report covers a bit of Cape Town and Johannesburg, Tongabezi in Zambia and White Pearl Resorts in Mozambique. Of course with the two city destinations, new things pop up all the time, and there are many layers to uncover; we just focused on a few favorites. If I can answer any questions or provide more information, feel free to let us know. 

Johann & Brooke
Cape Town, Wine Country, Joburg – Nirvana for Foodies, Winos and Art Aficionados
When it comes to accommodation, there are more fantastic options to choose from in Cape Town and the Wine Country than we will ever likely have visiting days for; and new boutique hotels and private villas are opening up every month. Same for Johannesburg. 2016 looked like this: 
  • On our trip with friends, we used Time & Away to rent a private villa in Camps Bay: 26 on First is five-bedrooms, ultra-modern, and fully staffed. Perfection.
  • We had drinks on the rooftop bar of the new CloudNine Hotel, with 360-degree views of the City Bowl and a lobby decorated with contemporary art from the Christopher Moller Gallery across the street.
  • Ellerman House treated us to a private tour of their new Wine Studio, which showcases both coveted vintages (paired for guests with gourmet cuisine) and even more highly coveted artworks. 
  • We spent a night at Leeu House, just before the opening of Leeu Estates, and have seen main street Franschhoek transformed by the Leeu Collection of restaurants, breweries, and now a collaborative project with the Everard Read Gallery
  • We had a fun afternoon touring the gardens and rooms at Babylonstoren; it’s a refreshing home base to spend a few nights or more while exploring wine country!
  • In Jo-burg we stayed at Fairlawns in May, and loved it so much we booked the newly renovated Courtyard Suites for our friends in November. The spa is divine beyond words, and the staff is absolutely exceptional.
  • For millennials or those desiring a bit of the “Brooklyn of Johannesburg”, we also enjoyed our night at the 12 Decades Art Hotel in Maboneng, one of the several revitalized neighborhoods in Downtown, with restaurants, boutiques, nightlife, a weekend food and fashion market, street art, and the Arts on Main complex that is home to William Kentridge’s studio and the David Krut print shop.
As our friends are foodies, we packed in the freshest, finest, and most fun dining experiences possible (and in both CPT and JNB used Uber to get to around at night):
  • The Stack – A new membership-based social club tucked into a quiet neighborhood near the Mount Nelson, The Stack has a downstairs bar and restaurant open to all. The cocktails and cuisine were so good we went back a few times (The Stack Salad is dream-worthy). With an eye for design, a bold color palate, and mixed modern art, it is no surprise it was buzzing with trendy locals, even on a Monday night.
  • Test Kitchen – We were up at midnight in San Francisco the day the new online reservation system opened up, manning two computers and one phone to finally snag these reservations. They’re coveted, and we see why. With the recent remodel of the space, you physically move from the Dark Side to the Light Room heightened, which heightened the dining experience. Nearly five hours of wine-paired plates were presented, with ovation-deserving performance, and each one was better than the next. (If you can't snag reservations at one of Luke Dale Roberts' restaurants in Cape Town, keep in mind he just opened a restaurant at the Saxon Hotel in Jo-burg as well.)
  • Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort – This four-hour tasting extravaganza was a real highlight. A modern take on South African favorites, with a nod toward molecular-gastronomy, tasty treats came out frozen with dry ice, smoking from warming embers, and “growing” out of “earth” just like the fynbos and other local ingredients used do. (It's a very good alternative to the almost impossible to get into Test Kitchen.)
  • Shortmarket Club – With no reservations (though we’d recommend it!), we were lucky to walk in at 8pm and get two of the few seats at the bar for dinner. The atmosphere was casual yet elegant, as the restaurant is located in a heritage building with stained glass and opulent décor, and offers approachable, a la carte, haute classic cuisine.  
  • Chef’s Warehouse – Since they don’t take reservations, we chose a cool, rainy day to tuck into the two-hour tasting lunch. The small space feels like a mom-and-pop corner shop where everything is carefully curated. Each course comes out prepared for two to share, with truly unique combinations and presentations.
  • Delaire Graff – Lunch always impresses here as modern epicurean fair is elevated with great wines and gorgeous mountain views. Delaire also showcases numerous pieces of contemporary South African art, and it is here where we first fell in love with Lionel Smit’s work.
  • Tokara – Unfair advantage here … we know Miles Mossip, the wine maker, and so we asked him to lead our private tasting; he might not always be available. However, it was easily the best one-hour tasting paired with exceptional knowledge, that we’ve had! Both the Tokara and Miles Mossip wines are divine, and there is a restaurant, so stop by for a tasting and nibble.
“Art is the New Cuisine” made Travel Market Report’s Top 15 Luxury Travel Trends for 2017, noting that art is the new “buzz word”, and we tend to agree. We’ve sprinkled info on some of our favorite galleries and artists here and there, and also must mention the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden in Stellenbosch. You know Dylan’s work. His signature bronze cats can be found on the grounds of Ellerman House and Delaire Graff, and are in numerous impressive private collections around the world. More than 100 of his sculptures from different creative periods in his life are meticulously placed in the gardens, which was a sculpture project all its own as he looked to move earth and stone and manifest yet another vision. The gardens are open by appointment only, and you can choose to buy an entrance to walk around on your own, or we booked a private tour so that we were guided by a close acquaintance of Dylan’s for two-hours.
For our day in Johannesburg we booked a private tour with Robin Binckes. He is an exceptional tour guide, tailored our day to what we thought we wanted (Soweto, Apartheid Museum) and also introduced us to the Alexandra township, which proved to be more interesting than Soweto for us, and also to the Constitutional Court. This was the piece de resistance of the day! Open to all 24 hours a day, every architectural detail and piece of art has meaning. While not a museum or gallery, it feels that way, telling a story through beautifully crafted, artisanal hands. Definitely include this in a day in Jo-burg!
Sindabezi – The Loveliest, Little (Private) Island in Zambia
With our friends we rented Sindabezi, the five-chalet island in the Zambezi River, owned by Tongabezi. Our group of nine dictated a buy-out and so Sindabezi, generally available for FIT, became our private island. Let’s get right to it … November is an epic time to raft the Zambezi, and that is what we set out to do. On our full day adventure, we swam through Class 3s, paddled through Class 4s, and flipped at Class 5s. We braved the tallest free-standing wave in the world, and while it threw us into the white water without effort, we “whoop-ed” our adrenaline out while reorganizing ourselves down the canyon.

It is a short boat ride to get from Tongabezi to Sindabezi, which is a fun activity in and of itself. We motored around hippos, along the shore where elephants come to drink, and through smaller islands that are home to numerous bird species. One evening we enjoyed Sand Bar Sundowners, where we pulled up to one of the smaller island and a bar was set up on the sandy beach. The privacy of being a bit further up from the falls made the river experiences very peaceful.

In November, Victoria Falls is hot, so we were thankful to see the new extensive system of solar battery cells at Sindabezi, enabling each chalet to have a fan. It was also glorious to take a dip in the pool at Tongabezi after each activity (visiting the Falls, swimming in Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island, having a massage, etc.) and before taking the boat back to Sindabezi. We spent a few hours one morning at Tujatane, the school at Tongabezi, playing with the kids, teaching an art class, touring the school, and donating a cache of supplies for the next school year. And we got to see the beginning of a few new projects taking place at Tongabezi, which will be shared after completion.
White Pearl Resorts, Mozambique
Thanda Safari has a bush and beach package with White Pearl Resorts called “Zulus and Pearls”, and so we made our way to Mozambique for a short extension. From Thanda Safari it was a three-hour drive in a luxury vehicle, on a good tar road, to Kosi Bay. We drove past villages, through Isimangaliso Park, stopped at a market, and listened to audiobooks. It seemed very important to have a Visa for Mozambique prior to arrival, and with that our border crossing was quick and easy. Thomas, from White Pearl, greeted us with an open, safari-style Land Rover for the one-hour drive to the resort. The moment you step into Mozambique here, the road changes to sand, so it was a really fun four-wheel adventure on the sand, around rolling hills, past towns, and through forests, until at the end, we arrived to a breathtaking ocean view. 

We went on night walks to see sea turtles laying eggs, rode horses on the beach, relaxed with massages at the spa, and swam among the salty, clear, warm waves. We didn’t make the time for scuba/snorkeling or the ocean safari, where a boat takes you out to see whales, dolphins, and other marine creatures up close, though we did see some from shore. While the activities director had kayaks, body boards, and other toys set up on the beach every day, we were happy to indulge in the solid Internet connection and a bit of down time. 

White Pearl impressed us both. The stellar staff were welcoming, professional, and polished.  Each meal was a carefully created experience, from a private seafood spread that our butler Jorge set up on our deck for lunch one day to having fresh-pressed vegetable juices and an array of gluten-free goodies at each breakfast. Our traditional rungu massages topped the list of spa experiences we had. And our suite, one of 21 on property, was the perfect mid-day oasis with strong air-conditioning, sumptuous amenities and an outdoor shower, a private plunge pool and loungers, and a seriously comfortable, white-linen-clad bed. Built in a staggered manner up a hill, each suite has day-dream-inspiring views, and the six along the bottom have private paths leading directly onto the beach. We were told that several two-bedroom family units are coming soon.
We splurged, and opted for the 30-minute helicopter transfer to Maputo, which flew low along the shore and over a nature reserve with elephants, antelope, and other plains game. The approach into Maputo gave us a birds-eye-view of the new road and bridge being built, which will make the road transfer to White Pearl a lot faster and easier. The historic Polana Serena Hotel was our base for two nights as we explored the somewhat sleepy (on a weekend) Maputo: the beautiful train station, small national museum of art, acclaimed architecture, bustling markets, and a peaceful park.
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