South Africa Has it All: Winelands, Coastal Views and Safaris

South Africa is the perfect blend of wild and sophisticated. A few days in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands reveal a magnificent culture, while a safari shows off the spectacular wildlife you expect on a trip to Africa.

Stefany got to see the beauty firsthand on a recent study tour with African Travel. The journey began in Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands with a night at the boutique Le Quartier Francais. The hotel has the feel of a bed and breakfast with stunning mountain views from the pool area. Among the other properties in the Leeu Collection, Leeu Estates has magnificent views of vineyards and mountains, really providing a wow factor, while the 12-room Leeu House has a charming homey ambiance.

Each property is conveniently located near the wineries at La Bourgogne Farm and Haute Cabriere. The charming La Bourgogne offers tastings at a picnic out back with pleasant views, while the larger Haute Cabriere has grand views and allows guests down into the wine cellar for some hands-on learning.

About an hour from the Winelands, Cape Grace Hotel across from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a revelation. Views from the rooms are either of the harbor or Table Mountain. Each floor has different decor while maintaining an overall nautical theme. Tastings with a whisky expert can be arranged, and the wonderful Pinotage served is South Africa’s signature red wine. Virtuoso guests can have their own lockers to store wine or liquor. The service is excellent, and it’s possible to reserve a BMW car service with advance planning. Michael, the Cape Town guide, even managed to get them to the top of Table Mountain despite inclement weather that threatened to shut down the cable cars.

A day exploring the Cape Peninsula is a must, but be sure to dress in layers so you can enjoy the seaside views in comfort. A stop at Boulders Bay gave a preview of the amazing wildlife South Africa boasts, as a colony of African penguins calls the beach home. There are now 3,000 of the penguins thanks to a conservation effort that started with a single pair of breeding birds in 1982. Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa on the peninsula offers panoramic views.

From the Cape, the group headed out on safari. The first stops were Lion Sands River Lodge and Kapama Karula in the country’s northeast. They also saw the Tree House at Lion Sands, a great escape for honeymooners, and the upscale Lions Sands Ivory Lodge. Morne, the safari guide at Lion Sands River Lodge, was fabulous. His passion for the animals and sharing them with guests was on full display. He really got into the game drives, cutting his way through trees to make sure the group saw lions. He has a deep knowledge of the wildlife and their habits, helping to maximize the game-viewing experience. They even came across a leopard that got up close to Stefany’s feet! Every day was a new adventure!

Kapama Karula was breathtaking. The service, the food, and the decor all had a wow factor that made the stay so memorable. The guide here, Elmero, was just as passionate and knowledgeable as Morne. He made sure to explain the animals’ behaviors, which added a great deal to the game drives. They even pursued a leopard through the bush at night! All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and one DMC Travel Tailor is happy to specially arrange with valued clients.

Click here to watch the highlights of Stefany’s South Africa adventure:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8rZTToAXi0

Is Africa on your Bucket List? If so, reach out to Stefany at info@dmctraveltailor.com to start planning your African adventure.

New Year’s Traditions Around the World

As we say goodbye to 2018 and welcome in 2019, we have a lot of travel plans for the coming year. We’re celebrating 50 years of helping clients make their travel dreams come true, and along the way we’ve picked up some favorite New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2019. Use some of these tricks from other cultures to ensure a prosperous new year.

Spain

At the clock hits midnight, Spaniards eat a grape at each chime. The 12 grapes represent good luck in each month of the coming year. After midnight, the party really begins, as Spaniards take to the streets and pass around bottles of cava. In large cities, especially the capital of Madrid, they gather in the main squares and celebrate deep into the night. As the sun rises, they drink hot chocolate and eat churros before heading to bed for most of the day. Sounds like something we can get behind.

Brazil

It being summertime and water being such a big part of Brazilian culture, a lot of New Year’s traditions are centered around the ocean. Flowers and floating candles are put to sea as offerings to the goddess Iemanja, a water deity from the Yoruba religion brought to the Americas by African slaves. Some people jump over seven waves, making a wish with each hop. Others eat seven raisins and keep the seeds in their wallets to encourage money to grow. Most wear white as a symbol of peace, mixing in green for health, yellow for money, red for passion and purple for inspiration.

Japan

The Japanese hold bonenkai parties to forget the old year’s troubles and leave them in the past. The traditional meal is soba noodles to promote a long life. Watching the sunrise on Jan. 1 to greet the new year is a popular pastime. Temples and shrines attract visitors from across the country by the millions from Jan. 1-3, when most businesses are closed. People send out cards to friends, loved ones and co-workers that are marked for delivery on New Year’s Day, and the first three days of the year are spent with family.

South Africa

In Cape Town, people head up to the top of Table Mountain before a night on the waterfront. There’s a sunset concert at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on the slopes of the mountain, and the last tram back down to the city is at 9:30 p.m. Fireworks light up the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at midnight, and afterward revelers head to all-night beach parties by candlelight. A day outside the city in the Cape Winelands is also a terrific getaway, and it stays light out until around 8 p.m.

Denmark

The evening starts out rather tame, with a speech from the queen at 6 p.m. Things get progressively more rowdy, as Danes meet friends for a big late dinner after a snack of cod with mustard sauce at home. It’s one of the six nights a year shooting off fireworks is legal, and Danes make the most of it. At midnight, they smash old dishes on the doors of friends. While cleaning up in the morning might not be the most fun thing in the world, a big mess means you have lots of friends who love you enough to trash your house.

Christmas in July: Make Your Festive Vacation Plans Now

It’s not quite the same as Christmas in July, but you can give yourself the gift of peace of mind by booking your festive season travel now. If you have a specific resort or destination in mind, you might be surprised to find how tight space is already for the period around Christmas and New Year’s. You can’t exactly go on vacation and leave a couple of your kids behind because you couldn’t get another room. So do yourself a favor and start planning as soon as possible.

People who stayed at resorts over the festive season last winter got first dibs on booking that space for the upcoming season. Perhaps they had such a good time, they invited more of their family members to join them this year and have already had their rooms secured for months. If the winters are cold in your neck of the woods, you can rest assured that your neighbors will be flocking in droves to sunny resorts in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

If your crew still can’t get its act together for a few months, your travel advisor will be up to date on which resorts have last-minute space. But don’t leave things up to chance! You’ll be much happier and less stressed if you take the initiative now. If you’re waiting until the weather turns, you could find yourself left out in the cold.

If you’re out of luck on land or prefer hitting the high seas, a cruise could be your answer. Again, though, you need to act quickly, especially if you’re bringing the whole family and need multiple cabins. Virtuoso-preferred partners offer some great itineraries to celebrate in style.

If all else fails, think outside the box. There’s a whole other hemisphere where it’s warm when we’re cold. South America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, they all have nice weather as one year turns into the next.

It’s not especially warm in Europe’s heartland, though the jet stream does keep things milder than many parts of the U.S., but a river cruise can let you catch the end of the beautiful Christmas markets along the Rhine and Danube. If you haven’t seen a European Christmas market before, they are a sight to behold. Plus, there’s plenty of mulled wine to help you keep warm, there are great Christmas dinners served on the river and you can ring in the new year a few hours ahead of your friends.

No matter what you end up picking, don’t wait until it’s too late and you no longer have your choice of options. There will be plenty of scrambling trying to track down those last-minute gifts. Getting started with your holiday travel plans now could end up as the best gift you and family receive.

Top Safari Destinations

Ask anyone who’s been on safari, and you’ll hear all about the transcendent beauty of sunsets, the majesty of the vast open spaces, the thrill of getting up close and personal with exotic animals. It’ll leave you with only one conclusion: You have to go see for yourself. As Richard Mullin said, “The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” Now that’s it decided you’re going, the question is which area you should choose for your safari.

 

Kenya / Tanzania

When most people picture a safari, they’re thinking of East Africa. The great migration of wildebeest and zebras takes place annually across Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain and Kenya’s Masai Mara. Hundreds of thousands of animals make the trek in search of grass to graze on. The Maasai people provide an enriching cultural exchange. Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater is rich in wildlife, while Olduvai Gorge is a goldmine for the study of human evolution. Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya are the tallest mountains in Africa and make for excellent, if challenging, climbing.

 

Botswana

Though it’s nearly 1,000 miles long, the Okavango River never does quite find its way to the sea, instead of crashing into the sands of the Kalahari Desert to form the sublime Okavango Delta, a maze of swamp, salt and lakes that provides a staging area for a dramatic interplay of animals large and small. Botswana attracts colorful birds, a huge migration of zebra and large numbers of elephants. The San people, the famed Bushmen of the Kalahari, share insights on their culture and its relationship to the natural world.

 

South Africa / Namibia

A safari in South Africa offers loads of advantages. First, you can pair it with time in the spectacular city of Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Winelands. Second, malaria-free reserves make it an ideal choice for families with young children. Private game reserves are packed with lions, leopards, elephants, impalas, and zebra. To the northwest, Namibia is a vast wilderness of sand dunes where elephants, lions, and endangered black rhinos manage to eke out a living and thousands of birds, including flamingos and pelicans, flock to the infamous Skeleton Coast.

 

Zambia / Zimbabwe

Separated by the Zambezi River, these two countries are more or less defined by water, making them excellent venues for abundant wildlife. The main attraction is Victoria Falls, “The Smoke That Thunders,” but each country also offers national parks filled with Cape buffalo, impalas, zebras and elephants, among many more diverse species. Zambia’s Kafue National Park is a great place for leopard-spotting, while Zimbabwe boasts splendid game-viewing along the shores of Lake Kariba.

 

Uganda / Rwanda

In the highlands of the Virunga Mountains that straddle these two countries, you’ll find an entirely different and rare game: gorillas. Only a few hundred mountain gorillas are left in their natural habitat, and they offer a fascinating study in primate behavior. It is in Uganda that Lake Victoria drains into the Nile River, and Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to traditional safari species. Rwanda is renowned for its wide variety of bird and plant species, including more than 100 varieties of orchids.