Southern Africa: A “Spafari” Adventure – Pt. 2

Continued from
Southern Africa: A “Spafari” Adventure – Pt. 1

At the Royal Malewane, South Africa

My high school pal Katy and her husband Dave recently told me about their enviable, exciting, luxurious honeymoon in South Africa and Botswana.  Here is the continued tale of their amazing dream spa + safari adventure…

Post-Botswana, Katy and Dave returned to South Africa and headed an hour’s drive from Johannesburg to the Mount Grace Country Hotel & Spa in the Magaliesburg Mountains.  The hotel was lovely, but all spa treatments, save the one massage apiece included in the couple’s tour package, had been pre-booked by other guests. (Katy and Dave hadn’t been advised to do the same.)

Our honeymooners tried (successfully) to drown their disappointment in the private hot tub on their deck, yet more  flower-petal hearts on their bed and a crack-of-dawn hot air balloon ride. On the latter, two other passengers got engaged while up in the air.  (Awwwww.)

After two days in Magaliesburg, they flew across South Africa to the famous Kruger National Park, which is bordered by a can’t-quite-believe-what-I’m-looking-at private game reserve called Royal Malewane.  For Dave, this was the best part of the trip. He and Katy were in one of the “cheap” rooms, an individual cabin with a private deck and pool; these rooms run for about $1000 US/night and include meals, safari drives with a tracker, laundry and “local beverages,” which means drinks made in Southern Africa.  (Less exotic alcohol costs extra, but if you’re on your honeymoon, complimentary bottles of champagne seem to pop up out of thin air.)

Each day, guests are presented with luncheon suggestions ahead of time; the kitchen claims that regardless of whether or not what you want is on that list, they can prepare it. Already wowed by the RM itself, Katy and Dave never tested this claim. Instead, one special evening they indulged in a candle-lit bubble bath and private dinner arranged by the staff.

Private deck and pool at the Royal Malewane

The reserve itself was a much drier environment than Botswana, and essentially a fenced-in park stocked with game. To Dave it felt more like a zoo than the Okavango, but on the other hand, it meant that they we were able to get close-up views of  what were actually wild animals; wake-up each day was at 5am to prepare for the morning’s 5:30am game drive. Back at the camp itself, in the late mornings the couple could see leopards and monkeys from the breakfast deck, and one night they saw a pride of lions, complete with cubs, feeding on a kill.

Ripping themselves away from the Royal Malewane, it was on to Cape Town. They stayed in the Cellars-Hohenort, a 9-acre vineyard/garden inn set in a southern suburb called Constantia. Their Cape Town tour guide showed them all over the city:  hiking around spectacular Table Mountain; tastings at a few Constantia Valley wineries; enjoying a small meal at a Muslim woman’s home in the Bo-Kaap, a Muslim district full of historic homes protected by a preservation society; watching penguins down by Table Bay; and good shopping in Cape Town proper.

Their guide, who was white, provided some of their biggest moments of African culture shock. Though Apartheid had been officially over since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, for some South Africans, divisions still remain.

Cape Town from up on Table Mountain

For instance, they found themselves feeling uncomfortable with his common use of the word “colored.” Extremely weighted in the American vocabulary, in Cape Town it’s apparently used non-pejoratively to mean a person who is neither white nor black. Under Apartheid, coloreds were defined as an entire class of people with more rights than blacks but fewer than whites.

Cape Town (even six years after this trip) is largely non-black compared to the rest of South Africa. Their guide claimed that the then-ruling ANC party had been encouraging blacks to move to Cape Town in order to gain the legislature seat there. He also mentioned how hard it was to get a job if you were white, due to affirmative action; he failed to mention the then-40+% unemployment rate for blacks compared to 10% for whites.

Much to Dave’s chagrin (I believe the words “kill me” were used) they spent much of their remaining time shopping and wandering around the vast and impressive Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. Among many, many other plants, the gardens feature some of the last Encephalartos woodii cycads on Earth; these exceedingly rare palm-like, seeded trees are all male and can’t reproduce. Good news for the next several generations of visitors, though: The cycads at the gardens will live for several hundred more years.

Sunset in Botswana's Okavango Delta

Katy and Dave loved the romance and luxury of their honeymoon, but their favorite parts were any time a wild animal was nearby. They’d both love to return to Southern Africa when their kids are older, and sometimes fantasize about Tanzania.

I don’t doubt for a second that they’ll get there…and already can’t wait to see the photos.

_______________________

See related posts

Southern Africa: A “Spafari” Adventure – Pt. 1
TWT Travel Binder: South Africa
TWT Travel Binder: Botswana

Comments

  1. Great posts. Although our experience in Botswana was not quite the same. It was an amazing country and we also recommend it to everyone!

  2. Thanks, you guys! Botswana’s at the top of our list, too — we’re hoping to get there by 2012. Don’t think we’ll be needing this level of luxury, either, but wow — good for my friends! I’d just like to see a “wealth” of wild animals.:)

  3. Brought back some happy memories of my time in SA, particularly Cape Town

  4. Not being the adventurous type, I enjoyed reading these posts considering I can’t see myself going to Africa on any safari. I would love to see it and the wild animals but from a ‘safe’ distance 🙂

  5. As a South African, I can definitely recommend the country if game watching is what you’re looking for! There are loads of spa bush resorts, but (imo) you’ll have the most authentic experience, althouth perhaps not as luxurious, in the Kruger National Park (and for a fraction of the price charged at the private resorts). And don’t worry, it’s completely safe, as long as you follow the rules 🙂

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