Are you looking to plan exotic adventures, bucket list trips you feel will compensate for much time spent at home? Building an itinerary that includes multiple countries can prove challenging and costly these days due to the ever-changing COVID restrictions and requirements. What’s more, you shouldn’t have to spend your time away worried about the uncertainty of covid restrictions as you move from one country to the next. To that end, I’m thrilled to report that South Africa is currently open and accepting tourists! Catering to a large variety of travelers, with unique scenery & experiences all in one place, a diverse destination like South Africa could be the answer to all your travel cravings! You can go from tracking the “big five” on safari near Kruger National Park, to walking with penguins on the beaches of Cape Town, to wine tasting in the hills of Stellenbosch within a short period.
The COVID requirements to enter South Africa are quite straight forward as well: visitors must present a paper copy of their negative RT PCR COVID test taken within 72 hours of traveling and a completed entry health questionnaire*. Upon arrival, visitors will receive a temperature screening, produce the before mentioned documents and proceed through customs as usual.
After spending the month of April with my family in South Africa, I have to admit that I was extremely impressed. I found it to be very welcoming, family-friendly, and compared to other African countries we’ve visited, getting around was surprisingly easy. Our adventures took us to seven hotel properties throughout different parts of the country, and I would gladly recommend all of them. However, two stays that truly stand out as must-visit destinations are the Relais & Chateaux properties of Jabulani and Delaire Graff Estate. The two experiences couldn’t be more different and yet more special in their own distinct ways. The former being an intimate African-style lodge with a “soulful safari experience”, while the latter prides itself in being “The Jewel of the Winelands” and affords the most stunning views and arguably some of the best wine in the country.
Walking with Giants at Jabulani
Jabulani is the essence of South African safari luxury, where your clients will be treated to the finest pleasures of life in the bush. Set in the Greater Kruger area of South Africa, in Kapama Private Game Reserve, Jabulani is easily accessible with flights from Johannesburg or Cape Town into Hoedspruit Airport. Guests begin their unforgettable safari experience from the moment they land, as they are whisked away on a 30-minute game drive to the lodge in a traditional safari jeep.
A masterful blend of Old-World luxury with modern amenities, Jabulani’s lavish touches and attention to detail are awe-inspiring. Grass-pressed walls and thatched roofs house elegant furnishings and local décor that inspires a cozy atmosphere throughout. The Main Lodge exudes a relaxed sophistication and is the heart of the property itself, where guests can enjoy a local wine and peruse through framed memories of the lodge and its proud owner, the Adine Roode.
The Jabulani suites, as well as the three-bedroom Zindoga Villa are intimate and luxurious, boasting separate lounge areas with traditional fireplaces, large freestanding stone baths, and private decks with heated plunge pools that overlook the river-bed. Dining at Jabulani is equally impressive, as the chef personally takes guests’ orders and customizes each meal to their liking. The menu changes nightly, and always includes a delectable game option, such as Butter Fried Gemsbok Backstrap and Grilled Eland Steak.
The safari experience at Jabulani is top-notch. The reserve itself boasts a healthy population of animals, and the guides, who curate your adventures from the moment you arrive to the time you reluctantly say your good-byes, are an absolute wealth of knowledge. A pride of lions currently lives in the bush area immediately surrounding the lodge, so your clients could be sung to sleep by the calls of these majestic creatures as we were. And yet, the magic of this stunning lodge goes beyond that of an amazing safari and a luxurious stay.
Named after the orphaned baby elephant that inspired its inception, Jabulani was created as a way of supporting the orphaned baby and a herd of elephants from Zimbabwe with their handlers that were rescued from culling in 2002. Today, Jabulani supports the first-ever elephant orphanage in South Africa, HERD (Hoedspruit Elephant Rehabilitation and Development), and guests that stay at Jabulani contribute directly to the orphanage. What’s more, your clients can get up close and personal with Jabulani and the herd during a humbling and truly unforgettable elephant encounter.
Breathtakingly sublime are the words that come to mind when describing Delaire Graff Estate. This globally renown property is nestled amongst the mountains of Stellenbosch, a short 45-minute drive from Cape Town. I highly recommend ending a South African vacation with a stay at Delaire Graff. You can look forward to beautifully manicured gardens, exclusive boutiques, sumptuous accommodations, remarkable local art at every turn, and award-winning wines.
Lavish and contemporary, the accommodations (referred to as lodges) at Delaire are exquisite in style and comfort. Guests can relax on their own private deck, complete with plunge pool and sweeping vistas of the vineyards and mountains. Their Presidential lodges can comfortably accommodate families and groups in 2-large, well-appointed bedrooms with floor to ceiling glass doors that open up seamlessly for the ultimate in indoor/outdoor living with a full-sized heated pool. Heavenly! The Presidential Lodges also boast a cozy living area with fireplace, a kitchen, and a proper dining room. All stays are inclusive of breakfast and a variety of amenities, such as a properly stocked mini bar and complimentary laundry. Guests looking to be pampered after their time on safari can enjoy wholistic wellness at the intimate on-site spa, where a long list of African-inspired treatments and rituals awaits.
The indulgence doesn’t end there, however, as you must include a wine-tasting session of the Estate’s elegant selection, as the Wine Lounge is a work of art in itself. You can also try a wine-pairing at one of the two outstanding restaurants at Delaire. Indochine serves a distinctive Afro-Asian menu with views of the iconic Table Mountain. While at my personal favorite, the modish Delaire Graff Restaurant, your clients can savor seasonal bistro-style cuisine with a South African twist. An insider tip for some must-try dishes that may not necessarily be on the menu: the Saldana Bay West Coast oysters are probably some of the best I’ve ever had and the truffle fries are a must!
With all that the Cape Winelands have to offer at your fingertips, Delaire Graff Estate makes for a wonderful home base from which to explore. Your clients can visit the local farms and vineyards in the area, which date back to the late 1600’s and still preserve their classic Cape Dutch architecture. Wine-tasting, horseback riding, golfing, and many child-friendly educational programs are on offer at these historic properties.
Regardless of how you spend your time at Delaire, one thing’s for sure: You will be thrilled you included a visit to this gorgeous estate, for no luxury South African vacation is complete without experiencing Delaire Graff Estate.