September 26, 2013
That was the date that twelve Melbournites headed off to Sth Africa for the first time, on what proved to be an epic trip.
Our early morning Qantas flight to Sydney connected us to our international flight to Johannesburg, and we promptly flew back over Melbourne, and down near the south pole en route to Jo'burg - about a 12 hour flight.
On reaching Jo'burg airport we were shuttled a couple of hours out of town to Sun City resort.
Initial impressions of Jo'burg and surrounds were of a large sprawling community, not particularly attractive, and with all residences walled off and barbed wire atop those walls. Toward the outskirts shanty towns consisting mainly of tin and any available materials with rocks to hold down the roof appeared everywhere..
We got into Sun City after dark, and made acquantaince with our luxurious accommodation for the first 3 nights - The Palace at The Lost City. It was a very nice place to stay, and very upmarket, with Tomb of The Lost Raiders type architecture. Impressions of other accommodation options in Sun City were more in line with casino resorts around the world, and ordinary in comparison...
Heather and I chose to ride the elephants on day two, when the group all relaxed in their own way.
Riding Mala, our giant African elephant for close on an hour, then feeding her, and watching the herd frolic in the water afterward was a memory I hope stays with me all my days. What a great way to start a golfing safari!
Days 3 & 4 of the tour were dominated by the start of the golfing competition, playing both the Sun City courses - The Gary Player course which is renowned for it's Million Dollar Challenge ( now The Nedbank Challenge ) each year was first up, and everyone enjoyed the course, and the day.
Next up we played the Lost City course with its crazy Flinstones like clubhouse. We all loved the course, and much preferred it of the two at Sun City. A course report for Lost City course can be found at Course report- Sun City- The Lost City Course
We had perfect weather in Sun City, which was a magic place to stay, with lovely meals and plenty of activities for all.
Late on day 4 we boarded the bus to drive to our accommodation in Pretoria. The landscape along the way was a little confronting with shanty towns one after the other, and rubbish everywhere. Pretoria was similar to Jo'burg with every residence , or building for that matter, heavily fortified. Even our hotel for the night had a night guard. I certainly was not thinking of going out at night.
Early on day 5 we boarded The Blue Train for our day and a half trip to Capetown. The Blue Train was pure luxury with beautiful sleeping compartments, and wonderful dining facilities. We all settled in very comfortably! Initially the scenery was of interest because of the mile after mile of shanty towns, and occassionally the new dwellings that are gradually replacing them. What a huge project for the country!
Before dinner the train stopped and we inspected the old Kimberley mining company, before a sumptuos meal and much needed sleep to the clickety clack of the track. We woke to more interesting viewing, as the train made its way into Capetown.
With the sun shining, and not a cloud in the sky, I made the immediate decision to take the group up Table Mountain. So we checked into Cape Grace hotel , and met our bus and headed off for a glorious afternoon on top of the world. The cable car, the views from the top, the beautiful weather had everyone smiling , and cameras were working overtime.
On day 7 we undertook a full day tour of The Cape of Good Hope. Again the weather was magnificent, and we enjoyed equally magnificent scenery. Our driver and guide - Chris - educated us along the way. We learned how the earth was formed, the history of the Cape, the names of the birds and animals, and legends and urban tales. It was hard not to crack a smile getting up close to the African penguins, and we even had whales come in close to the shore and show off for us.
It was another wonderful day followed by an epic degustation meal at Cape Grace hotel. The hotel impressed us all, but the food and wine was really world class - and cheap. In Aussie terms our wonderful meals cost us about $30AUD each with wine - and for the 7 course degustation meal, with matched wine, and wine expert consulting and advising at every mouthful, it was not a lot more
On Day 8 we headed up to Stellenbosch where we stayed in the Summerwood guest house just out of town. We visited 3 top wineries in the area- Tokara, Rupert & Rothschild, and Anura. All put on a show for us, and were very classy. As a lover of quality red wine, I was delighted to 'discover' Pinotage - Sth Africa's unique red wine. It immediately became a favourite, and my project for the rest of the tour was to work out which Pinotage I preferred, and what was available in Australia!
A highlight of the day was lunch in Franschoek, in the heart of the wine district. Some of us chose Le Quarter Francais which has been nominated as one of the best restaurants in the world a number of times in recent years. The food was wonderful, but not expensive. In fact, and despite the accolades, the restaurant was most unpretentious.
On day 9 we boarded the bus and headed east along the coast to the golfing resort of Arabella, a course rated in the top 5 in Sth Africa. But for this one day, my communications with Huey upstairs must have gone astray, and the weather turned. It rained, and got very very cold. To make things worse Arabella GC has commenced major irrigation works on the course, and many holes had....holes in them- open works where irrigation was being upgraded. Only 2 hardy souls completed the round, and the rest of us retired to the very nice Arabella resort hotel.
Day 10 was big. After an early start we drove 4 hours or so for our first stop at the Cango Wilderness park, a type of local zoo. Here we got up close to many of the big cats. The highlight was Heather, Jacqui and Graham heading into the cage and spending time patting the cheetahs....
Then we put our skates on and headed for the Cango Caves, with stalacmites, stalactites, and some amazing african guides who sang beautifully to us in the auditorium-like caverns.
Our last stop was the most memorable- we only just got to the Ostrich Farm before they closed- most of us were ambivalent about going, but it was much more interesting than we had thought. And then Jacqui rode the ostrich!
Oh my god!
It was one of the funniest things I had ever been witness to.
Great work Jacqui- you made our day!!!
But we still had a few more hours in the bus before we got to Pezula Golf Resort - most of us were nodding off by the time we pulled in for a late dinner at Pezula.
Day 11 at Pezula was a hoot - our rooms were large and very well appointed. The resort was up market, with lovely meals, and very friendly service. We all got very comfortable.
And the golf course was spectacular - this was a place we would all love to return to.
We had a more leisurely start to day 12 with a mid morning pick up for the shortish trip to Fancourt resort, where we stayed 3 nights. Fancourt is a well established full service resort with 3 golf courses, and a number of accommodation and dining options, conference facilities, and a range of other sporting and other activities available. It had a real old world feel to it.
We played golf on the Montague course on day 12 - a most enjoyable, if perhaps not world shattering course, with plenty of water holes to retain your attention.
On day 13 we played the Outeniqua course - a course I probably would not bother playing again, although it had some pretty holes, which will come up well in photos with the reflective lakes, and mountain backgrounds.
Fancourt redeemed itself in my opinion on day 14 when we played the exclusive Links at Fancourt. This course has been used for The Presidents Cup, and a host of other tournaments, and was generally regarded by our group as the best course we played - and therefore the best in Sth Africa. Certainly I thought so. Although the course was not a true links I found it a joy to play, and the combination of the wild rough dunescape, the occasional water hazard, and the imposing Outeniqua mountain backdrop made it a unique and glorious golfing landscape.
Day 15 was travelling day. We were headed to Kirkmans Kamp for safari, and couldn't wait to get there.
First the bus, then a flight from George to Jo'burg, a big wait, a flight from Jo'burg to KMIA, and then a longish bus trip into the bush to Kirkman's Kamp- it all made for a big day
Still there was no rest for the wicked - at 5am on day 16 we were all up and ready for safari.
These few days turned out to be life changing.
WE were all very tired after a long but joyous trip. But getting up early each morning, and then saddling up again at 4pm for the afternoon safari each day was no chore. We would not miss a minute of the action. In our open top landrover jeeps our guides and trackers took us up close and personal to the big 5 , plus a host of other unique African birds and beasts.
We had lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, rhinos - all close by. And leopards walking around our jeep, feeding, dragging the kill up a tree, and walking out on a branch above us.
And so much more!
I have come back wanting to take my family to experience this amazing place. It really is that good....
In the middle of our 3 day stay at Kirkmans Kamp 4 of us enjoyed another unforgettable experience, and took a helicopter ride 75kms across Kruger National Park to play at the most exclusive Leopard Creek GC, generally regarded as the best course in Sth Africa.
Although I would not rate it as highly as The Links at Fancourt, I nevertheless cherished the experience. And the chopper flight over herds of elephants and rhinos was an experience in itself.
And so the Golfing Safari concluded.
Undoubtably this was the best trip I have been party to, and I am grateful to the wonderful group who joined us for making it such a success.
Together we have memories that will not fade. And now we have enormous motivation to explore more of Africa
The Travelling Golfer
The Travelling Golfer can tailor a golf tour to Sth Africa to suit your group. For itinerary suggestion see Great Golf Destinations: Sth Africa- a Golfing Safari
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