We absolutely loved every minute and cannot wait to go back with Cailin. So many of our jeep mates were on their 6th or 7th trip to Africa and we met a tour operator from Melbourne who was on his 60th visit. You’ll have to give us some ideas for say 3 years from now, maybe sticking to the Malaria free areas, and bringing Cailin and my in laws along. Thank you again for all of your wonderful guidance and a flawless execution.
As for the details, the game viewing at both Mombo and Zarafa were unbelievable. On our first drive, we saw a cheetah, 2 male lions, and 4 lionesses with 7 cubs! The next morning we saw Pula with her cub with a fresh kill, which she proceeded to drag into the bush. We had the privilege of watching the two of them for three days…it was amazing. I think both places spoiled us forever in terms of wildlife!
On another note, we could not have been luckier with the weather. Not too cold at night on safari (45 to 50, but not freezing), and low 80’s during the day and sunny and 70 most of the time on the Cape. Only one day of rain the entire trip, and it was in wine country, so it just gave us an excuse to drink more wine 🙂
As for the rest, I stumbled across a “Best of” list we had done for our tour operator upon our return from Australia a few years ago. We had such fun reading through it, so we thought we’d repeat the activity for this trip and share it. Hope you enjoy it! There’s also a few constructive points at the end, but all were minor.
We cannot wait to go back!
Thanks again to you both and all of your staff.
BEST ROOM The Maharani Suite at La Residence TIED with the tent at Zarafa (except for the bed — see below)
BEST FOOD EXPERIENCE The foodie tour of cape town — especially the Samoosas and meeting Sandile; close second was the Spice Route charcuterie tasting and The Old Biscuit Mill market.
BEST DINING EXPERIENCE The Bush Dinner at Zarafa for the location/ambience and some of the best Duck Vindaloo I’ve ever had — including in London; Loved the atmosphere and food at Babel
BEST BREAKFAST EXPERIENCE Formal breakfasts on the decks at Mombo and Zarafa the last morning at each when we skipped game drives; Birkenhead house — how they get flaky croissants in all that humidity is amazing to me
BEST MEAL OVERALL Babel and Jordan were amazing; the Greenhouse was incredibly inventive but still tasted amazing too; but Pot Luck was the overall winner – unbelievable
BEST SINGLE FOOD ITEM Cannot pick one — that milk tart and duck vindaloo at Zarafa; the fish at Babel, the Samoosas on the foodie tour and EVERYTHING at Pot Luck Club
BEST LOCATION We just loved Mombo and the deck — maybe because it was the first camp. And also Birkenhead House and those views — room was small, but so thoughtfully designed and the view!
BEST LUXURY The five best at Birkenhead House was perhaps the best massage I’ve ever had
BIGGEST (GOOD) SURPRISES That Bush Dinner at Zarafa; the Boma dinner at Mombo; the GMs at Zarafa (Willem & ) and La Residence (Andrew)
BEST TOURING De Toren wine tasting was unbelievable, especially the viticulturalist; loved getting to do the vertical tasting; the chocolate and charcuterie tastings at Spice Route were a very pleasant surprise
COOLEST EXPERIENCE Besides seeing Pula and her cub, it was a tie between the herd of elephants surrounding us in full moonlight on the night drive, followed by spotting the two male lions that had eluded us all day (Zarafa) AND being surrounded by three herds of elephants at breakfast one morning while we were out of the jeep. Crazy!
BIGGEST FOOD DISAPPOINTMENT The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais was really not good. They just tried too hard. Beautiful plating and crazy creative, but didn’t really taste good. I’m sure we just hit an off night, so that was a bummer.
BIGGEST HOTEL DISAPPOINTMENT None — they were all amazing, but one small thing was that the pools were not very inviting at either camp. I cannot imagine how hard it is to keep them clean, but with a film of dirt over the bottom of all the pools, we didn’t really want to swim. Maybe a brown pebbled finish would help disguise it and make it more inviting?
CAN’T WAIT TO RETURN Zarafa Dhow Suite with our Daughter
BEST THING OVERALL All of our guides (Moss, Reuben, Pam) and the staff at all of the hotels — unbelievably great through and through; And Amy’s help preparing us in advance of the trip — I was blown away when she sent me pictures of the charging ports — it was perfect! I shared that story with a few folks and they were majorly impressed.
FUNNIEST MOMENT – Our second night at Mombo — “Steve…roll over; stop snoring.” He wakes up. I realize it’s not him! It’s apparently a very large animal snoring under our tent. It sounded like it was right next to me! When the guides came to wake us up, they said…don’t come out alone, there are two cape buffalo under your tent. So now we know Steve snores like two Cape Buffalo 🙂 Made for a great story (for everyone but Steve) on the rest of the trip!
THE FEW MINOR THINGS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER
- The beds are Zarafa were crazy uncomfortable — really hard and the pillows were really thin.
- The towels at Mombo seemed like they had fabric softener in the them and they wouldn’t absorb much water; and the towels at Zarafa were really worn out and a bit stained.
- The bush breakfast at Zarafa was disappointing — except for the passion fruits and yogurt, things were tough or cold by the time we ate it; coffee was good
- Our first dinner at Zarafa I had a steak that was so tough I could barely cut it; but the roasted vegetable tart and the milk tart with praline crust for dessert were amazing, as were all the other meals — especiallly the Bush Dinner — see above!
- The dining room chairs at Zarafa were more for lounging around a campfire and were very unsuited to be able to have a comfortable dinner. Fortunately, we only did lunch at that table, but it was really uncomfortable.
WHAT WE WISH WE HAD BEEN BETTER PREPARED FOR
- How bumpy the safari drives are. I didn’t realize just how jostled we would get. Not that it would be different, or I would change anything; but being mentally prepared would be good
- How long we’d sometimes stay out on game drives — they tell you you’ll be back for brunch, but one day at Zarafa we were out for 7 hours — a good problem to have from a game viewing perspective, but my hunger for something beyond the bush breakfast made me a little grouchy and overly jostled being out that long. Our last day at Zarafa we finally just skipped the last game drive in the afternoon and the next morning; sunset on the deck and a fabulous morning breakfast were the best possible way to spend our time; I wish we hadn’t been so overly gung ho to go on every drive and had just enjoyed more; it was surprisingly exhausting as most days we only ended up with maybe one hour after lunch to rest before going out again — at either camp
ONLY THINGS WE WISH WE’D DONE DIFFERENTLY
- Too much gourmet dining in wine country; Jordan and Babel ROCKED. We should have planned to skip dinners and just pick up meats and cheeses for a small dinner on our balcony or in our room. We were so full for Foliage, La Residence was only ok, and The Tasting Room was such a disappointment. And there were so many great artisinal markets…same on the day tour of the Cape.
- More interactions with wine makers/viticulturalists in wine country; too many were straight tastings