The Last Word Hotel, Franschhoek and the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
Standing on Olifants Bay, a remote beach on the south west tip of the African continent, we were thrilled to see two ostriches strut by, just a few yards away. I’d spent most of the day telling my husband, Jim, how these huge birds run wild on the Cape, but was beginning to doubt my own word.
It was a fabulous sight.
And it was one of so many fabulous sights during our stay on the Cape.
The first was actually our hotel. It’s called The Last Word – there are three of them in the Western Cape – and they really are the definition of a luxury boutique hotel.
We started on Long Beach (the name says it all) and our suite was magnificent. There was a real wow factor as we walked in and saw the huge glass doors folded all the way back so that you look straight out onto the blue ocean and feel you are practically on the sandy beach; the smell and sounds of the sea pervade the room, and the large, well-furnished private terrace overlooks a small swimming pool.
It was stunning.
On the other side of the bay, the dramatic Chapman’s Peak and its surrounding mountains look soft in the sea haze created from the cold Atlantic waters meeting the hot African sun.
The hotel was once a private house and there are just six bedrooms, all with the same cream and soft dove grey decor that oozes peace and calm.
The open bar, stocked with fine wines and spirits was an ever- present danger. And we quickly discovered that South African wines are excellent these days.
Every evening, as we watched the sun go down, glass in hand, we were treated to a royal fly-past by parades of squawking Sacred Ibis.
Jim had never been to this part of the world before, and the last time I was here was with the Queen in 1995 when I was reporting for the BBC.
But the years had blurred my memory of the sheer beauty and vastness of South Africa. We marvelled at the landscapes as we drove around the Cape in our hired 4×4. The mountain passes, across Chapman’s Peak for example, are breath-taking. And the constant possibility of a baboon crossing your path – as they did from time to time – was an added thrill.
After three blissful days at Long Beach, we headed to the wine country in the Franschhoek Valley. And suddenly in was Autumn in April. Not that the sun was any less searing, but the beautiful burnished colours of the vineyards and trees gave away the true season. And the mountains all around us made us feel we were in a Wild West movie.
We were spoiled for choice when it came to wine tasting; vineyards tempt you every few hundred yards as you approach Franschhoek. We stopped at Rickety Barn Winery (the name drew me in!) and spent a wonderful lunchtime sampling five wines and nibbling on a cheese and meat platter. Jim was particularly impressed by a fine Cabernet Sauvignon, and bought some to take home.
When we arrived at The Last Word at Franschhoek, it felt like home. The same soft decor welcomed us into a spacious suite. And it proved to be equally indulgent. When we arrived back after a delicious dinner at Le Quartier Francais — one of many restaurants to choose from in the town — our suite was romantically illuminated by a dozen or so candles, there was champagne on ice awaiting us, along with two tiny teacups of exquisite creme brulee. We felt properly spoilt!
The final part of our trip was a real adventure. A three hour road trip took us to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo region. Read my review.
This is a semi-desert reserve, the size of Singapore, where the big five roam free, but are not always easy to spot, unlike in some of the smaller but zoo-like game parks.
We loved the thrill of the chase, bouncing over the rough terrain in our ranger’s big, open-sided truck. The game drives can take more than three hours and some are more rewarding than others, but there are always wonderful surprises: a giraffe wandering along a track; a pale chanting goshawk perched on a post or the huge paw print of a white lion in the sand.
On our second evening drive we had a bonanza: rhinos and elephants foraging in a thicket, giraffes taking a sunset stroll and best of all, a female cheetah enjoying her Springbok kill. Guarded by our ranger, Chris, rifle in hand, we were able to approach the cheetah on foot and get so close we could almost smell her.
It was magical.
This was a five-star safari, with food and accommodation to match. We had a vast suite at Tilney Manor, in the middle of the bush. Settling into the silky, white sheets after a day in the heat and dust of Africa was delicious.
We were sad to leave Sanbona, but our time was up.
We had just one last treat in store: a brief visit to the third The Last Word, this one in Constantia. It was, once again, the last word in luxury, carefully perfected by our softly spoken host, Tess, who exuded the same tranquillity as our surroundings.
We ended our African adventure as we had begun: feeling cosseted, pampered and very lucky.
For more information, visit Africa Sky Safari.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Africa Sky.
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Jennie Bond visits Sanbona Wildlife Reserve with Tropical Sky