My time amongst the wildlife and wonders of South Africa was nothing short of inspirational. With so much to see and do, it's a destination I could return to time and time again...
Our first stop in South Africa was the 'Mother City' of Cape Town. We split our stay between two properties; the chic One&Only Cape Town, which is set in the heart of the bustling Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, and The Silo Hotel, which has the amazing Zeitz MOCAA museum located directly below. This thriving city has an overwhelming number of things to do and see, so we wanted to make sure we saw as much as possible. We decided to use the hop-on/hop-off bus service to explore, which is perfect for those wishing to take everything in at their own pace. We stopped to wander around lots of places, but my personal favourite was Camps Bay - we spent the afternoon exploring the waterfront district, where a long road full of restaurants, cafes and cocktail bars was overflowing with locals and tourists enjoying the freshest seafood and the finest South African wines.
Camps Bay, Cape Town
One&Only Cape Town
Granary Cafe at The Silo Hotel
Once we'd explored on foot, we decided to take in the city from a different point of view with a 15-minute helicopter flight. Our expert pilot effortlessly guided us over the famous waterfront and around Clifton Bay and Camps Bay while we enjoyed truly breathtaking vistas - we were lucky it was a beautifully clear day. At certain times of the year, you can even spot whales in the water from this birds-eye point-of-view! To round off our time in Cape Town, we decided to visit the top of Table Mountain, the city's most iconic landmark. We couldn't have picked a better time than at sunset, when the sky transforms into a striking canvas of rich reds, pinks and oranges. We sipped chilled Champagne as the sun slowly disappeared and watched as Cape Town changed into a twinkling cityscape before our eyes.
From Cape Town, we travelled to the beating heart of the South Africa to experience the wildlife and natural beauty of Sabi Sands Game Reserve. From the moment we arrived at Lion Sand Ivory Lodge, I knew it would have a huge impact on me. We were served a steaming hot chocolate and greeted by the friendliest team; we felt at home straight away. The design of the lodge is simply spectacular, with a contemporary glass front in each of the eight villas for a full view of the surroundings. The 5am wake-up call was something we surprisingly looked forward to! We often woke up to see animals grazing, including impala, waterbuck and bushbuck, before our butler Roderick would slide our selected smoothie of the day and a freshly baked treat into our villa's serving hatch, which was always delicious - as was all of the food we ate! I had a mouthwatering Caesar salad for lunch, and we even enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast on our villa's deck one morning, listening to the sound of the bush slowly coming alive.
Villa at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
Elephants in Sabi Sand
Villa Private Deck at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge
Most memorably, we were lucky enough to witness wildlife encounters that will stay with me forever. On our first game drive, our guide led us within inches of two leopards mating, an extremely rare sight as leopards as solitary animals and only come together to mate, or when the mother gives birth. We regularly spotted the thriving rhino and elephant populations close to the lodge too, while we also ventured into the bush on a walking tour to search for hippos, as you can't get too close to these animals in a vehicle, and we were lucky to spot a huge pod happily basking in the river.
For the final part of our incredible experience in South Africa, we headed to the northern part Sabi Sands, staying at the contemporary Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve. Set on very different terrain to Lion Sands Ivory Lodge, this ultra-luxurious property has three, exclusive-use Bushveld Houses, which are beautifully decorated in a modern, yet African-inspired design. There was lots of space - both private and shared - to enjoy when we weren't out on safari, including a stunning heated swimming pool surrounded by super-comfy loungers and gym for those who have some extra energy to burn.
Pool at Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve
Elephants in Sabi Sand
Safari Jeep at Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve
On our first game drive from the property, we witnessed a female leopard with a kill in a tree surrounded by hyena below - like vultures waiting for the carcass to drop! We returned to the spot after sundown and witnessed the same leopard on the highest branch possible. Our guide shone the vehicle's lights on the ground and revealed a huge lion pride on the ground below - the main female had stolen the leopards kill out the tree and she was feeding her pride. Our guide informed us that the lions would have killed the leopard for territory purposes if they'd seen her, which is why she was hidden amongst the foliage. We watched the movie-worthy scene of the lion fighting over the tiny impala carcass for a while, mesmerised by the fascinating insight into the wildlife world. On our final morning's bush drive, we spent almost an hour in our vehicle, side-by-side with another pride of majestic lions as they rose from them slumber in search of food and water. I can truly say these are memories I'll never forget, watching these amazing beasts in their natural habitat and witnessing their way of life is something everyone should take at least one opportunity to experience.