Review by: Mr Murry Ford

Countries Visited:
South Africa
Holiday Type:
5 11/04/2012

Overall Impressions

We had a great time overall. Particular highlights were walking through Stellenbosch, hiking in nearby mountains. Cape Town is amazing.

Countries Visited

South Africa 5

South Africa is great. I think of it as a great introduction to the continent of Africa for westerners. We encountered potable water at each step of the trip. I think the hired car with GPS was a great idea and a highlight of the trip for us. The drive between Stellenbosch and the Karoo (where Aquila is located) is stunning. It was a particular adventure for us as Americans, having never driven right hand drive cars before. South Africa's roads are great and the road signs are explicit enough to make it easy for left-hand drive folks like Americans, Germans, French, Dutch etc. to know which lane we need to be in after a turn.

Accommodation Visited

River Manor Boutique Hotel & Spa 5

River Manor was outstanding. Justin and his staff were very attentive. They greeted us upon arrival at 11pm by name with a glass of champagne waiting. The accommodations were great. I definitely recommend Mahlatini continue booking room #5 for its guests as it is the only room with a private balcony.

Aquila Safari Lodge 4

For what it was Aquila was good... It's maybe luxurious in that other game reserves are probably a bit more "rustic" but I don't know if I would call this resort very luxurious. The game drives were fantastic and the rangers were very knowledgable. The food was a little to be desired (buffet style with food that was probably recycled between lunch and dinner). Also, our original itinerary was for 3 nights. My wife recommended that we only do 2 nights at Aquila and so we re-adjusted. This was a good move. Aquila is large land-wise, but 1 or 2 nights is really all you need here, depending on the time of day you arrive. There's an AM game drive and a PM game drive. If you go on both of those, that's pretty much it. It's a bit redundant to go on 2 PM drives or 2 AM drives. On our last night, we had to make good use of a can of Raid as we spotted a rather large spider that was the size of a Tarantula. For city slickers, we found this rather disturbing. After inspecting the cabin, we realized that you can actually see the ground outside through the floorboards. Overall, we liked with Aquila and what it stood for (environmentally friendly, supporting the residents of the neighboring township through jobs and construction contracts) but we think Mahlatini customers should understand that while the cabins are nice, they aren't truly luxurious and can be susceptible to critters.

Cape Royale 5

Cape Royale was outstanding and exceeded expectations. Very attentive staff and great accommodations.

Staff Review 5

Claire was fantastic. When I spoke to her by skype, she picked up on the fact that I am American and that we typically do not drive manual gear vehicles (some Americans do, but most probably don't). Claire suggested arranging for an automatic car which was very helpful and she also arranged for an airport transfer from Cape Town to Stellenbosch which was also helpful. It was our first time driving in a country with right-hand drive vehicles. Trying to negotiate getting from Cape Town to Stellenbosch in a right hand drive vehicle at 10pm after a 17 hours of flying would have been rather difficult for us. What I was not pleased about the service process (has nothing to do with Claire) I did want to say that we had a bit of a hiccup with paying for the honeymoon through a currency conversion issue. My bank's online payment system recommended converting the currency into GBP since the fees were lower. This inadvertently translated to higher transaction fees for Mahlatini and maybe due to a better USD conversion rate at the time, a lower payment for Mahlatini. I ended up settling with Mahlatini by paying the balance for the honeymoon as well as the increased transaction fee from Barclays. I was not happy about the transaction fee part because there was no specific notice in my invoice to those who were not from Britain that payments should be left in the home currency (and what the side-effect would be if currency was converted to GBP). Had I known this I would have either left the payment in USD or used American Express and paid the 3% (but take the rewards points).