Review by: Denis & Clare Casey

Overall Impressions

I have to say that the accommodation arranged, everyone we met at each location, the food and wine were all top notch but I think we all particularly enjoyed The Kurland and got on very well with Diana and the team. Horse-riding and quad bikes around the estate were great fun, especially for the kids. We went to the elephant sanctuary and all walked and fed the elephants and the kids rode them. A big highlight for myself, Emma and Matthew was when we went canyoning and climbing/abseiling. Shamwari was a great way to finish off. We were so lucky with our ranger, Sipho, and got on great. We saw everything except the leopard (no surprise!) and did the conservation centre and born free foundation. By the time we'd got to Shamwari summer had come early and it was 33/34 degrees. On leaving I think it's fair to say there were a few tears shed by some of the Casey family when saying goodbye to Sipho!

Countries Visited

South Africa

We had last been to South Africa in 2001 and, with our children at an age to fully appreciate and remember the experience (9 & 11), wanted to arrange a special introduction to the wonders of Africa, the people, scenery and of course the wildlife. We used Mahlatini and were delighted with the level of service, insights and itinerary that was put together for us by Nikki to make it truly a five star experience. Over sixteen magical days we were able to pack so much in and everyone is already talking when can we go back! Everything went without a hitch and accommodation arranged by Nikki was truly spectacular and perfect for our needs. While we squeezed a lot in and covered a lot of ground, the spirit of adventure meant that nobody ever flagged and travelling from location to location meant the kids could always grab some naps along the way.

Accommodation Visited

One & Only Cape Town

Cape Town highlights included our hotel (special shout out to Primrose who made the children feel so welcome), the buzz of the city and a helicopter tour of the Cape which was arranged as a surprise for the kids and really had the wow factor. It was amazing to see the city bowl, Table Mountain, Twelve Apostles and down to the Cape and back over the wine area and Newlands. Kirtensbosch Gardens, down to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope and obligatory trip to Simonâ??s Town and penguins in Boulders Beach were ticked off as well. While we took the cable car up Table Mountain rather than hike one of the gorges (it was different 15 years ago!) we also hiked Lions Head with equally amazing views and were even lucky enough to grab a Currie Cup match in Newlands.

Grootbos Garden Lodge

Leaving Cape Town we moved down the coast, stopping off via Hermanus before arriving in the Grootbos Nature Reserve, staying in the Garden Lodge. While we had planned shark cage diving during our two days here, we ran into the only bad weather of the trip and the seas were too rough to get out on either day. To be honest though it was quickly forgotten as we hunkered down, ate and drank well and got out with our great guide Caylin, exploring the Milkwood forest, taking the 4X4 around to showcase the incredible flora on which Grootbos has made its name. Horse riding and a tour of the Klipgat cave near De Kelders, timing our run in between the waves, was a journey back in time to the Khoikhoi people that Caylin grabbed all our attention with.

Rosenhof Country House

Onto the former ostrich capital of the world, Oudsthoorn, and further great scenery on the roads that were so easy to travel on throughout the trip. The Rosenhof was charming and a highlight were the evening meals and wines, and again the attention the children got. It was amazing to see snow on the mountains and while we didn't have time to get to the Swartberg Pass it would be one to try and fit in another time. Cango Caves and the adventure tour was a real highlight, 200 odd metres underground and squeezing through the Devil's chimney, letterbox and coffin - not one for the claustrophobic!

Kurland Hotel

As mentioned the accommodation arranged and everyone we met throughout the trip were all faultless but I think we particularly enjoyed The Kurland outside Plettenburg Bay, getting on very well with Diana and all the team. Horseriding and quad bikes around the estate were great fun, especially for the kids who got a taste for speed on the quad bikes that had to be tempered a bit!! The nearby elephant sanctuary was a highlight, as was the canyoning and climbing/abseiling we did locally with www.africanyon.com and www.afriabseil.com. Special shout again to Sevo and Sims for the fun and great photos from the canyoning and climbing/abseiling.

Riverdene Family Lodge
Shamwari Private Game Reserve

And to top it all, finally to Shamwari and what a way to finish off. We were so lucky with our ranger, Sipho, and were all fascinated by his knowledge, warmth and stories. The conservation centre and Born Free foundation gave further insights and it's great to see the level of investment Shamwari had made in the face of the rhino poaching challenge. We saw everything except the leopard (surprise!) and Summer had also come early with temperatures rising to 33/34 degrees. On leaving I think it's fair to see there were a few tears shed by some of the Casey family when saying goodbye to Sipho.

Staff Review

We all had a superb holiday and it was a special trip and introduction to Africa for the kids. We must all thank Nikki for putting together a great itinerary and Mahlatini comes highly recommended by us. Thanks for everything again and next time in Africa we'll definitely be back to you again.