The i-escape blog / Marta Purwin

By Marta Purwin, Bookings Consultant

Marta and her partner escaped the British winter to discover the romance of South Africa. Kicking off with the bustle of Cape Town’s colourful streets, they sandwiched in a visit to picture-perfect Camps Bay before heading into the bush for a spoiling safari in Madikwe. If you’ve never been to South Africa before, this is a perfect first-timers trip.

Stop 1: Kensington Place, Cape Town

After attending a colourful Indian wedding in Johannesburg, we took a domestic flight to Cape Town to begin our own adventure. Our first stop was Kensington Place, located in the swanky area of Higgovale, a short stroll from the hipster haven of Kloof Street. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a glass of champagne and the Reservations Manager, Hope, sat us down in the cosy lounge to discuss our holiday plans; the staff here go above and beyond to help you organise your daily activities, but I wasn’t expecting such tailored tips and expertise.

Before we knew it, they had lunch ready for us – we had a garlicky prawn and grape salad and mushroom ravioli with a burnt sage sauce – and had booked us a taxi and tickets for the Table Mountain cable car, promising us unparalleled views. As we were still a little weary from travelling, this impeccable level of organisation proved to be a much-appreciated godsend.

Aside from the convenient location, another highlight was our room. We were in a Superior Suite, with a plush kingsize bed, sleek bathroom and a powerful rainfall shower. The room also included unique and thoughtful touches like a yoga mat and weights, an emergency survival kit with rehydration tabs, aspirins and Rennies for any wine-induced pains, plus a mini bar packed with fancy snacks and champagne. Wide doors lead from our bedroom to not one but two balconies with sweeping views of Table Mountain and the sparkling hotel pool below.

This hotel gets it: people are here to unwind. That’s why breakfast is served until mid-afternoon; perfect for refueling after a sunrise hike up Lion’s Head or recovering from a wild Cape Town night out– you can even have it brought to your terrace at no extra cost. And no boring buffet here – the menu came a la carte with options ranging from healthy pressed juices and smashed avocado to the Full Kensington: eggs to order, honey cherry tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and toast. They have a light all-day menu, but with so many restaurants nearby, we chose to eat out each night. If I had to find a flaw, the wine in the bar wasn’t the best I’d tried since arriving in South Africa, but that’s splitting hairs in an otherwise outstanding stay.

Rooms from GBP 180

Stop 2: Sea Five, Camps Bay

Following a brief stint in the bustling city, our yearning for the soothing ambiance of the beach and the invigorating sea breeze led us to our next destination: Sea Five in Camps Bay, a brief 10-minute drive from Kloof Street. As our taxi whisked us away on this short journey, I caught my first glimpse of Cape Town’s stunning ocean views — a blend of turquoise and deep blue waters, a pristine white stretch of beach, and giant granite boulders all set against the majestic backdrop of the famous Twelve Apostles mountain range and Lion’s Head.

Despite its proximity to the city centre, the vibe here was completely different. Walking into Sea Five felt more like entering an exclusive beach house, airy and light with soothing palettes of white and cream, rustic linens, simple furnishings and décor that exuded a homely and non-hotel-like charm. Due to its elevated position, all we could see in the background were the contrasting blue tones of the hotel’s glistening pool and the ocean beyond, and when evening came around, the sunsets were incredible.

Cyndy, the General Manager, was the first to greet us, then a member of staff escorted us to our spacious Ocean Junior Suite, complete with a terrace and 180-degree views. They explained that we can leave our room key in the basket when venturing out so that the complimentary mini-fridge (complete with fresh biltong, mind you) can be refilled twice a day, but other than that we were largely left to our own devices. While this might not suit everyone, I was more than happy with the laid-back service which set the tone for the next couple of days.

Breakfast is the only meal on offer here. They do a cold buffet of fresh fruits, yogurts, cereals, cheeses, meats and freshly baked pastries as well as an à la carte menu of cooked breakfast staples. You can ask for a light sandwich or salad throughout the day but most guests are out and about on day trips or sampling the restaurants on the Camps Bay strip, which is just 300 metres away.

The location is spot-on, rooms and bathrooms are spacious, and the views of the coast and mountains are absolutely stunning. You are left with everything you need (including privacy) for the perfect beach stay.

Rooms from GBP 165

Stop 3: Madikwe Safari Lodge, Madikwe Reserve

Once we’d shaken the sand off, it was time to fly back to Johannesburg, pick up our hire car and drive 4 hours to our first ever African safari. We chose Madikwe Safari Lodge due to its proximity to Jo’berg, because it’s in a malaria-free zone (mozzies love me so this was essential), and because we wanted to avoid the crowds at Kruger. I’d strongly advise spending the extra few quid to hire a 4×4, even if just to manoeuvre the gravelly road from the entrance of the park to the lodge. To avoid damaging our little car, we had to go super slowly while safari jeeps sped past us, which meant this section alone took us a whole hour, but we did get to spot zebras, elephants and impalas before we’d even arrived!

We knew we were in for a treat but nothing could have prepared us for the hospitality we received when we arrived at Lelapa Lodge (the more family-oriented camp out of the three). The helpful staff took our car keys and began carrying our luggage to the suite. While we waited, we were welcomed with homemade lemonade and wet towels and they sat us down for lunch right away, at a table overlooking the watering hole and the vast bush beyond. Just what we needed after a bumpy ride. In fact, the staff made sure we ate each meal at a different spot around the lodge, which I thought was a lovely touch.

All food and alcoholic drinks are included in the rate, and there’s not much chance of going hungry here. You’re spoilt with the number and variety of meals on offer (the menu changes daily), and all of the food was outstanding – not an easy feat for a place so remote. A typical day involves tea, coffee and pastries before your game drive at sunrise (if you can eat that early!), another coffee and snack break during the drive, an a la carte breakfast when you return, a light and zesty lunch in the afternoon followed by a small pre-game-drive evening buffet, another pit-stop during the sunset drive (having an Amarula cocktail while watching the sun go down in the middle of the bush was incredible), then a three-course dinner at night. You can certainly put on some weight here!

There are two game drives per day, each three hours long. They make sure you get the same guide each time, and by the end of our stay, we felt like we knew our knowledgeable ranger, Ryan, like a dear friend. Unlike many safaris in South Africa (Kruger for example), only three vehicles are allowed in the reserve at a time, and there are just 6-8 people in each car, so you can do the maths… It felt like we had the whole park to ourselves and were able to get up close to all the incredible animals we spotted (elephants, zebras, giraffes, rhinos, kudus, cheetahs, impalas and crocodiles just to name a few).   

When not animal spotting, we swam in the pool while keeping an eye on the watering hole (directly in front), napped in the most comfortable bed, sunbathed on our terrace and kept cool in our own little plunge pool. Our Lelapa Suite came with plenty of little luxuries, including bath robes, slippers, a mini fridge FULL of wines and snacks (as if we needed any more food), as well as a yoga mat and weights. They even give you a personalised water bottle and leave you sweet messages on the blackboard each day. The only slight downside, if you are squeamish like me, is the creepy crawlies. The roofs are thatched and after rain you might find a few insects sheltering in your suite. But they are fascinating to watch, and you are in the bush after all – it’s just part of the experience! 

Suites from GBP 1158

Feel free to get in touch with us if you’d like advice or help with planning your own trip around South Africa, or enquire about our Tailormade Tours.