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Elena Theodosiou Trip Report: South Africa Sept. 2019

September 23, 2019 According to AAC's Consultants

Part 2: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

Elena’s 2nd part of the trip began with a very early-morning road transfer from La Residence to an executive hangar at Cape Town Airport. From there, Elena departed on a daily scheduled charter flight to Tswalu Kalahari Reserve.

Because this park is located in the region-encompassing Kalahari Desert, visitors should expect it to be cold during mornings and at night from April to October.

Tswalu is accessible via scheduled charter flights from both Johannesburg and Cape Town

If you have a yearning to go somewhere new that’s uncrowded with tourists and gives you exceptional opportunities to view uncommon animal species (e.g. pangolin, Hartman’s mountain zebra, wild dog, aardvark, meerkat, etc.). No wonder AAC considers it to be a hidden gem!

The Motse – where Elena stayed for her stay’s duration – is also a gem of an accommodation. Containing 6 single-bedroom, 3 two-bedroom, and the 5 exclusive-use suites at Tarkuni Homestead, it’s the only accommodation in the entire reserve. Click the link below to read more about The Motse:

Part 2: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve – Day 1

The Motse

Left: view from the veranda; Right: the Malori sleep-out

Elena arrived at The Motse in time for a quick lunch and a siesta before departing on her first game drive. She really enjoyed the how much outdoor space she had to relax and take in nature.

Elena spotted two, friendly giraffes!

A mother cheetah and her cubs chowing down on a successful hunt!

Not a cloud in the sky for Elena’s first sunset!

An eventful first game-drive it was! Elena saw a variety of plains game, including oryx and giraffe, along with the first of her two highlights: a momma cheetah eating a kill with her adorable cubs!

Elena’s Close Encounter with a Pangolin at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

But the drive only got better. Instead of heading directly back to camp for dinner, Elena and her guide were in hot pursuit of some nocturnal critters. What they found was amazing: a ground pangolin out in the open! The video above shows how excited Elena was – she and her guide hopped right out of the vehicle to capture the moment!

In case you don’t know, pangolins are some of the world’s most endangered species. Their status is primarily attributed to extensive poaching – pangolin scales are prized for their supposed medicinal qualities. Fortunately, recent years have seen multiple efforts for the protection and conservation of pangolins throughout southern and eastern Africa. It just so happens that Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is one of the best places on the entire continent to see these elusive, one-of-a-kind animals.

Part 2: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve – Day 2

Some of Tswalu’s resident Wild Dogs

After a quick breakfast in the brisk early-morning, Elena set off for her first morning game drive at Tswalu. The guide suggested looking for Wild Dogs – Tswalu is home to a boma that helps Wild Dogs transition to permanent wild habitation.

Before you know, the guide got word that a pack was in hot pursuit of an oryx. It was a valiant struggle, but the wild dog pack’s cunning coordination and agility were too much for the oryx. Elena’s guide was able to expertly track the wild dogs and follow them throughout the entire duration of the hunt – Elena got front row seats!

The habituated meerkat populations at Tswalu are very approachable!

Afterwards, Elena’s guide got word that the meerkats were out and about beginning the day’s foraging. Though a little lethargic because of the cold, they were still very receptive to Elena approaching them close-up. So cute!

The dinner spread at the Malori sleep oute

Like pangolins, aardvarks are primarily nocturnal, burrow underground, and Tswalu is one of the best places in Africa to see them!

After returning to camp for lunch and siesta, Elena went out for another game-drive. After spending more time with the meerkats, her guide spotted an aardvark! They were able to follow it for a little while – how special to see pangolin one day and an aardvark the next!

After dinner, Elena decided to try the Malori sleep-out. For star-watchers, this is a treat – don’t worry, you’ll be provisioned with blankets!

Part 2: Tswalu Kalahari Reserve – Day 3

The “predator side” of the Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is ripe with opportunities to see lions

For Elena’s final day of game drives, her guide decided to take her to the “predator side” of the reserve. It didn’t take long for them to track down several big, black-maned lion and lionesses – two of them mating.

So nice of these white rhinos to wish Elena goodbye!

For Elena’s afternoon game drive (the final one of her trip), she got to spend some quality time with 3 white rhinos.

One option for dinner at The Motse is to eat “dinner on a dune” outside of camp

But instead, of returning to camp, Elena was treated to “dinner on a dune.”

If you think you’d enjoy visting Tswalu and The Motse as much as Elena did, click the link below to access our Diamond Skies Itinerary:

Part 2: Cape Town

Elena while on her Side-Car Tour of Cape Town during the second day of her journey

Join Elena Theodosiou, one of AAC’s Senior Safari Consultants, as he she begins Part 1 of her two-part journey to South Africa. Part 1 entails 4 nights in Cape Town – 2 nights at the Cape Grace, 1 night at the One&Only, and 1 night at La Residence. Stay tuned for Part 2: Elena will spend 4 nights at Tswalu Motse Lodge at Twsalu Kalahari Reserve!

Part 1: Cape Town Day 1

Elena Theodosiou with her sister and Ryan Lawrence – their Capetonian culinary guide

Elena, who is AAC’s undisputed foodie and expert all things culinary, began her South African journey with a culinary walking tour form Cape Fusion. Her guide, Ryan Lawrence, was equal parts culinary and historical expert of Cape Town.

Left: Elena at Wardia’s; Right: waiting for coffee and artisanal pastries from Jason Bakery

Elena’s first stop was at Jason Bakery, an artisanal pastry and coffee shop. Elena was a big fan of the bacon croissants and the pasteis de nata. They then drove to the BoKaap neighborhood. After walking through the famous, technicolor homes, they arrived at Wardia’s – a samosa stall in operation for over 30 years!

Left and Middle: Honest Chocolate; Right: Elena at her impromptu gin-tasting

The next two stops were Honest Chocolate and a gin-tasting. The latter was completely improvised – and was an absolute delight, not only for the gin, but for the creative food pairings as well! Elena considered Honest Chocolate a gem – not only for its regular and vegan chocolate tastings, but it’s chilled ambiance.

Left and Middle: Haas restaurant interior, the bunny chow dish; Right: Truth Coffee

The last two destinations on the Cape Fusion tour were Haas and Truth Coffee. Haas is known for its bunny chows, delicious Malay-inspired dishes! Elena had high expectations for Truth Coffee – to say the least, her expectations were met! The cool steampunk decor was an excellent setting to try their truly outstanding coffee, offering both traditional choices like iced coffee, or unconventional choices, like an Orange Sunrise – a blend of espresso and orange juice.

The Cape Grace Hotel

After parting ways with Ryan, Elena called it a night. Not only was she to have a busy day ahead, but she wanted to make sure she had a chance to enjoy her stay at the Cape Grace Hotel, a venerable Capetonian institution through and through.

Part 1: Cape Town Day 2

Aerial views of Cape Town taken aboard Elena’s helicopter ride

Elena’s second day was coordinated by Lucija, her fabulous guide. The day began with a helicopter flight over Cape Town. Elena captured some fantastic photos of the Capetonian cityscape and landscape during her flight!

Left: Elena and her sister enjoying the Cape View Clifton’s superb views; Right: the hotel’s exterior

Lunch at Hemelhuis

After the helicopter ride, Elena went to Hemelhuis for lunch for impeccably delectable and presented food! Elena then went for a site inspection of the Cape View Clifton hotel. The views are just as stunning as the property itself!

Photos from Elena’s side-car tour

Lastly, the highlight of Elena’s day was her side-car ride. For anyone who wants to experience the city Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula or the Winelands in a novel way, she would highly recommend it! Their ride went along the Atlantic coast, ending at their hotel, the Cape Grace. She then transferred to her next hotel: the One&Only Cape Town.

Part 1 – Cape Town Day 3

Elena with her guide Samson at Hout Bay

Elena began her 3rd day with a site inspection of the One&Only Cape Town. For those who want to be in the thick of Cape Town’s bustling nightlife scene, this is the place for you!

The One&Only Cape Town, located at the V&A Waterfront

She then embarked on a scenic drive along Hout’s Bay, en route to Chapman’s Peak. Though Elena has driven up that route before, she described it “as incredible – doesn’t matter how many times one does it!” Before heading to the Kirstenbosch Gardens, she made a brief stop in Kalk Bay for lunch. She enjoyed its ‘hippie vibe’ and watching the fisherman offload the day’s catch to be immediately chopped up and served at the restaurants.

Left: entrance to Kirstenbosch Gardens; Right: Elena while walking the “Boom Slang” Sky Walk

Elena loved her time at Kirstenbosch – from seeing the strelitizia named after Nelson Mandela, the “Boom Slang” Sky Walk, and numerous examples of desert-adapted plants. She especially though a visit to the gardens would be perfect for families: parents can enjoy the unique fauna, while children can run around freely.

Botanical specimens from Kirstenbosch Gardens

Scenes from the Kirstenbosch Gardens, including the Sculpture Garden

Part 1: Cape Town Day 4

The Cape Winelands

Day 4 would be all about the Winelands. The first stop for Elena and her guide Andrew was the Dylan Lewis sculpture garden – she left completely wowed!

Elena, with her guide Andrew, walking around the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden

Next, Elena went to Stellenbosch. She enjoyed walking along its picturesque streets. When she commented on the absence of people, Andrew informed her that everyone was in the coffee shops watching South Africa play New Zealand in rugby!

Lunch at Babel

Afterwards, Elena proceeded to eat lunch at Babel. This hotel-restaurant is well-renowned for it superb food – it was not disappointing! Besides noticing that most of the food used in the meals is locally sourced, she thought the service was outstanding.

Delaire Graff Estate

La Cles de la Montagnes

During the afternoon, Elena conducted site inspections at Delaire Graff and La Cles de la Montagnes. She thought they were both spectacular properties. For art aficionados and fans of Asian food, she highly recommends Delaire Graff and its Indochine restaurant.For large family groups, she also took note that La Cles de la Montagnes has 3 and 4-bedroom cottages.

La Residence

Finally, Elena’s day came to a close upon her arrival at La Residence. Elena describes it “6-star luxury.” Yet, she also noted that it has an understated, minimalist quality that evokes the simple beauty of Provencal villas in southern France. She particularly noted the flexibility and quality of the dining experience: if a guest does not want to eat anything on the menu, they can make a specific request for the chef, prepared and served at the Great Hall like everyone else.

Stat tuned for Part 2, when Elena heads off to the awesome game-viewing area of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve!