Wedding in Edinburgh


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Review of Leeuwenbosch, Amakhala - Eastern Cape Private Game Reserve

Here's a quick review and some photos of Leeuwenbosch, which is in the Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

We stayed in Shearer's Lodge, which is a former sheep shearing building and an alternative to staying in the main house at Leeuwenbosch. Our room was very spacious with a large bedroom area and a living room area with chairs, a table and a sofa.

Our room at Shearer's Lodge
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The bathroom was pretty big with a nice bathtub and a separate walk in shower.

Our bathroom at Shearer's Lodge

Check in time is 2pm, but we arrived early around 11am and they were happy for us to sit on the verandah with a drink and our room was clean and ready for us before 2pm.
We picked the all inclusive option which includes all your food (and lots of it), drinks (including wine, beer and spirits) and two game activities per day. Current rates in the high season are R2180 a night per person, but check the website for the latest prices.

Food is in a very nice communal dining room and includes cereals, fruit, yoghurt, juice and a cooked breakfast at 10am, a cooked lunch (e.g. rice and a hot dish) at 2pm, then a three course dinner followed by cheese and tea and coffee at around 8pm. There are also snacks and drinks on all the game drives. Both of us enjoyed all the food, especially dinner. Here's a piccie of me outside the building where the dining room is.

Me outside the dining room building at Leeuwenbosch

The grounds in Leeuwenbosch are very pleasant - lots of nicely manicured lawns and flowers. It's very peaceful and there is a small swimming pool with sun loungers:

Swimming Pool at Leeuwenbosch
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The staff at Leeuwenbosch are great - very friendly and welcoming and excellent highly knowledgeable rangers for our game drives. I would definitely recommend this place to a friend.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Safari at Amakhala (Nov 3rd)

Today we got up at the horrendous hour of 5.30am for our 8.10am flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. We had decided when planning the honeymoon that driving all the way to Port Elizabeth and back again would be too much for a 2 week holiday so we are flying one way, then hiring a car and driving back to Cape Town.

Our flight was with South African airways and took around 55 minutes to get to Port Elizabeth. We picked up our hire car from Sixt and Stuart was disappointed to find that it was an automatic car as he likes to whizz round corners, changing gear as he goes.

We drove the sixty something kilometres to Amakhala private game reserve (just across the road from Shamwari game reserve) to Leeuenbosch where we are staying for the next 2 nights. At the time of booking the rate was R2180 per person, per trip - the most expensive part of our honeymoon by far, but the rate includes all meals, drinks and two game drives per day.

Checkin time was 2pm, but we arrived at 11am and received a warm welcome and after signing a disclaimer which basically said that we wouldn't sue Amakhala if we were injured or maimed by wild animals, we had a relaxing drink on the verandah and enjoyed the view:

View from the verandah at Shearer's Lodge

While at Amakhala our itinerary will be as follows:

  • 6am - Wakeup call
  • 6.30am - Coffee then set of on our first game drive
  • 10am - Breakfast
  • 2pm - Lunch
  • 3pm - Second game drive
  • 6.30pm - return from game drive
  • 7.30pm - Bar opens
  • 8pm - Dinner

Sounds like a busy day, but at least we will have a few hours after our morning drive to relax after the hustle and bustle of Cape Town.

We spent an hour or so lazing by the pool reading, then had lunch and set off on our first game drive:

Our Safari Vehicle
The weather started off lovely with blue sky and sunshine and almost straight away we saw some zebra and giraffes.

Zebra and Giraffe
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It was amazing to see the giraffes so close to us!

Giraffe at Amakhala
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After a while it became extremely cold and we were glad for our extra layers of clothing and the rugs and ponchos in the truck. Our ranger Matt, from Arizona was excellent and very knowledgeable about the animals and the plants. We saw lots of zebra, giraffes, springbok, rhino, wildebeest, ostrich, as well as many different kinds of birds and some insects including scorpions and spiders.

Zebra at Amakhala
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The drive was very enjoyable apart from the last hour where it absolutely pissed down with rain and I was very glad for the unsexy ponchos at that point.
In the evening we had drinks in the bar with "Uncle Bill" and "Aunt Rose", the owners of Leeuwenbosch. Uncle Bill is certainly quite a character with lots of stories to tell.
We had Ostrich for our main course at dinner, which I had never tried before and it was actally very tasty. I expected it to taste like chicken, but it was more like a very tender beef.
After dinner we had a couple of G&Ts in the bar while listening to stories from Uncle Bill, then it was in bed by 11pm in preparation for our 6am start tomorrow - so much for a relaxing honeymoon!

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cape Town & Robben Island (Nov 2nd)

If you want to visit Robben Island it is advisable to book your tickets a few days in advance if you can. You can either book by phone or in person at the ticket office on the V&A waterfront. We booked our tickets on Wednesday morning and the first available slot for us was Friday at 5pm. The 5pm tour is the last of the day and will get you back at the V&A Waterfront for around 8.30pm. Given the choice I would recommend taking an earlier tour unless you are there in the hotter months of the summer. November is late spring in South Africa and it gets dark around 7.30pm. It's also very chilly on Robben Island at that time in the evening. Whatever time you go take some warm clothes with you!

This morning we walked down to the V&A Waterfront again, had a wander around, a coffee and took the Cape Town hop on hop off sightseeing bus (R100 for 1 day, R180 for 2 days). The bus tour was very enjoyable and is a good way to get an overall view of the city and its history.

Photo from Cape Town bus tour

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The bus stops at the V&A Waterfront, Aquarium, various stops downtown including the District Six museum and the Jewish museum, Table Mountain Cable car, Camp's Bay and various other stops. We would have liked to stop at a few places, including the District Six museum, but we were a bit tight for time so just sat on the top deck of the bus for the full journey, listening to the commentary, enjoying the view and taking photos.

View of Camp's Bay, Cape Town
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We got off the bus at Sea Point, quite near to our guesthouse, had a late lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant then had an hour of relaxation before going back down to the Waterfront for our Robben Island tour.

Robben Island
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Robben Island was very interesting and is definitely well worth a visit for anyone going to Cape Town. The island is most famous for its maximum security prison which housed prisoners during the apartheid years, including Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned here for 18 of his 27 years in prison. Robben Island was also a leprosy colony between 1846 and 1941 and a milatary training facility during the second world war. It has been a museum since 1997.

The trip over to the Island, which is 12km away, takes around 30 minutes by catamaran. We were originally sitting downstairs and made the mistake of deciding to go on the top deck for some views. The views of Cape town were great, but it was so choppy and rough that we couldn't easily get back down the stairs again and spent most of the rest of the journey holding on to the railings for dear life.

Once on the island the first part of the tour was a bus tour around the island, showing us the different blocks of the prison, the wildlife (lots of penguins) and some views of the city. This part of the tour lasted around half an hour,

View of Cape Town from Robben Island
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The next part of the tour was the most interesting and was with an ex prisoner. We sat in one of the communal cells, with a few bunk beds at one end and listened to his stories of his time there as a political prisoner. The small cell that we were in originally housed up to 50 prisoners at a time and had only a couple of toilets and showers. After this we moved to a different prisoner block and saw the original prison cell of Nelson Mandela. In his time in prison the leaders were kept in a separate block from everyone else to prevent them influencing everyone else, but they managed to get round this by stuffing tennis balls with messages and "mistakenly" hitting them over to the other section during recreation time. This part of the tour lasted around an hour and we were given lots of opportunity to ask questions before taking the boat back to the mainland.

View of Cape Town from Robben Island
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In the evening we had dinner at a Belgian restuarant at the waterfront, which we had wisely booked this time, then it was back to the guesthouse to try and get a good night's sleep before getting up at 5,30am for our flight to Port Elizabeth.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cape Peninsula (Nov 1st)

Today we hired a car from the guesthouse (R450) and took a drive down Cape Peninsula down to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. The drive was lovely and although it was very cloudy when we started our journey, the cloud burned off and we enjoyed the scenery and the views. Our first stop was at Boulder Beach to see the penguins.

Penguins on Boulder Beach, Western Cape, South Africa
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It was great to see all the penguins just wandering about the beach in their natural habitat. There were wooden walkways leading down to the beach and some of the penguins were gathering really close to the walkway, allowing me to get a few great close uo shots.

Friendly Penguin on Boulder Beach, Western Cape, South Africa
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After saying hello to all the penguins we continued our drive down towards the Cape of Good Hope, which is the most South Westerly point of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The drive through the national park was fantastic and we saw ostriches and baboons just wandering around.

Monkeys at Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa
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Monkeys at Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa
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We took a walk up the cliff at the Cape of Good Hope for some views of the sea and Cape Point.

And Stuart posing by the most south westerly tip of Africa sign.

Monkeys at Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa
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Next we drove round to Cape Point which was very busy with tour buses and lots of cars. There is a funicular railway here to take you to the top of the cliff, but we decided to do the healthy thing and walked to the top. Unfortunately the cloud had come in by this point so when we arrived at the lighthouse right at the top we were completely surrounded by clouds and couldn't see a thing.

We had a sandwich for lunch from the food shop at Cape Point. There is also a restuarant there with great views, but it was a bit busy with all the tour bus parties.

Monkeys at Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa
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The cloud cleared again on our drive back up the peninsula and we stopped in Simonstown for a wander around and then in Constantia, the wine area, where we did a quick bit of wine tasting.

The scenery around the Constantia area was also lovely with lots of rolling hills, vineyards and flowers.

Monkeys at Cape Peninsula, Western Cape, South Africa
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In the evening we had a South African cooking evening in Blackheath Lodge. Sophia Lindop, a South African chef came to the lodge and cooked us a fantastic three course dinner. A lovely starter of mackerel and avacado, followed by a main course of trio of beef, kudo and springbok with a very nice potato gratin and veggies, followed by some tasty little lemon pots. I had never tried Kudo or Springbok before, but the meal was very enjoyable and Sophia entertained us with her stories and explaied a bit about her background and how everything was cooked. The meal was washed down by lots of wine and we had a great laugh.

Here's a photo of Sophia (left) and her assistant. Sophia has an award winning food blog.

Sophia Lindop, South Africa


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cape Town - Table Mountain (Oct 31st)

We got up bright and early today, around 8am, although I could have easily slept until noon! At breakfast we met Antony who is one of the owners of Blackheath Lodge and he was very helpful, giving us loads of suggestions for things to do during our stay. After breakfast we took a walk from the guesthouse to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, via the coastal path, which took around half an hour. It was lovely to finally be somewhere warm, with blue skies and sunshine after all the rain we had in Edinburgh this summer.

The V&A Waterfront was very pleasant - lots of shops, cafes and restuarants and great views of Table Mountain.

View of Table Mountain from V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
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We had a wander round the shops, a drink in a cafe overlooking the water followed by a seafood lunch in one of the restaurants. Since it was a beautiful clear day we decided to take advantage of the fine weather and took a trip to Table Mountain.
We took a taxi, which was quite amusing as throughout the whole journey the taxi driver spoke only to Stuart, never to me, always calling him "Sir". He asked if we were married and when Stuart told him we were, he told him that Wife was an acronym standing for "Washing", "Ironing", "Feeding" and "Etc". Nice! We decided to take a detour and went for a quick drive up the mountain next to Table Mountain (I forget the name). We had some great views, took a few photos and then headed for the Cable Car at Table Mountain.

View of Table Mountain, Cape Town
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It was around 3pm and there wasn't a big queue for the cable car. We got tickets (R130 return per adult) and were up at the top of Table Mountain within the following 10 minutes. The ride up to the top was very enjoyable (although not for Stuart as he hates Cable Cars!) and the floor rotated round so that everyone had a 360 degree view while going up to the summit of Table Mountain, over 1000 metres high.
Scary view from the Cable Car:

View from Cable Car going up Table Mountain, Cape Town
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The views from the top were absolutely amazing. It was a clear day so we could see for miles in all directions, over Cape Town and down towards Cape Point from various view points.

View from Table Mountain, Cape Town
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View from Table Mountain, Cape Town
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There were also lots of unusual birds and lizards roaming about at the top of Table Mountain. We spent an hour or so just wandering round, mainly on the wooden walkways, savouring the views from different directions.

Here's a photo of Stuart at the top:

View from Table Mountain, Cape Town
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And a view of Camp's Bay:

View of Camp's Bay from Table Mountain, Cape Town
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After our walk we enjoyed a cold beer from the self service cafe and then took the Cable Car back down.

Not for those afraid of heights:

View from Table Mountain, Cape Town
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We took a taxi back to Blackheath Lodge and luckily Stuart had a map and knew roughly wheree we were going as the taxi driver got lost - quite a common thing in Cape Town it seems, so it makes sense to be armed with a map and an understanding of where you are staying (if you're not in one of the big central hotels).
In the evening we went back to the V&A Waterfront for dinner. Unfortunately it was really busy (8pm on a Wednesday night) and we didn't have a reservation so we spent quite a while wandering round trying to find a place we liked the look of that wasn't fully booked. We ended up in a Portuguese restuarant, which wouldn't have been my normal choice but it turned out to be lovely. I had some bread and chorizo, followed by a very tasty king prawn Goan curry. Stuart ordered Chorizo in red wine sauce for a starter, which was absolutely massive followed by tuna skewers with enough tuna to feed a family of four!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Review of Blackheath Lodge Cape Town

Blackheath Lodge is a lovely guesthouse situated on Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard, just under Signal Hill. It's a beautiful Victorian house which has been lovingly restored by the owners Antony and John. There are around 10 rooms in the guesthouse, a nice living room area, pretty garden area with a small heated swimming pool and a verandah overlooking the pool for breakfast or drinks.

Swimming Pool, Blackheath Lodge, Cape Town

Our room was in the attic and very spacious with a big king bed, good sized bathroom with a shower, lots of cupboard and drawer space, air conditioning and a reasonably priced mini bar/honesty bar.

Here are a couple of photos of our room:

Our room in Blackheath Lodge Cape Town

Our room in Blackheath Lodge Cape Town

The view from the shower in the morning:

View from the shower in Blackheath Lodge, Cape Town

Blackheath Lodge is in a nice quiet residential area and it is a pleasant 30 minute walk to the V&A Waterfront or around a R25-30 taxi fare.

The owners were extremely friendly, welcoming and helpful and Antony made it his business in the morning to help all the guests plan their day, make bookings for people and suggest itineraries. The other staff were also very good and Jean-Claude the security guy was very pleasant.

Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, fresh baking (yummy cinnamon croissants), toast, muesli, coffee, tea, juice and smoothies.

Over all we had a fantastic stay here and I highly recommend it for anyone staying in Cape Town.

You can read more reviews of Blackheath Lodge on TripAdvisor.

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From Edinburgh to Cape Town (Oct 30th)

Today Stuart and I struggled out of bed at 3.30am for our 5.50am flight to Amsterdam with KLM. We needn't have bothered getting up so early - when we arrived ast Edinburgh airport the place was dead. We were originally planning to try and wangle ourselves an upgrade but the woman at the checkin desk didn't actually work for KLM and she looked a bit on the evil "don't mess with me" side so we didn't bother.

We were over the luggage limite of 22kg by a couple of kilos each, but luckily we weren't charged anything so that was a good start. The time passed pretty slowly at Edinburgh due to the fact that practically nothing was open - not even Costa, so I'll remember that in future if I go for an early flight.

Stuart enquired about an upgrade in Amsterdam (since we were on honeymoon) but we were told that the flight was completely full, so no chance. (Does anyone on honeymoon really get an upgrade).

The flight from Amsterdam to Cape town was 11.5 hours, which was a bit of a disappointment given that I had thought it was 10hrs. I was pretty impressed with the Economy class in KLM though - it was a Boeing 777 and they had video on demand on all the seatbacks, which meant that rather than the usual 8 films all running at the same time, with half the plane visiting the toilet when a film finishes, they had a library over over 50 films, inlcuding some new releases, plus games, tv shows etc, which you could start and pause whenever you liked. They KLM staff were also very generous with drinks, so the combination of a few wines and lots of film watching made a huge difference.

We arrived in Cape Town, which is 2hrs ahead of Edinburgh at around 11pm and were picked up by a friendly driver who took us to Blackheath Lodge, our home for the next four nights.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Welcome to Diary of a Honeymoon in South Africa

Welcome to my photo diary of my recent honeymoon in South Africa.

On Tuesday 30th October we departed from Edinburgh to Cape town for a 2 week honeymoon in South Africa visiting Cape Town, an Eastern Cape Private Game Reserve, Cape St Francis, Knysna, Mossel Bay, Hermanus and Franschhoek.

I'll be posting my journal along with lots of photographs over the next few days, incuding reviews of all the places we stayed.

Zebras at Amakhala

Wedding In Edinburgh