Oct 2012:South Africa Tour from Canada testimonial:
Our trip to South Africa was more than we had hoped for. We had not imagined just how beautiful the country is and even programs we saw on television did not do it justice. We are so glad we went. The game reserves at Kruger and Hluhluwe were wonderful. The highlight of our trip was being surrounded by 200 elephants in Hluhluwe – a magnificent sight and a great experience. Even the guides had never seen such a large herd. We shall never forget this.
In Johannesburg we visited the Apartheid Museum. This should be a must on any tour. We were fortunate to be there when there was a special exhibition on Mandela. The 7th St Guesthouse you arranged for us was delightful. There was a lovely courtyard where we could sit under the stars and drink wine and they also suggested some excellent restaurants within walking distance. They also packed breakfast boxes for us the morning we had to leave before breakfast began. This was most appreciated.
The tour itinerary was most extensive and we felt we certainly got a good overview of the country. The vistas we saw from the bus were spectacular and the spring flowers – protea, finebos, roses, jacaranda etc . were most beautiful. It was a good time of year to travel. We also thought our guide Suzanne did an excellent job. She was most knowledgeable in the history of South Africa and she certainly dealt with problems in a most professional way.
That being said, there are some comments I wish to make. The bus certainly should have been better. The bus was dirty – dirty windows and crud on some seats. At first I wasn’t sure whether or not is was the bus or the driver but there was certainly difficulty going up hills and one day ( in the heat and in the middle of nowhere – not even a tree in sight ) it stopped.
The driver and guide were able to get fit started (minus the air-conditioning ) and we did make it to our lunch stop. Here the driver announced he could not get it started again. A mechanic was called and it was determined it needed a new alternator which was going to take 3 hours to get to us.
Thank goodness it happened where we had access to shade and food and although the little shops and the cafe closed at 5:00 pm they left the bathrooms unlocked for us. Our guide had also ordered a new bus as well as the alternator (in case there were more problems) and the new bus arrived just as the repairs to the bus were complete so we continued with our old bus. We reached our next stop in Hluhluwe after 10 at night and after the restaurant had closed.
I felt the guide who knew how late we would get there and told us the restaurant would probably be closed should have ordered sandwiches to be made for us as there was nothing open in the little village except a garage.
The next bus incident occurred when we were going to Mbotyi – a beautiful small resort on the Indian ocean. Mbotyi is about 15 kilometres from the main road on a rough gravelled road through beautiful tea plantations.
The same road in and out. There had been rains before we arrived and on taking a sharp turn, the bus got mired in a big mud hole. I must say the other people we travelled with were great.
We all just gathered up our belongings and walked the 45 minutes or so to where we were going. I guess the wrecker had to come from some distance but somehow our luggage did make it to our rooms and the next morning our bus was there.
The last bus incident occurred near George on the Garden route when we were stopped by the traffic safety police and the next thing we knew we were following him into town to a safety inspection garage. ( I was very impressed with the facility as it was certainly high tech)
After waiting for the vehicles ahead of us to go through it was determined we needed 4 new back tires. Our guide ordered another bus to take us to the ostrich farm and later on in the day our bus caught up with us.
Needless to say our bus was not a bus that should have been used at all and we were all thankful that nothing more serious occurred. Tour Vest should ensure that the busses they hire are in excellent condition.
The hotels we had on tour were all very different and all good. Breakfast each day was also good but lunches were another thing. We often had lunch in Garage stops and I felt this was due to a time factor. I think the tour would have been much better if better lunch stops had been arranged. The days were very long and we usually didn’t reach our hotel until well after 5 o’clock.
I have been on other bus trips where we usually stopped mid afternoon and they were much less tiring. Also we spent the first night in White River and the next two nights in Hazyview just about 40 miles or so apart. Perhaps they could use Hazyview the first night as well to save unpacking and packing so much.
Although the buffet dinners at most hotels were good, we enjoyed being able to order from the menu. Usually the hotels were so located as to make this not possible, or we were just too tired to make the decision as to where to go.
We were disappointed we were not able to go to the Mandela Museum in Matata. It is closed until 2104 I believe but I notice it is still being listed as a place to be visited in the South Africa Essentials itinerary.
Also we did not go to Grahmstown or East London due to road washouts and this was a disappointment as well.
We loved Cape Town. The Parliament Hotel in Cape Town is excellent. We had large corner rooms with a view of Table Mountain. Breakfast each morning was very good and the eggs etc. were made to order. Also there was a small restaurant attached to the hotel.
The restaurant has only been open for 4 months and the menu is limited but they make their own bread and pasta – really good. They also make excellent bombolinis . The hotel staff went out of their way to help us.
When we felt our Robbins Island trip might be cancelled due to high winds, Freda at the front desk checked for us and found out that it was cancelled and since we had all paid by Visa, our accounts would all be credited within the hour. She also arranged a walking tour of the city centre to take the place of our Robbin Island tour.
We also took the Hop0n Hop off tour and took a tour to Cape of Good Hope. We ate at the V & A Waterfront and at Marcos African Restaurant which was a lot of fun.
Please don’t take this as a negative e-mail as we are overall pleased with the tour and would recommend it to our friends but I do feel the comments about the bus needed to be made.
Thanks so much for helping us with the arrangements for this trip. We are most appreciative.
Nickie and Lloyd
PS I’ll send a few photos under separate e-mail