Week 12 – Tulbagh

Living in an expat city such as Dubai often means travelling to all sorts of places for weddings… and this one was no exception.

Friends of mine who live in Dubai – she’s South African, he’s Australian – chose to get married in South Africa, in a small little town / wine estate region called Tulbagh… somewhere that I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting while I lived in SA ๐Ÿ™‚

I was able to tie this wedding visit in with a sneaky trip up to Johannesburg to visit my family… but you can read about that here. This post is entirely dedicated to the beauty of Tulbagh and the wedding โค

I arrived fairly late in the evening, after the sun was down, and then had an approximately 1.5 hour drive from Cape Town International Airport to Tulbagh. I zapped the directions into the GPS, put the radio on, had my dinner laid out on the seat next to me, and off I went.

The roads were absolutely pitch black except for the occasional car in front of me, or approaching me, which made for stunning views of the clear night sky… if only I’d been able to see enough on the sides of the roads to stop and marvel at the stars! They were gorgeous, but as the roads had ZERO street lights on, and there was barely a light anywhere in sight, I had no idea how safe the sides of the roads were and so I drove on, just having a quick gaze out the window every so often.

I eventually arrived at Saronsberg Wine Estate and after some confusion on getting in (entirely my fault!), I made it up to the cottage where I would spend the next 2 nights with other friends from Dubai. It was pretty much straight to bed as the next day was the wedding and was bound to be a busy one ๐Ÿ™‚

The morning brought us absolutely perfect weather for a wedding – slightly overcast to keep the heat down, no rain in sight, and little specks of sun bursting through the clouds every now and then to make the scenery gorgeous. Buki and I headed off into Tulbagh for some breakfast, and then spent the rest of the morning lazing by the pool while we waited for our other Dubai friends to arrive.

Later that afternoon, after a bit of napping, lots of resting and some snacks to keep us going, we got ourselves ready for the wedding and headed off to the venue (onsite at Tulbagh Wine Estate) to wait out the arrival of the Bride!

The rest of the afternoon / evening / night was a great success; everyone looking fabulous in their outfits, lots of free-flowing drinks, delicious nibbles to tide us over until dinner and then an amazing dinner in itself, in a stunning setting like I’ve never seen before.

Not long after dinner and the speeches, the heavens decided to open – they say it’s lucky if it rains on your wedding day – so we all moved indoors for the rest of the night; cutting the cake, dessert, the first dance and lots and lots of dancing by the rest of us.

The next morning we all gathered around the pool area for a yummy breakfast and to enjoy some light banter with the newlyweds… and then it was time to pack up and head off to the airport for the flight back to Dubai!

Week 8 – Nungwi, Zanzibar

After our already adventuresome and fabulous holiday so far in Tanzania, we were all very excited to see what our beach, chilled holiday in Zanzibar would hold in store for us!

If you’ve just happened upon this post without reading Week 7, here’s a brief recap:

Mikumi National Park

Mikumi National Park

The girls and I went to Mikumi National Park, Tanzania, for the start of our girls holiday. We were incredibly fortunate with the animal sightings we saw, had some interesting adventures with our accommodation and then headed to Dar es Salaam port where we hopped on a ferry bound for Zanzibar….

On arrival in Zanzibar, we left the ferry, passing through immigration, and were met outside by our driver who took us on the 1-hour drive up to Nungwi – our home for the next few nights.

Although it was not planned this way, we were now heading for Night #4, Bed #4. Hopefully no disasters with this accommodation awaited us – we really wanted to unpack a bit and completely relax.

Once again a huge amount of research was done into where we should stay on the island. Lots of people gave lots of different advice, but we eventually settled on Nungwi after being told that it’s vibey enough for us to head out in the evenings to not be hotel-bound 100% of the time, but it’s also quiet enough to lie on the beach / by the pool and chill out completely. We settled on Flame Tree Cottages, and upon arrival (in the dark) we already started thinking that this looked to be the perfect place. We’d booked a double room cottage that had an adjoining common room, and a terrace out front where we’d eat breakfast each morning, overlooking the swimming pool.

We dumped our bags, did a quick freshen up, and headed out along the beachfront to find a dinner spot… and settled on a place where we sat at tables literally in the sand right on the shore! It was amazing!

We weren’t too worried about getting an early night, but by the time dinner was done we were all beat and headed off to bed… all eagerly awaiting sunrise for a proper view of the lodge!

And boy were we happy when we saw it in the morning – while we sat eating breakfast on our terrace, that is served to us right there! They provide a menu that you tick off how many of each item you’d like, and they bring it all to your table – fruit, muesli, eggs, fruit juice, pancakes.

And from here, well, other than that Zanzibar is absolutely gorgeous – white beaches, clear bluewaters, totally chilled, friendly people – there isn’t much to say about our time here. We took chill to a whole new level – I finished a book in 3 (THREE) days! We spent our days either lazing by the pool, or on the beach, or in the hammocks by the cottage (that was my favourite thing to do ๐Ÿ™‚ )

We did venture way out one evening for dinner – we had been told of this place called The Rock so after looking into it a bit and deciding that it looked amazing, we made a booking online, arranged transport through the restaurant and waited for them to collect us. We had been told that if the tide is out when you get there, then you can walk to the restaurant. If it’s not, then you have to take a little boat. The pictures online gave us a vague idea of what we were in for, but I don’t think any of us expected it to be what we saw when we got there. Absolutely WOW!

The Rock

The Rock

Literally a rock out in the middle of the sandbank – which would be covered by water when the tide is in – and a restaurant on top of the rock. It’s small, with only about 15 tables available and worth the little bit extra that you pay for your meal (bearing in mind that all food & drinks that we’d had so far had been considerably cheap, especially compared to Dubai prices – e.g. US$2 for a beer.) The only downfall for our particular visit – it took 2 hours to get there, travelling at breakneck speeds, and slightly more than that to get back (we insisted that our driver slow down numerous times as the roads are not lit up, and are rather dangerous in most places). And you then only spend about 2 hours eating, drinking, stargazing, chatting, procrastinating until you have to head back.

After 4 nights in Nungwi, we decided to spend our last night of holiday in Stone Town – our flight was reasonably early the next day and we wanted to try avoid a 4am start time, and then an hour drive from Nungwi to the airport… so yet another bed to be staying in, but at least we’d get to see a new place, and we were all very relaxed from 4 days of gorgeous beach.

JPEG & Nat researched Stone Town to death and eventually settled on Tausi Palace as our final holiday home – very near the centre of Stone Town and close to just about everything to see and do.

We decided to get picked up in the morning of our last full day and head to Prison Island for some snorkelling and to see the giant tortoises, and then be dropped off at our hotel. The tortoises were interesting to see at that size, but we were all put off by how people have no idea of personal space / care for the animals as they climb inside the tortoise enclosures and touch and play with the tortoises to get their ‘perfect photo’. The snorkelling was pretty good – extremely clear waters and lots of tiny little fish, but not much coral around, and lots of sea urchins…. careful where you put your feet!

After that little bit of fun in the sun we headed over to Tausi Palace, again dropping off bags and freshening up, and then headed out for some sightseeing and lunch. We found a place called Tatu which is meant to be one of the hippest, most vibey places to go at night in Stone Town, and as a lunch venue it fared really well with great food and super friendly service.

Dinner on our last night had to be a bit of a special treat and so we ventured into the alleys and pathways of Stone Town as we headed for House of Spices – renowned for it’s rooftop terrace views, wood fired pizza oven and great service. ย On our way there we did a small tour of Stone Town, getting in some local sights and sounds of the small town vibe.

After getting supremely lost in the small alleys and eventually finding our way, we all arrived at dinner thirsty and starving. And once again on this Tanzanian getaway of ours, we were not disappointed by the food! We ordered a bunch of different meals to share which was a perfect way to do things – from a mezze platter and cheese pizza to start off with, to fried seafood, lamb stew and desserts…. this was an absolute win!

House of Spices

House of Spices

But it was now time to head back to the hotel, do our final bits of packing up and head to the airport at 7am the next morning, to make our way back to Dubai.

 

Week 7 – Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

Another week into the year, and another country ticked off the bucket list ๐Ÿ™‚

This time the girls and I headed off to Tanzania for some wildlife and beach life… this post is about the wildlife. The next one (Week 8) will be about the beach life ๐Ÿ™‚

Lots and lots and lots of planning and research went into this holiday because it was to be something completely different to what we’d done before, and none of us had been to these particular places before, so we didn’t want to be disappointed when we got there.

We flew into Dar es Salaam on a Friday and spent the night in town, early to bed for our super early pick up (5:30am) the next morning.

We booked a hotel, Tanzanite Executive Suites, close to the airport and in a neighbourhood where we could walk around nearby the hotel and still feel safe at night… so on arrival we dumped our bags and headed out in search of dinner.

After heading in totally the wrong direction at first, we eventually found a place that came highly recommended on TripAdvisor – Mamboz Corner BBQ – where they grill meats on grills out on the street corner. We got a bunch of different dishes to share – not really knowing what any of them were but took guesses based on what we were seeing on other tables – and tucked into our food when it arrived. And boy was it YUM! ย We hoped that this was a good sign for the food to come on the holiday.

The next morning we were off before the sun came up, settling in for our +- 6 hour journey ahead. We stopped off at some little corner cafe of sorts for breakfast where we enjoyed some hot tea & coffee, and very basic but tasty ‘breakfast’ made up of samoosas, rice cakes and fruit.

Street sales pretty much the whole way

Street sales pretty much the whole way

We eventually made it to Mikumi National Park about 8 hours after leaving Dar, got taken to our cottages which were to be home for the next 2 nights (Mikumi National Park Cottages), and then headed straight to the bar for a beer and some late lunch – which turned out to be yet another delicious meal ๐Ÿ™‚

After lunch we were picked up by our driver of that morning – who turned out to be our game driver for the next day and a half – and headed off on our first game drive / safari for the holiday. And boy were we in for a treat! We had barely driven away from the cottages (which are located within the National Park) and we’d come across impala, zebra, we’d seen elephant while having lunch, and then not much long after that we came across a pride of lions having an afternoon nap under the bushes ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The game drive lasted until sunset, giving us some absolutely spectacular sightings of animals, and then we headed back to the cottages for dinner and an early-ish night. We all headed off to bed around 11pm, only for some of us to be woken up around 1am, completely drenched in sweat, boiling hot, and no electricity – therefore no fan or AC! At this stage we weren’t sure if it was just our cottage(s) that had this problem, but we didn’t dare venture out in the dark as we’d been warned that there may be leopard(s) wandering around the site so best to stay indoors!

We survived the night and at 6am sharp the lights and electricity came back on – which led us to believe that it was a power thing where all electricity was cut off at a specific time, and then back on at 6am.

We contacted the agent who we’d done all of our bookings through (Watu Safari’s) and complained about this – we had specifically booked accommodation that had AC because we knew it was going to be hot and we didn’t want to be suffering at night unnecessarily… and after some negotiations and explanations – due to us being within the park, all power is shut off for preservation – they managed to move us to a lodge just a few minutes outside of the park. And it had 24/7 power ๐Ÿ™‚

We then spent that day on full game drives, even heading off to another lodge within the park for a change of scenery for lunch, and again seeing some amazing wildlife sightings, and that evening after sunset we took our belongings off to the next place to be spending the night. Night #3, Bed #3.

We arrived at Tan Swiss Lodge and were immediately wowed by it and were very happy with our decision to switch accommodation. And after another yummy dinnerย and some card games, we once again headed off for an early-ish night… another long drive ahead of us the next morning back to Dar.

The initial plan had been to get up at the crack of dawn on this last day, head out for a brief game drive, and then off to Dar, however during the day of full game drives the day before, we all decided that we didn’t need the final morning as we’d been so super spoiled by what we’d seen… and the idea of getting an extra hour or so of sleep in the morning was extremely appealing to all of us.

Sunrise

Sunrise

And when we woke up in the morning to pouring rain, we once again were very happy with our decision ๐Ÿ™‚ We climbed into the car, settled back for some naps and headed for the port in Dar es Salaam where we’d catch the ferry to Zanzibar.

We made the fatal error of not stopping for lunch on the way, assuming that we’d be able to either buy lunch at the port or on the boat (and we were not given any advice to the contrary), but were gravely disappointed when we arrived to absolute madness and the only things to eat were cashews, eat-sum-mores or some random crisps… and the price they wanted for the food was ridiculous so we went hungry ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The port is utter chaos, but they seem to have some method in all the madness – we showed our passports & tickets as we went through the gate, then head off to the scanning machines, and then to baggage drop where our bags got tagged and sent off to a crate. We were told to remember the crate number for when we get off on the other side and then we left them in the hands of the port authorities.

After some sitting around playing card games to kill time, we eventually boarded the ferry. We had booked business class (sounds super fancy, and although it is enclosed and has AC, the entire ferry is fairly basic but absolutely good enough for its cause.)

(courtesy of google search as I did not have my camera out)

(courtesy of google search as I did not have my camera out)

The trip across to Zanzibar is somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours, and on arrival in Zanzibar we exited the ferry and hung around like lost lambs for a while until we saw some crate movement off to the side. We looked out for our crate number, headed up to the authorities, they passed us our luggage and off we went… passing through immigration, showing our passports, and off we went into Zanzibar!

The Zanzibar adventures are continued in Week 8 – head over there for the full story ๐Ÿ™‚