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Audley Traveller
04 Min Read
Cheetah in South Africa

Wildlife encounters with South Africa’s two Big Fives

By Christopher Wells and Rosemarie Mostyn, who travelled with us in September 2014

Our South African adventure was personally tailored from Audley’s Track to Track trip idea. The main goal was whale watching and safari: spotting the Marine Five - whale, shark, seal, penguin and dolphin - and the Big Five.

Champagne sundowners and whale spotting

On arrival at Cape Town, we were transferred to a forest lodge at Grootbos Nature Reserve overlooking Walker Bay.

We went out to the coast that evening for a champagne sundowner and to hopefully see some whales. Southern right whales are visible close to the shore, and the glass of champagne in hand was just a bonus.

The following day, a light aircraft trip took us over the sand dunes to the bay, miles of beautiful sand with breaking rollers over a blue-green sea. 

Then we started to see whales, and more whales. We sighted mothers with calves, mating groups, breaching whales, dolphins hunting small fish and, possibly, a great white shark.

Southern Right Whales, South Africa

Southern right whales can be seen close to shore

Seals

Seals can also be spotted bobbing around in the water

View over Walkers Bay

Overlooking the emerald blue shoreline of Walkers Bay

Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope

Cape Town was something of a change of pace from the nature reserve.

We explored the V&A Waterfront and took a guided tour to the Cape of Good Hope. On the Cape they say you can experience four seasons in one day. It felt incongruous being on a windy shoreline on a day that felt like early spring, but with wild ostrich foraging and antelope near the shore.

On our last day in Cape Town the ‘table cloth’ of cloud cleared over Table Mountain, revealing its beauty in the cool, clear morning light.

Cape Point penguins

The world famous penguin colony on Boulders Beach, Cape Town

Visiting the winelands

We were taken to Franschhoek for a wine tasting trip around some small and some larger vineyards. Our group was getting along like old friends after a couple of tastings - we started on the wine before 11am. It was just great fun.

Tip: the tastings included on the tour are generally of young wines. I opted to pay just a few more Rands and taste wine from the next level up, the Reserve Selections.

Luxury on the rails

We thought we’d been spoiled with luxury and service so far on the trip. It went up into top gear with our champagne greeting and classical music departure on Rovos Rail.

It's a glorious rail trip back in time: excellent standards of service and food with the added and lovely excuse to dress for dinner. 

It’s hard to explain the wonderful experience of moving gently at 20 to 50mph, watching the beautiful and sometimes snow-capped mountains of the Western Cape slip into the distance, pass through the beautifully manicured Winelands and then crossing the huge expanse of the High Veld.

Leaving Cape Town on Rovos Rail

Silhouettte of Table Mountain in the distance, leaving Cape town on Rovos Rail

Travelling through the Winelands

Travelling through beautiful scenery on Rovos Rail

Rovos rail

Enjoy a relaxing journey on a Franschhoek wine tram

On safari

Luxury and service had hit top gear on Rovos Rail, at Mateya Safari Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve it went into sublime overdrive. 

We arrived  after a 55-minute flight. Apparently, several giraffe had to be gently persuaded to move off the landing strip for our arrival. 

The lodge is simply stunning with just five separate suites, each with a plunge pool and inside and outside bathrooms. 

In search of the Big Five

After a high tea, we were straight out for an afternoon/evening game drive with our guide Francois and tracker Devine. 

A testament to the skill and dedication shown by Francois and Devine is how they not only found but skilfully got us as close as possible to the Big Five. 

A coalition of cheetah, a spectacular dusk kill by a pack of rare wild dogs, and a pair of rare black rhino were just a few high points. 

Leopard, Mateya Safari Lodge

A leopard snapped in the Madikwe Game Reserve

Luxury in the wild

On the evening drives we were served sundowners - G&Ts in our case - with tasty nibbles. On one occasion this was noisily interrupted by a young male elephant, which just added to the excitement and feeling of involvement with the nature around us.

We also saw plenty of game at the lodge’s watering hole from the comfort of the lodge balcony. At night, buffalo, rhino, including a calf, and many other species came to drink and rest under the clear starry skies.

The Audley brochure for Botswana is sitting next to me on the desk. It also details Namibia and many other potential African adventures. I think it will be Botswana next, or Namibia, or more of South Africa. The list gets ever longer.

Start planning your trip to South Africa


Start thinking about your experience. These itineraries are simply suggestions for how you could enjoy some of the same experiences as our specialists. They’re just for inspiration, because your trip will be created around your particular tastes.

Where Christopher and Rosemarie stayed during their trip

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