With the British and Irish Lions Tour heading to South Africa in July 2021, we thought it would be apt to highlight some of the key things to do and see whilst in such a beautiful country.
South Africa is one of the continent’s most diverse destinations in the world. With a plethora of spell-binding wildlife, super-luxurious hotels and some of the world’s best food and drink, you really are spoilt for choice when visiting. So whether you’re following the whole tour and looking to fill in gaps between matches or making a holiday and supplementing this with one or two rugby games, we have some ideas and suggestions that you will love!
Match 1 and 7 – Cape Town
- 3rd July
- 31st July
Cape Town is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Blessed with outstanding restaurants and bars as well as a plethora or beautiful scenic landscapes, any time spent here is fun and indulgent.
The V&A Waterfront is one of Cape Town’s iconic attractions. With a multitude of restaurants, shops and restaurants it is a place that has a real buzz about it. Our favourite hotels here are the Cape Grace and Cape Cadogan.
The Cape Grace is located on the waterfront and apart from having great views across the harbour and Table Mountain, you are on the doorstep of these many great places to eat and drink. It is a large hotel with over one-hundred rooms but that definitely doesn’t detract from its unique character.
Set slightly away from the waterfront, just off Kloof Street, is Cape Cadogan. A small, boutique hotel whose rooms are like small apartments, this very well priced, boutique hotel is perfect for those wishing not to pay the higher prices of the waterfront hotels. With shuttles that run between the hotel and the waterfront there is no need to worry about getting to the main restaurants and bars.
If you’ve already to been to Cape Town and fancy staying slightly away from the hustle and bustle of the waterfront then Tintswalo have a couple of brilliant places to stay. Tintswalo Atlantic is situated at the bottom of Chapman’s Peak drive and if you didn’t know it was there, you would miss it. Nestled into its own private cove with extraordinary views across the Atlantic and Hout Bay, a stay here is intimate and peaceful. It does come at a price, but the lavish furnishings and the exquisite surf and turf food on offer makes it hard to resist. Moving further away from Cape Town and Tintswalo’s second property is beautifully located over-looking the penguin colony of Boulders Beach. With modern and spacious rooms, your stay here will certainly be memorable. There are exceptional views of the penguins from almost every area of the hotel and with fantastic prices, Tintswalo Boulders is excellent value.
With the Lions playing in Cape Town twice during their tour, this gives you the opportunity to explore further afield which includes the stunning wine regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Renowned throughout the world for some of the world’s tastiest food and sublime wine, you certainly cannot miss out on either a day trip out into the countryside or exploring for a few nights.
Perfect for a couple of nights and an unmissable stop on a day tour, Babylonstoren is one of the most charismatic hotels in the winelands. Built around an old farmstead, this property has been restored around its history and has also been developed into a beautiful place to visit. Whether you decide to stay in the converted farmhouse or the newly built Fynbos Cottages, you can be sure to have an unforgettable stay here. Surrounded by beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens, vineyards and with its own winery, all food and drink consumed here is a delight to the palate. If you can only have time to stop for lunch and a look around, then make sure you choose their Greenhouse restaurant!
Further into Franschhoek and you will find an abundance of different winelands properties. If you are looking for all-out luxury and can afford the hefty price-tag then La Residence is definitely the place to visit. With a superfluous amount of luxury and every amenity you could wish for, La Residence is an experience in itself. If you’re a lover of the culinary arts, then make sure you book the chef’s table one night for dinner. Here you will see first-hand as their chef creates the perfect meal in front of your eyes, accompanied by some of the finest wine in the world.
Match 2 – Port Elizabeth
- 7th July
Located at the Eastern end of the Garden Route, Port Elizabeth is often overlooked by visitors of South Africa. If you’re thinking of self-driving, then the Garden Route is a very popular option. With stunning scenery and landscapes along the journey which could include stops in the beautiful Knysna or in Plettenburg Bay.
If you are also thinking of combining a safari with the Garden Route, but don’t want to travel too far, then Port Elizabeth does have a great safari option. Avoiding the very small and ‘semi-wild’ game reserves that are dotted around in that area can be quite tricky, however there is one game reserve that we would thoroughly recommend: Kwandwe.
Situated only two and a half hours away from Port Elizabeth Kwandwe Game Reserve comprises of twenty-two thousand hectares of wilderness that is home to the big five, and so much more. With two lodges and three exclusive villas, Kwandwe can cater for families, large friend groups or couples and honeymooners wanting to escape the crowds. There is certainly something for everyone on safari at Kwandwe and their fantastic service compliments their beautifully luxurious accommodation.
Match 3 – Durban
- 10th July
A coastal city influenced by Indian settlers in the late eighteen-hundreds, Durban is third only to Cape Town and Johannesburg in its population. With a combination of traditional South African food with Indian spices and recipes, the cuisine in Durban is certainly unique. For those heading out to the East Coast for the Lions match, there are certainly places of interest to visit along the coastline that shouldn’t be missed.
&Beyond’s Phinda Game Reserve is a wonderful conservation story and is home to an abundance of wildlife and only a handful of lodges. Mountain Lodge is fantastic for families whilst Rock Lodge is perfect for honeymooners with its no under sixteen age restriction. Phinda’s charm is in its diversity, with the South of the reserve being a completely different habitat to that of the North. The very rare sand forest is home to Forest Lodge and is brilliant for bird viewing and cheetah sightings.
One of the things that South Africa does tend to struggle with is beach options. The cold ocean, although brilliant for scuba-diving and snorkelling, is generally unfavourable for your typical beach holiday. What this does mean is that the beaches you do explore are often pristine wildernesses that others rarely walk. A couple of hours North of Durban you will find Thonga Beach Lodge. With an eco-friendly ethos, this bare-foot luxury resort is the perfect place for families to explore nature and take part in some great coastal activities. Whether you’re looking to kayak on the lakes, watch turtles hatching on the beach or go hiking in the surrounding forests, your days will be filled with activities that everyone will enjoy.
Match 4 – Nelspruit
- 14th July
With only a few days in between games during the middle of July, if you’re following every game or just planning on seeing one or two, a stay in Nelspruit gives you an opportune moment to visit some of the best safari destinations in South Africa.
Only a couple of hours away, the Sabi Sands is well known for its great concentration of big five, as well as wild dog and cheetah. This is possibly the best place in the world for leopard sightings. With extremely lavish and beautiful lodges like Dulini and &Beyond’s Tengile, safari doesn’t get much better. Both lodges have exceptional guiding and their game viewing is spectacular. With a variety of habitats that range from open plains to river thickets, the Sabi Sands is renowned for good reason!
If you were to travel a bit further North into the Greater Kruger, the wildlife viewing is still as spectacular, however there are some real hidden gems. Ngala Tented Camp in the Timbavati game reserve is in its own private concession and is a beautiful and modern tented camp situated on the banks of the dry Timbavati River. In the Manyeleti Game Reserve, Tintswalo safari lodge is a place that has options for everyone. If you’re looking for something exclusive and child friendly, then their manor house is perfect. Run like its own separate lodge, your family or group of friends would have a brilliant time. The main safari lodge is comprised of a handful of permanent suites that are luxurious and charming, all which come with their own private plunge pool. Unknown to most, the Manyeleti and Tintswalo are places that should be on everyone’s wish list.
Match 5 – Pretoria
- 17th July
Pretoria is only a stone’s throw from Johannesburg making watching the Lions’ Match in Pretoria very accessible. If you were to carry on heading North-West then you would find yourself in another brilliant safari destination. Madikwe Game Reserve boasts the big seven and a number of elusive and intriguing animals such as the brown hyena and aardwolf. As well as being non-malarial, Madikwe can cater for everyone. The Madikwe Safari Lodge is perfect for those wanting solitude and lodges like the Morukuru Properties are perfect for families who want their own private house with large areas around the house fenced off allowing children to explore and wander safely.
Match 6 and 8 – Johannesburg
- 24th July
- 7th August
With the lions playing twice in Johannesburg, and it being the main hub for much of South Africa, time spent here can be extremely varied. With a plethora of museums like the Apartheid Museum, this is a city seeped in culture and history and definitely worth exploring.
On the outskirts of the city there is the beautiful suburb of Sandton. Known for its high-end shopping centre and marvellous restaurants, Sandton is certainly worth a visit for a night or two.
Due to Johannesburg’s fantastic accessibility why not catch an internal flight to one of the most luxurious lodges in the world. For seasoned safari goers, or families looking for exclusivity and privacy, Tswalu Kalahari is a safari experience you will never forget. Esteemed for its wonderful sightings of pangolin, aardvark and other members of the elusive five, it is understandable why Tswalu is classed as one of National Geographic’s most Unique Lodges.
For more information on the safari lodges and hotels in South Africa please contact us and we would be more than happy to help plan your trip – whether you’re going to watch the rugby or not!