Indagare member M.V. recently returned from a family trip to South Africa. Here are her thoughts on the experiences they had at Kurland, along the Garden Route, and Samara, an East Cape private game reserve.
“At the Kurland Hotel, we stayed at the Manor House, which really is the personal home of the owners, about five minutes from the main hotel. The house sits on an amazing piece of property and is how a great land home should be – elegant, cozy and grand with a perfect layout. The home is built around an outdoor living room, which has a fireplace, big couches, pizza oven and a large dining table. We spent a lot of time there looking out over the landscape. The property is entirely private and we never saw another person, house or vehicle; we could only see the South African landscape. For an extended family or a large group of friends looking to relax, this property is perfect.
“We had our own chef and butler and the owners did everything they could to make our stay memorable. We were provided with quad-bikes to get around the property (which were especially popular with the boys) and also a van to take us to the beach (a five-minute drive away) or into town. When we asked for bikes, we immediately got them. When we decided we’d like to take a horseback ride, a trip was instantly lined up. Whenever we asked for something for the house, or a special bottle of wine, it arrived as soon as they could get their hands on it.
“While the hotel part is a member of Relais & Châteaux, the food was good, but not great. The wine selection was fabulous though, and the service was impeccable.
“Activities at the property included polo, pony rides for the kids and mountain biking. Five minutes away was an elephant camp (a bit too commercial and group-travel style for our taste), monkey camp (especially recommended and a fun adventure for kids) and a gorgeous beach. The coast is stunning, the weather was perfect, and we spent a great afternoon on the beach. Visitors should know, however, that it is not a beach club, and people should bring their own towels.
“It was a perfect beginning to the holiday with young kids. Horse-lovers would really like this place.
“Our next stop was to Samara, where, again, the house was perfect for us. It maximized family time while still giving everyone their own space. The house was more contemporary and very cozy and comfortable. The pool wasn’t working properly but nobody had any interest in going in it anyway.
“Again, we had our own chef and staff and they did whatever they could to make our stay comfortable. The food was better than at Kurland, but still not great.
“Our ranger, Test, was amazing. His smile was so infectious, we never cared that it was 6am when he started our days. We tracked a cheetah on foot and stood within six meters from it for a good 15 minutes. It was amazing. We also tracked white rhino on foot and after leaving the car behind and walking into the bush behind Test, came upon five white rhinos in a group. Again, amazing. We saw tons of other wildlife despite the property not being a Big Five. More seasoned safari-goers might have been disappointed without seeing all five animals, but to see white rhinos and cheetahs, this was the place to go. The property itself was a bit rockier than most, making the rides really bumpy, so it might not be right for people with health problems.
“We had lunch at the main hotel one day and the look, feel and service was not up to par and a far cry from our private house. I would not recommend staying in the main hotel.
“Given that we were traveling with small children and were really late in booking, this was a good alternative to Sabi Sands, though they would still win over Samara every time.
“You were absolutely right to suggest us visiting two properties to see two sides of South Africa. We took charters from all destinations and I would not recommend traveling any other way, as it saves so much time.
“Between the relaxation in the hills and beach at Kurland to the adventurous safari at Samara, we have the perfect family holiday.”
Read Indagare’s South Africa destination report.
Read other members’ postcards from South Africa.