Wednesday, 16 May 2018

CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK

Hello again everyone,
Our Garden Route adventure continues. Just to bring you up to date: after two heavenly days spent at Plettenberg Park Hotel and Spa we headed off to the last spot on our itinerary:  Shamwari  Private Game Reserve.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
Shamwari (meaning My Friend) Private Game Reserve is in one of the malaria free zones in South Africa situated in the Eastern Cape Province. Stretching 25,000 hectares over a malaria free landscape, it offers an award-winning nature experience and is one of the largest private conservation initiatives in Southern Africa.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
After a few hours drive from Plettenberg Bay, we arrived at the park in time for lunch. We were escorted to a circular shaped large green lawn with the pool and lounge chairs on one side and the wrought iron dining tables and chairs opposite.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
As we took our seats, we had a good look around and spotted a family of warthogs grazing nearby and beyond the lawn, the reserve’s grounds stretched all around us as far as we can see and if you strained your eyes hard enough, you were able to spot some animals grazing in the distance under the blazing South African sun. The setting was stunning, the lunch – sumptuous and the service – immaculate – a winning trifecta.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
After lunch one of the hotel staff showed us to our lodge. It looked amazing. All the rooms looked very comfortable and elegant with a reflection of colonial style coupled with the latest electronic equipment. Every window has a lovely view over the savannah. And thus our safari adventure had begun.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
Traditionally, any game park provides two drives each day – very early in the morning  and late afternoon right before the sunset and we opted for both not wanting to miss a moment of this wild adventure.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
Ideally, the objective of each game park in Africa is to make sure that during your stay you will be able to spot the "Big Five" – elephant, leopard, cape buffalo, lion and rhinoceros (black or white). The term "Big Five" was coined by big game-hunters and refers to the five most difficult game animals in Africa to hunt on foot.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK

"STAYING AT THE GAME PARK 
IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST ATTRACTIONS
AFRICA HAS TO OFFER"
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
The guests are driven in open jeeps equipped with a rifle (only used for protection), bottles of drinking water, blankets, rifles and other protective equipment as well as drinks and snacks.  Each jeep takes four passengers and pairs courteously take turns to sit in a front row of a car.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
The driver of the vehicle is your tour guide who, while staying extremely alert, was, at the same time, able to share with us his extensive knowledge and fascinating stories about the park and its inhabitants. He reads the land like an open book and he will apply every effort to make sure that you have seen all of The Big Five.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
And although we were quite excited about the challenge of finding them all, there was so much to see and learn that kept us constantly on alert.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
During the afternoon drive, our driver found us a perfect spot on the top of the hill to watch the sunset and while we were busy taking photographs, he opened the boot of the jeep and got out a big box.
He then walked to the front of the car, opened the box and out came, like magic, a table cloth that he spread on a bonnet of the jeep and then expertly spread out an array of canapés, hot beverages and drinks so we could all sip sundowners while enjoying the sunset.  It was also a perfect opportunity to get to know our fellow passengers who were in the jeep with us while sharing the drinks and delicious snacks.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
 It was also a perfect opportunity to get to know our fellow passengers who shared the jeep while sharing the drinks and delicious snacks.

CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
Upon our return to the camp after the night ride, a sumptuous dinner was all set up for us in an elegantly furnished dining room. On an second night at the park, all the guests were invited to eat in a boma, traditionally a livestock enclosure but used in game parks as a communal place where people gather together around roaring fire under the skies and share local dishes of Africa cooked using the old recipes.
Over the course of the next two days we were lucky enough to see all The Big Five.  Our most amazing encounter was with the lions.  As our jeep approached a waterhole, a lioness came out of the bush and slowly started walking towards it.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
A few seconds later another appeared and joined it, and another one and another.  We were stunned, our jeep was not more then ten meters away from these magnificent animals who at this point looked very placid and all we can hear was a splash of water on their tongues.  I got my camera out and started filming.  Even our experienced driver admitted it is not very often that he is able to witness a scene like the one we were watching.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK

CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
After two most exciting days at Shamwari Park, it was time to return to Cape Town. Our suitcases were loaded into our car, we said goodbye to the friendly staff, exchanged phone numbers with the lovely couple who we had met and feeling refreshed and recharged, we were on the road again. As we were reminiscing about the highlights of the last two days, we knew that we would never forget what a unique experience it was.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
And if anyone asks me what should they do while in South Africa – my answer is always the same “Go to a game park”.
CATCHING "THE BIG FIVE" IN THE SHAMWARI GAME PARK
On this note, my Garden Route trilogy has come to an end.

Till next post,
Anna
xoxo

Friday, 4 May 2018

TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA

Hello again, my dear readers,
This is a second part of my "Driving along the Garden Route" trilogy.  If you, for some reason, missed the beginning of the story, you can catch up with us here.  
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
And for the regular readers of my blog, you might remember that at the end of our first day of driving along the Garden Route, we reached Plettenberg Bay where we were intending to stay for a couple of days.  My husband pre-booked via the internet while we were still in Sydney but didn’t reveal any details about it. Knowing his taste for all the good things, I expected it to be a 4-5 star hotel where the beds are extremely comfortable, towels are white and crisp and the staff is very well trained.  But this time he topped all my expectations.
BIRD'S VIEW OF PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
I was not involved in the process of choosing the hotel and had no idea what to expect.  As we were driving along the highway, I spotted a road sign directing motorists to take a turn for "Plettenberg Park Hotel and Spa" and after my husband took this turn we found ourselves in front of a pair of massive wrought iron gates, I realised that we had reached our destination.  
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
Upon pressing the buzzer and identifying  ourselves, the gates were opened and we found ourselves driving along a private gravel road running through the grounds that belong to the hotel. 
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
After a good five minutes of driving, we finally arrived at the front of the hotel. As we stepped out of the car, I looked around with awe. It looked like we had literally reached the end of the Earth.  
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
The hotel was nestled right on the edge of a cliff and behind it as far as your eye can see lies the sparkling turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. It was magnificently beautiful and magic and I felt extremely grateful for my husband who tries to make our holidays really special.
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
We were greeted by the friendly hotel staff that took care of our car and luggage and escorted us to our room. It was during the week so the hotel was not busy and they allocated us the Honeymoon Suite.
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
"WE SPENT TWO BLISSFUL DAYS 
IN THIS HEAVEN ON EARTH"
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA

TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
 As the bell boy showed us the room, I couldn’t stop but “wooing and wowing” at the size of the room, quality of the furniture, beautiful artworks and tasteful décor – absolute perfection. In this sea of luxury and taste, two things, however, were absolutely outstanding: a shower, with three walls of clear glass, its clever design makes you feel as if you are floating above the ocean below.
TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA

TWO BLISSFUL DAYS AT PLETTENBERG PARK HOTEL & SPA
The other was the stunning view. As we stepped over to the balcony, the sun began it’s descent over the horizon, painting the sky and the cold waters of the Indian Ocean in all the colours of the rainbow. And down below was the hotel’s private beach!!!
We met with the chef who asked us about our preferences and any dietary requirements and cooked us dinner exactly the way we like it.  It was served in the dining room lit up by the huge candelabras with the doors wide open, letting the smell of the ocean breeze come inside and play with the lights of the candles. 
Needless to say the service was impeccable and the food utterly delicious. After dinner the waiter led us to the beautifully appointed library full of books and typical African artifacts. When we returned to our suite, we found that the bed was turned down and the room prepared for the night, the lights were dimmed and the candles in the hurricane vases sitting on the mantelpiece were lit to create a romantic ambiance.
We woke up relaxed and refreshed and went to the huge veranda for breakfast. Sitting at the table protected from the sun by a huge umbrella, watching the waves lapping at the shore while enjoying the scrumptious food made me feel heavenly.
After breakfast, we went to explore the ‘hood. There are myriads of things to do in Plettenberg Bay: from swimming to whale watching, boat riding, bush walking, cycling , hiking etc. The hotel itself is very well known for its spa facilities which, according to the official website….. “is a haven of peace and harmony where treatments are performed by professional dedicated therapists who care for your wellbeing, body and mind”.
We spent a couple of blissful hours at the infinity pool and had another superb dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
After two days spent in heaven, it was time to say goodbye.  Bags in a car, car at the curb and both of us eager to get on to our next destination: game park.

Till my next post,

Love to all
Anna

















Sunday, 29 April 2018

SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS

Hello dear friends,

I have an interesting confession to make.  Throughout my life I have owned quite a few LBDs and LBD (long) and all of them were either intricately constructed or made out of either fine expensive fabric or had some kind of decorative embellishment but never just a simple cotton black dress.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
Well, that was about to change when my husband and I stepped inside Natalie Alamein boutique store in Bondi Beach.  Although this shop has been opened for a while and I happen to pass its windows at least three times a week on my regular runs, I have never been inside it.  Somehow, I always perceived that her clothes are meant for a younger crowd.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
At a glance, my first impression of the clothes was confirmed: lots of short skirts and crop tops and body hugging dresses and the only thing I liked were the fabrics and the patterns.  Then I spotted a "Sale" rack and decided to take a closer look.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS 
To my surprise, the selection was more to my taste and I chose two linen skirts, a wide sleeve blouse and a black slip-on dress and took them into a dressing room.  To my surprise, all items were reasonably priced, fitted well and I ended up buying all of what I had originally selected.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
As the days grew warmer the dress became one of my most popular go-to outfits.  It was just a matter of slipping it over my head, slip on a pair of Havaianas (hugely popular footwear in Australia and worn all year around and not just to the beach) and set off to do my errands.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
"WHO WOULD'VE THOUGHT THAT A SIMPLE BLACK DRESS
 COULD BE SO VERSATILE"
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
After wearing it for a couple of weeks, I decided to try and extend its functionality from just being plain casual outfit into something more elegant and stylish.  I often talk about the importance of accessories and their power to make or break an outfit.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYSSIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
The opportunity presented itself when I was getting ready for a lunch date. First I ditched the thongs and put on a pair of chunky sandals.  Then I added a long silver chain around my neck, clasped a silver cuff around my wrist and grabbed a leather day bag.  The transformation was complete.
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
Then one day we were going out to dinner and I was going through my wardrobe trying to decide what to wear when I spotted a silver sequined sparkly top I hadn't worn for a while.  As I was dressed in the black dress, I just slipped the top over it and checked in the mirror.  I liked the result, so it was just a matter of choosing the right accessories that would help me to transform a day dress into evening outfit. 
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
Who would've thought that a simple black dress could be so versatile?  Just imagine that it is a blank canvas and your jewellery, shoes, handbags and other accessories are the tubes of paint of different colours.  And all you need to do is to let your imagination run wild and let it create as many paintings (in our case outfits) as possible. 
SIMPLE BLACK SLIP DRESS TWO WAYS
I am wearing dress from Natalie Alamein, sandals from Gorman, court shoes and old handbag are from Louis Vuitton, cuff - Georg Jensen

Have a great weekend

Anna
xoxo



Monday, 23 April 2018

DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE PART I - FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA


Hello dear friends,

Before I continue with my story, I would like to make a disclosure.  The trip that I am going to tell you about was took place a few years ago.  However, I never came around to blog about it.  The reason you are reading this post right now is because due to the growing popularity and the substantial increase in international visitors going to South Africa every year, I thought that if you have never been there, my story might inspire you to go.
And if you are planning a trip to South Africa, here are two more activities that you might like to add to your already busy itinerary (isn't it always): first is to hire a car and take a drive along the Garden Route which sits pretty high on the must-see list of most visitors to South Africa.  The second is to spend at least two days at one of the many game park reserves this country is proud to offer.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
For those who follow my blog, you know that I am married to a South African and every time we are about to travel, we make sure that we go to Cape Town to visit my in-laws.  And every time while we are mapping our time in there, my husband suggests that we should do the Garden Route, but somehow it never happened. My excuse for not doing it sooner always has been that our prime reason for being here is to visit my in-laws and spend as much time with them as possible.  It took me seven trips to this lovely country before, at long last, we decided to do it.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
The Garden Route is about a 300 km stretch of the South-Western Coast of South Africa between the Western and Eastern Capes.  It lies north of Cape Town and encompasses some of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches, mountains, and rivers. It is due to its natural beauty, that the Garden Route is considered as one of the greatest coastal drives in the world.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
It was during our planning time that my husband came up with another idea.  He suggested that once we reach the Eastern Cape, we should make a short stop and spend a couple of days in a game park.  I liked that idea a lot and we spent couple of hours trying to figure out where should we go.  Our choice fell on the malaria free Shamwari Private Game Reserve that was voted one of the World's Leading Safari and Game Reserve and Conservation Company for many consecutive years.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
And so after we spent a week in Cape Town, we packed a light suitcase and set off on our adventure. 
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
Since we were pressed for time, we decided to bypass the first leg of our journey by flying from Cape Town to George.  I found that this little town is quite ordinary and was not disappointed at all that we missed  it.  There we hired a car and went on to explore the beauty of the Garden Route and beyond.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
This is a magnificent part of South Africa. True to its name and glorious natural beauty, anywhere you look along the road, you see brightly coloured flowers blooming amongst luscious bushes with the dark rich forests rising up the slopes on one side and the sparkly blue waters of the Indian Ocean on the other.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
Our first stop was at Victoria Bay, where we went to have some coffee and a stroll along the beach, popular among locals for its mild surf, soft sand and a big grassed area behind it where they like to cook the braaivleis, a traditional South African barbecue.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA

"IT IS DUE TO ITS NATURAL BEAUTY, THAT THE GARDEN ROUTE IS CONSIDERED AS ONE OF THE GREATEST COASTAL DRIVES IN THE WORLD"
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
Our next stop was at Knysna, a small, picturesque town famous for its beaches, lagoons and lush forests and thus a perfect place for water activities, walks and other adventures.  We had a lovely lunch at an Italian restaurant called Cornuti that served us an excellent pizza alongside a breathtaking view over the lagoon.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
After lunch we took a long luxurious walk along the beach admiring the surrounding environment.  It was peacefully quiet, there were no traffic, no shops and contrary to always crowded Bondi Beach, where we live, it was absolutely deserted.  It felt like heaven.
DRIVING ALONG GARDEN ROUTE| PART I| FROM CAPE TOWN TO KNYSNA
We continued our drive and in the late afternoon we reached the seaside town of Plettenberg Bay where we stayed overnight at one of the most magnificent hotels I ever been but that story is for another post.
Until then

Love,
Anna