Best of a Travelife 2012: Our trip to South Africa was the most enjoyable to plan

Reflecting at the start of 2013 on the wonderful TRAVELIFE that was in 2012, this is part of a series of blog entries that looks at the best aspects of our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful travels

This year was so full of indescribable and inspiring experiences — and we’re certainly looking forward to an even more wonderful Travelife in 2013
A blessed New Year to everyone
from all of us at Travelife Magazine.

We wish you a year of happiness
and an amazing Travelife.


Our great South African adventure in November was a pretty epic Travelife of a trip that took us to JohannesburgKruger National Park and the beautiful Cape Town area — truly a best-of-breed trip and most definitely a Travelife kind of trip.
It was a very enjoyable trip — when I wasn’t sleeping, I was basically laughing — and the fun started from the moment we began planning it.

I think this was the most enjoyable trip planning for 2012 just because we’d personally planned every single aspect of it, and we’d done it with pretty good teamwork, with a pretty fair division of labor, and no disagreements whatsoever.

When we first decided to visit South Africa a few months ago, we’d chosen it almost like throwing darts on a world map
In May, we’d decided to do a trip somewhere in the world. And then we looked at our Blackberries and decided on a specific date way in advance, as we’re both very busy. Then it was a matter of choosing a country that we’d both never been to before.
I’ve written about this already, but choosing a country or even a destination we’d both never been to is actually harder than it looks. My friend has probably been to as many countries as I have, so most countries are automatically either off his list or mine.
We had to cross so many places off from the outset because one of us had already been.
Can you believe we’ve both been to places as exotic as YaltaSevastopol and Odessa? Meanwhile I really wanted to go to Iceland but he’s been; Morocco was on his bucket list but I’d already driven cross-country through there.

I do want to go back to Morocco again sometime now — and perhaps I’ll do so this year. Looking at my friend D’s photos the other day so made me want to do another trip to Fes and Marrakech.

Cape Town’s Table Mountain

But finally we narrowed it down to PeruKenya and South AfricaLebanon was also on the top of my current bucket list and he told me he was interested in that too. 
But after some wrangling over flight plans and world maps — Peru was double the flight time of South Africa — we just knew South Africa was it. 

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In fact, thinking about it now, I don’t know why it took me so long to get to South Africa.

It’s a beautiful country blessed with amazing nature, a great lifestyle, and some of the best wining and dining on the planet. Boy, did we eat in some fabulous places. And it’s not even very far compared to Europe.

From Hong Kong, it took us about the same time to get to Johannesburg as to fly to Paris. 12 hours, and on both ways, we just pushed the “flat bed” button and slept for most of the way. Talk about a pretty painless flight.

And guess what. South African Airways has amazing deals from Manila to Johannesburg via Hong Kong. I saw their advertisement in our current Travelife issue (December 2012 – January 2013) and the prices made me do a double take.

Manila to Johannesburg for as low as US$795
Manila to Cape Town for as lowas US$928
Tel 884-8129
Then came the fun part.

I volunteered to do the basic planning for the trip because no one can really plan a trip the way we can – we are Travelife Magazine after all, the Philippines’ leading travel and lifestyle magazine. Honestly. I’ve seen lots of seasoned travelers plan their trips pretty nicely, but so far no one — absolutely no one — can plan a seamless and truly interesting trip like us, regardless of destination.

We always include really interesting things to do, we stay in very nice hotels, and we never bungle flights, trains or restaurant reservations because we know what to do about these.

But back to South Africa. I did remember to ask my friend for his wish list, and fortunately it was the same as mine: seeing the Big 5 on a best-of-breed safari, discovering the new hype and vibes of Johannesburg, and exploring the great dining and wine opportunities in the Cape Town area.

Read us every Sunday in the Business Mirror
And for me, I really wanted to stay in the best places in South Africa, which has some of the most beautiful and interesting hotels and resorts in the world. I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

Knowing my penchant for luxury, perhaps, he left all the hotel choices to me, so I basically chose all the places I’ve always wanted to stay in on a South Africa trip.

These are the places I chose for our trip:

The Westcliff
An Orient Express Hotel

Sabi Sabi Game Reserve

Selati Camp and Earth Lodge
Greater Kruger National Park

Le Quartier Francais

La Residence

The Mount Nelson Hotel
An Orient Express Hotel
Cape Town

The Steenberg Hotel

Then, after I was done with the basics, I turned over the itinerary to him as “homework,” to finish off with things he wanted to do – like go to the top of Table Mountain, visit Robbens Island, where Nelson Mandela was jailed for over two decades, and book all those great cutting-edge restaurants he’s so keen on.

After emailing him the basically finalized itinerary, regarding the non-dining and wining parts of the itinerary, I told him: “Everything not mentioned in this itinerary is part of your homework. You can plan the free time any way you wish and I’m happy to go along as long as you leave enough time for breakfast and get us back in time to dress for dinner.”

We have the same general interests and we both like good dinners — even if he is way more of a “World’s Best Restaurants 2012” kind of person than I am — so I was sure it would work out in the end.

It was pretty great teamwork to create a fantastic trip. It also helped that we both have great staff to ever so efficiently deal with things like tickets and visas. By the time we flew off to South Africa, I think they were all pretty good friends
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We filled every single evening with dinners in some of South Africa’s best restaurants, and I think we pretty much covered the cream of the dining crop in the country.

Almost every restaurant we chose just recently made it to South Africa’s Top 10 Restaurants for 2012 list and the chef of one of our top picks was also chosen as South Africa’s Chef of the Year for 2012 — so it was certainly a good call on our part.

And the wining part as well.

That was my part and I chose three wineries. We ended up doing a private tour and a liquid lunch with the lady who runs one of South Africa’s oldest and grandest wineries. We also met up with the people behind one of South Africa’s most respected boutique wineries, and did a sunset wine tasting on the oldest estate in the Cape.

Truly a best of South Africa trip, and one handpicked by us in a very Travelife way.

Read about our safari and our wine visit in this current issue of Travelife, and see our spectacular Cape Town special in the February-March 2013 issue.

No one in our part of the planet has done such a thorough and personalized special on Cape Town as we have done for Travelife’s February-March 2013 issue. On sale from February 15.

And then it’s on to the next set of Travelife trips for 2013….