South Africa: March 11-25, 2024

By:
Brianna Botine, Director of Membership & Lodging

Pictured Above: Ashley & Clay Herod, Judy & Mike Watson, Polly & Don Gatto, May McCarthy & Don Smith, Richie & Jerry Merck, Lee & Jim Clymer, Joanne & Aldon Williams, Katie Dillard, Brianna Botine

Katie Dillard, Director of Instruction, and I would like to express our gratitude to the seven couples who joined us on the first Signature Vacation to South Africa, a trip organized by The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. This Club has a rich history of organizing Signature Vacations to many great destinations such as Napa Valley, Costa Rica and Hawaii. During my interview, I was asked which part of the job scares me the most. I replied, “The Signature Vacations.” When asked why, I said, “I don't know enough about wine to take people to Napa Valley.” However, I was told that I could choose any unique destination that I felt the members would love. After a member and good friend, Hugh Ross, who happens to be from South Africa, hosted a wine dinner featuring Vergelegen at the Club, we sat down with the Vergelegen wine team to discuss dates and recommendations, and booked the trip shortly after!

Our 10-day trip was exceptional as we covered many different areas, including the City of Cape Town, the Wine Country of Franschhoek and the Safaris at Kruger National Park. We couldn’t have asked for more glorious weather — March is the end of summer in South Africa — or a better group to travel with.

Cape Town

Our first three nights in Cape Town were spent at the iconic Mount Nelson Hotel. While in the Cape, we toured the city on sidecars, took the cable car up to Table Mountain, drove all the way down to The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, which is one of the southernmost points in South Africa, and ended the day watching the penguins play at Boulder Beach. Katie hosted a group of golfers at Steenberg Golf Club and Erinvale Golf Club, while I hosted the rest of the group at the Spa and at a chocolate and wine tasting at Waterford Estate.

Franschhoek

We spent the next two nights in Franschhoek, enjoying the beautiful wine country and wonderful accommodations at Le Quartier Francais. We visited Vergelegen, Grand Provence, Boschendal and Antonij Rupert for wine tastings. We loved Franschhoek because the small and quaint town reminded us of our favorite small-town Boerne. We enjoyed strolling along the strip, shopping in the boutiques and dining on the patios of the little cafes.

Buhala Lodge

The second half of our trip in the safari was even more beautiful! We were excited to fly out to Kruger National Park for the safari. We spent our first two nights at Buhala Lodge. When we arrived, we immediately jumped in the safari truck for our late afternoon drive. This was the most surreal experience as we saw four of the Big 5 on our very first drive! As soon as we drove through the gates, we were greeted by a leopard! As we continued to drive, we saw a giraffe, a herd of rhinoceros, three lionesses playing around as if they were house cats, and finally, a male lion enjoying a sunbath. On our way out of the park, the leopard we had seen at the beginning had killed an impala and was enjoying his meal in the tree. Right below him, there was a hyena that was pacing around with anticipation of the leopard dropping some of his meal.

We spent the final day at Buhala at the one and only Leopard Creek Golf Club. This was an incredible treat as the course was in fantastic shape, and the wild animals made for an unforgettable round of golf. We saw a hippo grazing while we were on hole #13, several impalas ran through the course, and monkeys played in the trees. We enjoyed their beautiful dining facilities overlooking the 18th green and shared our stories from the day.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

Our last three days were spent at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge. Our shuttle transportation from Buhala to Sabi took us through Kruger National Park so we were able to enjoy an impromptu safari tour where we saw a herd of elephants crossing the street, giraffes snacking along the road and a dazzle of zebra. This stretch of the trip was a unique experience as the resort was set in the heart of the safari. When we arrived, it was so well hidden to blend in with the surroundings that we almost didn’t notice it was there. The amazing staff and accommodations were the cherry on top of an already wonderful vacation. Each day they offered a morning and evening game drive. Each group was able to tell their driver what they wanted to see, and the driver made it happen. It was slightly comparable to an adult Disney World full of magic. The animals would be so close to the vehicles you could almost touch them (not that it was advised). We saw all of the Big 5, and each day provided new experiences. My favorite end to the trip was on the day of check-out when elephants made their way to our lodge suite patio and were drinking out of our pool. It was so amazing to see them so close.

Katie and I will forever cherish this inaugural Signature Vacation to South Africa. The relationships we made, the late-night dinners and the early game drives will forever hold a special place in our hearts. We had the best time forming friendships. We were all very close by the end of the trip and plan to get together again for a dinner. 

Please keep your eyes peeled for the next Signature Vacation in 2025. We have not released the details yet, but we can tell you it will include wiener schnitzel and beer steins…

Brianna Botine is the Director of Membership & Lodging at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch. She can be reached at bbotine@cordilleraranch.com and 830.336.9162.

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