Tim and Nina Zagat recently took a 16-day trip to Southern Africa, spanning three countries (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe), “fab” game camps and hotels and, of course, some “superb” meals.
The trip started in Johannesburg at the justifiably famed Saxon Hotel (where Nelson Mandela penned his “must read” book, A Long Walk to Freedom). It is an “inspiring” account of how South Africa escaped a bloodbath thanks to extraordinary political leadership.
The next day the Zagats flew to Botswana where they visited several “cushy” game camps in the Okavango Delta, namely Little Mombo, Abu and Vumbura Plains. They saw an amazing array of animals from their open Land Rovers (including a leopard carrying an impala up a tree, a wild dog mothering two jackel cubs and lions eating a dead elephant “inside out”). If there was a wild animal around, the Zagats saw it.
Everywhere the countryside was “stunning.” An afternoon boat trip through high reeds in which Tim and Nina confronted four hippos was “a highlight.” At 7PM each day they would stop at an open space to have “sun-downers” with their rangers.
The couple also visited the world-famous Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side. Tim noted of the accommodations: “the grand dame Victoria Falls Hotel has great bones but poor plumbing.”
Finally, the Zagats flew to Cape Town and stayed at the “exquisite” Ellerman House known for its great collection of South African art, views over the ocean and outstanding food and comfort. While in the Cape Town region, the Zagats also visited the colonial towns of Stellenbosch (Dutch) and Franschhoek (Huguenot) and drove down to the Cape of Good Hope stopping at the “spectacular” Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
The trip ended at Singita Boulders, the “top-rated” game park in the Zagat World’s TopHotels, Resorts and SpasSurvey. It’s at the opposite end of South Africa abutting Krueger Park. Tim noted: “You don’t get any better than the food, accommodations and service at Singita. We, i.e., just the two of us, had our last dinner outdoors on the Singita landing strip with a full kitchen crew serving us and rangers with lasers and rifles insuring that we did the eating as opposed to being eaten.”
Culinary Highlights: Not surprisingly, the Zagats had a variety of “fantastic meals” on the trip but one stood out – a restaurant called Babel near Stellenbosch. That restaurant has a huge garden where it grows its produce. The menu features unique colored drinks and salads – red, yellow, orange and green – which blend a variety of ingredients with the same color palates. Tim’s favorite was the red drink – beet juice mixed with iced tea. Per Tim, “Babel was the most interesting restaurant we’ve been to in the past year.” And Nina remarked: “The food was very simple but beautiful and super fresh.”Having tried antelope, ostrich and kudu on the trip, the Zagats have decided to stick to chicken, beef and pork.
Overall, Tim said: “After 3 days we felt that we’d been away for a month. No phones, no email, no nothing. We felt completely relaxed; Nina and I will definitely go back.” Nina added, “Our next trip will be for at least two months, not just the two weeks that we spent this time.