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November 2017

Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

The Best Luxury Safari Resort – AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge

We often say that though the places we visit are amazing, it is the people and interactions we remember the most. This was definitely the case throughout our stay at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. From the staff including all of the managers, our butler, Mo, our tracker, Bethuel, our ranger, Brenden and our fellow game drive team members – we will never forget the experiences we shared with everyone at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge.

 

“After our stay with AndBeyond, we can confidently say that we will only stay with them because of the huge impact they had on us as individuals and our experience.”  

 

Why You Should Choose AndBeyond

When travelers choose their safari lodge, there are several things they typically consider, but the main concerns are – location, service, budget and activities. These are all very important things to consider, but what makes AndBeyond go “and beyond” is their loyalty to their guests, land, wildlife and people. Their loyalty and commitment is the reason why they are listed four times in the 50 Best Resorts in the World from CNTraveler AND Travel and Leisure.

AndBeyond has a simple principle they abide to and it is called “The Three C’s”. CARE for the LAND, CARE for the WILDLIFE and CARE for the PEOPLE. AndBeyond’s priority is not about making money, but about ethical conservation and community work.

 

In addition to their responsibility in conservation and community, AndBeyond strives in making their guests feel a part of their family. We have stayed at some of the best resorts in the world, but none have made us feel more like family than AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. We cried when we had to leave because of the connections and relationships we made with the staff. After our stay with AndBeyond, we can confidently say that we will only stay with them because of the huge impact they had on us as individuals and our experience.

The last reason travelers should choose AndBeyond is because of their luxury service. Most resorts have luxury service at their accommodation, but being a safari lodge, AndBeyond takes luxury service further than anything we have ever experienced. From private meals, surprise dinners in the bush, luxury safari drives, candlelit hot baths and more. AndBeyond continued to surpass all expectations.

 

Getting There

Getting to Phinda Game Reserve is a pain, but when you arrive you forget all about your transportation troubles and how long it took to arrive. This is quite normal though for all game reserves, its a long journey, but it’s more than worth it. There are two ways to arriving in Phinda – by plane or car.

Phinda Game Reserve has their own private landstrip, so flying to Phinda is the fastest option. South African Airlink flys to and from Phinda based on their set schedule. Be aware the plane is extremely small and seats only 12 passengers. If the weather is bad, the plane will not land in Phinda due to the risks since the airstrip/runway is very small. So, even though you pay for the luxury of getting to Phinda, it may not always be the quickest. Case in point, our flight time from Johannesburg to Phinda (with a stop in Kruger) was supposed to be a total of three hours, but ended up taking eight hours. Due to bad weather, our pilot had to land in Durban and then a bus was arranged for us to go from Durban to Phinda. The drive from Durban to Phinda was at least three hours.

our small plane we would take to and from Phinda

This brings us to the second option of arriving to Phinda, by car. The driving distance from Johannesburg to Phinda is five hours. You can also fly to Richards Bay and drive only 50 minutes. The last most common driving route, is flying to Durban and driving three hours to Phinda. Even though we were not supposed to fly to Durban and drive to Phinda, we found that at least three other travelers during our stay took this route.

 

A Day at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge

5:30am – wake up call
6:00am – 6:30am – morning coffee and tea
6:30am – 9:30am – morning game drive
9:30am – 11:00am – breakfast
11:00am – 1:00pm – down time
1:00pm – 3:00pm – lunch
3:30pm –  4:00pm – afternoon coffee and tea
4:00pm – 7:00pm – afternoon game drive
8:00pm – 10:00pm – dinner

A luxurious day like this is ALL included in the daily rate. Yes, all we did was eat and go on safari game drives, it was the best vacation of our lives!

 

Accommodation and Amenities

 

The accommodations of AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were amazing! As the name of the lodge states, it is indeed on a mountain providing their guests with the most beautiful views of the reserve and the Ubombo Mountains. Their dining room, pool, lounge and of course, the suites, all had views of the reserve, thus giving guests special sightings during their entre stay. There are a total of 23 rooms, 16 are suites, one family suite and 3 are family cottages, which can become 6 regular cottages.

Within the lodge were an abundant number of features for guests to make use of:

  • Dining Room
  • Outdoor BBQ dining space
  • Lounge with bar access
  • Safari Shop
  • Wild Child Club
  • Conference Room
  • Business Center
  • Pool Deck
  • Spa

The Lounge

The lounge was our meeting point everyday for our game drives. It was a place where everyone was brought together for eating, drinking and mingling. We felt like a part of their family every time we were in their lounge. We would be introduced to managers, staff, our ranger, Brenden and new members of our team (guests would stay in the same vehicle with the same group, ranger and guide during their stay). Thus, giving us a warm welcome and a special family gathering atmosphere.

As we briefly mentioned, the lounge is where we met every morning and afternoon for coffee and tea. During this time the bar would be full of food and drinks for all of the guests. The rangers would offer us our drink of choice, (coffee, tea, espresso, latte, orange juice, etc.) and there would be fresh fruit and baked goodies to snack on. Before every game drive, we would gather around with Brenden and our team to enjoy our coffee and snacks while we laughed and told amazing travel stories of all the places we had all visited.

In addition the the lounge being the meeting point of every morning and afternoon, it was also a great place to hangout in between game drives. We loved sitting in the lounge admiring all the beautiful African art pieces. There were also several different board games to be played, comfortable seats to relax in and of course a beautiful view to always enjoy.

We never had to leave our lodge to find animal sightings. Every morning there would be monkeys hanging around the lounge looking to snag our morning cookies and cake. Near our lodge and suite we would find hedgehogs and nyala. They were shy, but not as skittish as the ones we would see on our game drives. From the lounge we could see in the distance giraffes walking and one time we saw them just a few hundred yards away! We are sure you are wondering if any predators or animals could attack us, there were never predators, but there is always security around in case of any situation were to occur. At night time we always had to have security walk us to our rooms for safety reasons.

 

Suite

Our suite took our breath away! It was more than spacious with high ceilings, an ensuite bathroom, a sitting area with a bar and a spacious veranda with a plunge pool and outdoor shower. Not to mention our bed was facing the windows to our veranda, which greeted us with the open air and views of the Ubombo Mountain range. Needless to say we had beautiful views whether we were laying in bed, taking an outdoor shower or relaxing on our deck. Waking up every morning to the sun peeking above the mountains was always the perfect way to start our day.

Our bathroom was almost as big as our bedroom and sitting area combined. It had a full bath tub in the middle, (which we enjoyed a lot), a walk-in shower in the corner, double sinks and a private toilet room. Bath robes, slippers, bottles water and toiletries were all provided for us and stocked daily.

We loved our seating area with the beautiful African chandelier and our own open bar. Our suite also had a desk near our bed and a closet that had plenty of space for all of our belongings. We felt more at home in our suite than our actual home – it was that luxurious!

 

Spa

Guests staying at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge should enjoy a relaxing day at their fabulous spa. I (Christina) enjoyed a 45 minute massage with Isabelle, who was one of the best masseuse I have ever had. Isabelle used techniques I have never experienced in a massage before by using wooden African massage tools to help release the knots in my back. She also had a variety of natural massage oils, which all served a different purpose – relax, detox, de-stress, hydrate and more. Guests can also have the pleasure of enjoying a massage in their room. In addition to massages, the spa also offers wonderful bath aromatherapy.

 

 

Safari Shop

The safari shop has everything a guest could need for their visit and souvenirs to take home. If guests need binoculars, a new safari hat or shirt, the AndBeyond Safari Shop has it all for them. The only thing a guests needs to really bring with them to the resort is themselves! We found their safari clothes to be reasonably priced around $50, which is what we paid for our clothes back home. We had to contain ourselves from buying every souvenir inside the shop – there were so many beautiful African pieces we wanted to buy. Some of the African souvenirs came from the nearby Zulu village, therefore the locals were getting paid well for their work.

 

Service

Service was exceptional from the moment we arrived to the lodge until we were on the plane back to Johannesburg. Any questions and concerns we had we always answered by a staff member or a manager. At least 85% off the staff at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were from the nearby Zulu village, including our butler, Mo and our ranger, Bethuel. Regardless if it was Mo, or our favorite manager, Will, we made some great relationships with a lot of staff members who took great care of us – like we said, AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge is like our extended family.

Every time we arrived back to the lodge from our safari game drives we were greeted by the staff with warm towels and refreshments. In the morning they would serve fresh orange or kiwi juice and in the evenings they would serve hot chocolate or spiced hot wine.

AndBeyond certainly went beyond with their service. We were welcomed with a letter and a surprise anniversary platter of fresh fruit. When Adam got sick, the staff took great care in helping him get better by providing him with complimentary medicine and making sure he was feeling better the next day. When we came back from one of our game drives, we found our bathroom was candlelit and a hot bath was drawn with some bubbles. Every detail made a difference to provide us with the best hospitality we could have imagined.

 

Butler

Every guest in a suite or cottage is assigned a butler. We had Mo during our visit and he took care of us for anything we needed during our stay, including our meals. Mo delivered excellent service with a bright smile everyday. We could not have asked for a better butler.

 

Housekeeping

The housekeeping team did a phenomenal job! Laundry is a complimentary amenity at Phinda Mountain Lodge and the housekeeping team took great care of our delicate clothes. Every day when we returned to our room our laundry was neatly folded in a basket with a sweet letter.

 

Dining Options

The dining options at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge were endless! During our four nights at the lodge we dined at the pool, the verandah, in our room, at the boma, the dining room, and the bush! The kitchen staff did an excellent job preparing delicious, authentic South African cuisine for every meal. Food and drinks are included in the rate, so guests can eat to their hearts content.

 

Breakfast

It is true what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially at AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge! Every morning there would be an array of breakfast foods and drinks at the center table inside the dining room. Muffins, yogurt, cereal grains, smoked salmon and more would be placed around the table for breakfast starters.

There was an amazing alcohol set up for bloody marys and mimosas, as well as fresh pineapple, carrot and orange juices.

Then guests would choose their main hot entree from the menu.

 

Lunch

Lunch was served as a buffet style inside the dining room at the center table. Every afternoon there would be a selection of cold salads, roasted beef, a quiche of the day, a hot dish of vegetables, a pie of the day and more.

Lunch by the Pool

AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge arranged a beautiful private lunch by the pool. Our butler, Mo, would bring us an array of all the food options that were being served in the dining room to our table in small portions. We had everything we needed – great views with great food.

 

Dinner

In our four nights at the lodge, we never ate dinner at the same place. Our first night was inside the dinning room, then we at the boma, followed by a private dinner in our suite, and lastly we had a bush dinner! AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge goes above and beyond when it comes to dinner, they give you a true African dining experience that you will never forget – we certainly will never forget!

Dining Room

The dining room would turn into a quiet romantic evening with dimly lit lanterns on every table. For our three-course dinner we enjoyed a vegetable soup for an appetizer, prawns with a lemon and herb sauce and a puff pastry tart with cherries and ice cream for dessert.

Boma

A Boma dinner is a traditional African outdoor dining experience in an enclosed area where guests dine under the stars. The dinner is typically a buffet including barbecue meat and vegetables. Several tables were set up for the guests to enjoy dinner with their rangers and trackers – we were eating with family. The food was fantastic, but the company was even better. Dining as a team discussing all the amazing animal sightings from our entire day under the sats was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

Private Dinner

AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge arranged a private dinner for us to help celebrate our two year wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a beautiful roasted butternut squash soup and sweet corn fritters for appetizers. For our entrees Adam had a mushroom risotto, which was heavenly, while I had a seared ostrich loin for the first time. It was so tender and amazing! And who could forget dessert? Two slices of bitter chocolate torte with caramel ice cream.

Bush Dinner

We were fishing our afternoon game drive when we saw candlelights in the distance. AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge surprised all the guests with a bush dinner. Yes, we were dining not just under the stars, but possibly surrounded by wild animals. It was incredible how the staff created a restaurant with a full bar, kitchen, wash room and dining room in the middle of the bush. A fire pit was near the bar with lounge chairs where we enjoyed a few glasses of wine before dinner. Even though we were surrounded by people, it still felt so romantic with all the lanterns lit and the fire going. This was not only our last dinner at the lodge, but also one of the best dining experiences ever and one we will never forget.

 

Luxury Safaris

We never expected our safari game drives to be so luxurious. We had some cold weather during our visit, so AndBeyond provided blankets and ponchos for everyone. We also enjoyed five star hospitality on our safari breaks. Our ranger, Bethuel and our guide, Brenden, would set up a beautiful array of hot cocoa, tea, coffee, cookies, coffee bread and more for our morning drives. During our night drives, we were provided with every alcoholic beverage you could think of, along with delicious chips and dip, corn nuts, dried fruit and more.

Phinda Private Game Reserve is at least 74,000 acres big and has the Big Five and around 30 of our favorite animal, cheetah. On our first game drive we found a pride of lion with two cubs and five female lions! The same evening we were alone with a leopard at night! The next morning we found two brother cheetahs and were able to enjoy them all to ourselves. It only took us three game drives to see all three big cats! In addition to the big cats we saw plenty of elephant, rhino, buffalo and more.

Also included in our daily rate were bush walks. One afternoon, Brenden took us out to the bush to find tracks in the road. We were successful in finding several different animal tracks, as well as elephant bones!

 

Extra Activities

AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Range offers a full day of activities included in the daily rate, but for those seeking more adventure, there are more activities that can be added to a guests visit. To name a few:

  • Sleeping under the African stars
  • Professional safari photography
  • Tracking black rhino on foot
  • Ocean safari in the Indian Ocean
  • Zulu village tour

 

Daily Rates

We can say without a doubt that every penny is worth a visit to AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge. All of our expectations were surpassed! Here are the current rates for the suite in 2018, the rates are per person, per night.

Included in the daily rate:

  • Accommodation
  • Two safari game drives
  • Three meals daily
  • Beverages – soft drinks, coffee, tea, house wine, local brand spirits and beers
  • Refreshments and meals on safari breaks
  • Laundry
  • One hour bush walks with a ranger
  • Transfers to and from Phinda landstrip
  • VAT
  • Emergency medical evacuation insurance

 

For further information, we highly recommend travelers to contact AndBeyond on their website. Or contact us and we can help plan your vacation to AndBeyond Phinda Mountain Lodge for free!

 

Christina + Adam

 

 

Africa, Blog, Guide, South Africa, Travel

A First Timers Guide to The City of Gold – Johannesburg

We had the great opportunity to visit Johannesburg twice during our layovers within Africa. During our days in Johannesburg we were able to do a lot of sightseeing, learn about the city’s history, eat delicious South African cuisine, and stay at two wonderful hotels. We encourage tourists who travel to South Africa to visit game reserves, to also take the opportunity to spend at least a full 24 hours in Johannesburg. Seeing wild animals is amazing, (we know, it’s why we went to South Africa), but seeing the culture and history of Johanessburg is amazing too. Here is our first timers guide to some of the best places to visit, dine and stay within Johannesburg (based on our first hand experience), along with some helpful tips.

 

Related posts: The Best Tips for Flying To and Within South Africa!

 

Safety

Johannesburg, the City of Gold – tends to get a bad reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We are here to tell you, that is not the case. Just like all major cities, there are growing and influtential areas, suburbs, good school distrcts and more, but there are also areas of poverty and slum. Not once we did encounter any dangerous areas or incidents while in Johannesburg, what we did experience was pure culture and history.

 

Getting Around

We recommend two different ways to sightsee in Johanessburg, the City Sightseeing hop on-hop off bus or Joburg Tourism where they can provide you with a private guide.

Hop On-Hop Off buses are always a popular way to see a new and unfamiliar city. The great thing about a hop on-hop off bus is the opportunity to stop at several destinations you wish to see for an entire day, while paying for a budget friendly price. Along the routes there are also audio guides to use at your disposal, so you can learn about the places you are seeing or visiting. For people who have a lot of time to enjoy sightseeing at their own pace, this is a great fit for you. If you enjoy a more intimate setting that goes based on your tight schedule, we recommend a private driver.

We were invited from Joburg Tourism to enjoy a private driver/tour guide. This was our first experience with a private driver/tour guide and we enjoyed every second of it, in fact, we do not think we can enjoy another group tour ever again. Our guide, Lucille from Cresco Tours, was very knowledgable about the city and was able to show around Johannesburg and educate us more about the city than we have ever imagined. It was also comforting to be able to sightsee and learn about Johannesburg on our own time. To know that we never had to worry about catching our next ride somewhere or continuing to switch tour guides at every site. We were able to make a strong relationship with Lucille and enjoy our time exploring Johannesburg. If you decide to book with Cresco Tours, be sure to ask for Lucille!

 

City Sightseeing Hop On-Hop Off
https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/johannesburg

Joburg Tourism
http://www.joburgtourism.com
http://www.joburgtourism.com/packages/standard

Cresco Tours
http://www.crescotours.co.za/day_tours.php

 

In the Heart of Johannesburg

The heart of Johannesburg is the central business district. There are plenty of things to see, dine and stay in this area. In addition to some fun sightseeing, there is also a lot of culture and history that has defined the city of Johannesburg and South Africa as a whole.

 

Constituional Hill

If you only have time to do one thing in Johanessburg, we encourage you to visit Constitutional Hill. It was one of the most moving tours we have ever experienced. It reperesnts Johanessburg’s past, present and future.

Before the tour, there is a video that gives you a brief history of Constitutional Hill. The brief history is that black, white and colored men and women were prisoned here for speaking their minds of the harsh truth that was occurring in Johannesburg during that time. The treatment they were receiving was unbearable and inhuman. Walking through the prison cells, courtyard, torture chambers and isolation cells was depressing – we could not fathom the history that took place here. To see people be treated so inhuman because they were trying to get their freedom, equality and dignity was heartbreaking.

Some exhibits within the tour had pictures, audio and video of ex-prisoners’ stories of the series of events that happened to them everyday. Constitutional Hill has three prison blocks – Number Four (for black, asian and indian “native men”), Old Fort (for white men) and Women’s Goal (for black and white female prisoners).

The tour has prison cells that showcase the prisoners living arrangements, which were very poor – they would cram in dozens of men in a small prison room. We were told that in the courtyard, the men would have to strip naked and receive brutal beatings.

The isolation cells might have been the most heartbreaking of them all. Visitors can step into the isolation cells to see what it was like for the prisoners. The prisoners were only supposed to stay inside the isolation cells for no more than 30 days, but some stayed there for an entire year. Without even stepping into the isolation cells, we cannot begin to even imagine what it was like to be in their shoes.

A lot of historical men and women of Johanessburg were imprisoned at Constitutional Hill, including two of the most influential leaders of our world, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. In honor of these men, Constitutional Hill has dedicated one of the prison cells into a small msusuem of their history here and in life.

Out of this tradegy comes hope. Johannesburg created their congress room in the center of Constitutional Hill and embraced their history for a better future. The bricks of the building are the same bricks the prisoners would mine. There is a small narrow window across the congress room where the judges can only see people’s legs walking by. This feature is to remind the judges that they sit in the chairs to help create a better world for all those people walking outside. We enjoyed the congress room a lot because of how much thought and meaning went into building the room.

11 Kotze St 
Johannesburg, 2017, South Africa
+27 11 381 3100
Open daily: 9am – 5pm
Prices vary for age and type of tour, so please click here to get an in-depth page of prices.
https://www.constitutionhill.org.za

 

Apartheid Museum

A visit to Apartheid Museum is a museum unlike any other, representing the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa. Guests take an emotional journey through a series of 22 individual exhibition areas, which tells a story of a state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination and the struggle the majority of people endured to overthrow the tyranny. South Africa does not shy away from their past, but embrace it to make a better future – the Apartheid Museum is South Africa’s beacon of hope to show the world who they really are. It is a museum not to be missed.

Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd
Ormond, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 11 309 4700
Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Adults: R85
Students, seniors and children: R70
https://www.apartheidmuseum.org

 

Top of Africa

To experience the best views of Johanessburg, head to the 50th floor of the Carlton building, also known as the Top of Africa. Why is it called the Top of Africa? Because it is THE tallest building in Africa! At the observation deck, guests can see the city and its surrounding landscape with 360 degree unobstructed views. Though we went on a hazy day, it did not deteriorate from the beauty of Johanessburg. We were able to see the business district, suburbs and of course, the mining grounds.

150 Commissioner St
CBD, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 (0)11 308 1331
Monday – Friday: 9am – 6pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Sunday: 9am – 2pm
Tickets can be purchased at the front desk, located behind the store “Studio 88”, one floor below ground level.  If lost, ask a security guard or a store clerk. 
Adults: R15
Children under 10: R10

 

Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City has is a place for tourists of all ages – two hotels, a casino, a theme park and a mine tour! Guests must pay an entrance fee to enter the theme park regardless if they will partake in any rides. Guests wanting to actually go on rides must pay a higher price. To visit the mine tour will also cost an additional fee, but it is well worth it for those interested in learning how Johannesburg became The City of Gold! During the mine tour, guests will feel the cold air as they descend into the depths of the earth and discover the riches of South Africa’s history and gold. They will also have the opportunity to pan for gold in freezing cold water and watch gold being poured into golden bars!

Northern Pkwy & Data Cres
Ormonde 99-Ir, Johannesburg, 2159, South Africa
+27 11 248 5000
Closed Monday-Tuesday

Wednesday-Sunday: 9:30am – 5pm
Thrill Rider above 1.3m: R210 or R320 to include mine tour      
Non-Rider above 1.3m: R120 or R230 to include mine tour      
Guests under 1.3m: R130 or R240 to include mine tour  
Students and seniors 60+: R175 or R285 to include mine tour
Heritage Mine Tour: R340
Children under 3 years are admitted free of charge
https://www.tsogosun.com/gold-reef-city-casino

 

 

Soweto

Soweto is a the largest black town in South Africa and is known for its culture, history and the home of Nelson Mandela. Great local food can be found around town with an entertaining culture and lifestyle.

 

Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial

The museum was built in honor of Hector Pieterson and is located only two blocks away from where Hector was shot and killed.  For those who do not know the story, students were walking to the stadium to gather for a protest and were met by the police. The children threw stones at the police and the police responded with gunfire. Hector was the first one to be shot by the police. This tragic event started the 1976 uprising in Soweto and throughout the country. The museum is dedicated to all the children, women and men, whose lives were lost during the apartheid tyranny. Outside the museum is a beautiful memorial which represents the event of the students and police officers. The memorial is built with a fountain that flows to the streets – the water flowing symbolizes the blood shed from the children. The iconic picture of Hector dying in the arms of another Soweto resident with his sister next to them, is placed next to the memorial.

Tip: If you are going to the Apartheid Museum, it is suggested not to visit the Hector Pieterson museum on the same day because of the amount of emotion placed upon the visitors. It is also said that a visit to the Apartheid Museum is enough to capture the history of the events, but if you want to learn more of what happened in Soweto then going inside the Hector Pieterson Museum is advised. Otherwise seeing the memorial with a tour guide to explain the symbolism of the event is enough.

8287 Khumalo Rd
Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 536 0611
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sundays: 10am – 4pm
Adults: R30
Students and seniors: R10
Children (ages 6 to 12): R5
https://www.gauteng.net/attractions/hector_pieterson_memorial_and_museum/

 

Orlando Towers

What was once used as a power station for over 50 years, is now South Africa’s largest mural painting in the country and a place to have fun. Soweto has a lot of culture and history, which the Orlando Towers signifies in their colorful painted murals that can be seen from miles away. For those seeking adrenaline, you can bungee jump, base jump or freefall from the top of the towers! After you enjoy your thrill of choice from the Orlando Towers, don’t forget to dine at Chaf Pozi (more info on the restaurant at Places to Dine). Spending a day at Orlando Towers and finishing your evening at Chaf Pozi will be an experience you will never forget in Johannesburg!

Chris Hani Rd, Soweto 1808
Johannesburg, 1809, South Africa
+27 71 674 4343
Thursday: 12pm – 5pm
Friday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Prices vary depending on activity
http://www.orlandotowers.co.za

 

Nelson Mandela House

Visiting Nelson Meandela’s House is almost a must when visiting Johannesburg! If you are fans of the legendary man, we highly recommend you visit his house. The house is full of gifts he received from leaders all over the world, in addition to awards he received throughout his life. Outside the house, visitors can see and feel with their fingers the bullet holes from people who shot at his house. Inside the house, visitors can see the last picture ever took of him before he was imprisoned next to the picture of him when he was released.

8115 Vilakazi St & Ngakane St
Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 936 7754
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm
Adults: R60
Students, seniors and children over 6 years: R20
children under 6 years: R5
http://www.mandelahouse.com

 

Playing Soccer with the Children

As we were driving throughout Soweto we kept seeing several children playing soccer in the middle of the streets. When we parked to visit the Nelson Mandela House, there were children playing in the parking lot. As soccer players, we could not resist playing with the children, so we joined them. It was a surreal experience that we will never forget. If you happen to find street vendors selling soccer balls, it would change the children’s world if you buy one for them, otherwise they will love it if you join them in a game or two!

 

 

 

Places to Dine

 

Homestead

Homestead focuses on South African food using the freshest and local ingredients. Their speciality is called “bowl’d food” where guests pick their starch, meat, vegetables, sauce and salad – essentially all of the components are served in bowls and placed on a wooden tray. One of their starch options is pap, also known as mieliepap, which is a traditional South African corn porridge, similar to polenta, but prepared differently. We recommend guests to enjoy it with a meat stew served on top.

58 Anderson St
Marshalltown, Johannesburg, 2107, South Africa
+27 11 689 1000
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: closed
$$ – $$$
http://homestead.co.za

 

Aurelia’s Restaurant

A luxury dining experience at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. The ambience of Aurelia’s Restaurant during the night is romantic with its dim lighting, candles and fresh flowers on the table. Their dinner menu is quite extensive, which showcases the chef’s creative molecular gastronomy appetizers, entrees and desserts. The dishes have a little Mediterranean flare with some South African cuisine that can please any palate. To read our full review of Aurelia’s Restaurant, click here.

64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo
Kempton Park, 1627, South Africa
+27 11 928 1727
Lunch served daily: 12:30pm – 4pm
Dinner served daily: 6:30pm – 10pm
$$$$
http://www.emperorspalace.com/things-to-do/restaurants/aurelias-restaurant

 

Chaf Pozi

After you experience the Orlando Towers, dine at Chaf Pozi, an authentic South African Shisa Nyama (barbecue) cuisine restaurant at the base of the towers. At night, Chaf Pozi turns into a shebeen (live music and dancing), which is an integral part of South African urban culture and represents a sense of community, identity, and belonging.

Chaf Pozi
Chris Hani Rd, Soweto 1808
Johannesburg, 1809, South Africa
+27 81 797 5756
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 6pm
Friday – Sunday: 9am – 2am
$$-$$$
http://chafpozi.co.za

 

Sakhumzi Restaurant

Located across the street from the Nelson Mandela House is Sakhumzi, which serves local Soweto, authentic-home cooked cuisine. We have never encountered such a vibrant community during a dining experience. Everyone greeted us with a warm welcome as if we were family. Everything is made fresh from the kitchen and served as either a buffet or a la carte from the menu. The buffet has a great selection of authentic Soweto food, from traditional pap to lamb stew, sausage, tripe, cow tongue and more.

6980 Vilakazi St
Orlando West, Soweto, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 536 1379
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 10pm
Friday – Sunday: 11am – 12am
$$ – $$$
https://sakhumzi.co.za/our-story/

 

 

Places to Stay

Johannesburg is full of several different types of beautiful hotels – boutique, eco-friendly, luxurious and more. We highly recommend two hotels, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace and The Reef Hotel. Both hotels are amazing for different reasons.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is a five star hotel and the perfect hotel for layovers, as well as, a phenomenal hotel for luxurious vacations. It is in between Johannesburg’s central business district and Soweto, so also great for location. Click here to read more about this hotel.

The Reef Hotel is a four star hotel located in the heart of Johannesburg – the central business district. The hotel has some amazing features, such as a jacuzzi on their sun deck and a rooftop bar. Click here to read more about this hotel.

In addition to these two hotels, here are more fabulous hotels to stay at:

  • Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff
  • Hyatt Regency Johannessburg
  • The Peech Hotel
  • Saxon Hill, ranked as one of the Worlds Best Hotels in Travel and Leisure.

Book your hotel in Johannesburg by using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us!

Booking.com

 

 

Based on our experience, we suggest at least two full days in Johannesburg! Spend one day in the heart of Johannesburg and another day in Soweto. There is truly so much to see and experience in Johannesburg. It is not a city to be used as a layover, it is a city to be seen! We hope this guide has been helpful and given you a new and better perspective of Johanessburg.

 

Christina + Adam

 

 

Blog, Las Vegas, Nevada, Travel

Vegas Strong – A City Still Shining Bright

As some of our readers may know, we met in Las Vegas and lived there for two years. We both moved to Las Vegas shortly after we graduated from our universities and went there to grow in our careers in a management training program. For us, Las Vegas is where we truly started our lives. Most people feel a great connection to the city where they move to after college and for us it is no different – we met, fell in love, made lifelong friends and started our careers. We love Las Vegas with every inch of our body and sometimes think we might move back one day because of how much we loved our two years there. So, when we heard about the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on October 1, 2017 we were more than devastated.

We will never forget where we were when we heard the news of the Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. We just entered the airport lounge at the Kruger International Airport and were handing the agent our Priority Pass cards when we saw CNN news on the television. The agent was trying to hand back our cards, for who knows how long, because everything around us didn’t matter – our world, our home was just attacked and nothing seemed right anymore. At the time we were watching the news, the event had just happened less than three hours ago, and with the time differences most of the United States citizens had no idea what was transpiring. We watched the news waiting to hear more information; it went from 20 dead and 200 injured to 58 dead and over 500 injured in just an hour, making it the deadliest shooting in modern US history. Our hearts felt broken and we felt helpless being in Africa. We remembered Facebook had a “check-in” feature and we quickly started asking all of our friends to check in – we had no idea if we had people we cared about at the concert and that was frightening.

The next thing we knew, we were on our flight back to Johannesburg, South Africa. When we landed, we found out that we had two friends at the concert, Alexa and Tyler. We were relieved to know that they were both safe at home and could not imagine what they just went through.

 

a sushi double date with Tyler and Alexa

It is sad to say, but the truth for us (and for a lot of people) is that we stop for a few moments of silence when we hear about tragic events all around the world, but then we carry on with our lives. We still feel bad for what happened, but at the end of the day we go on with our lives because we weren’t the ones affected. I think a lot of people can agree that they feel and do the same. It is only human nature and nothing to be ashamed of. Even with Las Vegas, a place we call home, a place where we had two friends at the concert, we still went on with our lives – we went on to enjoy the rest of our trip throughout Africa. It was not until we went to Las Vegas a week ago (October 21-24) and saw the aftermath and strength of the city, that it became more real – we felt more of a connection to the shooting than ever. When we saw the memorial with our own eyes, our world never felt smaller. When we saw everyone showing their remorse with flowers, candles and other tokens, we felt more connected to the victims, especially our friends and city than ever before. A lot of thoughts went through our minds during these moments, we thought to ourselves that we wished we felt this way before. We thought, how can we make others feel the way we feel right now standing at this memorial, while they are not? Thus the purpose of this article.

Our goal with this article, is to help others understand that though it is okay to carry on with your lives after hearing about a tragic event, we want our audience to place themselves in someone else’s shoes, because that is how we felt when we were in Las Vegas last week. It is one thing to see it on television, but it is another to be there and really feel the affect in person. We also hope to show our audience how this city has come together to be stronger than ever. It is a shame that it takes a tragic event to bring people together, but with darkness there is light. And as we all know, Las Vegas is full of light!

photo credit: The National Compassion Fund

An Interview With Alexa

Our amazing friend Alexa agreed to participate in an interview to showcase the terrible events she and others had to go through and how she has overcome the tragedy. Her interview gives us insight on the night of October 1st and a chance to really feel connected to her story. If you need to, we recommend grabbing some tissues because her story is definitely not an easy one to share.

 

You are a born and raised Vegas citizen, how does this make you feel towards your city?

I am, yes. It doesn’t change how much I truly love this city. I haven’t been able to drive back to the scene or near Mandalay Bay, but I think overtime I will be able to.

 

What remarkable moments have you witnessed of the city or people coming together to help make Vegas strong?

The amount of people that visit the Vegas sign where the shrine is located, is amazing. It is great to see people going there to pay their respects and/or bring flowers, candles, cards, etc. I have also been so proud to work for MGM Resorts International. They instantly provided anything and everything needed for the employees who were there that night. They called to check in on how I was doing and reminded me of the options I had. My coworkers were there for me when I had no concentration, energy, and would sometimes just cry out of nowhere.

  

How did you get out safely?

Once the second round of bullets started going off we ran inside the VIP cubes when a gentleman (I am assuming was in the army based on his hat) told us to get down to the floor in which we listened. After that we thought, “no way are we staying here, the gunman is going to come inside and shoot us.” Another man looked us in the eyes and told us “RUN.” We ran out the back door of the VIP cube, to the back where the fence had been opened. We ran across the street and started to run East, but that is when we heard gunfire to our right thinking the gunman were coming that way. Later, we found out this is when he was shooting at the fuel tanks. We then turned North and hopped the fence to the church, ran through the parking lot, hopped the next fence, and started running through the parking lot in between the Tropicana hotel and the Hooters hotel. I had parked my car over in that lot since we were late to the concert. After initially passing my car, we ran back to it, laid on my horn so we wouldn’t hit all the people running around us and drove out. We followed a big truck that ran over a planter, knocking down the bushes, which helped my car to go over and out onto the road.

 

If you had time to process or think while seeking safety, what was going through your mind?

Everyone has a different survival mode, according to my grief counselor. For example, Tyler instantly blacked out and doesn’t really remember anything. He doesn’t remember the route we took or the people that were around us. I, however, remember every little detail. I can tell you though, you don’t think AT ALL. I remember not knowing who to trust. Some people would tell you to get down and others would tell you to run. You’re obviously in fight-or-flight mode so you just think RUN, RUN, RUN. The hard part about this incident was it sounded like the gun fire was coming from everywhere due to the echo.

 

You have gone to Coachella four years in a row, do you foresee yourself going to Coachella or future outdoor concerts/festivals after Route 91 Harvest Festival?

To be honest, it definitely scares me. Will I be able to enjoy myself fully? Probably not. However, I don’t want to live the rest of my life in fear. Tyler and I love festivals and concerts so we will just have to try our best to start enjoying them again.

 

Do you live your life differently after October 1st and if so, how?

I 100% live my life differently after that night. There is just so much more to life and I don’t let the little things bother me anymore. I am very close with my family, but I feel like I do everything I can to talk/see them as many times as I can. When/if something comes up, I just remember how truly grateful I am to be alive. Nothing is scarier than fearing for your life. It changes everything!

 

After a month, how are you feeling?

I am definitely feeling better. I still have those days where I just feel anxious and scared or so sad for everyone involved. I actually was falling asleep last night and started hearing the gun fire again! So scary!

 

How are you working through this trauma?

You just do your best. You cry if you need to, talk to anyone, keep yourself surrounded and especially try to continue on with your life.

There will be times where certain sounds, sound just like the gunfire which will bring you to an instant panic. This can be known as PTSD, but overtime it will get better and we won’t jump at the sounds we hear.

Trauma comes with a lot of different symptoms as well, like loss of memory, hard time concentrating, confusion, anxiety, feeling hopeless, and most of all guilt. Both Tyler and I struggle a lot with the guilt aspect of it. We are very thankful to have gotten out with just bruises (which I still have a month later!!!), but to know that we got out so quick and with minor injuries brings on a lot of guilt for us. It shouldn’t, but it does. Maybe we could have helped people on our way, thrown people into my car, anything. Again this goes back to your survival mode and understanding that what you did at the moment, was what your brain was telling you to do.

I think back though, if I had saw someone get shot; I know I would have stopped to help in some way!

 

Do you have any stories you wish to share?

While running for safety, I dropped my nice David Yurman bracelet my parents got me. I only realized a couple days later that I didn’t have it. I thought it was long gone by now, since it’s a nice piece of jewelry. About a week and half later from the incident, I went on to the FBI website and filed a claim for my bracelet in hopes maybe it was still at the festival grounds. A couple days later I was told to go to the Family Center that was open for the survivors, family members, friends etc. After a lot of questioning (in a good way) from the FBI, they went into the back area and came back with my bracelet. As you can imagine, I was shocked they retrieved it. I instantly started crying and was terrified to look at it in case there was blood on it. Thankfully it didn’t! I wear it every day still as a reminder of just how lucky I was that night.

 

 

The City and Nation Coming Together

It was refreshing to hear how so many people came together to help the victims and their families. Southwest Airlines and Allegiant Air offered free flights to family members of people who were killed or injured in the shooting. MGM Resorts International provided free rooms at the Bellagio to the victims’ family members and also provided meals to workers at the hospital. They are also selling Vegas Strong merchandise (hats, shirts, sweatshirts, tumblers and more) to be purchased at gift shops. All of the t-shirt sales are being donated to the MGM Resorts Foundation to support the first responders, the victims and families affected by the shooting. UFC, Zappos and Station Casinos all donated $1 million each to the families of the victims. Uber and Lyft offered free rides to and from blood donation centers, hospitals and relief centers. Domino’s Pizza delivered free pizzas to police officers, first responders, hospital workers and people in the waiting rooms. So many people were lined up to donate blood that they had to start sending them away, so instead of turning around, they went and bought water and snacks to all those volunteering and donating blood. These are just a few stories of how people came together because there were truly so many people helping in many different ways, the stories are almost endless.

 

 

Showing Strength Throughout the City

Throughout the city, people will find billboards from dozens of different companies showing their support to the city and victims with #VegasStrong. Seeing it around the city is uplifting and inspiring. We saw it throughout the Vegas Strip, T-Mobile stadium, Downtown Las Vegas, the airport and on the highways to the suburban neighborhoods. Even on the radio station commercials and talk hosts would touch on the Vegas shooting. The most significant #VegasStrong sign is perhaps the window banner at Mandalay Bay, right above where the shooting perspired.

photo credit: ABCnews

Las Vegas Sign Memorial

When we visited the Las Vegas sign to promote Mariamor Designs All You Need Is Love bracelet, we had no idea there was a memorial for all the victims who passed away from the shooting. What was once a place tourists go to take pictures in front of the famous Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, is now a beautiful memorial where people show their respect. We witnessed people giving flowers, candles and more, to some of the victims’ crosses. What touched us significantly was seeing several different national flags from other countries around the world. It is a beautiful memorial where a lot of people have come to place their token of respect and remorse.

 

The memorial was created by Zanis, a retired Chicago-area carpenter who built each tribute. He has driven to several states to donate his crosses and create similar memorials for fallen victims for 20 years, including, the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Columbine High School shooting, the Colorado theatre shooting and for the hundreds of gun violence victims in Chicago from 2016 to 2017. Needless to say, Zanis is a remarkable man with a big heart.

We do not know how long this memorial will be at the Welcome Las Vegas sign, if it will stay there forever or make its way to a new home. If you are traveling to Las Vegas, we encourage you to show your respect at the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign.

 

 

Thank you

We want to extend our thank you to everyone who has helped with the aftermath of October 1st, whether you donated, were a first responder, nurse or doctor and more, thank you for your services to help those in need. Thank you for making a difference no matter how big or small. We know that every bit of help makes the biggest difference.

 

Making a Difference

Las Vegas and the victims have endured a great deal. As you can see with Alexa’s interview, the shooting may have been a month ago, but people are still healing and there will never be a set time of when people will no longer need help. So, if you can take the opportunity to help in anyway, we highly encourage you do so. Here are a couple places where you can donate:

  • Steve Sisolak, Clark County Commission Chair from Las Vegas started a Gofundme for the victims’ families. They have already raised over $11 million and are close to reaching their goal of $15 million. To help this fund, click here.
  • The National Compassion Fund has partnered with the Las Vegas Victims Fund. 100% of the funds received through the National Compassion Fund Las Vegas will be distributed directly to victims. To help this fun, click here.

 

 

With Love,

Christina + Adam