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a personal guide

Hotels in South Africa

During our 2005 tour of South Africa, we stayed in eight hotels, which varied from three to five star rated. In the main, we found the ones with fewer stars better than those with most. Our own emphasis was on comfort and friendly service. Also shown below are two hotels where we just had lunch and did not stay overnight.

The Cape Manor Hotel, Cape Town
This hotel is located in a suburb called Sea Point, which has a good, very clean beach and useful local shops. The hotel is a hundred metres from the sea front (safe during daylight hours), across a busy road with pedestrian-controlled traffic lights.

The Cape Manor is run by a British ex-patriot and many of the customers were British (on a Saga holiday, as we were). The staff appeared very happy and could not have been more helpful.

Although the rooms were fairly small, most had views either of the sea or of the Lion's Head mountain (adjacent to Table Mountain).

Food was plentiful and tasty, and it was possible to get an 'English breakfast'. The Cape Manor was one of our favourite hotels of the entire trip.

Cape Manor Hotel, Cape Town Sea Point, Cape Town

Protea Wilderness Resort Hotel, Wilderness
This large, comfortable hotel has tennis courts and other sporting facilities. Many of the rooms are on the ground floor.

It is conveniently located a few hundred yards from a huge, sandy beach beside the Indian Ocean. The beach can be reached safely on foot without crossing any main roads. Pleasant walks are also available beside a nearby lagoon.

Our only complaint here was that, after the friendliness of the Cape Manor in Cape Town, the staff appeared unfriendly, stand-offish and unhelpful.

Protea Wilderness Resort Hotel Wilderness beach

Royal Hotel, Durban
This is advertised as one of the best hotels in Africa, and it probably is - on paper. It certainly had all the trappings of a five-star hotel - chocolates on the pillow, complimentary bits and pieces in the spacious, modern bathroom, a fabulous view from the top floor restaurant (see picture), a personalised but mis-spelled welcome message displayed on the television.

However, because it was near the docks, we were strongly advised not to venture out as it was unsafe after dark (as we stayed in Durban for one night only, this was 100% of our time). Also, the staff were attentive to the point of being a nuisance- unless of course we actually wanted something, when no-one was around. Several of those on our tour reported being badgered by phone to give an opinion of the hotel, even though they had only just arrived and were still trying to freshen up. The food was adequate but not hot enough.

Harbour view from the Royal Hotel, Durban

Rob Roy Hotel, Botha's Hill, KwaZulu Natal
We stopped here for a buffet lunch one day and were impressed. The food was very good, as was the service, and the location was fantastic. Situated between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, there is a stunning view over the Valley of a Thousand Hills. The hotel's gardens are beautifully green, with many flowering trees and shrubs. Below the gardens are a small aviary and some interesting, but expensive, small shops. The indoor swimming pool has probably the best view of any pool in South Africa.
Rob Roy Hotel Valley of 1000 Hills

Sani Pass Hotel, Drakensberg Mountains
This was our favourite hotel of the tour. It was not the most modern and had fewer facilities than some, but it was very comfortable indeed and the staff were wonderful. And as for the setting - it was out of this world (see picture). The hotel is situated on a lovely green plateau, at the foot of the Sani Pass, the only route into the 10,000ft (3,000m) high Drakensbergs (and the mountain kingdom of \Lesotho) from the south. In October we found the weather here warm and sunny with very fresh air - quite a change from hot and sticky Durban where we stayed the previous night.

Facilities include horse riding, 4-wheel-drive trips into the mountains (which we did - see elsewhere on this site), golf and walking in the extensive grounds.

We would have liked to stay more than the two nights spent at this hotel.

Sani Pass hotel

Bushlands Game Lodge, Hluhluwe
This was unlike any hotel we had experienced. The accommodation is in huts in a woodland setting, linked by elevated woden walkways. Despite the external appearance, the rooms were comfortable with all the mod cons you would expect, including air conditioning. The need for the elevated paths was obvious in the morning when a small herd of nyala (antelope) could be seen wandering around the hotel grounds. During the night, apes clambered on the roof of our hut and other small animals were visible from the windows. The food was excellent and, after dinner, guests could sit round an open air log fire beside the bar. In addition to the small swimming pool, the hotel's most novel attraction is a large, observation hut from where giraffe, antelope and other game could be seen grazing a few tens of feet away.
Bushlands Game Lodge Giraffe
Bushlands Game Lodge Camp fire

Lugugo Sun Hotel, Swaziland
This is part of a luxury hotel complex in the heart of Swaziland. It's opulence contrasts with Swaziland's obvious poverty, which made some of us feel a little uncomfortable, but it is plainly a good way for the country to earn much needed foreign currency. There are many leisure facilities, including a large pool and even a casino.

We did not enjoy having to wait nearly an hour for a snack lunch, by which time those who had ordered after us were well into their meals. Nor did we like the impossibly noisy and drafty air conditioning; we eventually turned this off and were rewarded by mosquito bites (essential to take malaria medicine). Also annoying was the habit of waiters talking to each other in their own language whilst serving us - perhaps they had been trained not to fraternise with the guests, but to us it was just rude.

On the plus side, there is a large open-air craft market a few hundred yards outside the hotel. You are unlikely to get mugged here, but the walk does involve crossing a busy main road. All sorts of carvings, paintings and souvenirs are on sale at dozens of stalls and bargains can be had by haggling a little. Some market items were on sale at the hotel itself at greatly inflated prices. We were pleasantly surprised by the Swazi people we encountered on our short walk (mostly returning from work and catching the ubuitous white taxi-buses) who all smiled and said "hello" - in contrast to the hotel staff.

Lugugo Sun Hotel, Swaziland craft market

River House Guest Lodge, Malalene
This was another place we stopped just for lunch, but what a location! It is right beside the Crododile River, the other side of which is the Kruger National Park. The food was excellent and the service friendly and entertaining (the staff sang and danced for us). The decor has to be seen to be believed - every surface is crammed with artifacts, old and new, from all round the world.

It is when we went outside that we discovered the best bit - a large open-sided shelter (which we needed as the temperature was nearly 40 degrees C) built out over the river bank, and a few feet below us were several hippos cooling themselves. A little patience revealed a crocodile near the far bank.

This would have been a really great place to stay, but with only a dozen rooms it was too small for our 30-strong party.

River House Guest Lodge
Viewing gallery Hippos in the Crocodile River

Hotel The Winkler, White River
Located conveniently for the Kruger National Park, the Winkler (pronounced 'Vinkler' as it is owned by a German company) is set in impressively large, lawned grounds with peacocks roaming around. The rooms are on the ground floor and the reception, bar and dining areas are reached by a short outside walk (rain is not normally a hazard, though there was a shower whilst we were there).

This is a place to relax. If you don't fancy being energetic in the swimming pool, the lounge is large, with a calming view of the grounds. The staff are efficient and friendly. Dinner is signalled by a native drummer, and the food - German influenced - is good and hot.

Hotel, the Winkler

Rosebank Hotel, Johannesburg
Situated in the relatively safe suburb of Rosebank, this Hotel was up-market and in keeping with the rest of our experience in South Africa was less friendly than the less luxurious ones. The food was good, but the buffet service seemed shambolic. We had one meal in a chinese restaurant which was part of the hotel. The view from our window (see picture) was of the Post Office tower in central Johannesburg and the many beautiful jacaranda trees for which this area is famous.

We were able to walk outside the hotel to a large, modern shopping mall a few hundred yards away. The shoppers appeared much more wealthy than most other South Africans we had come across, even in Cape Town. Shops selling guns, tazers and flak jackets nestled alongside boutiques and cafes.

Johannesburg view


South Africa - a personal guide

South Africa - the Basics

Places to visit in South Africa

South Africa's Western Cape

South Africa's Garden Route

Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

South Africa: Mpumalanga

South Africa: Gauteng

Lesotho, southern Africa

Hotels in South Africa

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Cape Manor Hotel | Protea Wilderness | Royal Hotel, Durban | Rob Roy Hotel

Sani Pass Hotel | Bushlands Game Lodge | Lugogo Sun, Swaziland

River House Lodge, Melalene | Hotel the Winkler | Rosebank, Johannesburg


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