Spectacular South Africa

Our Travel Ambassador Penny Smith was smiling from ear to ear on her trip to South Africa with us.

'Beer is made by men, wine by God,’ said Martin Luther in the 16th century, and had he been able to trot around the vineyards of South Africa five centuries later, nothing would have shaken his belief.

The country is known for its blends and whilst I’m a bit sniffy on a whisky – give me a single malt any day – I’m very happy to have a champion nose mix me a vino.

Wine-tasting in South Africa

Our guide at Anura Wines is James. He shows us how the grapes are separated, squashed and popped into vast vats for around 10 months if they’re white, 30 if they’re red. James says by rights red wine should therefore be more expensive.

One of our party, Liz, says she is obviously buying the wrong stuff from the supermarket. She asks where the best place to store wine is if you don’t have a cellar. James ponders. “I believe the best place to store wine is in the human body,” he says.

Anura is a small vineyard compared with Hidden Valley. Here we meet Sonja, the tasting manageress, who gets us straight into the Sauvignon. “It’s a pear-shaped bottle, which is called the lady shape. Although that’s a bit unfair because it hasn’t got much of a waist. And here is the masculine bottle,” says Sonja, “It’s a Cabernet with good body.” Masculine with a good body, plus it’s smoky, rich and spicy. It’s definitely got my name on it!

Going in search of the 'Big Five'

I’m wondering if it’s wine that prompted The Tokens to sing ‘In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight…’ because we all sleep like tops before we go to Kruger National Park. We search for the Big Five, the little five, the ugly five, and all manner of other animals which can be grouped into a quintet. A giraffe inelegantly drinks from a stream, a rhino blows bubbles in a watering hole, hyena cubs tumble over each other in pursuit of a bone, a tiny baby elephant scampers to catch up with mum, a small owl hides in a tree, hornbills hoot, lilac-breasted rollers flash past and a trio of lion cubs bask on a yellow rock.

Patrick is our guide and if only he’d been my biology teacher at school, I’d have (possibly) passed my O level. He’s so stuffed full of fascinating facts that for once in my life, I’m happy to (almost) shut up. As we drive past a zebra he explains that they have different stripe patterns in the same way as humans have fingerprints. An early form of barcode, essentially. Monkeys chatter as we go past, warthogs scatter and weaver birds flit into their teardrop nests hanging from trees festooned with trailing liana. We don’t only learn about animals. Patrick knows about the plants which are good for various skin and digestive ailments, only breaking off to point out a flying banana. “That’s what we call the yellow-billed hornbill,” he says.

What a trip!

“As we drive past a zebra he explains that they have different stripe patterns in the same way as humans have fingerprints. An early form of barcode, essentially.”

Penny Smith

Penny Smith travelled with Travelsphere on the 17-day Ultimate South Africa tour, February 2019