Montenegro

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Montenegro is definitely an up and coming destination. We see the country featured everywhere lately. The relatively new nation (it split from Serbia in 2006), is located in the Balkans along the Adriatic coast. We flew into Tivat, a small airport right in the Bay of Kotor, for a few days and drove around the southern region of the country.

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The Bay of Kotor

Along the Bay of Kotor are several old towns and villages. Herceg Novi sits at the entrance of the bay, not far from the southern end of Croatia. Perast is a very picturesque town with two small islands. The first is a natural island with a Benedictine Abbey from the 12th century. The other is the Lady of the Rocks, an Orthodox church built on a pile of rocks. We took a small boat trip out to the latter one. A little further in is Kotor with a well-preserved Stari Grad, or Old Town. We woke up early one morning to climb the fortress and city walls that overlook the rest of the town and bay. In contrast, Tivat is home to a marina full of shiny new yachts and Luscitica Bay is a new town being built as we speak to support the growing number of boats coming in.

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Lovcen Mountains

Not far from Kotor are the Lovćen mountains, which is where the country takes its name. From Kotor, narrow roads lead up the mountain, culminating in a series of a twenty-five serpentine switchbacks with amazing views of the bay. On the second highest peak is the Njegos Mausoleum, the highest mausoleum in the world. After entering the national park, we walked up 461 steps to visit the tomb of the famous Montengrin and take in views from the panorama. The road to Cetinje, the former capital, is a less harrowing experience and from there the road took us to Budva.

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Budva Coast

Like many of the other towns, Budva has a Stari Grad but it is mostly overlooked in favour of its beaches. Every square foot of sand was covered by people. We preferred the nearby island of Sveti Stefan instead. A small island that used to be a village for 400 people, the town was turned into a hotel in the 1960s until its decline as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Since 2009, the hotel group Aman has restored the island into an exclusive property where the old houses are now individual suites and the market squares are restaurants. The only way to visit the island without staying overnight is to reserve one of ten spots in the twice daily tours. One of the best views of the island though is from above, up a steep road that eventually leads to the tiny and remote church of Sveti Sava.

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stay

Astoria Hotel Kotor: A boutique hotel in a former palace within the Old Town of Kotor.

Safari Part Two: Londolozi

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Londolozi Private Game Reserve was the second and final destination on our safari in South Africa. Our previous three days were spent at the Lion Sands River Lodge. It was a ten-minute flight from the Skukuza airport near Lion Sands to Londolozi’s private airstrip. The plane turned out to be a ten-seater that was only occupied by us and another passenger.

We stayed at Varty Camp, one of five lodges at Londolozi. The reserve is family-run and had a very different feel from the lodge we were at before. Dinners were held outside around a fire where we chatted with the other guests. One night our guide joined us for dinner and we got to know more about life in the bush.

Londolozi is known for its high number of leopard sightings. We only had a glimpse of a male leopard in the first half of the trip and were really hoping we would see more leopards here. Little did we know we would see a total of three leopard sightings over the next two days. We were also fortunate enough to catch a rare sighting of a cheetah one evening. All in all, we were very happy with our first safari and felt like we saw everything we wanted and more.

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Safari Part One: Lion Sands

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GREAT KRUGER

One of the best areas in South Africa for game viewing is within the Great Kruger, which consists of Kruger National Park and the private reserves neighbouring the park and the private concessions within it. The main difference between staying in the park and the private reserves or concessions is professional guides can go off-roading in the private reserves and concessions so that you are much closer to the animals. In addition, a limited number of vehicles are allowed in an area at any given time. In the park, you can self-drive but must remain in the vehicle and stay on the roads. To visit the private reserves and concessions you must stay in one of the lodges on the property. 

We decided to visit two private game reserves on our five day safari to ensure we had sufficient viewing opportunities and to also experience different areas and lodges. The first was the Lion Sands River Lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve for three nights and then we finished with two nights at the Londolozi Varty Camp

Daily Programme

06:00 Wake-up call
06:30 Tea/coffee & game drive
09:30 Breakfast/brunch
~ Activities/Leisure
14:00 Lunch
15:00 Afternoon tea
15:30 Game drive
19:00 Dinner

As this was our first time doing a safari we weren't sure what to expect. We were assigned a guide and tracker for our entire stay who would take us on game drives in an open-top Land Rover. The game viewing at these reserves is amazing. We saw all of the big five (elephant, leopard, lion, rhino and water buffalo) multiple times, as well as many others during our five days there. It was interesting to see the guide and tracker track down the animals and we learned a lot about the wildlife and plant life. 

WHEN TO GO

We went during winter which is a great time to go for a safari. Winter is drier so the bush is less dense which makes it easier to see the game. It is also not as hot during the day although it can get chilly in the early morning and late afternoon drives. This wasn’t a problem however as the vehicles had blankets and hot water bottles ready to keep us warm. 

LION SANDS 

The Lion Sands Game Reserve has four safari lodges; two in Kruger National Park and two in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The lodges have exclusive traversing rights on all the properties. We stayed at the Lions Sands River Lodge, which is located on the banks of the Sabie River. One night was spent at one of the treehouses in a remote area of the reserve. We were given a radio and a mobile phone and left on our own for the night. A generous dinner was packed in a picnic basket along with champagne and wine. We fell asleep under the stars with nothing around us except for the wildlife below.

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Babylonstoren

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Located outside of Paarl in the Cape Winelands, Babylonstoren is a historic Cape Dutch farm dating back to the 17th century. The property is massive and we were overwhelmed with all that it had to offer. 

First and foremost are the gardens. There are over 200 hectares of fruits, vegetables, citrus trees, flowers, poultry, bee hives and herbs for every ailment imaginable. Garden tours are available daily and as guests we were also allowed to wander at our own leisure. 

Then there's the food. Their signature restaurant Babel is housed in an old cow shed and also serves a beautiful breakfast spread. The food is picked fresh from the gardens every day, cheese is made in the Cheese Room and fresh bread from their own wheat is baked in the Bakery. Their other restaurant Greenhouse shares the same food philosophy with lighter fare in a picnic-style. And of course there's wine. We did a tour of the cellar and finished with wine tastings of their Chenin Blanc, Babel Red, Shiraz, Candide and Viognier in the new Tasting Room. 

The best part was being able to stay at the Farm Hotel. Former worker quarters have been transformed into large guest cottages while retaining the Cape Dutch architecture. There is even an outdoor swimming pool and spa. You can take one of the bikes around the farm or row in one of the canoes at the dam. At sunset, a hike up the small hill or koppie across the farm gives amazing views of surrounding mountains and vineyards. 

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La Petite Colombe

There are no shortage of good restaurants in Cape Town. Two made it on the runners-up list of the World's 50 best restaurants (63rd and 73rd position to be exact) and not only are they the only ones from South Africa to do so, they are the only ones from the continent. One of the restaurants is La Colombe in Constantia which recently opened a sister restaurant, aptly named La Petite Colombe, in Franschheok. We celebrated a special someone's birthday with the Gourmand tasting menu and wine pairings from the neighbouring Cape vineyards.

Gourmand Menu

 

Poached oyster, pernod, grapefruit, verjuice, dill, apple, celery

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Yellowfin tuna, aubergine, miso, kalamansi, avocado

 

'Cape Wagyu' beef, scallop, bone marrow, celeriac, wild garlic,
horseradish, gochujang

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Ravioli of langoustine, curried hake veloute, cauliflower, coriander

 
 "Meet the chefs"   

"Meet the chefs"

 

 Palate cleanser   

Palate cleanser

 

 

Linefish, soubise, smoked mussel, squid, endive, chorizo, creamed leeks

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Seared duck breast, turnip, Jerusalem artichoke, savoy cabbage, rhubarb and lavender

 

Foxenberg goat's cheese, goat's milk caramel, koign amain, guava, tarmarind

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Valrhona Itakuja cremeux, pineapple, mango, macadamia, passionfruit, lemongrass

 

La Petite Colombe Treasures

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