Bucket List: Staying in a Safari Lodge in Africa

Bucket List: Staying in a Safari Lodge in Africa

After 4 hours of border crossings, visa applications, and transfers, we finally arrived to Zimbabwe, Africa, completely drained from the past 10 hours of transiting. As we stepped out of our shuttle van and proceeding on the dirt path, I caught what I thought was a pig in the corner of my eye. But alas, it was a warthog! A cute little (big) “Pumba” grazing nearby. I had a feeling this was the first of many Lion King fantasies that would come to life on this journey staying at Victoria Falls River Lodge. Little did I know…

We climbed into a small boat with our luggage, where we were escorted for the 10 minute ride across the Zambezi River. We started to feel really giddy as we had no idea what to except for the next 2 days in front of us. That and the fact that the wind in our face was a great wake-up call!

We finally pulled up to a cute little dock where several of the team members of Victoria Falls River Lodge joyfully welcomed us. Is this what royalty feels like? I don’t know, but I’ll take it! We let ourselves feel “cool” for a minute..until we realized each and every guest gets escorted by boat. Oh well, it felt good while it lasted haha.

The Victoria Falls River Lodge is not a Hotel, it’s an EXPERIENCE. Let me explain…

As soon as we arrived into the spectacular open-air lobby, we were given a welcome drink as well as a “briefing”. The basic message of the briefing: “we are situated in the Zambezi National Park with no fences or barriers between us and the wild animals. For this reason, you will need to be escorted back to your rooms after dark by one of our trained field guides. You may not walk back to your room alone”.

Excuse me, what did he just say? We are basically on the grounds of a live nature reserve with NO BARRIERS? NO EFFING BARRIERS!!! Carey and I looked at each other with huge eyes and gasped a little. WOW. This is going to be an intense few days.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

This was the start to something fabulous, we could feel it! I mean, what other time in your life are you going to experience something like this?

Victoria Falls River Lodge is made up of 14 luxury tents situated on the edge of the Zambezi River. Included in your stay is 3 gourmet meals a day, free coffee/tea/snacks available all day, one sunrise or sunset game drive AND one sunrise or sunset river cruise, as well as the entrance fee to the Zambezi National Park.

We really loved the fact that there were only 14 tents available because this made this a more intimate experience with only a few guests staying at one time. As a result, the staff were able to give us their undivided attention.

Victoria Falls River Lodge

In particular, the young manager named Andrew checked in with us at every meal, making sure we were having the BEST time. He was super engaging and you could really feel that he wanted to make sure this was an unforgettable experience for us. Well, he definitely accomplished that! He became more like a friend in the short 2 days we spent there. If you’re reading this, thank you and we miss you Andrew! 🙂

Open-Air Lobby

One of the most visually stunning aspects of Victoria Falls River Lodge is the open-air lobby and restaurant. The lounge area is formed by a crescent-shaped thatched roof and offers panoramic views of the Zambezi River and surrounding area.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

On one side is the dining area and the other side is a huge area for lounging with comfy couches and simple local decor.

Down a little walkway off the main lobby is a bar area that opens up with an awesome view over the Zambezi River. It was closed when we were there in August, but we still went and lounged around there and took some photos.

Victoria Falls River Lodge

There was also a small pool and lounge area right near the lobby/dining area. We were told that elephants were just grazing in this area a few days before!

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Open-Air Dining

Included in your stay at Victoria Falls River Lodge is 3 gourmet meals per day. Alcohol is NOT included and you must pay extra for that. You are given a tab at checkout for all your extras. A glass of wine was only $3.50, and it was a HUGE glass. In American measures, it was more like a double glass of wine. I sat back in bliss as they poured my jumbo glass of wine. Paradise found? Haha.

Victoria Falls River Lodge

Yumm salmon salad for lunch

We were given a menu at every meal with a few items to choose from including fish, salads, steak, and vegetarian options. They were also very flexible with gluten free options and offered me a few different varieties of foods. There was also coffee and snacks available at all times of the day. Overall, the food was great! I had no complaints.

Our EPIC Luxury Treehouse

My childhood treehouse fantasies came to life in this magnificent dwelling that we got to call home for 2 nights. First of all, it was super spacious. Second of all, it was so nicely decorated and cozy. There was SO much to do around the lodge but we didn’t want to leave our room.

Victoria Falls River Lodge

The shower/bath area was HUGE and it felt very freeing to shower in this big space. A thin curtain could be pulled for privacy from the outside room. There was also an outdoor shower if you fancied it! It was quite cold during the early mornings and late night so we didn’t use the outdoor shower unfortunately.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Victoria Falls River Lodge

There was a nice deck with lounge chairs and a jacuzzi overlook the river. It was gorgeous. We were told that this was a popular spot to see hippos, rhinos, and elephants drinking, but we weren’t lucky enough to see that.

We did however wake up one morning to all the plants and shrubs trampled over, hinting that a herd of hippos were right next to our tent! A little scary but exciting nonetheless. We also were awoken one night to the sound of scratching noises on our tent. We never found out what it was but it was freaky!

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

We had 2 separate twin beds that were covered with a large mosquito net. There weren’t outlets near the bed, but they were located in the center counter area. There was also a big comfy couch in the living area, heating/AC, and yes, an actual tree trunk in the center of the treehouse! This place was AWESOME! This was definitely glamping to the fullest!

Note: the tent is raise above the ground so you aren’t in any real danger when you are inside.

Game Drive (included)

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

All guests are offered an inclusive game drive, with the option of early morning or evening. Although we HATE waking up early, we opted for the early morning game drive as this is prime time for large feline viewing. We were picked up at our treehouse villa around 6am and taken to the lobby for a quick coffee and snack. We were then off on our game drive through the Zambezi National Park, aka our backyard! We were the only ones on the morning game drive so it was like we had our own little private VIP safari!

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

The early morning air was crisp and frigid, and we were given blankets and a big heat compress to warm our hands. It was pitch black when we started, but the morning sun soon peaked in warming us up a bit.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Nothing but smiles with our awesome safari guide!

Unfortunately, you aren’t ever guaranteed to see the coveted animals during a game drive and we were a little unlucky that morning. We did, however, get to see endless amounts of Pumba’s, colourful birds, a flock of baboons, and a few crocodiles! I look at it as a warm up of what was to come in Africa!

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

We stopped along the riverbank where we disembarked from the open air vehicle and took some photos of the surrounding area. Our guide set up a nice little breakfast picnic on the front of his vehicle, consisting of coffee and pastries. Usually on safaris, you cannot get out of the vehicle, so this was really cool to step off onto the sole where wild animals roam! The view was spectacular and we basked in it for a bit before packing up and heading back.

River Cruise (included)

You also have an option of a sunrise or sunset river cruise, and we opted for the latter. It turned out to be a great choice! We were treated with wine and cheeses/crackers as we set sail on the river.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

We though it was just a river cruise, but we had no idea it was a river cruise game drive! (For that reason, we didn’t bring our cameras and our phone pics didn’t turn out so well…so not many animal pics to show). Our guide stopped in a shallow area and to our surprise we saw our first signs of hippos! We couldn’t help but sing the hungry hungry hippo song! C’mon, you know you would have too! 

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

It was incredible to get up that close to a real live hippo! Let alone a whole pack of them. We were then shocked to learn from our guide that hippos cannot actually swim! WHAT? Ya, I didn’t believe it until i googled it. Talk about doubting Thomas. Apparently they are TOO HEAVY TO SWIM! So they just push their hooves across the bottom of the water. The more you know..

The BEST part of the river cruise was on our way back, thinking the cruise was over, we spotted a large herd of elephants drinking water at the river’s edge. Our first elephant siting in the wild brought a flood of emotions and we both had tears in our eyes! Our guide pulled up as close as he could (without disturbing them), and we just observed. It was incredible! The first big animal sighting is something you will never forget!

Toa Spa

The newest addition to the lodge is a spa with a spectacular view of the Zambezi River offering massages, manis/pedis, and more. We snuck in a 30 minute massage into our hectic schedules and it was incredible. There is something extra relaxing about getting a massage right on the edge of the peaceful waterfront. It was the perfect way to wind down from all the adrenaline activities we had participated in.

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Spa

Photo taken by @carebearabroad

Oh, did I mention Victoria Falls River Lodge will help Plan ALL your adventure activities?

This made it so much less stressful. We were given a little booklet with all the activity info in our rooms so we could get an idea of what we wanted to do. We relayed that to the concierge and he contacted the 3rd party vendors to get all the details. They even arranged a shuttle to transport us (and by shuttle I mean one of their open air safari vehicles!).

Victoria Falls River Lodge activities

The activities we decided on were the gorge swing, the flying fox, Devil’s Pool, and a microlight flight over the falls! You can read all about them in my recent blog post (+video) here, where I coined Victoria Falls the “Mini Adventure Capital of the World”.

Here’s a short YouTube video I made of all the awesome activities we did in Victoria Falls:

We were first dropped off at the entrance to the falls, where we ventured to view the falls up close. Entrance is $30. After that we walked about 5-10 minutes to the Lookout Cafe where they offered most of the high wire activities, including bungee jumping, gorge swing, flying fox, and more!

Tip: make sure you book your activities as far in advance as you can because they do sell out, especially in peak season!

To sum up our 2 days in Victoria Falls River Lodge, my travel partner in crime CareBear Abroad made this awesome video:

PIN for later 🙂

Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

 

Disclaimer: We were guests of Victoria Falls River Lodge; however, my opinions and AMAZING experience are my own. I would never recommend a place I didn’t truly LOVE. Carebear Abroad and I had a blast!

What to Expect on Your First Safari in Kruger National Park

What to Expect on Your First Safari in Kruger National Park

Who doesn’t have “doing a safari in Africa” on their bucket list? This girl sure did! I have always dreamt about doing a safari, since I was young. In fact, it was at the very TOP of my bucket list. However, this dream never seemed like a reality as I was always told safaris cost like 5 grand. WRONG!

If you’re not too high maintenance and don’t mind “roughing it” a little (and by roughing it I mean glamping), they can totally be affordable for most budgets!

As my friend CareBear Abroad and I would be in South Africa, we really wanted to visit Kruger National Park, the biggest safari park in South Africa!

Searching for a tour company can be extremely overwhelming because there are SO many tours in Kruger National Park. The one thing we did know is that we wanted a safari with a SMALL group size for a more personalised experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime-experience and we wanted it to be perfect!

We found a tour company called Africa Spear Safaris that offered small group safaris. It got great reviews and had a very reasonable price. Bingo! We chose the 4day/3night option with a pickup from Johannesburg.

I think I can speak for Carey as well and say this was one of the best experiences of our lives! NOTHING can compare with being in the wild in Africa on a safari!

Note: Please don’t go on a safari unless you have a nice zoom lens. I made the mistake and have literally no good pics to show from it. Thankfully, my travel partner Carebear Abroad was with me on this trip and she was able to supply most of the wildlife pics for this article (as marked). Thank you Carey!!! ♥

Kruger National Park Safari

 

So, What Exactly do you DO on a Safari?

This may sound stupid, but I have always wondered what you do all day on a safari. Well, I can tell you that you go out searching for animals on a game drive LITERALLY ALL DAY LONG!

Our mornings started at about 5am with a small pre-brekkie snack and coffee at 5:45am. I am so NOT a morning person and nothing can get me out of bed at 5am…except animals! I love animals to death. Maybe even more that people. Is that bad? 

 

The first morning game drive starts at 6am sharp, prime time for large feline viewing! After brekkie, you embark on another game drive in the afternoon, followed by lunch and then a final late afternoon game drive.

Dinner usually commences at 7 or 8 and then it’s time to pass out. It was an exhausting schedule, but 100% worth it. The adrenaline and excitement kept us awake all day! That and coffee…lot’s of it!

The first night we had a BBQ dinner with choice of steak, chicken, or pork. It was really tasty and we were were even offered seconds!

We brought our own wine into the safari camps, which saved us money. I recommend stocking up if you plan to engage in consuming any alcohol (and I fully support this action ♥).

Does a Small Group Size Really Make a Difference?

OMG, HELL YES it does! Carey and I were accompanied by a lovely British family of 3, making a total of only 5 people in our vehicle. I cannot tell you how much of a difference this made! We were really able to bond with this family and now have some new friends in the UK!

Kruger National Park Safari

Our small safari crew and awesome guide Dave. We miss you guys!!

As we were driving through Kruger, we saw so many other bigger safari vehicles jam packed with people. The people in the middle had a crappy view and couldn’t really get in position for great photos. I am SO glad we chose the smaller group as it made the experience so much more memorable!

Are you in Danger During a Safari?

A traditional safari vehicle is an open vehicle, meaning the sides and sometimes the top are fully open and exposed. The guide will explain to you on day one to avoid loud noises, sudden movements, or sticking any body part outside of the vehicle as wild animals can see this as a threat.

So really, you aren’t guaranteed full safety, but don’t let that deter you. Nothing is guaranteed in life. They take out 100’s of vehicles daily and the chance of something bad happening is slim. Just follow your guide’s precautions and you will be fine! The fear of a dangerous animal encounter is half the thrill! Trust me on this one.

What Kind of Close Animal Encounters Did We Experience?

Here is s quick clip straight from my iPhone that I put on IG, just to give you a little idea of what you will see…

Our first morning started out with a sunrise over the dewy/foggy land. Out of nowhere, the mysterious elephants appeared in the distance. It was so eerie and beautiful, it’s something I will never forget!

The scariest part was when one huge bull elephant came within 10 feet of our vehicle, stopped and stared us down for a good 5 seconds, and then went on his way. I’m not going to lie, I was trembling as I realised the power of this humungous being weighing a few tons. At any moment he could have charged and trampled us.

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

The most thrilling animal encounter came when we spotted a pack of lions and adorable (yet ferocious) baby cubs. There were about 4 lionesses and 6 cubs laying around being lazy.

We stayed for awhile until they started to get up and attempted to cross the street. At this point, there were about 15 other vehicles at this spot trying to get a better glimpse.

Kruger National Park Safari

My favorite safari photo shot by @CarebearAbroad

We had a prime location on the road and the lions started to cross RIGHT beside our vehicle. They literally came within 2 inches of the car. At any point, they could have jumped up and mauled us to death and my heart was racing like I had never experienced before.

We were able to see the whole pack of lions cross with a front row seat! Our guide Dave said that in 30 years that was the second best lion encounter he has ever witnessed.

The thrill and adrenaline that runs through your veins when you’re up close and personal with a deadly wild animal is the most exciting thing I have ever experienced in my life. It’s something hard to explain and you would only understand once it happens to you! It gives me goosebumps just thinking of it.♥

What kind of animals do you see at Kruger National Park?

A shit ton! Here is a list of animals we saw:

  • impalas
  • steinbock
  • elephants
  • giraffes
  • rhinos
  • leopards
  • lions
  • birds
  • hippos
  • crocodiles
  • mongoose
  • water bucks
  • kudu
  • warthogs
  • monkeys
  • baboons
  • wildebeests
  • vultures
  • hyenas

What is the Big 5?

The coveted big 5 consists of the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. This is why most people go on safaris, to see the prized big 5!

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

How Likely Are you to See the Big 5?

You are never guaranteed to see the Big 5 quite honestly. But I’d say you have a good chance in Kruger. We were lucky enough to see the big 5 twice! We actually saw the big 5 on one single game drive in the afternoon. It was incredible!

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

“Oh my God, oh my God, go back, go back…..leopard…in..tree”.

I could barely speak as I saw this beautiful creature lounging high up in the tree. The above photo is of the leopard I spotted with my own eyes after we were eagerly searching for the last of the Big 5 animals.

At one point I thought we might not get to see one as the leopard is the most elusive and difficult to spot out of all the Big 5. My crazy cat lady instincts kicked in big time and of course I would be the one to spot this gorgeous large cat. #catwhisperer ♥

What Should You Wear During a Safari?

We had our safari in August, which is technically their summer. Winter is their dry season, and we were told by our guide that August and September were the best months to visit Kruger National Park.

Anyway, winter in South Africa means frigid mornings and evenings and very hot afternoons. I would definitely recommend bringing a jacket, hat, gloves, wool socks. It was also a little windy when were were driving, adding to the cold.

We always brought a change of clothes for the afternoon as it got super hot. You will have time to change during lunch hour so keep that in mind! We were bundled up for winter in the mornings and evenings, and in tank tops and shorts in the afternoons.

You also want to keep in mind that you will want to wear something comfy as you will be sitting in a vehicle literally all day. I wore my gym pants/leggings every day and it worked out perfect. When it comes to safaris, comfort definitely wins over style!

Note: you definitely want to bring some bug spray and/or mosquito repellant bracelets for your safari. I didn’t want to take malaria pills due to the possible side effects (personal choice) so I made sure I covered myself from getting eaten alive. I used a combo of natural bug spray and bracelets. I also do NOT like Deet chemicals so I went with the natural alternatives which worked out excellent! I didn’t get ANY mosquito bites on my entire 4-day safari so I highly recommend the below products I used.

Is Kruger National Park too Touristy?

Yes and no. But for the most part no. Let me explain. At some points, especially with the lion viewings, there were way too may vehicles there than we would have liked. Our guide Dave informed us that there are even FaceBook group dedicated to spotting the big cats (lions and leopards). With real time updates, these vehicles were able to get to the scene very quickly. But half the fun of a safari is spotting the animals on your own! So I don’t get it.

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

On the other hand, the fact that there are daily vehicles cruising through the park, the animals are used to the noise of the engines. Therefore, they never get scared away and you can view them in their natural habitat! A huge plus! I would also assume they are less likely to attack humans due to this, but hey, that’s just my opinion.

What are the Accommodations Like?

Let me start by saying I am SO not a camper. It doesn’t mean i’m high maintenance. It just means I like electricity and NO bugs. So I knew this would be a challenge for me.

Have you heard of glamping? Welp, this was kinda like that and it ended up being not that bad! We were able to try out 3 different accommodation types on this safari.

1.Simple “tent cabin”: this was basically like a little hut with 2 beds, a fridge, and a small dresser, and thats about it! The communal bathrooms/showers were about a 50 meter walk from our place. It was scary at night and we were warned of possible monkeys and/or hyenas, so once it got dark, we decided to hold it until the morning.

 

2.Cabin with ensuite bathroom: this was definitely the best of the 3 and consisted of 3 single beds, a fridge, and in-house bathroom and shower. It also had the most space of the 3.

Kruger National Park Safari3. Cute little circular cabin: this was very similar to the first cabin, with the exception of a sink inside the room. It was very small and cramped so minimal luggage is recommended!

Kruger National Park Safari

Note: most the cabins had only one or 2 outlets, so keep that in mind if you have a lot of electronics to charge. In the last cabin, there was only ONE outlet so we had to share, which really sucked seeing as we both had our phones, cameras, Gopro’s, and extra power banks to charge. We made it work, but barely!

I have been using the Jackery dual power bank for the past year and it was a total lifesaver on this trip! It has 2 USB ports to charge and it charged my iPhone and camera batteries at least 3 full charges each. This power bank is slightly heavier than I would like it to be, but it’s by far the BEST I’ve ever used and a must have for my travels.

*You also have the option to upgrade accommodations so make sure to check when booking your safari!

The Importance of a Great Safari Guide

Iv’e said this many times before: a tour guide can really make or break a tour! We got lucky with the BEST guide named Dave.

He had been a park ranger for 25+ years and his passion for it seeped through his skin. A plus was that he knew a bunch of secret spots for viewings and never let us down!

Kruger National Park Safari

Photo by @CarebearAbroad

He was highly engaged with us and always made sure were were comfortable and having a good time. He had a soft demeanour and was the nicest guy! We miss you Dave!

He was constantly informing of us animal behaviours, pointing out each and every bird species, and telling us some crazy stories. If you happen to get a tour guide named Dave, please ask him about the elephant whisperer story! Pretty creepy!

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • small group size (5 total)
  • private transport all the way from Johannesburg
  • our awesome guide Dave
  • 3 game drives a day
  • high chance of seeing the big 5 (we saw them twice!)
  • BBQ dinner was great
  • thrilling animal encounters
  • accommodations were basic, but much better than sleeping in a zip-up tent!

Cons

  • not many gluten free options (story of my life)
  • not many food options in general
  • lack of outlets (hey, this is supposed to be roughing it, isn’t it? Haha)

Note: I must mention one of the cons specifically was that the owner forgot about my gluten allergy (not cool). I was able to eat the BBQ, but the early morning snacks of muffins, etc I couldn’t eat so I was literally starving and hangry. On the other hand, Dave was awesome and went with me to a little shop and personally bought me some snacks to eat in the mornings, so it worked out. Forgetting about a food allergy is NOT something to take lightly because some people DIE from it. (My condition is not life or death, but some are…). So ya, I have had some bad luck with tour companies “forgetting” about my allergy and it seems to be happening more often. I would recommend double checking a few days before your tour to make sure they have note of it! It didn’t ruin my time or anything, but I had to mention it because I can’t just highlight all the good.

The Final Verdict

Overall, you must do a safari once in your life before you die. You just have to! It is one of the top 3 experiences of not just traveling, but of my life!

The thrill of findings these animals and then to have a close encounter is the most thrilling thing I have ever experienced. At some moments, I cried tears of joy because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

I am so glad we chose to tour with Africa Spear Safaris on our first Kruger National Park Safari and I would 100% recommend them! This one goes down in the books! Thanks guys!♥

Note: Carey and I were guests of Africa Spear Safaris during our safari. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This experience was AMAZING and I would highly recommend this company. 

Full disclosure: the few Amazon products in this article are affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you purchase these products, at no extra cost to you. This is what keeps the blog up and running so a special thank you for that! ♥

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Kruger National Park Safari

Where to Stay in Cape Town: Feeling at Home at Derwent House Boutique Hotel (+Video)

Where to Stay in Cape Town: Feeling at Home at Derwent House Boutique Hotel (+Video)

(Blog post by Crazy Travslista (me!) and video by my travel partner in crime CareBear Abroad) ♥

I am a sucker for boutique hotels, what can I say? I cherish the small, unique, and more personalised feel of staying in a boutique hotel, as opposed to a big chain. When I tell you we found the perfect boutique hotel in Cape Town, we really mean it!

If you’re looking for where to stay in Cape Town, I highly recommend Derwent House Boutique Hotel. Here’s why…

Is it a house, is it a hotel? Who cares, it’s freakin’ awesome!

The Derwent House Boutique Hotel used to be a house. It has since been transformed into the cutest little hotel consisting of only 10 rooms in the main house, as well as 18 self-catering apartments located in the rear of the property next to the pool. It also has a pool plus jacuzzi and great outdoor seating area that would be great for parties. Although we didn’t have much time to try them out, it was nice to have the options. It also was nice to look at from the living room.

where to stay in Cape Town

It was the perfect little hideaway during our time in Cape Town. Having that “homey” feel in a new city/country is really important!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, it has a perfect 5 star rating on Trip Advisor! I’m not surprised.

That View Though

Derwent House Boutique Hotel View

We were lucky to have a room with a fabulous view of the infamous mountains in Cape Town. We could see both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head from our window and we weren’t expecting that. Such a nice surprise to wake up and pull back the curtains to see these grandiose mountains staring right back at us. With the foggy haze in the backdrop, it was perfect!

The Most Cozy Little Living Room

Th entire guesthouse had a classy interior with pops of color, especially in the living room. The contrasting funky furniture was so pretty we couldn’t stop taking photos of it. The couch was comfy and as soon as we walked in from the frigid nights, it was so inviting, especially with the cute little furnace in the center.

where to stay in Cape Town: Derwent House Boutique Hotel Lounge

There was one day when it was rainy in the morning so our plans were cancelled. We just sat on the soft couches on our laptops making plans for the day. It was actually really nice to sit back and unwind for a bit. 

Derwent House

Friendliest Staff Ever

The staff was super friendly, like to a heightened degree. Luka, the manager, was never seen without a huge smile across his face. He constantly checked in on us to see if we needed anything (but not to an annoying extent). When we were leaving, we mentioned how coffee for the road would be nice. He quickly ran in and ran back out with our coffee to go! The entire staff had a great energy and were always making sure we were having a good time. That definitely didn’t go unnoticed!

Honesty Bar

What is this honesty bar concept? Well, just like it sounds! The hotel provided many cold drinks, bottled water, beer and wine in the fridge available at all time of the day. You take what you want and mark it down on the list and pay at check out. I’ve never seen something like this in the U.S. before so I thought it was pretty cool! They must be really trusting!

Breakfast

OMG the breakfast! Everything was so nicely displayed I wanted one of each! For coffee, they give you your very own mini French press machine. I thought that was very nice, especially for someone who drinks lots of coffee!

Derwent House breakfast

The  best part of breakfast were the daily specials. Each morning, we were surprised with a new set of choices. Some of the spicy options included eggs Benedict, chorizo, and Turkish hummus and spices (pictured below on the left). 

Derwent House Boutique Hotel Breakfast

The quality of food was fantastic and super fresh, it was definitely the highlight of our stay. (You know you’re a little piggy when the food was the best part of your stay haha #noshame).

Derwent House Boutique Hotel Breakfast

The one negative was that there were NO gluten free options. This might sound a bit nit-picky, but in a city so extremely gluten-free friendly, this was a bit of a disappointment. I was still able to eat well, however my choices were very limited. There was also no milk alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, so keep that in mind if you have food allergies!

Quiet & Ideal Location

Well, since the hotel used to be a house, it was located in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the trendy Tamboerskloof area. That means it was pretty quiet! It was also right off  Kloof Street, one of the BEST streets in all of Cape Town for food. They also had plenty of street parking and a few private spots if you rent a car. An extra plus since we had a car!

Derwent House Boutique Hotel

The city centre and popular Long Street was just a 15 minute walk. The first day when we didn’t have our car yet, it was raining so we took a freakishly cheap Uber ride to the center. I think it ended up being $2. So even if you don’t have a car, it’s super easy and cheap to get around.

Right down the street is a place called Bombay Bicycle. This place is a must! I had the best steak of my life here…and actually might be my  best meal I’ve ever had! The choco-chilli steak isn’t on the menu, but ask for it if you go. The combination of chocolate and spice covering a melt-in-you-mouth tender steak was heavenly! Reservations are required as this place is quite popular!

Other Awesome Features of this Hotel

where to stay in Cape Town

  • Super fast wifi-rare to find on the continent of Africa.
  • Free port and sherry available for guests. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
  • Heating pads under your mattress, for those who like to stay crisp when they sleep.
  • Free coffee, tea, and snacks all day.
  • Turn down service nightly with animal shaped chocolates. Because #Africa
  • Local cellphone to use- we had local SIM cards so we didn’t need this, but I thought it was extremely convenient to offer for guests.
  • DVD collection and DVD player in rooms. We had a packed schedule and didn’t have time to unwind with a movie, but what a cool idea, huh?
  • Bathtub with nice bath salts. I don’t care too much for baths, but Carey was super excited for this feature!
  • Daily weather and events sheet left in room-this was a first for me! Every hotel should provide this if you asked me. We have been spoiled haha.
  • Secure gate that only they could buzz you in and out. If safety is an issue for you, rest assured the place is very secured! Someone is there 24/7 to buzz you in.

Ok, what we really want to know. How much will this place set you back?

This 4 star hotel will cost you $124 during low season and up to $160 during high season for a standard “Fabulous Room” or self-catering apartment.

Cons (Because not all stays are perfect…)

  • There was no hot water one night so we had to go to a different room to shower one night. They quickly fixed it the next morning…and also gave us a nice bottle of champagne for the inconvenience.
  • As I mentioned above, they weren’t  very accommodating for food allergies.
  • Random, but the bathroom doors were made of stained plexi-glass, so there wasn’t as much privacy as I would have liked. Not a huge deal, but thought I would mention it.

Final Impression

Overall, we had such a great stay here! It was so cozy and we really felt like we were staying in someone’s home! The staff were super friendly and always had the biggest smiles on their faces. Anything we needed, they accommodated very quickly and with a great attitude!

The location was perfect, along with the view, and the breakfast was outstanding! I would recommend this place 100% to anyone going to Cape Town. When I go back, I would never even think abut staying anywhere else.

Derwent HouseDerwent HouseDerwent House Boutique HotelDerwent House Boutique HotelDerwent HouseDerwent HouseNote: Carey and I were guests of Derwent House Boutique Hotel during our stay. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This place freakin’ rocked and it might just be my new fav boutique hotel! ♥

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Where to Stay in Cape Town

5 Reasons Why You Should Stay at Hotel C Stockholm on Your Next Visit to Stockholm

5 Reasons Why You Should Stay at Hotel C Stockholm on Your Next Visit to Stockholm

It would be my first time in Stockholm and my friend Carey and I would be attending a travel blogging conference known as TBEX. We were super excited to be going, but astounded at the prices of hotels (and also Airbnbs) in the center. Eeeek, not what budget (ish) travelers want to hear!Nordic C Hotel Stockholm room

Stockholm is not cheap. I repeat, Stockholm is not cheap! That’s one thing you need to keep in mind when you’re visiting. It’s the capital city of one of the most expensive countries in all of Europe.

To find a great hotel in the center of Stockholm at a good price is not an easy feat. That’s where Hotel C Stockholm comes in. As part of Nordic Choice hotels, I really wanted to stay here because I had been highly impressed by the quality/value trade off staying at one of their hotels in Bergen, Norway earlier this year. You can read my review here if interested! 🙂

The Hotel C Stockholm became the perfect choice during our time in Stockholm. Here are the top 5 reasons why…

1. Biggest Breakfast Selection I Have Ever Experienced at a Hotel. And I mean EVER!

The breakfast at Hotel C Stockholm has forever ruined my hotel brekkie experience from this day forth. Why can’t all hotel breakfasts be like this? When I say the selection was huge, I damn well mean it!

Nordic C Hotel Breakfast

They had about 6-7 rows of food stations, a smoothie section, hot plates (including bacon, eggs, sausage, and American pancakes), fresh fruits, salads, porridge with fresh toppings, homemade jams, cured meats, cheeses, and much, much more!

They also had a whole section marked gluten and lactose free for those with dietary restrictions (like me!). I was in heaven.

For those who happily indulge in gluten, they had a huge counter section of different varieties of freshly baked bread loafs.

Another cool feature offered was 2 juice presses with several varieties of fresh fruits to make your own concoction. So awesome!

2. It’s Own Ice Bar (ICEBAR Stockholm)

You can’t go to Sweden and not go to an ice bar. I had never been so I was super stoked it was right in the hotel!

Ice Bar,Nordic C Hotel Stockholm

Upon arrival, they give you a thick lined poncho with gloves. The bar is dimly lit with changing LED lights of purple, pink and blue hues.

Entrance also gives you one free drink. They serve you ice glasses that also change colors. That was pretty neat!

The one thing I will say is that it is extremely small inside, so it might get a bit cramped. Reservations are required.

Don’t be an idiot like me and go in with flip flops/sandals. My toes were frozen after 30 minutes and that forced us to leave.

3. The Best Location in Stockholm. Really.

When you’re right in the center, you can usually walk everywhere and don’t have to spent extra money on transport.

Hotel C Stockholm is located right outside the Arlanda Express at the central station.

Stockholm Underground Art

Underground art in Stockholm…only a few minutes by metro from Hotel C Stockholm! 🙂

I can’t tell you how great it is to just take a bus from the airport and have it drop you off right next to your hotel. That hardly ever happens. Hauling bags around European streets can be a real pain!

We were literally in the center of everywhere we needed to be and it made the trip super convenient! And the best part was that it was super quiet! We didn’t hear any street noise or commotion outside, it felt like we were in a secluded spot!

4. It’s Own Info Center

Ok, you probably don’t think this is not bey important at all…but have you been to Stockholm? Every info center in the city (and airport) is super busy and require you to take a ticket and wait. At the airport, I waited for 20 minutes just to be seen.

Nordic C Hotel Info Center

I noticed a big line at other info centers in the city as well. I’m not sure why, but going to an info center in Stockholm can  take forever and result in unnecessary frustration.

If you have no patience for wasting time like me, you will come to really appreciate the in-house info center. And look, there’s no one there!

5. Hearts Restaurant has a Great Ambiance and Equally Great Food!

I have a confession. I ate at Hearts restaurant EVERY night of my trip. Ya, that’s right, every night. I even ordered it up for room service a few nights.

Hearts Restaurant Nordic C Hotel

After being in a conference all day, and having only a short time until our evening activities, we didn’t have much time to go out to eat anywhere else.

Hearts Restaurant Nordic C Hotel

Not only was it super convenient, it was really tasty food! I had a hamburger and fries, potato skins, and the Lobster bucket, all great! My favorite thing on the menu was the potato skin. A half baked potato with jalapeños and cheese on top, so creamy and so good! I may have ordered it more than once.

An extra bonus is that they had gluten free options! #score

Bonus:

Really cool lobby. Hotel C Stockholm had one for the coolest lobbies. The reception greeted you with a white spiral staircase and gold backdrop and hanging glass balls. It gave me the illusion of blowing bubbles. The lobby was spread it on the ground floor with several different seating areas with colorful oversize chairs. It was very warm and inviting.

nordicclounge

The Damage

In the offseason, rooms run as low as $85 per night! In peak season you can find rooms for as little as $163! This is super reasonable considering this is Scandinavia!! The value for the price cannot be beat!

Verdict

Overall, I really enjoyed this hotel! The staff was super friendly, the restaurants was great, the beds were super comfy, the room had everything we needed, the ice bar was cool (get it?), and the location could’t have been any better. I really didn’t have any complaints during this stay!

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Hotel C Stockholm during my stay. However, I don’t bulls#*t and I would never recommend somewhere I didn’t truly enjoy! ♥

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Nordic C Hotel

What to Do in Skopelos, Greece (Mamma Mia island)

What to Do in Skopelos, Greece (Mamma Mia island)

Skopelos is known as the green island, and as soon as you pull into the port, you can clearly see why. The island is made up of 45% trees and vegetation and provides a gorgeous background to all the spectacular beaches. Although most people may not have ever heard of Skopelos, it made its introduction to the world as the filming site of the infamous Mamma Mia musical starring Meryl Streep.

Where is Skopelos?

Skopelos is the largest of the Sporades archipelago group, located in the Northeast of Greece. Now you know. 🙂

How to get to Skopelos

Skopelos can be reached by ferry from the mainland ports of Volos and Aghios Konstantinos. Another option is to fly into Skiathos, another  nearby island in the Sporades, and take the one hour ferry ride over. I usually book Greek ferries online with Hellenic Seaways

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Mini Guide to Skiathos, Greece: Where to Stay & What to Do

Where to Stay in Skopelos

Spyrou hotel group-a luxury hotel group that has 4 lovely hotels on the island. I stayed in Skopelos Holiday Hotel & Spa and it had a panoramic view over the port of Skopeos and the surrounding mountains. The staff treats you like royalty and are very attentive to your needs. The hotel has a pool, jacuzzi, and spa as well as on-site restaurant and pool bar. The room I was staying in was overlooking the pool with a spectacular view of the town in the backdrop. It’s about a 25 minute walk to town and they can arrange a ferry pick up and drop of at your request.

Spyrou hotels, Skopelos

I was impressed with the service and treatment at this hotel. I felt like a queen during my short stay! I was also there during shoulder season so I basically had the whole hotel to myself. I think I got extra attention for this fact…something I definitely wasn’t complaining about.

View from balcony at Spyrou hotels, Skopelos

Blue Green Bay-I spent quite a lot of time here lounging and enjoying the most beautiful bay known as Panormos (aka Blue Green Bay). The hotel is on Panormos beach with private loungers and beds. It’s very relaxing and tranquil. It has a pool and beach bar both overlooking the beach.

Blue Green Bay Resort

This is the place to stay when you want somewhere a little more luxurious and private. The tiny little village of Panormos has a few restaurants, shops, and tour agencies close by. It’s secluded, yet close to some amenities if you desire. It’s also closer to some of the best beaches on the island, namely Kastrani and Milia.

What to Do in Skopelos

Skopelos Town-Skopelos town is located along the waterside and is a lot less commercialised than most Greek island towns. For that reason, you can really appreciate the traditional housing throughout the maze like town. Skopelos town has many many stairs, so if you don’t mind the walk, take a stroll to the top and admire the views.

beautiful Skopelos Town

There are 3 main churches in the town worth a visit, my favourite being the Church of Panagitsa tou Pyrgou, pictured below. The pure white structure with the turquoise sea in the background is as picturesque as they come.

What to do in Skopelos

I had a mini tour arranged by a lady named Daphne and she was wonderful! She has her very own blog about the island called Skopelos News and she also does private tours around the island, so check her out if you’re in town.

She revealed so much of the history of the island and gave me some interesting facts while navigating through the cute little streets. And who doesn’t like a private tour guide, right? :). The most interesting fact I learned about Skopelos? It has 365 churches, one for every day of the year!

Panormos Beach (aka Blue Green Bay)-as you drive to this beach and come around the corner, you get a sneak peak from above and it is absolutely breathtaking. You can really see the changing colours from deep blue, to turquoise, to emerald green closer to the shore. It’s SPECTACULAR. If you only go to one beach on the island, make it this one!

Blue Green Bay, Skopelos

I went back twice because I loved it so much. It’s very peaceful and beautiful. There are a few little restaurants on the beach, as well as sun beds for use.

GoPro shot of Blue Green Bay, Skopelos

No edits on this pic, look at the water changing colors..

Blue Green Bay from above

Kastrani-this is the main beach used in many scenes of the movie Mamma Mia. This might be the most turquoise waters I have ever seen. It looks as if a turquoise colored highlighter had been broken and leaked into the sea. The white stone and towering trees in the backdrop only add to the beauty of this beach. This is the most popular beach on the island, so in summer, expect a crowd. There is a cute restaurant bar on the beach as well.

Kastrani Beach, where many scenes from Mamma Mia were filmed

Is this not paradise? ♥

where Mamma Mia was filmed in Skopelos

Milia-this beach is just on the other side of Kastrani and a little more rugged with white sand. This beach may be a little more quiet than Kastrani if you’re looking for a little R&R. There is also a little restaurant near the beach if you get hungry/hangry.

What to do in Skopelos, Milia Beach

Glossa– a cute little town perched on the top of a hill with amazing views over the sea. It’s a little more traditional than Skopelos town and is another great place to base yourself when visiting the island.

What to Do in Skopelos

St. John Church (Agios Ioannis)-this church is where the marriage took place in Mamma Mia. It’s located about 100 meters above the sea on a high rock jutting out over the water. Even if you’re not a fan of the  movie, you must go up to the top. The panoramic views over the Aegean Sea are freaking awesome! It takes less than 10 minutes to get to the top and is 100% worth it. Do it!

Mamma Mia church in Skopelos

View from the top…

GoPro view from Mamma Mia church in Skopelos

SUP (stand up paddle board)-I decided I wanted my first SUP experience to be in Greece and I am so glad it was! I had an awesome Irish instructor named Shane and he gave me a one hour one-on-one lesson before we embarked on a sunset tour. We started in Elios beach and paddled north along the coast for a good 3 hours, stopping at a private little beach for some fresh melons and a snack.

What to do in Skopelos

The best part about my tour was the puppy that followed us along the shoreline the entire time, jumping over rocks and climbing on narrow ledges to keep up with us. On the way back, the little puppy got stuck on a rock and Shane took him onto his paddle board for the last hour to bring him safely back to where we started. My first SUP experience was extremely memorable to say the least and I highly recommend it!

What to Do in Skopelos

Shane’s company is called Sporades SUP if you’re interested!

Kayaking-I absolutely love kayaking, especially when I’m in a gorgeous place. It’s such a good workout and allows you to see the coast from a different perspective. On our tour, we even saw a rare monk seal taking a nap on the shore. The tour company Kayaking Greece is run by an English husband-wife team and they were awesome and energetic!

What to do in Skopelos

What to do in Skopelos

The tour started at Elios beach and went south along the coast, all the way down to Kastrani beach. The scenery along the way was gorgeous and I didn’t want it to end. If you go to Skopelos, you MUST try the kayaking!

Skopelos in a nutshell

Skopelos is for nature lovers, it’s more laid back and quiet than most Greek islands, and there are plenty of water activities to choose from. It’s gorgeous, pristine, and shouldn’t be overlooked as it has so much to offer! It’s a wonderful place to get away from it all!

Note: I was a guest of Spyrou Hotels on this press trip. However, my opinions remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. I only recommend places I truly enjoy! ♥

Have You Been to Skopelos? What Was Your Favorite Part about the Island? Do Tell!

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what to do in Skopelos

 

{VIDEO}: Zip-lining in Omis, Croatia with GoPro

{VIDEO}: Zip-lining in Omis, Croatia with GoPro

When one of your favorite brands in the world invites you on a fun adventure, you say YES…before you even know what it is haha. Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of going zip-lining in Omiš, Croatia courtesy of GoPro! Ahhhh, pinch me!

I had been zip-lining before 2 or 3 times in Mexico and the Caribbean on family cruises back in the day. But this was different. This would be zip-lining over the Cetina river between the gorgeous Croatian mountains..in one of my favorite countries in the entire world! So yes, excitement was an understatement when I got word I would be joining in on the fun!

Zip-lining in Omiš, Croatia

The company I went with was called Splitlicious. I can honestly say this was the BEST zip-lining I had ever done. Not only was the backdrop like from a movie, but we got 8 ropes total to ride. On the other ones I had done we got maybe 2-3 ropes to ride and then we were finished. It was over so quick and left me wanting more.

This zip-lining tour lasted about an hour, but it seemed longer! I’m not going to lie though, when I got up there and saw how high we were, I freaked out a little. But like always, my adrenaline trumped over fear!


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The guides were young and fun and it was a great time. One of them even volunteered to hold my GoPro and zip-line about 3-5 meters behind me so he could get a close up of me riding. And you know what? That was actually my favorite clip from the video!

Note: This video was shot entirely with the GoPro Hero 4 Session and I used the wrist strap during this activity.

*A huge thanks to GoPro for sponsoring this activity. I was not paid, nor required to write an article or make a video of this activity. I did it because I truly love GoPro! Expect more GoPro videos in the near future! ♥