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Part 1: JFK-DXB-CPT

Part 2: Cape Town

Part 3: Etali Lodge in Madikwe
« Last edited by dvol on August 30, 2017, 08:43:10 PM »

Author Topic: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR  (Read 1955 times)

Offline dvol

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Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« on: August 24, 2017, 12:23:31 PM »
A few months ago I met a sales rep from a South African safari tour company who also did kosher safaris and the idea of a kosher safari stayed stuck in my head. Fast forward a few weeks and my husband and I decided that we would do a South Africa trip in August to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary.

I sent an email to the tour company with the amount of time I wanted to spend there (6-7 days), and my dates (anytime in August). I knew absolutely nothing about SA, had never been and knew only 1 person that had visited there. The tour company was fantastic in helping me plan this trip and guided me every step of the way and answered all of my many, many questions. Could this trip have cost me less if I booked everything myself (in which case I could have used points for some of it)? Yes, although without points I donít think the savings would have been too significant. Would I book it through the tour company again and/or recommend others to do so? Definitely. They took care of everything from the domestic flights in SA, to the tour guides, to the kosher food and more. Due to certain circumstances we were able to splurge on this vacation a bit and so booking this way was completely worth it for us, but to each their own.

After I got a few prospective dates from the tour company I had to see which dates would work best with flights that I could find since I did want to book that solely with points. Due to my husbandís work we could not be gone for more than 1 Monday and because we were leaving 2 kids behind we didnít want to be away more than 1 Shabbos or too many days in general. I searched Alaska for availability in F on Emirates and found availability JFK-DXB-CPT on August 9. I transferred 185K SPG points (in 3 increments) to JAL since 115k JAL points were needed per person. I did the first transfer on a Monday and by Friday morning all 3 transfers showed up in my JAL account. There was enough availability on Alaska that I wasnít worried it would disappear in those few days, and worst case I would book alternate dates since I hadnít confirmed the rest of my trip yet. For the return I was not seeing anything on Alaska for Emirates in First on any of my desired return dates. Being that one-way fares on EK in F from SA were pretty decent I ended up booking my return with Amex points and getting 50% back (this was in May). I booked a flight leaving Johannesburg on Wednesday evening August 17 with an 18.5 hour layover in Dubai and arriving back to JFK Friday at 9AM.

All pictures were taken by my iPhone 7 and Iíll be the first to say they are probably awful. My husband did take his GoPro Hero 5 (with Karma grip) but we havenít even looked at all the hours of footage and pictures on there yet.

JFK-DXB-CPT

Since my departure was booked with JAL miles we were not eligible for the chauffeur pickup. We got to the airport about 2.5 hours before our flight time (which was 11:20AM), checked in at the dedicated First desk and headed straight to the Emirates lounge.



While it was a nice lounge it wasnít extraordinary but we did love the fact that we boarded directly from the lounge. This was our first flight on Emirates and what an experience. We boarded and were immediately greeted by the FAs and shown how everything worked and given pajamas and Bulgari amenity kit:



 


We had seats 3E and 3F:



We were immediately offered drinks, snacks, newspapers, magazines and of course champagne and the FAs came through with Arabic coffee and dates. The purser also came by to introduce himself.
There was only 1 more passenger in F on this flight and so after takeoff we had them make up the window seats in row 3 on either side of us as beds and kept the 2 in the middle as seats.



I have of course seen countless photos and reviews of EK F but nothing comes close to the real deal. It was an amazing experience and was almost like a trip of its own.
Being that this was the A380 equipped with showers, we scheduled our showers for 1.5 hours before landing. Since there are 2 we were able to schedule them for the same time and the FA made sure with us that she had our permission to wake us then if we were sleeping.
We were floored by the size and elegance of the bathroom and it was a real treat and unlike any other airplane bathroom Iíve seen before:



And of course, thereís nothing like a shower at 35,000 feet:



The bar/snack area for first class:



 


The bar for business and first located behind business class:





While we ordered kosher meals we didnít end up asking for it as we had brought along sandwiches and that was good enough for us.
Neither of us could sleep much between the excitement and it being in middle of the day for us but the 11+ hours flew by (pun intended :P) and before we knew it we were landing in Dubai. Our connection time was just under 3 hours (They did have a 1 hour connection but I could only find business availability on that flight). We headed straight to the first class lounge which was truly impressive and MASSIVE. It stretches the entire length of the terminal and was easy to get lost in. We scheduled our complimentary 15 minute massages and had some coffee in the lounge while we waited. Besides the numerous bars and snack spreads in the lounge there is a complimentary restaurant inside as well as a pretty large smoking area:



Unfortunately we could not board directly from the lounge for our flight to Cape Town so after a while we made our way down to the gate. They shuttled all passengers to the plane (a surprisingly long almost 10 minute ride) and they had separate shuttle buses for each cabin. While I didnít get to see the economy or business shuttles these were the seats on the First class shuttle:



Our 777 waiting to take us to Cape Town: (I was scolded for taking photos)



This was an older 777 and while the seats themselves were identical to those on the A380, the screen was smaller and not a touch-screen and the remotes were much more outdated. The bathrooms were regular airplane bathrooms and there was no star lighting on the ceilings. There were only 8 seats in first class and besides for 1 empty seat, all were taken. While we were originally seated in 1E and 1F in the middle, my TV wasnít working so I was moved to the only open seat available which was 1A. This was fine since by that point we were exhausted and slept through most of the (pretty bumpy) flight.

Next up: 3 Days in Cape Town


Offline @Yehuda

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2017, 12:48:45 PM »
Nice start! Great writing style and pics. That flight looks like quite the experience.

Offline Joe4007

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2017, 01:11:55 PM »
Great start! Excited for the next segment.

Offline Z56

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2017, 02:24:50 PM »
excellent report! waiting for the next part
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Offline maxmiles

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2017, 03:05:40 PM »
Great TR so far! My brother did a Kosher Safari in December, he said it was the most amazing experience!

Offline brodes18

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2017, 04:03:48 PM »
Great TR!, Thanks. Looking forward to the next installment

Offline Dawie

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2017, 05:46:46 PM »
thanx for sharing, keep it going !

Offline Denverite

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2017, 11:14:30 PM »
thanx for sharing, keep it going !

+1 looks amazing and I can't wait to read the rest!

Offline Yammer

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2017, 11:37:15 PM »
Great TR

of course seen countless photos and reviews of EK F but nothing comes close to the real deal.



Offline mmgfarb

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2017, 01:17:28 AM »
Great start!
Just wondering, how much was the one way F fare back to JFK and did you consider any other options like EY or QR for the return?
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Offline Proisrael

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2017, 02:57:40 AM »
Definitely not enough EK F reviews on DDF. Great start!!

Offline Hjay

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2017, 05:52:37 AM »
Great start! I had a safari trip booked a few years ago but last min I had to cancelÖ still dying to go, can't wait to hear about it.

Offline dvol

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #12 on: August 28, 2017, 10:32:57 AM »
Thanks everyone, writing up the Cape Town portion right now.

Great start!
Just wondering, how much was the one way F fare back to JFK and did you consider any other options like EY or QR for the return?

I can't recall exactly, I believe it was around $4k each and then half back...plus being a revenue ticket I was able to earn miles (and book the chauffeur).
The reason I wanted to stick with Emirates is that I wanted to do the long stopover in Dubai as opposed to any of the stopovers I would be able to do with EY or QR and I didn't want to do it on the way there, only on my way home. Schedule wise it also worked out for me far better than EY or QR.

Offline dvol

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2017, 01:20:59 PM »
Part 2:

CAPE TOWN

We arrived into CPT at about 6:30PM and our driver/tour guide was waiting for us after baggage claim to take us to our hotel, the Cape Grace. This hotel is right by the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and I cannot say enough nice things about it. The staff was so friendly and helpful and eager to please. Our check-in was smooth and while we were offered the penthouse suite for *only* $750 additional per night, we stuck with the room we had already booked which was a Superior Room with a view of Table Mountain and the marina as well as a nice sized balcony.







Our agent had booked the hotelís complimentary chauffeur service to take us to dinner so after we settled in we were on our way to Avronís Place in Sea Point. The chauffeur was scheduled to pick us up as well an hour and a half later. The hotel offers this complimentary chauffeur service to anywhere within 10km and they told us if we tried to book a chauffeur and one wasnít available they would call us a taxi at no charge.

The place was a little busier than we expected since the neighborhood seemed so quiet, but after just a few minutes we were seated.  While the food was decent it wasnít especially memorable and I personally found my steak sandwich a little too tough to eat while I very much enjoyed the spring roll appetizers.

Some of the menu:



Steak Sandwich:



This Beef Espatada seemed to be their most popular item since every table had at least one order of it. While I didnít taste it my husband said it was quite good but also a little tough:



Here is where we started realizing how far the US dollar will get you in South Africa. Our entire meal which consisted of a few appetizers, a soup, a glass of wine, a smoothie, several sodas and 2 mains came to $42. We added a tip of about $7.50 and the waiter couldnít stop thanking us. We asked the chauffeur later on what the customary gratuity in a restaurant is there and he said itís just 10%.

We headed back to the hotel after our meal and crashed before our only day of touring in Cape Town.
 
We woke at 9AM on Friday and went down to the hotelís restaurant to have our kosher breakfast. Our agent had arranged for food to be delivered from a local place called Goldieís Diner. At the time of booking I was given a full menu of choices and was able to select what I would want for each meal. I love that these meals were served on china (albeit disposable china) and with real cutlery, and not in an airplane meal style aluminum/plastic container with plastic cutlery. Everything was double wrapped with strict instructions to the hotel on how and when to warm up each meal and they were so helpful and on the ball about it.

Breakfast consisted of a cold portion: muffin, juice, croissant with cream cheese and lox, some cut up fruit and a yogurt:

 

   


As well as a hot portion:
Eggs, tomato, potato latke (the best part!) and sautťed mushroom and onion:



Now that weíd eaten it was time to start our day in Cape Town. Cape Town has been suffering from a drought for a while and although this was their rainy season we were told that it hadnít rained once for the last 3 weeks which of course meant it rained on that day. Our morning started out dreary:

Saunders Rock Beach:
 



We visited the South African Jewish Museum which we found quite interesting:

 

They also have a very nice little kosher cafť in the museum

 

A pizza, fries, salad and sandwich plus several drinks came to about $25 after tip!

The cable cars up Table Mountain were closed all morning due to high winds and extreme cold at the top, but since the weather started clearing up at this point we decided to go to the cable station to see if they were operating (even though their website still said they werenít).
Unfortunately their last cable car goes up at 5PM and they didnít reopen at all that day so we were not able to get to the top of Table Mountain. But here are some pictures from the cable car station:

 

I believe the mountain in the background is the Lionís Head:

 

A magnificent view of Cape Town:

 

After that we did some driving around the city. We went to the Bo-Kaap area as well as the small Bo-Kaap museum for a quick look around:

 

We did a quick walk around the V&A Waterfront to buy some souvenirs then headed back to our hotel for Shabbos.

We found it quite amusing when we walked back into our hotel room and found the ďShabbosĒ candles my agent had requested from the hotel set up in our room:

 

There was glorious weather there on Shabbos and being that the Cape Grace is by the V&A Waterfront we spent most of the afternoon just wandering around there. They have a section called the Watershed, sort of like a flea market where local vendors can sell their things and it brought hipster Williamsburg to mind. From jewelry to clothing to art, they had it all and the fact that we couldnít buy any of it was very disappointing (they closed at 6PM while Shabbos was over closer to 8PM). The rest of the Waterfront had many restaurants, souvenir shops, a Ferris Wheel, a very large mall, boat rentals and so many more things.

Cape Town has so much to offer and so much to see, we definitely could have used at least 2 more days there since we didnít get to cover much due to the weather and Shabbos. Will definitely be back.

We had a 9AM flight Sunday morning from CPT to JNB and so we turned in early to be ready for our 6AM wakeup call. Our breakfast was wrapped and ready to go (cold portion only) and we took it with us when we left to the airport.

Our agent had booked us on a BA flight in business since it wasnít too much more than coach (coach was about $180 per person and business was about $310) and I needed the baggage allowance (2 bags, 50 lbs. each per person). This gave us access to BAís Slow lounge in CPT and while I wasnít expecting much I was pleasantly surprised. I forgot to get any pics but they had a full bar, a very large breakfast spread, many couches, free wifi and a punny bathroom sign with a view of the tarmac:

 

I paid another ~$7 each to assign us the exit row in business class which was the first row.

 

The ďbusinessĒ class here was just all the middle seats being empty, although they did serve a meal. (Had ordered kosher but slept through meal service).
The view of Cape Town after we took off was incredible:

 

We had a FedAir flight booked at 1PM to Madikwe Game Reserve and a FedAir rep was there to meet us after baggage claim and then had a shuttle van take us to the FedAir Lounge. Since the planes flown to the game reserves are so small they do not allow any hard luggage and their guidelines state only duffel bags that are soft on all sides will be allowed -although several people did have wheeled duffel bags with hard bottoms that they didnít raise an issue over. They have a storage facility in their lounge and as long as you have a return flight booked with them to Johannesburg they will store any luggage you donít take to the reserves free of charge. Knowing this, before our Sunday morning flight we had re-packed all of our things we would need for safari into these duffels that I had bought on Amazon: (thanks @moish ) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003KR1K40/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 and left our hard suitcases in storage.

The Lounge:

   





Being that all passengers were present and accounted for we boarded early, at about 12:40 and were ready for take-off by 12:45. I will preface this by saying I do not NOT have a fear of flying (except in F on EK :P) and was not thrilled to be flying in this tiny 8-seater flying bus.



Snack bar on the plane:



The flight was very very bumpy, and I hated every one of the 60 minutes we were in the air. I sort of felt like I was on a roller coaster without the safety straps and couldn't wait to land.

Part 3 coming up:
Etali Lodge in Madikwe

« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 01:25:05 PM by dvol »

Offline Samkaker

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Re: Dvol's South Africa / Dubai TR
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2017, 03:00:37 PM »
great writing, tuning in for the best part!