December 19, 2014

Sure Travel’s travel highlights of 2014

It’s that time of the year again – when the year draws to a close, the sun is shining and the time for relaxation and recharging those batteries begins. As we do every year, we reflect on some of the amazing holiday experiences Sure Travel Head Office staff have had in 2014.

Read our best of 2012 and 2013 travel here.

Jenna Berndt, Social Media Coordinator
Favourite holiday of 2014?
I had an awesome year of educational visits for work. First I set off on a Mauritius educational and discovered just why the island is the South African traveller’s number one destination – miles of sand and warm blue sea. Bliss!


The beautiful LUX Le Morne in Mauritius. 


Then I discovered a little island I didn’t know too much about at first – Reunion Island. And it blew me away! I did the MascaRun travel industry educational – read about it here.

Read five reasons to visit Reunion Island.

A treasured memory from your 2014 travels?
Watching the sun set in Mauritius and so many highlights from my Reunion trip – kayaking on a transparent kayak in the calm waters of the lagoon, walking on the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, seeing the famous cirques from the air and being part of the winning team - to return next year!


Reunion Island coastline from the air.








On my travel list for 2015:
Thailand or Turkey.

Abigail Pires, Group Solutions Manager
Favourite holiday of 2014?
Culture holiday: The UK countryside during a glorious UK summer. Castles, history, green green landscapes, epic visitors. Unusually balmy summer days. A great mix of culture, good food, and history with fantastic family and photo opportunities.

Browse flights to the UK and elsewhere here.




Favourite relaxation spot:  Mauritius - this sounds like such a clich√©, but it really was incredible. The scenery, the perfect weather, the warm water; it was perfect timing for the ultimate relaxation we needed. We chose a relatively new hotel for Mauritius, Zilwa Attitude, that’s only been open a year. And what a find! Located at the top of the island in Grande Gaube, it has spectacular views of white beaches, the Coin De Mire mountain and blue ocean for miles. The hotel is designed with water everywhere which creates such a zen space. A Mauritian styled hotel with local d√©cor, clean and modern, just fabulous. One of the best holidays we have had.

Zilwa Attitude, Mauritius package including flights & 7 nights accommodation - view here. 

The Zilwa Attitude beach in Mauritius.






Best local getaway: The Cederberg. We took the furry babies, escaped all modern technology and went to relax in the Cederberg. Great for family getaways and true South African Beauty.

Read about a trip to the Cederberg here.



A treasured memory from your 2014 travels?
Sipping cocktails in a 36 degree infinity pool overlooking the blue ocean with a view of Coin De Mire at 18h30 at night for two hours. Bliss!

On my travel list for 2015:Denmark, Norway and Africa for work!

Merrill Poller, Member Support & Training Manager
Favourite holiday of 2014?
My travel for this year wasn’t a holiday but I had a business trip to an exhibition fair in Izmir, Turkey.

A treasured memory from your 2014 travels?
I had one morning to sightsee in Istanbul. Visiting the Blue Mosque was a definite highlight – it’s an engineering marvel. I had a fantastic local English speaking guide who brought the city and its history to life. Having a coffee overlooking the Bosphorus was also a memory I won’t soon forget. I tried traditional Turkish coffee with a Turkish delight and water (to wash down the strong, strong coffee!) in a traditional coffee house.

A traditional Turkish coffee house.




While in Istanbul, I stayed in an amazing, unique hotel in the Old City – the Eresin Crown Hotel. It’s a boutique museum hotel built on the site of the Great Palace. During construction, historical artifacts were found and these pieces are now displayed in the hotel. A living museum!

On my travel list for 2015:
I would like to travel to Cuba for the culture and for a beach holiday, I would go to the Philippines.

Martin Janse van Rensburg, Marketing & Events Coordinator
Favourite holiday of 2014?
Spending memorable time with my cousin who lives in Canada and getting to see just a little of this beautiful country.




A treasured memory from your 2014 travels?
Experiencing the natural surroundings and wildlife in Canada.





On my travel list for 2015:
Camping in South Africa, discovering more of the Western Cape and enjoying a hiking holiday.

Geraldine Boshoff, Contract & Marketing Manager
Favourite holiday of 2014?
My favourite holiday this year was at Beachcomber's Sainte Anne Resort & Spa on the Sainte Anne Island of the Seychelles. The remarkable lush green vegetation and the beautiful ocean is complimented by the superior accommodation that is on offer.  Visiting the island was a wonderful experience and a must for anybody that need to recharge and have a good holiday with excellent food.  From spa treatments and yoga sessions to wood carving and snorkelling, there is something to entertain and relax. This was a WOW holiday to really recharge and experience the island.

Browse Seychelles packages here.





A treasured memory from your 2014 travels?  
Visiting the highest Post Box in the British Islands with my daughter, Bernadette. She is a great travel partner and surprised me with a few days holiday in Scotland - a destination that was on my bucket list.  It was a very cold day and the first day of the Scottish skiing season. We took a train from Inverness to Aviemore and then a bus to the cable car and then up the mountain. At the highest post office, I posted a few lovely postcards to family and friends in South Africa.



































Where would you like to travel in 2015?
I am planning to visit the south of France and specifically the  beautiful village of Cassis in August next year with my partner Dave & daughter Bernadette. Visiting the French villages, eating good French food and drinking wine at street side cafes!



Layla Baderoen, Sure Online Fares and Travel Consultant
Favourite holiday of 2014?
I had a great family weekend away in Langebaan on the West Coast in November.  We managed to fit in a spa treatment, some fishing and got to witness a beautiful sunset while walking on the beach.





A treasured memory from your 2014 travels?
Visiting Kraalbaai in the West Coast National Park.  It’s such a beautiful beach with soft pearly sand and turquoise water.  I can't believe it is so close to home!



On my travel list for 2015:
Fingers crossed, we will be travelling to Italy or South America.

What were your travel highlights for 2014? Comment below and let us know. 

December 17, 2014

Grand re-opening of Graaff-Reinet's Drostdy Hotel

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
“Welcome to the oasis in the desert” said the Drostdy Hotel General Manager, Kurt Peter, as he ushered us into the blissfully cool interior. The air-conditioned hotel was a welcome refuge from the dry, oven-baked 35°C outdoors of the little Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet.

After a 3 hour transfer from Port Elizabeth airport, we had just arrived to check in to the newly revamped Drostdy Hotel, opened a few days prior. The property is a well-loved landmark in the town. The main building - originally the Drostdy (the office of the local magistrate) - dates back to 1805. The hotel is now managed by the Newmark hotel group. The national monument underwent an extensive renovation to turn it into a luxurious 5* boutique hotel, destined to once again become the glittering gem of the town.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
The hotel entrance and (from left) tour guide David McNaughton & Drostdy GM Kurt Peter.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet


To say the renovation process was extensive is an understatement. A team of expert archaeologists and architects worked together to preserve the heritage of the buildings while bringing them into the 21st century. Internationally renowned interior designer, Stephen Falcke, was responsible for the perfect marriage of the Cape Dutch, Victorian and Karoo style with the best of modern, eco-friendly innovation.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet


Leather armchairs, crystal chandeliers, yellow-wood floors (where possible, they saved the originals), animal-hide rugs, blue and white porcelain, botanical prints and black and white Chequer tiles adorn the public areas and rooms. Hotel facilities include 3 swimming pools (a godsend when temperatures soar to 40+ °C), a well-stocked Africology Spa, a boardroom, adjacent art gallery, wine shop and ample secure parking. We enjoyed a heavenly 30-minute back massage and can definitely recommend visiting the Spa for a treatment, even if you’re not staying at the hotel.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet


Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
The well-stocked Africology Spa.
Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
The largest of the three pools, situated in the Kromm's Court accommodation section.
Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
There are 48 uniquely decorated rooms to choose from - from bachelor rooms to suites that can be booked together to form a self-contained unit, complete with small private pool.  I was in a bachelor room (20m²) and although small, it was cosy and would be comfortable enough for 2 people sharing. They’re ideal for corporate travellers or if you’re on a budget. The bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom with his and hers sinks, a large shower, heated towel rails and underfloor heating (useful in the chilly Karoo winters). The suites are obviously larger and have Victorian roll top baths to enjoy a leisurely soak in.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet accommodation
The bachelor suite.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Bachelor suite bathroom.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Outside terrace of the bachelor suite, pictured with the drizzle on our departure morning.


Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Charlotte Rhys products in the bathrooms.
After a cool down in the pool, it was time to get down to the serious business. The food. Executive Chef Justin Pillay of the hotel’s De Camdeboo Restaurant had us constantly eating. Local venison, ostrich and the famous Karoo lamb feature prominently on the menu. Infused with the flavours of fynbos and the rosemary and thyme which grows in abundance on the surrounding plains; every morsel was a taste of the Karoo itself.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
De Camdeboo restaurant.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Fynbos and rooibos panna cotta.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Grilled green asparagus with braised lentils, crispy leeks and truffle scented sour cream.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet food
Farmstyle rhubarb crumble tart topped with blueberry frozen yoghurt.

Drostdy Hotel in Graaff Reinet
Venison savoury mince filled pancake with plum tomato chutney.


This Karoo influence, and strong sense of Graaff-Reinet community pride, is seen in every aspect of the new Drostdy. Wherever possible, the furnishings to the expertise was sourced locally. Most of the hotel staff are graduates from the South African College for Tourism, situated in Graaff-Reinet. The top students are given the chance to gain valuable practical experience working at a top class hotel for a year.

Somewhat surprisingly if you don’t know the area, there are many reasons to pay Graaff-Reinet a visit. While there we were allowed into the historic Graaff-Reinet Club to enjoy dinner pre-drinks (the club is members-only but they kindly made an exception for us), had an early-morning game drive in the Camdeboo National Park, did a historic walking tour of the town and visited a cacti and succulent nursery, a local pottery factory and the Valley of Desolation at sunset. And there was a lot more I would have liked to see but didn't have the time. Yet another reason to return... soon!

Coming soon – why you should visit Graaff-Reinet.

A huge thank you to our wonderful hosts: Vanessa from Newmark, Drostdy GM Kurt and the rest of the hotel team, tour guide and driver David McNaughton from Karoo Connections and tour guide Chantelle Marais.

Step back in time and book a stay at the Drostdy Hotel – contact us.

The Newmark group also owns the Victoria & Alfred Hotel in Cape Town's Waterfront area as well as other Cape Town properties, game reserves in Limpopo and Mpumalanga and lodges in Mozambique and Rwanda. Contact Sure Travel for more information on these properties and to book.

SURE TRAVEL BLOG CONTRIBUTOR
It all began when a 16-year-old Jenna got on a plane for the first time and headed to Germany for 2 weeks on a school exchange. Returning well and truly bitten by the travel bug, after finishing school she hopped on a plane and headed off to London. Since then, she has eaten her way through Eastern Europe, dozed in a hammock on a tiny island dotted in Lake Malawi, tracked Wild Dogs through the hills of Zululand, and explored the major sights of her first love – Europe.