Fair Trade Accreditation

FTT HOLIDAY FOR WEBOur association with the Fair Trade label indicates our continued commitment to fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. It also ensures that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits.  and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. It also ensures that the people who contribute their land, resources, labour and knowledge to tourism are the ones who reap the benefits.

Pierneef a La Motte – A foodie’s delight!

La Motte Blog1

Have I mentioned before how much I love the tourism industry and my job? If not, you will soon understand why.  I had my first large group transfer to the winelands on a beautiful toasty summers evening.  A group of 30 OLX professionals from around the globe were taking an outing to La Motte in Franschhoek for dinner.  Kenny from Future Coaches was our very professional bus driver and I had the privilege to be the hop-on guide.

After navigating through traffic and introducing the guests to the history of South Africa and the winelands, we arrived at La Motte.  The guests had an amazing evening lined up including canapés and MCC under the trees in the garden, a wander through the museum where a large collection of the famous SA artist Pierneef’s works are kept, a wine tasting hosted by the winemaker himself and an amazing dinner and wine pairing.

I wondered whether I was not going to be bored being there for such a long time, but I soon realized that this would not be the case!! The friendly coordinator, Inge Hugo, welcomed me and Kenny as warmly as their VIP guests, which made me feel quite special. 🙂

I was really impressed by the restaurant manager Pierre Theron, who welcomed us at Pierneef a La Motte Restaurant.  He exudes a perfect balance of professionalism and warmth, and really knows his wine! I had the heavenly pleasure of enjoying a glass of 2013 La Motte Pierneef Syrah Viognier – there was not an inch of free space on the bottle due to all the stickers from awards it has won.  Upon tasting the wine, I also understood exactly why.  Not being a red wine drinker, I was very surprised by the how much I enjoyed it, pure seamless silk in my mouth.  This is definitely a must for any wine tasting at La Motte.

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Come dinner time, Chef Michelle Theron (not related to Pierre by the way) started us off with a selection of breads and spreads, all done with excellent artisanal skill.  Kenny and I chatted away while nibbling on the delicious offering.  Next up was a seasonal grilled salad with quinoa and heaps of flavour.  No offence Mom, maybe if my veggies had tasted like this, I would have had more as a child!

The main event (yes, this is not ordinary dining folks, each course is a celebrated event of its own) was roast free range pork belly, fynbos honey carrot, grilled potato and chorizo salad, soft steamed chicken egg, mustard and malt emulsion.  Keywords here – rich and fabulous!  I never thought I would get lyrical about potatoes, but wow – insert Beethoven’s 9th symphony here.

Dessert was all about chocolate: Hazelnut dacqoise, chocolate marquise, chocolate chip parfait and coffee ice cream, but alas – I had accidentally eaten into my “dessert stomach” and had no space left to my own dismay.  May the gourmet gods forgive me!

Back at the bus, Kenny and I welcomed a group of very happy wine infused clients that were all suffering from a severe case of puppy syndrome – tummies full and eyes about to close!  Satisfaction all round indeed.

Thank you so much to all the staff at La Motte, we all had a very memorable and special evening and you definitely made an advocate out of me!

An unexpected noble penguin mission

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As a newbie consultant and guide, I decided to take a trip out to Gansbaai and put some names to the faces I have been emailing since working for PG Tops. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the hustle and bustle of the Marine Dynamics headquarters, excitement was definitely in the air, as is expected from a Shark Cage Diving and Marine Eco-tour operator. A friendly lady welcomed me, and when it downed on us that we’ve been “pen pals” for a while now, it was hugs all round like long lost friends! Aletta was as amazing in person as over the phone or via email. As it was a Sunday, I had my fiancé join me for the day, to brag about what an awesome job I have! We spent some time exploring the Marine Dynamics facilities and chatting to some of the personnel, all very warm and professional. I was blown away by how well everything was set up and organised, as well as the infectious positive attitude of everyone we met. Heading back to the parking lot right by the boat launching area, we noticed some action at one of the Marine Dynamics boats – personnel gently loading boxes onto the boat while being filmed. This indicated that something cool must be going on, so we took a closer look. That’s when we met Wilfred, owner of Marine Dynamics. He asked whether we had time, as this boat was heading out to Dyer Island to reintroduce some rehabilitated penguins into their natural habitat. We didn’t think about it twice and couldn’t believe our luck to be part of such a momentous occasion!

We headed out to sea, man and penguin, side by side – the little fellows safely in their protective cases. The mood was very cheerful and the rather choppy ocean added to the sense of adventure with a thrilling boat ride! The Marine Dynamics penguin team whizzed behind us in our wake on their rubber duck like knights on their horses heading out to save the day. They took all the penguins to the island while we cruised around just off shore waiting for the big moment, and what a big moment it was! They set all the penguins in their cases down in a row on the beach and opened them simultaneously, and I swear I could hear Chariots of Fire playing somewhere in the background. The little suited black and white birds ran out to the water and all jumped in as if they were competing in a swim gala! Laughter and cheers filled the air as the penguins headed further out in the ocean, all too happy to be back in the water, where they belong. It was an experience that will never be forgotten! Thank you so much to Wilfred and his team, their hospitality and making us part of this noble mission!

PG TOPS XMAS CHEER

A P-P-POEM….
P is for PG that begins a good read
It’s been a big year for PG and TOPS, to 2016 we lead.
P is the letter that promotes what we do
Private Tours to the Point and the Penguins, that’s us through and through.
P is the concept that brings us great joy
Pictures of Cape Town sunsets, Petting cheetahs or baboons playing coy.
P is the reach of our touring range
Port Elizabeth, Pretoria or Prisons on Islands ain’t strange.
P is the wine that we like to drink
Pinotage is a blend from Africa –  like us Afrikaners – won’t that make you think?
P is the Parks for safari where we like to go
Sabi Sands, the Kruger, Sanbona, you know?
P is the People of this great little team
The consultants the guides the support staff I mean.
P is a thank you, to the Person that supports us so well
The agent, the partner, the contractors are swell.
P is for Pride in this, our great land
We keep being POSITIVE even when the news ain’t that grand.
P is for Pleasure, in this wonderful city of mine
For Cape Town brings mountain-and sea-and food-and sights-and culture… and of course the sunshine.
P is for Playtime, and that you can see
As long as work is still fun – life is just grand – I’m sure you agree!
P is for Panic, a feeling no fun
There is no P for bye, but my poem is now done.

Too cute

5 Star Shark Cage Diving

Just two and a half hours’ drive from Cape Town, you’ll find a company called Marine Dynamics, situated in Kleinbaai… the hub for the Great White Sharks. Upon arrival, my two colleagues and I received a very warm welcome from the Marine Dynamics team and they directed us to the restaurant where a delicious breakfast was ready for us. Kelly, the Marine Biologist from Australia, then briefed us on the company and the work they are involved in. She was very enthusiastic about the work they do and it all resonated in the manner in which she delivered the information to us. She ensured us that we would be safe and there was no need to be afraid. Apparently the most dangerous part of our day was our drive to Kleinbaai!! LOL

Marine Dynamics logo

As we left the restaurant, we started feeling nervous, but quickly ‘convinced’ one another that “we got this”! The crew members assisted us with our life jackets and water jackets before heading out to the boat, Slashfin that was awaiting us for our diving experience. Slashfin was purposely built for shark cage diving. This means it contains similar qualities of the Great White Shark such as “its sleekness, elegance, power and steadiness in order to Dyer-Island-Cruises-Logoenable the boat to slice through water and to endure extreme sea conditions” (Marine Dynamics, 2015). Off we sailed and along the way we experienced great views of the sunrise as well as different birds flying over the boat, pure magic!

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Quickly we arrived at our diving location which was within close proximity to Dyer Island that is renowned for its Cape Fur Seal colony, with approximately 60 000 seals on this Island.

 

With our wet suits on, it was time to decide who would get into the cage first. As soon as Kelly had suggested we should get in first, my immediate response was “yes, of course!”, but my colleague Sofie said “no ways, we’ll rather be part of the second group”. She sounded a little frightened… I must add. While waiting for our opportunity to get into the cage, sea sickness got the best of me and thus I was unable to stand upright. While my other colleague Thami, and Sofie were enjoying watching the other people and their 20150513_SF_Trip1_KBaker_IMG_00220fearful faces, I sat in a corner trying to be strong. After drinking a glass of water, I then told myself, “shake it off Nela and get into that cage!”

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We did it!!! The water was extremely cold, but THAT was the least of our concerns. We had roughly 10 shark encounters with one female and the others were all juvenile male sharks. What an amazing experience to see those wild ocean creatures up close! Once one of the sharks slammed into the cage with its tail and we all jumped backwards as we were frightened from the sudden knock. It was simultaneously scary and awesome! After 45 minutes in the cold water, we were more than ready to warm up. I remained at the front of Slashfin for our return trip as the sea sickness crept up on me again. According to Thami and Sofie, viewing the sharks from the top deck was awesome! Needless to say, I was a tad bit jealous as I could not make it up there. However, the Marine Dynamics team took really good care of me and I appreciated their efforts.

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Before heading back towards the harbour, our skipper Pieter steered the boat towards Dyer Island, for a close up of the Cape Fur Seal colony. Upon our return to the Great White House, warm soup was waiting for us in the restaurant, which was really delicious after being in the cold for four hours. During that period we were able to watch the video of our experience, which was so surreal!

 

Before departing to Cape Town, the team also introduced us to their Penguin and Bird Sanctuary, which opened February 2015 as a marine bird rehabilitation centre for diseased, injured, oiled, abandoned and displaced marine birds and African penguins.

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Until our next adventure! Nela20150513_SF_Trip1_KBaker_IMG_00002

Feeling the “Africa”!!

Safari Cape Town Big Five!

A very early morning start to our day it was indeed… I was more excited than ever as I would see Elephants and Giraffes for the very first time in person!!! The drive to the game reserve was picturesque and makes you appreciate nature so much more. One would literally snap copious pictures before even reaching the Big Five.

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Upon arrival at Aquila Private Game Reserve, we received a very warm welcome. It was freezing cold there as the reserve is situated in the Little Karoo, the semi desert part of South Africa. The safari experience started with a scrumptious breakfast buffet and we definitely looked forward to it as the variety was plentiful and… we were starving!!! Before embarking on the game drive we had an opportunity to explore the surrounds of the game reserve and the views of the adjacent mountains are truly breath-taking. My colleague, Thami immediately spotted the elephants from afar and with my other colleague Sofie and I’s bad eyesight, Thami had to explain several times before we both got a glimpse of those beauties. This happened throughout the entire duration of our game drive as he spotted most of the animals before anyone else.

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Finally the game drive was underway. Our ranger Freddy started our game drive with a visit to the Animal Rehabilitation Center (ARC), as the game reserve highly accentuates wildlife conservation in order to re-introduce the wildlife such as Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Leopards and Lions within the Cape Region. It was sad to see this wildlife in confined areas and not in their natural environment, but I do understand the cheetahs are a captive bred and are thus controlled to ensure the worldwide cheetah survival initiative. As for the Lions, they have been saved from a heart-rending destiny whereby these animals were placed within small areas and hunters would be granted permission to shoot them.

As the game drive continued to the main reserve Freddy stopped the vehicle, he would then pick up animal manure and ask us all which animal within the reserve did we presume it could belong to and of course there would be one or two individuals who would get it right. I thought it was a great way to obtain knowledge about the wildlife on the game reserve and made us use the knowledge we had about the wildlife. Freddy had a great sense of humour as he would occasionally engage in jokes and it helped us all loosen up and feel more at ease during this experience. We then continued our drive along the waterhole where we came across Hippos, my colleagues and I named them the “lazy ones” as they laid in the same position we had left them. There was a moment that were Freddy stopped our game vehicle in the middle of nowhere as our refreshment stop, we hopped off the vehicle looking up to the beautiful African blue skies, mountain views, the wildlife within a distance and of course some sparkling wine! This was truly an incredible moment… “time stood still” for a little while here.

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Before game drive Freddy stated that there was a possibility we might not see the Big Five or the other wildlife on the game reserve, however we were fortunate enough to see the Big Five (Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Leopard & Lion) as well as the other wildlife on the game reserve (Elands, Giraffes, Hippos, Ostriches, Springboks & Mountain Zebras) .

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After our game drive we indulged in a delightful lunch and yes…it was just as marvelous as breakfast! With such a fantastic day behind us a little snooze on a way back home to Cape Town was essential.

Welcome to Africa!!!

Video of Pieter and Clive’s epic MTB event

Newsletter

Hi sports fans

It has literally been six months since my last confession.  I actually needed to go have a look at when exactly I last wrote a newsletter. November 2014.

Man. So I better have a good excuse for going so quiet.

I actually have several, listed to an old favourite melody:

Doe, a deer, a female deer

The office is predominantly female. And the guides are predominantly male. My theory is that men mostly like the women to tell them what to do. There has been a shift, an expansion, I daresay an evolution in the PG TOPS/Luxury Safaris team. While we were sad to say goodbye to Barbara, our plucky German intern, Sofie has rejoined the team after an extended holiday, and we welcome Thami and Nela as our junior consultants. Necesssary, as Bianca has left the office to focus on guiding for us full time, to rave Tripadvisor reviews. Jarred has also joined the guiding team, and doing some sterling work for us, especially as we do some brisk business with his old employers Sanbona.

Ray, a drop of golden sun

Some golden stats to light up the day for the PG fan club:

  1. March was our biggest month ever. April would have been, if it wasn’t for March. For the year to date, our numbers are up by a whopping 35%.
  2. Easter Friday was our busiest day ever. Easter was bumper, overall, but Easter Friday saw:
    1. 3 groups on safari
    2. 3 groups on the peninsula
    3. 3 groups in the winelands
    4. 2 groups on Table Mountain and City Centre
  3. The only reason we can sustain our service quality but do these increased volumes, is the quality of our guide contractors (and the ace office team, of course). Take a bow contract guides, our Tripadvisor page is littered with great reviews for Erica, Jamie, Deon et al!

Me, a name I call myself

PG TOPS continues to deliver the best quality day trips in the Cape Town, winelands and Peninsula areas.  In addition, our decision to name the new business Luxury Safaris has also been a good one.  Our luxury partners Sanbona, Botlierskop, Romney Park and Sabi Sands Reserves have been the main beneficiaries of increased support for this full service business. Caren, our safari specialist, has been booking everything from flights to hiring camera lenses for clients to safaris for 3 year olds. With Nela in support, this journey is also only starting!

Far, a long long way to run

Well, actually, it’s only about 200 metres. The PG TOPS operation has shifted location. The office is now located at 14A Avenue Montagne, and we had a lovely launch party in March.  This has enabled me to claim back my personal space (although there has been scant time to redecorate) and we have had a lot of fun choosing pictures, plants and paint jobs.  We’re all pretty happy with the move, I think my neighbours appreciate it as well!

Sew, a needle pulling thread

Like any favourite piece of clothing, the PG TOPS suit still looks good but needs some patching up, and we are having to let out the seams a bit to allow for an expanding waistline as we cruise into the middle of year 7. We tired of having to keep stitching up the oldest vehicle in the fleet, so the Vito has been sold, to be replaced by a newer model (arriving this week). I also added the Avanza to the fleet (once in a while I actually want to take my Beemer for a personal drive, so the extra set of wheels come in handy). We are also going to do some much needed maintenance on the website, and the quiet winter months afford the ideal opportunity to do some constructive tweaking to our business processes . The squeaky wheel, as they say…

La, a note to follow Sew

La, as in Ebo-LA. I want to reiterate: South Africa has no Ebola. We are five zillion km’s away from the affected zone. But it is worth congratulating Trevor Noah on his epic appointment as new host of the daily show. Check out his schpiel on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHO1a1kvZGo

Also, even though we sometimes feel that we live in LA-LA land here in South Africa, what with Xenophobia, ridiculous governmental decisions and a cricket team that builds me up and breaks me down like clockwork every four years… There’s a lot to be happy and hopeful about.

Specifically, our LAnga township tour remains one of our most popular experiences. With the wonderful local Xhosa guides Godfrey, Richard and Odwa, we have a team that engages with our clients in a constructive and socially sensitive way that beats expectations every time. It’s hard to see the social divides that still hold us back as a nation, but equally encouraging to see a community hard at work changing things day by day. Proud.

Oh, and it’s not to early to start punting the Santa Shoebox Project, as always championed by YoLAnda. We have started to receive our first R200 donations! http://pgtops.com/santa-shoebox/

Tea, a drink with jam and bread

Company slogan (check my logo) has always been TOUR-TRAVEL-TASTE. That’s why I crossfit. To balance out the excessive calamari lunches or the cookies the Mercedes dealership delivered.  In terms of our evolution as a business, one of our key success factors is our understanding of which restaurants deliver on client expectations, anticipating on behalf of our visitors where they would like to eat and booking them the best spots before the fill up. Perennial favourites Two Oceans, La Petite Ferme, the Pot Luck Club, the Test Kitchen, La Colombe,  Baia and the Codfather are among the restaurants that have made Cape Town the culinary capital of Africa.  We list our favourites on the website http://pgtops.com/pg-recommends/

That will bring us back to Do (oh-oh-oh)

And full circle.

DO recommend South Africa, Cape Town, the Garden Route, PG TOPS and Luxury Safaris to all your friends. We specialize in creating the trips of a lifetime!

Don’t pay too much attention to the bad press. If good news sold papers, we would have much more of it.

DO give me some feedback if you spot something that needs to be improved on our website(s), or if there is tour specific feedback that I need to be aware of.

Don’t hesitate to go out and rent Sound of Music and watch it again. I know I will.

 

Take care of yourselves… and each other! For graphics version click HERE.

 

PGThami Mokoena

 

LUXURY SAFARIS SOUTH AFRICA

Santa Shoe Box

The Santa Shoebox Project originated in Cape Town in 2006 and has grown in leaps and bounds, starting with only 180 boxes and within 8 years reached a whopping 118 274 boxes. These are distributed to more than 1000 recipient facilities, through more than 60 satellites around South Africa and Namibia.

PG TOPS got involved in 2011 and has ‘adopted’ this initiative as a yearly affair. This is the 4th year we will be involved and need all the help our friends, family and clients are willing to give.

You can assist by:

  • Donating. R170 or $20 will buy you a Shoebox, which we will allocate on your behalf, pack and send to the depot end of October.
  • Helping to pack: The Santa Shoebox Party 26 October 2014.
  • Spreading the word, packing your own boxes and dropping them off, or supporting the packers (braaiers, drink pourers, cheerleaders needed).
Check out this amazing initiative on www.santashoebox.co.za