Several members of the Ker & Downey family recently returned from a trip to the United Arab Emirates and South Africa. Our regional sales manager Wazha Dube recalls his journey and the luxury properties that welcomed him along the way.

On my most recent FAM trip I spent two weeks enjoying the opulence, thrills, and adventures that exist in Dubai and South Africa. Arriving in Dubai, I spent my first two nights at the Armani Hotel located in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The modern hotel’s minimal opulence in design and bare tones offer a distinct but discreet sense luxury that will have you entranced.

Desert experience outside Dubai.I checked into the Address Hotel Downtown for my last night in Dubai. This hotel is very comfortable and offers great dining along with a lounge on the 63rd floor – the perfect place to watch the nightly fountain show. The desert experience was a highlight that every visitor to Dubai should experience. The desert safari will soon have your driving up, down and sideways along dunes and mountains all the way to a Bedouin style camp where I was able to go dune boarding, smoke shisha and relax while watching a belly dance performance.

The next morning we were off to South Africa. Our first stay was at Grootbos Nature Reserve in Gaansbai. Forest Lodge, the newer lodge, boasts amazing views of the mountains and Atlantic Ocean from the comforts of your suite or from the restaurant, Red Indigo. Garden Lodge in contrast, is surrounded by fynbos and the forest garden, which I walked through on one of their many hiking trails, and is a perfect destination for families with children. The Villa was my home for the last night, and I say home because that’s really what it felt like. With six bedrooms, a pool, two BBQ grills, a full kitchen, bar, gym and private staff; you’ll quickly settle in. The staff members are great, the accommodation is superb and the cuisine was absolutely extraordinary… what else could you ask for?

Shark expedition at GrootbosGrootbos is a nature reserve unlike any other I’ve visited when it comes to experience. In just three days I was able to go shark cage diving, watch seals and penguins, fly over Hermanus, hike AND drive though the fynbos and milkwood forests, have lunch on the pristine beach of Walker Bay and explore the ancient caves. Although I wasn’t able to see the rest of the “Marine Big 5” or spend some time in the local vineyards, Grootbos is sure to offer something unique, whether you’re visiting South Africa for the first or fifth time.

My next stop was The St. James Manor for an overnight stay. A quaint seaside retreat located in the artsy district of Kalk Bay, the property is an elegant hotel with only ten rooms, all suited for the very best in relaxation, easily removed from the hustle and bustle but close enough that you can be in the city of Cape Town within minutes.

Next on the journey was Savanna Lodge in the Sabi Sand reserve. Savannah Lodge is a great hideaway in the wilderness, and with only nine suites it’s easy to settle right in. We were treated to game drives filled with amazing sightings, so much that leopards were seen regularly as well as the elusive wild dogs. With attentive guides and staff that take time to sit with you and make sure you enjoy every second, we were treated to an unforgettable experience.

A one night stay at the world-famous lodge, Royal Malewane, was next on our list. For anyone who has stayed at any of the Royal Portfolio properties, many know to expect a mix of African chic elegance, grand luxury, custom experiences, and invigoration with their spas. More so, one’s palate will enjoy an experience in itself with the culinary masterpieces created here.

Wazha and his new cheetah palsJabulani would be the last location for game experiences, and the trip wouldn’t have been complete without it. What sets Jabulani apart is the incredible game experience. Rather than focusing on game drives, guests get a hands-on experience with the elephants, Jabulani included, by watching them on a daily basis. Guests also get visit the Hoedsprut Endangered Species Center to enjoy interactions with various endangered animals, especially the cheetah which are raised here. Needless to say, getting the chance to play soccer with baby cheetahs will not be forgotten by me anytime soon.

After a week in the bush we were bound for Jo’burg, and stayed at the famous Saxon. Their new villas are a great addition and offer a whole new experience for large groups. The Saxon has a reputation that needs no introduction and is the epitome of African elegance with world class service.

This was the perfect Ker & Downey experience. Enjoying such a myriad of luxury experiences and accommodations, I have now found it harder than ever to settle back into real life in a city such as New York City, but I just keep thinking that this is just an urban safari. Perhaps sooner or later, the recipes I brought back from the properties will taste the way they did when I was in South Africa.

Contact us today to begin planning your amazing journey with these properties included.