Many Gulf residents and nationals avoid South Africa because the crime statistics are appalling. But if you stick to the right areas, South Africa is a very safe destination offering incredible value-for-money. AME Info visited The Marine and The Plettenberg, luxury hotels on the famed Garden Route.
It is rare in five-star travel to report a genuine bargain. But the Garden Route at this time of year is in low-season despite its extremely pleasant climate, and some of the best hotels are almost empty and room rates at rock bottom.
South Africa has suffered from waves of desperately poor illegal immigrants in recent years and they are largely responsible for the current high crime rates, most of it in the squalid slums that they inhabit. It is a fact that the vast majority of crime happens in these places which are not visited by tourists.
Stick to a region like the Garden Route, away from the city slums and you are highly unlikely to encounter any trouble. Tourist areas are also well protected and the statistics show that very few visitors actually have any problems. No more really than anywhere else.
That means the beautiful boutique hotels of The Collection by Liz McGrath, the redoubtable octogenarian hotelier, are generally overlooked by Gulf residents looking to escape the summer heat at this time of year and remain almost empty.
It is ironic that hotels in red-hot Dubai are packed right now, and golfers boil on the Dubai fairways instead of enjoying the mild climate of South Africa and its excellent golf courses.
However, the South Africa's hospitality standards are every bit as good as those of Dubai, and the spacious, immaculately decorated interiors of The Collection are on the same level. You just pay about half the current rate in Dubai.
On the quality of cuisine there was no doubt the prize went to Mrs. McGrath. Seafood at The Marine in Hermanus is a heavenly place to eat the finest fish straight out of the ocean, perhaps with a glass of top-quality locally produced wine costing almost per bottle what a glass costs in Dubai.
Or try The Sand restaurant at The Plettenberg in the town of the same name further along the Garden Route. You simply do not get Springbok or Kudu in the Middle East, and such wild venison adds to the appeal of mouthwatering vegetables fresh from the fields. Eat like a lion while you have the opportunity.
You also get some truly stunning locations at both hotels. The Marine looks from the cliff top over a magnificent bay where whales visit from June to September and there is a nature reserve walk along the front with discrete security patrols.
The Plettenberg hotel has arguably one of the most romantic locations in the world with a panoramic view over the bay, again notable for its visiting whales in the summer, and an Ocean safari to meet a pod of dolphins is highly recommended. Also try a walk around the Robberg peninsula nature reserve for more amazing views.
Both hotels are adjacent to bustling small towns and a wide variety of activities is available to suit all ages. The Collection only welcomes children over 12 but can accommodate younger families in well appointed and fully serviced villas. And if you do not want to drive yourself along the Garden Route then Cape Corporate Car Rentals can also offer an excellent chauffeur driven service at modest rates.