I manoeuvred the car and flicked on the headlights, which picked out four shifty-looking zebras staring back at us.
Owen Conlon gets up close and personal to the wildlife
We had flown into Cape Town, a city which packs a massive amount of history into its 365 years.
Our base? The stylish Grand Daddy Hotel on Long Street, the commercial and nightlife centre of town.
We needed someone to guide us through all that complicated past and Drew from Kiff Kombi tour turned out to be just the man.
The iconic Bo Kaap area proved a great starting point, famous for the colourful houses of its original Muslim inhabitants.
Drew, a native Capetonian who grew up in Australia, was keen to point out the Islam practiced locally was of the tolerant kind, informing us the area possessed possibly the world’s only gay mosque.
We next moved on to District 6, full of murals and strangely vacant for such a prime city centre property.
This was because it had been forcibly emptied during the apartheid years because inhabitants refused to obey race laws requiring blacks, whites and ‘coloured’ people to live apart.
They are still fighting to get their land back 30 years later.
Some neck- special shot of a giraffe at sunset over Inzolo Game Lodge
We passed a pleasant afternoon tasting three different vintages with picture-postcard views of the rolling countryside at the Groot Constantia estate.
Energetic sorts can walk up its steep slopes in about an hour and a half, but a far quicker way is via the cable car. Best get there early though, as queues can be lengthy.
After drinking in the sights from above, we then took one of the most spectacular drives you will see anywhere.
The road up to Chapman’s Peak gives absolutely jaw-dropping views of False Bay and Hout Bay.
If you prefer your tours more standard, you can take the Red Bus, where a €13 day pass will allow you access to all of its four routes across Cape Town.
The ferry to Robben Island, where Mandela was incarcerated, sells out pretty quickly, so it’s well worth buying tickets in advance.
The tour of the island and prison itself is a bit rushed but it gives an idea of how miserable the place must have been back in the dark days of apartheid.
Set on 11,000 undulating hectares, it takes you 15 minutes to drive to the lodge itself from the nearby main road.
It was stunning to see zebras and baboons hanging around the accommodation areas, some of which are luxurious as a five-star hotel.
Our next stop was the recently-refurbished Old Rectory Hotel in Plettenburg Bay.
This resort is where South Africans come to bronze themselves during the hot summer months, and the Old Rectory takes particular pride in its kitchen. It showed too.
My partner declared her fairly simple starter of baked bone marrow the best she had ever had.
Newly-opened Inzolo Game Lodge is truly out in the wilderness, set deep inside forested ground.
When we visited, the country was just coming off a particularly dry winter, but managers Dave and Christine have built a watering hole right in front of the terrace, which should mean you’ll be able to watch wild elephants hosing each other down while sipping your morning coffee.
Just as at Gondwana, the animals were comfortable with being watched but the dense bush at Inzolo meant you could literally turn a corner on the dirt track and be confronted with a massive swaying grey backside walking calmly ahead of you.
Dave’s knowledge of his subject was fascinating as he explained how rhinos and hippos were better at keeping the grass down than any lawnmower and pointed out the spots where elephants had ripped up trees and created mudholes for their own amusement.
We watched as Toyboy, the supposed dominant male rhino, was henpecked by one of his pregnant cows and as swallows darted back and forth in front of our vehicle, eating the insects kicked up by the engine.
Dave also pointed out lion claw marks on trees, woodpecker holes and told us of how his shrub planting right beside the lodge was frequently destroyed overnight by mischievous trunks.
The food at Inzolo was no less spectacular either, Sebastian the Zulu chef combining exquisite blends of local recipes like avocado and banana with kudu antelope meat that off the bone.
We left there amazed and fulfilled, already thinking ahead to when we might return.
WHERE TO STAY: The Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town has rooms with breakfast from €60 per night. See https://granddaddy.co.za/
The BB at the Old Rectory in Plettenburg Bay costs from €530 per night. See www.rareearth.co.za/the-old-rectory-summary/
The Inzolo Game Lodge experience is priced at €436 per person, including full board and game drives. See www.inzololodge.co.za/