Travelling through South and East Africa by air will lead to one true inevitability.
You will probably end up transiting through Johannesburg on an unbelievably regular basis. Jozi is one of the largest airport hubs on the entire African continent and from there, you can pretty much get anywhere. However, many smaller airports provide a far more limited service, with very few airlines flying just a handful of routes. As a result, transiting through Joburg is borderline unavoidable.
Luckily, Joburg airport is a rather great airport hub, and there are a veritable tonne of hotel options to utilise if your layover is overnight.
In less than a month we had already flown via Joburg five times! All of these experiences were good, but the last one was so incredibly special that it made what could have just been a transiting night instead one of the most memorable nights of my entire year.
From Mozambique we needed to get to Tanzania and despite those countries being relatively close together, there were no direct flights from Vilanculos to Dar Es Salaam, thus we were headed back to Joburg! Somehow, we managed to score a one night press stay at the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Sandton – one of the most beautiful suburbs in all of Joburg.
The Saxon is one of those hotels that have somehow anticipated anything (and everything) anyone could ever need or want, which meant that from the second we stepped foot inside the hotel, things were already in a class of their own.
At check in we were asked if we wanted any newspapers in the morning before we departed back to the airport. We responded by saying ‘no thanks’, and as we did, the lovely woman checking us in smiled and said ‘we do have Australian newspapers too, are you sure you wouldn’t like one?’
I hadn’t seen anything remotely Australian in ages, and honestly, it was quite nice to read a paper and feel like the news was relevant to me!
We were then shown to our room – an entry level ‘luxury suite’ – and holy moly, it did not disappoint!
Immediately upon entering, what captured my attention were the warm hues and Afro-inspired textiles that adorned a stunning four poster bed. These rooms combine clean lines with furnishings that exude an ever so slightly vintage feel.
After being given a quick run down of the amenities in the room by our bellboy (is this still the term people use?) I got to properly check everything out!
A beautiful bottle of welcome champagne was waiting for us, something which never fails to put a smile on my face!
Next up was the minibar with a difference!
Unlike most, this isn’t the kind of situation where all the items are ridiculously overpriced in order to prey on a persons desire for convenience.
Nope, at the Saxon you are free to drink as much (or as little) from the minibar as you like – at no extra cost. It will be restocked each day and this incredible service is included in the price of your stay.
Bring on the booze!
In the bathroom I found luxurious Molton Brown toiletries, which proved to be some of the best hotel amenities I’d ever received. The gingerlily shower gel was one of the most incredibly scented bath products that I’d ever used.
…and don’t even get me started on this glorious bath tub!
Each room also comes with a balcony that looks out onto a beautiful patch of the Saxon’s extensive grounds. When opening the doors to this tranquil garden, I really didn’t feel like I was in Johannesburg at all. We were so far removed from the traffic, the noise and the chaos that comes with being in a big city.
We had a dinner reservation for one of the restaurants in the hotel that evening, so on the way to dinner we made sure to check out the hotel grounds, and they certainly didn’t disappoint!
There are several restaurants inside the Saxon, and during our stay, we were to dine at Qunu. Named after Nelson Mandela’s Eastern Cape country home, Qunu pays homage to its South African roots, providing the ultimate South African grill experience imaginable.
Qunu also has a reputation for being one of the best restaurants in all of Jozi, so it is safe to say that our expectations were pretty high!
However, from the second we were escorted to our table, everything was complete and utter perfection.
We were first served a rather unassuming looking set of breads and butters, but I gotta be honest, these plates are far more exciting than they appear! Not only were the breads fresh, light and perfectly warm, but the trio of butters were like no other butters I’d ever experienced. The herb butter (on the left) had a kind of whipped consistency, and it was so good that we asked for a second helping!
After stuffing myself to the brim with bread and washing it down with a cocktail, it was time for our entree. I opted for the pork belly, and holy mother of god, it was unbelievable! I was very fussy (past tense, because I have since gone pescatarian) with meat, I absolutely hated when it was too chewy, but this pork belly was cooked to absolute perfection.
Next up was the main course, and although my fish course was delicious, it was what Dan ordered that truly stole the show. The steak diane doesn’t just come out to you on a plate, oh no, it is cooked in front of you!
I have never been a fan of ordering a steak – I preferred my meat to be hidden inside other dishes like pastas and curries – but I had serious envy that I didn’t order this as well!
It was by far, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest steak that I had ever tried. It was so good in fact, that this would be the one meal to make me take a break from my new pescatarian ways.
By this point, we were both absolutely stuffed to the brim, but we managed to find room for dessert of course! Dan opted for a white chocolate and strawberry concoction, whilst I was more keen on the dark chocolate and orange option. Both dishes were mouthwateringly spectacular, and it was will full bellies that we stumbled back to our room and fell into an undisturbed slumber.
We left early the next morning in order to make our flight to Dar Es Salaam, and though I was excited to be heading to Tanzania, I felt a deep sadness that we had to leave. Our stay at the Saxon had been an utterly overwhelming experience – in the best possible way.
I cannot wait to return one day.
Getting to Johannesburg This international airport is the biggest and most well connected hub in Africa
Qunu Restaurant: You can enjoy a meal at Qunu even if you aren’t staying at the Saxon, and bookings are highly recommended. Click here to learn more!
The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa: One night a luxury suite starts at $730 AUD, inclusive of breakfast. Click here to learn more or to book
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 lenses
Remember: The price may be on the steep side, but when the quality of the rooms and service is considered, I can’t imagine it being feasible to charge anything less!