I keep experimenting with the visualization of these tables. I know it’s not ideal to display the minimum rate that you’re unlikely to find in reality. I was actually surprised to see the commonality of this bait-and-switch practice among major online travel agencies, as I have almost never been able to get this “from” rate with dummy bookings. But what’s the alternative? This provides at least some point of reference, otherwise it’s just numbers. 7,500 points, 12,500 points, 17,500 points mean nothing if you don’t know what actual cash price they might represent.
Once again, here is my standard reminder.
Points or cash? The reminder
- Just like with most other hotel programs, my approach is that you can benefit the most if you use your points at the cheapest or most expensive properties, but there are exceptions.
- My lowest valuation for Marriott points is 0.8 cents – yours may differ, but always add taxes and other fees to look at the whole picture (because you don’t usually pay taxes on an award stay).
- Consider the length of stay – with Marriott Rewards, you get the 5th night free.
- If you stay for 4 days and have the Citi Prestige credit card, try to see if you can get a cheaper cash stay with the 4th night free. There are also all kinds of stackable discounts you can find at Hotels.com and other OTAs, especially if you use gift cards.
- Keep in mind that with cash you earn points, and by redeeming points you don’t.
- See if you can find a cheaper comparable hotel or vacation rental in an area you want to stay in.
- But if you are a Marriott Rewards Platinum member, consider free food and booze you will not be getting elsewhere.
Marriott Rewards (Protea) in Africa
In 2014, Marriott snatched up a prominent African hotel chain called Protea. Protea hotels are generally very nice and well reviewed, and range from 3 to 5 starts. Some nicer Protea properties have been rebranded Autograph Collection. There are 63 Marriott hotels in South Africa, with only 5 of them in Categories 4 and 5. That means Protea hotels in South Africa represent an unbelievable redemption value, even better than AC hotels in Spain. Here are Protea brands:
- Protea Hotels (3* – 4*)
- Protea Hotel Fire & Ice (mostly 4*)
- African Pride, rebranded Autograph Collection (mostly 5*)
Protea hotels in South Africa — Cape Town
Cape Town is the most popular tourist destination in South Africa and for a good reason. From V&A Waterfront to Table Mountain, and from World of Birds to the world of penguins, Cape Town is unlikely to disappoint. And Protea Hotels by Marriott doesn’t disappoint either. It has 8 hotels in Cape Town from Category 1 to Category 3. The cheapest hotels are located in Cape Town suburbs within 10 to 20 minutes drive to the city — not such a bad idea if you prefer country settings with a close proximity to the sights. The rest are located in prime areas of Cape Town. If you don’t mind splurging, Protea Hotel Cape Town Victoria Junction and Protea Hotel Fire & Ice Cape Town are probably the best choices for 17,500 Marriott Rewards points.
Cape Town Protea Hotel Cape Town Victoria Junction
From the Overview:
Explore the V&A Waterfront and the heart of Cape Town from stylish accommodations at the Protea Hotel Cape Town Victoria Junction, a creative urban destination convenient to the CBD, Green Point Stadium and so much more! A hybrid of modernist and contemporary chic, our Green Point, Cape Town hotel’s interior has recently been reinterpreted to provide a more sophisticated stay, but remains the darling of the glamorous set in Cape Town.
Protea hotels in South Africa — Johannesburg
Some travelers diss Johannesburg in favor of Cape Town, and they might be right if vacation time is limited. However, Johannesburg totally holds its own as a great travel destination. It has history, art, trendy neighborhoods, and there are amazing day trips if you choose Johannesburg as your base. Here are some of these day trips, and, of course, there are many other options.
- Pilanesberg National Park (a popular game reserve)
- The Lion & Safari Park
- Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary
- The Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein caves
And unlike Cape Code, here in Johannesburg even cheap 7,500-point hotels are located close enough to the sights, although you might want to “splurge” and pay 12,500 points for African Pride Melrose Arch.
Johannesburg African Pride Melrose Arch, Autograph Collection
From the Overview:
Ideally situated in the heart of Johannesburg, the African Pride Melrose Arch specializes in luxury without compromise. Stretch out in your sumptuous hotel accommodation, and be spoiled by amenities including free Wi-Fi, ultra-plush bedding and oversized soaking tubs and rainforest showers. Dine on fantastic global cuisine at March Restaurant, or linger over an aged whiskey by the fire at Library Bar. Spend time lounging by the crystal waters of our hotel pool, open to in-house guests only, which features a vibrant bar with drinks and light dining.
Protea hotels in South Africa — Johannesburg Airport (JNB)
I never feature airport hotels in these series. I just don’t see any reason why someone who’s traveling from across the world would be willing to stay at an airport hotel, no matter what the savings are. There are exceptions, of course. For example, Hilton San Diego Airport Harbor Island Hotel is not really an airport hotel, even though it’s very close to the airport. But that’s just because SAN is so close to the city, a number of hotels can safely call themselves “airport” hotels, which is not the case with most cities on the planet.
However, these 2 hotels can get handy in case you use JNB to fly elsewhere. For example, when I finally make my way to South Africa, I will definitely want to combine that trip with Victoria Falls. In which case, I could fly into JNB, and book a room at a transit hotel for a few hours or overnight if need be, before flying to Victoria Falls. At 7,500 I wouldn’t bat an eye.
|Protea Hotel O.R. Tambo Airport 3*, from $66||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Transit O.R. Tambo Airport, 3*, from $115||7,500||1|
Protea hotels in South Africa — Durban
Durban is famous for its Golden Mile beachfront promenade, Botanical Gardens, uShaka Marine World, and, most importantly, a stretch of gorgeous unspoiled beaches lining up north of Durbin in Isimangaliso Wetland Park. There are 4 Category 1 Protea hotels in Durbin depending on what part of the city you want to stay in.
Durban Protea Hotel Durban Edward
From the Overview:
Situated on the beach, our four-star hotel is an inspired choice for travelers to the area. It begins with our well-appointed accommodations, all of which come equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi internet and many of which feature charming views of the sea. Venture out and explore all that the city has to offer, including uShaka Marine World and Durban Botanic Gardens, or simply spend time worshipping the sun from our pristine Golden Mile location.
|Protea Hotel Durban Edward 4*, from $89||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Durban Umhlanga 3*, from $97||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Durban Umhlanga Ridge 3*, from $88||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Karridene Beach 3*, from $71||7,500||1|
Protea hotels in South Africa — Safari
Just because I call them “safari hotels,” it doesn’t mean they’re only good for game drives. Sure, you’ll probably want to stay at Protea Hotel Kruger Gate. It’s not called that for nothing — the hotel is just 300 feet away from the Paul Kruger Gate of Kruger National Park — the most famous game reserve in South Africa. But don’t stop there. Protea Hotel Umfolozi River is located in the Greater Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Reserve area, but it’s also reasonably close to the gorgeous golden sands of St Lucia Beach when you feel like taking a day off on the beach.
Or (and) if you also feel like golfing, Protea Hotel Polokwane Ranch Resort in Limpopo offers the “12 Hole Par 3 Golf Course overlooking the Waterberg Mountains.” So none of these hotels are just one particular thing.
Protea Hotel Polokwane Ranch Resort
From the Overview:
Protea Hotel Ranch Resort is situated just 25km south of Polokwane and 2 hours north of Johannesburg. Comprising of 1000 hectares of pristine Limpopo Province bushveld, Protea Hotel by Marriott Ranch Resort is uniquely different. Guests have the pleasure of experiencing viewing of 25 species of antelope including the rare and endangered sable antelope, hyenas, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, impala, nyala, buffalo, lion sanctuary and over 200 species of birds, as well as the Kolobe Tented Bush Camp which includes team building facilities and tented accommodation ideal for groups seeking a true African bush environment.
|Protea Hotel Polokwane Ranch Resort 4*, from $81||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Umfolozi River 3*, from $39||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Kruger Gate 4*, from $111||12,500||2|
|Protea Zebula Lodge 4*, from $107||12,500||2|
Protea hotels in South Africa — Garden Route
If you rent a car in South Africa, Garden Route is probably the most magnificent self-driving tour in South Africa. Garden Route is a 180-mile coastal road between Port Elizabeth and the Mossel Bay, through Garden Route National Park (hence the name). You’ll witness “the diverse vegetation and wildlife, and abundance of lagoons, lakes, mountains, forests, and beaches along its winding roads.” Check this website for further details.
Home to almost a dozen nature and marine reserves, a road trip on the Garden Route offers plenty of opportunities for activities along the way, from hiking to eco and whale watching tours, to exploring caves and deserted sandy beaches.
The route meanders between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua mountain ranges, creating contrasting, yet equally stunning views on either side. The lush greenery of the indigenous forests meets the jagged cliffs and the sprawling coastal vistas, producing the type of panoramic views only found in magazines.
Protea Hotel Port Elizabeth Marine
From the Overview:
Experience the finest beachfront hotel in Port Elizabeth. Situated in the upmarket and elegant Summerstrand, our hotel is close to… Boardwalk Casino complex, Summerstrand Village Shopping Center, Humewood Links Golf Course, Oceanarium, Nelson Mandela University and 10 minutes from Port Elizabeth International Airport.
Here are some Protea hotels you can find along the route.
Protea hotels in South Africa — Wine Country
Consider some of these hotels for touring South African wineries. In Stellenbosch, you can ride the Vine Hopper, which offers 3 routes to visit different wineries in the region. Of course, you could simply hop in a car and drive around, but you probably shouldn’t. 🙂 And again, wine tours are far from the only activity at any of these hotels.
Protea Hotel Franschhoek
Discover a location overlooking the majestic mountains and famous vineyards of the historical village of Franschhoek, about 80 km east of Cape Town. This 4-star property has a rich history, with one section dating back to the 1880s. The town itself takes its name from the French Huguenots who settled in the area in the early 1680s after fleeing from their home country. Our convenient location is a superb base from which to explore Franschhoek’s culinary establishments, art galleries, cheese factories and some 25 world-famous wine estates.
|Protea Hotel Upington 4*, from $75||7,500||1|
|Protea Hotel Franschhoek 4*, from $98||12,500||2|
|Protea Hotel Stellenbosch 3*, from $103||12,500||2|
|Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Dorpshuis & Spa 4*, from $92||12,500||2|
Protea hotels in South Africa — Other Notable Hotels
African Pride Arabella Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection
From the Overview:
Situated in the heart of the Kogelberg Biosphere and close to world-famous whale watching destinations, our hotel invites you to explore a distinctive combination of luxury and convenience. We showcase exquisite onsite dining options, an award winning spa, fully equipped fitness center, multiple swimming pools and more. In addition, our signature golf course is ranked in the top 10 in all of South Africa. Our fantastic location in Hermanus places you just an hour away from Cape Town, and near a wide selection of outdoor activities.
Protea Hotel Clarens
From the Overview:
This luxurious four-star retreat is nestled in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in close proximity to the Golden Gate National Park and the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Protea Hotel Clarens exudes sheer style, luxury and design that blends in with the natural splendor of Clarens—the inspiration of artists, eco-lovers and tourists who simply enjoy exploring this tranquil, magical landscape.
Protea Hotel Rustenburg Hunters Rest
From the Overview
Protea Hotel Rustenburg Hunters Rest is nestled in between the Magaliesberg Mountains and mere 8.5 km from Rustenburg city center. Enjoy a 2.5km hike up to our famous viewing deck situated in the Kgaswane nature reserve, offering spectacular views of the mountain range and the Olifantsnek Dam that were once home to roaming elephant herds. Nearby attractions include the Royal Bafokeng stadium, Magaliesberg Canopy Tour, Paul Kruger Country House, Cradle of Humankind, Hartebeespoort Dam, Elephant Sanctuary, Maropeng & Sterkfontein Caves.
Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay
From the Overview
With fresh and contemporary decor that creates an atmosphere of space and light, Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay occupies a magnificent waterfront position and is only 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town. Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay offers excellent accommodation on waters edge… Other facilities include a slipway, jetty, an outdoor swimming pool, jungle gym, 9-hole miniature golf course as well as a games room.
Amazing doesn’t even begin to cover the value you might derive from Membership Rewards in South Africa. You can literally travel for a month exploring a fascinating country and staying for free at wonderful hotels and spend as few points as you would have to dole out for a 5-night stay at some of the fancier Marriott/SPG properties. Marriott Rewards offers unmatched values in South Africa (and other African countries, as well, which I’ll cover in my next installment), but it’s not going to last forever. I’m afraid the value might be gone come next March. If you’re interested in South Africa, better book sooner than later.
Have you been to any of these or other Marriott hotels in South Africa?