South Africa – The Ultimate Experience

South Africa – The Ultimate Experience

When I first started out in the travel industry, the first destination I explored was my home country, South Africa. Over the years, I have witnessed South Africa evolve into a world-class tourist destination! South Africa is rich in history, offers excellent value for money, great weather, breath-taking scenery, superb food and wine, and some of the best Big Five game sightings in Africa!

South Africa’s rainbow nation is a melting pot of fascinating cultures. It is also a firm family favourite with several malaria-free safari options, including Pilanesberg, Madikwe and the Eastern Cape reserves, all malaria-free with excellent game viewing.

South Africa’s Mother City, Cape Town, has been known to capture people’s hearts! Your first sight on arriving into the city will be of the magnificent Table Mountain, often draped in a cloth of clouds.  Cape Town boasts superb accommodation, beautiful beaches and delicious food and wine experiences!  I recommend booking a foodie walking tour of the city, which will introduce you to the different cultures living in the city and the foods they eat.

Cape Town is a design hub and home to many amazing art galleries and museums including The Zeitz MOCAA, which houses the largest collection of African art in the world. Make sure to leave some space in your suitcase for shopping, from African craft to local design and fashion.

Take a drive along the beautiful coastline to Cape Point.  Visit the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony and the picturesque village of Kalk Bay. Also worth a visit is Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the great botanic gardens of the world. On Sundays, during summer, musical concerts are held here in a spectacular setting on the lawns.  To find out more about the city’s political history, take the ferry to Robben Island and visit the District Six Museum.

The Western Cape region also offers the lush winelands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. If you have the time, I would highly recommend you spend a few nights here, visiting the wineries, eating at some of the region’s top restaurants or just relaxing poolside at one of the beautiful properties. For some of the best land-based whale watching on the planet, head for the Whale Coast during whale season.

From Cape Town, hire a car and continue along the Garden Route, exploring its beautiful beaches, forests and lagoon. Enjoy some of the thrilling adventure activities that this area has to offer, including bungee jumping, skydiving and canopy tours. Continue onto one of the many beautiful Safari lodges of the Eastern Cape. These lodges are malaria-free and offer excellent value for money.

My very first Safari took me to the Eastern Cape in winter. I learnt my first lesson about dressing appropriately on Safari in winter when the icy wind raced past me and froze my ears! I soon dropped any fashionista pretences and purchased the appropriate safari attire, a warm fleecy beany! The early morning wake up calls for the game drives were difficult, after a night spent around a campfire drinking wine! I was never disappointed though, as the sun rose, melting the morning frost and enjoying our first sightings.

My next few safari experiences took me to the private game reserves adjacent to the Kruger Park. These reserves offer some excellent Big Five sightings. This region is the authentic African bush, if you visit in the height of summer temperatures sore and animals hide, so often it’s preferable to visit in the cooler months, May to October. In summer, this region enjoys some spectacular thunderstorms in the afternoons. There is nothing like an African sunset in the bush, whilst enjoying an ice-cold gin & tonic.

Northern KwaZulu offers some scenic game reserves, very different to the Kruger region, with a chance to see the Big Five and a good selection of plains game. These lodges are great to combine with a beach stay along the coast or in Mozambique.  The region also offers excellent hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains and water activities in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Lake St Lucia. Another highlight of this area is the rich Zulu cultural heritage.

Add an extra couple of nights to your itinerary and discover Johannesburg. Visit the Apartheid Museum, which tells the story of the now-defunct Apartheid system. Take a guided tour of Soweto on a bicycle, meet the locals and discover more about township life.  From Johannesburg, you have several malaria-free safari options, including the exclusive Madikwe Reserve and Pilansberg.

South Africa is perfect for the first time visitor to Africa due to its extensive infrastructure, offering the combination of magical Cape Town with its world-class food and wine scene and some of the best safari experiences in Africa.

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