I went on one of those “once in a lifetime” holidays this September. But I’ve put off writing this post for months simply because I don’t know how my experience from South Africa can be accurately penned down. I can’t quite explain the infatuation I have formed with this country, and no one can’t truly capture its dramatic natural beauty that constantly makes you go “Wow!”
Perhaps with the exception of some parts of Australia, South Africa is the most geographically stunning place I’ve ever been to. The ever-changing landscape is the perfect backdrop for activities ranging from wine tasting to seal spotting. Even the urban Cape Town is a nature-lover’s dream come true, with beautiful ‘fynbos’ covering Table Mountain. I’d even say that a trip up Table Mountain alone is worth the 12-plus hour flight down south. Where else can you walk above the clouds, taking in a panoramic view of one of the most beautiful cities in the world?
If my sweeping declarations of admiration are making you cringe… then I don’t care! I am quite shamelessly in love with South Africa.
But, a visit to South Africa without due acknowledgement of its tumultuous history is impossible. Popping into a museum on a beautiful, sunny day may not sound appealing, but it will help you understand South African society a tiny bit better. You will be confronted with situations that actively hold you back from having a carefree – or even guilt-free – time in South Africa. We had to drive past a township the size of Cape Town to get to an exclusive, jaw-droppingly beautiful golf estate where we were greeted by our wealthy Airbnb hostess with expensive champagne. How do you accept the gaping inequalities and still manage to enjoy yourself?
We were confronted with some uncomfortable situations that lay bare the unfairness and complexities of South African society. But more often than that, we were blown away by the warmth and generosity of our hosts and friends who now call South Africa home.
We started off our trip by spending a few days in Cape Town. These are some of the restaurants we really liked and would recommend: Willoughby & Co, Jason Bakery, Chalk & Cork, Black Sheep, and Mulberry & Prince.
Then we grabbed a car and headed roughly east on the famous Garden Route – with some modifications to maximise wildlife encounters. I’ve written about our trip in detail for Timbuktu – a travel company that offers customisable trip ideas in Africa. If you so fancy, you can copy our entire trip here.
Here are some of the other highlights from the road trip, starting with aptly-named Misty Cliffs and the strikingly beautiful Cape Point. And of course, penguins!
The part of the trip I was looking forward to the most during the planning phase was the winelands. I love a good glass of wine, and the winelands are an exceptionally great setting to enjoy one. The vista-rich winelands deserve a couple of days to be truly appreciated. Park your car at your Airbnb and hop on the Wine Tram.
Standouts for us in this region were Spier (divine picnic baskets), Babylonstoren (the most sincere and literal adaption of farm-to-table dining I’ve ever seen), Delaire Graff (its restaurant Indochine serves art you can eat) and Noble Hill (South-American inspired food and decor).
Then we headed into Little Karoo via Route 62, stopping by to visit Ronnie’s Sex Shop and feed ostriches.
Our time at the coast – which is also the heart of the Garden Route – was spent hiking along the spectacular views of ocean breaks on one side and lush forests on the other.
One of the absolute highlights of the trip was our day at Addo Elephant Park. It’s the third biggest national park in South Africa with all the “big five” calling it home: elephants (600 of them!), lion, leopard, buffalo and black rhino. Seeing elephants up and close was a dream come true. We also spotted many zebras, kudus and warthogs. Most excitingly, we saw a napping lion who had just made a vicious kill. Just incredible stuff!
I returned from this trip feeling inspired, energised and already wanting to go back. Even though we drove more than 1,000km, we only visited a fraction of this beautiful country.
Which part should we visit next? Let me know in the comments below!