True, this can be said about innumerable destinations in the world however there are few locations that better meld adventure, jaw-dropping scenic beauty and the cosmopolitan. Cape Town regularly ranks at the top of most loved cities in the world; the Winelands region on the Western Cape is host to historic picturesque villages and some of the best restaurants on the continent not to mention world-class wines, and then there’s the Big Five: lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and rhinoceros.
My South African adventure with my husband started in Cape Town at the luxurious Cape Grace Hotel. We had little mapped out except for a hike up Table Mountain and a half-day trip to Robben Island. For less adventurous travelers a guided city tour is an excellent way to get an overview of the culture, history, art, food and people. Whenever I visit a city for the first time I enjoy visiting food markets or taking a cooking class. Our brief stay in Cape Town didn’t allow time this go-round, but as a foodie I’ll be sure to explore more of the exciting culinary scene on my next visit—everything from Malay to Dutch and braai’s (BBQ).
On our last day in Cape Town we rented a car and headed south to explore Table Mountain National Park and stopped only where the road ended at Cape Point. For those with a love of plants, over 20% of Africa’s flora is found in this Cape Floral Region. We saw the famous penguins of Simon’s Town and passed the colorful beach communities—all the while dodging baboons that hang out on the roads, likely looking for a hand-out. Franschhoeck in the Winelands was our next stop and our stay at Franschhoek Country House was perfectly delicious after fun-filled packed days in Cape Town.
We drove the Garden Route through Hermanus to catch the Southern Right Whales breaching from shore (the Whale Trail from mid-June to early December) and then headed onto Knysna along the Indian Ocean. The Pilot’s View Penthouse at The Alexander kept luring us to stay indoors, but the Knysna hills beckoned us outside to hike and explore. Ancient lush hardwood forests line this coastal route to Plettenberg Bay—often called the Enchanted Forest or Phantom Forest.
A safari experience is often one beyond words and staying at a lodge in a private reserve bordering Kruger National Park allows for up-close-and-personal animal encounters. Pushing off in the late afternoon from Kings Camp on my very first game drive I spotted the Big Five within less than an hour. It was absolutely surreal. And our stay at the lodge where every need was cared for by a thoughtful and friendly staff made our four days in the bush that much more memorable. During seven game drives I witnessed two junior male lions rouse just before sunset upon hearing the roars of elder males from across the savannah, watched a young leopard learn hunting skills from his mother and carefully observed a large male elephant as he stepped behind a Mopani tree to retreat from our human intrusion. The sounds, sights and smells of the bushveld are imprinted like it was yesterday.
This gorgeous country has left an indelible mark on my heart and I can’t wait to return. I could wax on for pages, but you’ll just have to find out for yourself and I’d love to help make your dream come true. In Afrikaans, ‘n reis van ’n leefryd. A trip of a lifetime.