South Africa contains many different worlds: marvelous coasts, majestic mountains, immense expanses of untouched savannah, semi-desert areas of austere beauty, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, forests and boundless plains… not to mention Cape Town, which is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
In the rainbow country, people will surprise you with their warm welcomes and wonderful smiles.
Why South Africa?
Here are some reasons why you should visit South Africa: affordable prices, wildlife, beaches, scenic beauty, friendly people, amazing weather, adventure activities, history, excellent infrastructure and responsible tourism of a country which protects its heritage and the natural landscape.
Since 1994, the year of the first democratic elections following which Nelson Mandela became president, South Africa has been a fully integrated society of over 60 million people and a fascinating mix of cultures. In the rainbow nation, it is easy to communicate because almost all of the population understands and speaks English.
First stop: Cape Town
The trip to South Africa was also our first overseas trip since the pandemic. Great were the emotions and the expectations for this new adventure.
On our arrival at Cape Town airport, we picked up our rental car and we headed toward the city center. Utmost caution is essential in the first thirty minutes of a journey because of left-hand driving. However, as if by magic or maybe due to the fact that it was not our first time, everything became normal and driving on the “wrong side” of the road turned up to be quite simple.
Certainly being accustomed to the well-damaged and uneven roads of Sicily offers a great advantage and makes driving in any part of the world far easier, even in the most remote.
Our apartment was in a central area and close to the port on top of a road with a very steep slope, almost creepy. On the other hand, the view from our place was absolutely extraordinary!
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
After leaving our luggage, we immediately headed to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront just a kilometer away from our place. It is the historic heart of the port of Cape Town in South Africa and it is also one of the most visited places in the city and in the whole country. We were quite hungry, so we looked for a solution that suited everyone: Happy Meals for Lara and Fish and Chips for mama and papa.
The wonderful weather, the children’s playgrounds, and the view of the historic Cape Town harbor immediately made us realize that our trip to South Africa was going to become a memorable experience.
Our second day in South Africa began with a visit to Boulder Beach, the famous beach of the African Penguins. These penguins are incredibly sociable animals and hundreds of them flock to the beaches and inlets of this locality, just a few kilometers from Cape Town. We had lunch at the Seaforth Restaurant and we chose a huge and delicious plate of seafood and fish of various kinds just for starting in the best possible way.
Cape of Good Hope
After lunch, we headed to Cape of Good Hope, one of the most extraordinary locations in South Africa. The landscape is enchanting and the sea and the winds always menacing. It seems that in this area baboons are free to roam around as they please. As a rule, baboons are not aggressive but in certain circumstances they can become dangerous and therefore it is better to adopt a prudent attitude by keeping your distance so as not to frighten them.
We walked up the path that from the parking in ten minutes takes to the lighthouse. At the top, despite the favorable climate and weather, the wind was very strong, as always. On our way back, they offered us a free ride on the funicular while dad with his DJI Pocket 2 wanted to walk down to take some of his very special videos.
The next day we headed to Muizenberg Beach, a beautiful beach of fine white sand and a paradise for surfers. The place is known worldwide for its colorful beach huts. It is a few kilometers from Cape Town and is undoubtedly one of the must-see places to see. Food, like everywhere in South Africa, is cheap and yummy. In fact, for just a few euros you can get huge plates of Fish and Chips and enjoy a spectacular view of the beach and the sea.
The road that from Muizenberg takes to Chapman’s Peak and then to Camps Bay and Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the world. The road is very narrow with very few places to stop and enjoy the scenery. One must stop is at Chapman’s Peak for the breathtaking view of the entire promontory of Cape Town. Although it is difficult to imagine, millions of years ago South Africa was united with South America and the proof is given by the fact that the exact same rock of Chapman’s Peak is also found in Patagonia.
Camps Bay is one of the most exclusive places in Cape Town with a beach of very fine and white sand. The place is full of bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and splendid apartments that line the entire coast. We spent a few hours at the beach, at the playground, and at Starbucks (which is far cheaper than in any other part of the world).
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
We spent our third and last day in Cape Town visiting Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, home to diverse flora and fauna and endangered cycads. The garden offers a free tour every hour from 9am to 11am with well-trained volunteers.
Bo-Kaap is known as a Malay neighborhood with brightly colored houses and cobbled streets.
The area is closely associated with the Cape’s Muslim community. The ancestors of the majority of Cape Muslims arrived from 1658 onward as slaves, political exiles and convicts from East Africa and Southeast Asia (India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka). More than 50% of people in that area are Muslims and in fact the first mosque in South Africa was built here.
We had already been at Table Mountain earlier that morning but because of the strong winds the cable car was not in operation. In fact, the wind always represents a hazard at this latitude. In the afternoon, luckily the weather had improved and the cable was open (the alternative would have been hours of walking to the top). Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain with 1,086 meters or 3,558 feet of elevation overlooking Cape Town and it is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Nature.
The next day we headed to Hermanus, a small coastal town 115km south of Cape Town. It is known as the land-based whale watching capital of the world. We were very lucky since as soon as we got out of our car we could see many whales swimming along the coast.
Resisting a fish-based lunch in South Africa is almost impossible. Everything is made easier by the quality, quantity and prices of the food of South Africa; in fact, even in the most exclusive and refined tourist locations are really cheap compared to the rest of the world.
The next stop on our journey was Plettenberg, about 450km from Hermanus. En route we stopped at Mossel Bay for lunch. This time however we wanted to try the meat and the result was fantastic. In fact, meat in South Africa is very good with authentic flavors which are perhaps lost forever in most parts in the world.
After approximately 6 hours of driving through landscapes of incredible beauty, we reached Plettenberg Bay, a beautiful seaside town with many attractions including wildlife, beaches and a nature reserve. One of the streets of along the coast of Plettenberg has the largest concentration of millionaires in the whole country.
Robberg Nature Reserve
The next day we went on an excursion to the Robberg Nature Reserve, a national monument and a Unesco world heritage site. The trails were mostly not shaded and uneven, rocky and with cliffs, but we were rewarded with stunning panoramic views and with the sight of wild animals. We did the Witsand Circuit which is about 5km that takes about three hours to complete. Certainly, the excursion is tiring but it is absolutely worth it because of its extraordinary landscapes.
Shark attacks at Plettenberg Bay
Kimon (Kiki) Need (39) of Cape Town, died on September 22 2022 in a shark attack. She was about 50m from the shore when the shark struck. There was no warning before hand and she couldn’t see the shark in the water before it attacked her. She was alone in the water at the time of the attack. Kiki is the second victim of 2022. In fact, on June 28 2022 stockbroker Bruce Wolov, an acclaimed long-distance swimmer, died in a shark attack in the same area.
Bloukrans Bridge is located not far from Plettenberg, along the road that leads to Port Elisabeth.
It is the highest bungee jumping in the world, an adrenaline rush from the top of the bridge at a height of 216m, above the stunning gorge of the Bloukrans River.After a good rest
Charihandra Game Lodge
We drove about three hours from Bloukrans Bridge before reaching Charihandra Private Game Lodge near Addo. We arrived in the early afternoon and decided to enjoy the rest of the day in this beautiful place immersed in the wild nature of South Africa. Indeed, the lodge offers tranquility and peace, with magnificent views and the breathtaking sunset. We chose this place just 20 km from Addo Elephant National Park.
Addo Elephant National Park
The next day, we went on a safari game drive in search of the big five. We decided to take our own private guide in the car with us, far less expensive than an organized tour and certainly much more interesting and fun. Simnikiwe, our guide, was really great. Although we only saw elephants, zebras, antelopes, warthogs, and many others, we were not not able to see all the big five. In fact, there was no guarantee of seeing all the big five and indeed, unless going to a zoo or to small and enclosed places, that rarely happens.
It was an amazing experience and a very memorable birthday for Mama Nerissa, especially with the lovely restaurant ladies at Charihandra Private Game Lodge (Nicole and Noxie) who personalized our birthday dinner with a very special finale.
After spending almost 3 days in Addo, we headed toward Oudsthoorn. We drove for about 400km taking just over 5 hours and stopping for lunch in the quaint little town of Willowmore.
The journey was a little scary because, for most of it, the road passes in the middle of nowhere with almost 100km between one town and the next and with long stretches of the road with only one lane where, however, the speed is always very high. There were very few cars along the way and this contributed to the feeling of loneliness and fear in the midst of an absolutely extraordinary and out of this world panorama.
Ostrich Farm Safari
We spent one night in Oudsthoorn, a large and modern city in the Western Cape region. It is the Ostrich Capital of the World and the start of Route 62, the longest Wine Route in the world. We spent the morning at the Safari Ostrich Farm, learning lots of things about ostriches.
Highlights of the Tractor Safari include feeding the ostriches, storing the eggs, and visiting the incubator room where you can watch the chicks hatch or look through the incubator’s spy camera. The Farm shop offers a wide range of high quality ostrich leather products including bags and belts.
After our Ostrich Safari we set off on another long journey from Oudsthoorn to Stellenbosch. It is about 5 hours and almost 400 km away. Stellenbosch is a university town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is surrounded by the vineyards of the Cape Winelands and the mountainous nature reserves of Jonkershoek and Simonsberg. The city’s oak-shaded streets are lined with cafes, boutiques, and art galleries. It is one of the most beautiful cities we have visited in South Africa. Unfortunately, we spent only one night in this beautiful location before making our way to Cape Town airport for our flight home.
It was one of our best trips ever. South Africa is certainly one of the countries we would like to return. Honestly, before the trip, we had preconceptions but they were all wrong. Certainly, there are parts of South Africa where it is dangerous to go, especially at night, just like everywhere else in the world. However, the country is amazing and it offers different natural beauties and incredible food. We drove around 2,250km and most of the roads were very good with breathtaking scenery. The food was great, cheap and of excellent quality.
However, it cannot be hidden that behind the glitz and glamour of the big cities and the most renowned towns, there were also other sides of South Africa that were a little less attractive with thousands of slums. However, despite the economic disparities, at least the sad and horrible Apartheid time is gone forever. Today whites and blacks coexist like brothers and sons of this splendid land.
Having a layover in Istanbul of around 12 hours between flights, we took the opportunity offered by Turkish Airlines for a free guided tour of Istanbul with breakfast, lunch and transport. We had been to Istanbul three times so we focused on visiting the Basilica Cistern which we had not seen yet. The Basilica Cistern is the largest underground cistern in Byzantine Constantinople and one of several hundred ancient cisterns beneath the city that provided a water filtration system for nearby buildings. This underground chamber measures approximately 138 meters by 64.6 meters and it could hold some 80,000 cubic meters of water. The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns. It is one of the most important historical sites in the city. Other major monuments such as the Blue Mosque were under restoration and many tourists focused on visiting the Hagiya Sofia where queues were incredibly long.
My second trip to Africa was over but I will never forget the ancestral charm of Africa and its incredible colours.