South Africa Culture

Waterfront

The waterfront is definitely worth a stroll and if you are hungry, a great place to stop and eat while watching the ships come and go. The architecture has an almost Victorian style, seagulls are surrounding you and some local entertainment made up of traditional music will fill the street corners. I went to eat at a local place called Quay4 to try their seafood cuisine. First I snacked on some oysters eating them the South African way (tabasco, salt, pepper and lemon) as well as some fried calamari and fish and chips! The food is extremely fresh and I even washed it down with a bright green cream soda- another local specialty.

Nightlife

I felt like a rock star in Cape Town- because whether it was a hipster bar, Irish Pub, or a high-rise club- the diversity of the nightlife was what I liked most. I started the night out relaxed at a beachfront bar/restaurant called THE GRAND. I will tell you that this shabby chic and perfectly located joint was one of my favorite places. Don’t let it deceive you from the outside as it only looks like a rundown warehouse. Inside I was in pink heaven, the décor was exactly my style and something that I was not expecting. I sipped on a pink mojito and was pleasantly surprised with the prices as well. If I had bought this drink in the US- it would have been 3 times as expensive. After The Grand, I went to The Power and the Glory – a bar that was full of trendy people that sits on the corner with open aired windows and plenty of places to stand and talk without feeling claustrophobic. I felt I was getting a good feeling of what nightlife was like in Cape Town and then I was taken to a place that made me definitely feel like I was in a different country. It is called Long Street and the music blares from every window and door along the entire street. People are selling things on the corners, cars can barely drive and people are flooding the street in complete chaos. The funny thing is, I loved it. Full of people having a good time, hearing all languages and stopping at whatever line was the shortest to get in was the perfect way to spend the night. I can’t wait to return to the chaos one day in this place that has done nothing but exceed my expectations.

Wine Tasting

The wines of South Africa I would arguably say are some of the best. Like the landscapes, the diverse amount of temperatures makes each flavor unique. One of the best places to try these wines is in Stellenbosch- a quick drive from downtown Cape Town. Another area to try a few wines is in Durbanville. With hundreds of wineries in the area, I found Nitida to be one of my favorites. The Cabernet Sauvignon was by far the best and their tasting room and service kept me there for hours. On the same road you can also dine at their restaurant. Nitida was definitely a winery I would recommend to all.

Biscuit Mill – Cape Town

I have discovered that I have been “eating my way through Cape Town” more than anything, which I was not expecting. I was so surprised by the variety of foods and flavors I have found and if anyone is a foodie like me, the best place to try all of these flavors is at the Biscuit Mill in the part of town known as the Observatory. I am so thankful I have such great friends in South Africa that decided to take me here because I ended up staying for hours trying oysters with champagne, cheeses, pizza, crepes and pork and chicken that was braaied right in front of you! There were also coffee bars, local breweries, paella, sandwiches, you name it! This is also a really cool part of town that I would almost describe as being very “hipster!” I loved it…but most of all, I loved the flavors!

Cape Point

Cape Point is a must if you are visiting Cape Town. I mainly wanted to see the penguins, but the drive to the southern tip of Africa was beautiful in itself. I drove through Simon’s town on the way and stopped to eat at Olympia- a small café on the corner. I heard from a friend that the food was divine and I can tell you that I ate the best fish cakes of my life. I also tried another local drink called Appletiser- basically a fizzy apple juice. I stopped to see the penguins at Boulders – a beach known for boulders protruding out of the sea and a place where the penguins like to hide. While walking through the boulders you might even notice some grunting noises coming from the bushes, I can assure you that these are just penguins, not wildebeests. Instead of going the same way back to Cape Town we cut through the pass taking us through Scarborough- a beautiful beach village with views of the ocean that I could not get enough of. I was definitely that person that wanted to stop every five minutes to take a picture. While stopping to watch the swells of the waves, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched a shark swim through the wave as it barreled. These waters were full of them- so there was no chance that I was going for a swim.

God’s Window and Pinnacle

I’ve found almost everywhere you look while in the bush is a stunning landscape, but there is a panorama route that you can take while visiting the bush or Kruger National Park. I took the route from Hazyview up through Graskop to the lookout points of Pinnacle and God’s Window. I recommend stopping for lunch at Harrie’s Pancakes in Graskop- the pancakes here are nothing like the states, rather more like a thick crepe filled with everything you can imagine, from traditional meats to sweet delicacies. The pancakes were brought to South Africa by the Dutch, so you will find them on most menus, but Harrie’s were especially tasty! Visiting South Africa in May was absolutely perfect, especially here in the bush. It is not too hot and from what I heard it is better because there aren’t massive crowds of tourists. For instance, stopping at the Pinnacle- I was the only one there with a great view into the canyon and miles and miles of lush green wilderness. Just a few miles up the road is God’s Window another lookout point that showcases the country’s vast beauty. Continue to hike up past God’s Window through the wilderness to another view that will leave you breathless.

King’s Camp Safari

The one thing I was looking forward to the most was going on a safari! This is for sure one thing that I wanted to check off of my bucket list. More importantly I am an animal lover as well as a lover of adventure, so putting the two together was the perfect situation. I love the unpredictable moments you can have with a wild animal and after shark cage diving already in this country; I was ready to see the wildlife outside of the zoo. I was lucky enough to have visited several properties run by Seasons in Africa- all luxurious hotels with some of the best service I have ever received. They have one property bordering Kruger National Park on their private game reserve called Lion’s Camp. The resort is the perfect place for those wanting a real safari and bush experience. I entered the east gate to the park and drove a good 30 minutes or so following the signs to the camp. On the way there I had already seen giraffes, warthogs, baboons, buffalo and impala. It’s so exciting spotting the animals yourself, words can almost not even describe. Once I arrived to the camp, I was greeted with fresh lemonade and was given a tour of the all-inclusive resort. The resort has 2 honeymoon suites and 12 villas. Each villa has beautiful indoor/outdoor showers, canopy beds and a hammock and nice sitting area on your balcony looking straight into the bush. Staying at camps like these is great because breakfast, lunch and dinner are scheduled as well as three safaris a day. The resort works like clock work and is a great way to see as much wildlife as possible during your stay. The game drives are some of the best in the bush with trackers and drivers that will do all they can to find the best wildlife. My first game drive was in the early morning. A wake up call is made to your room at 5:30 a.m. and from there you meet up in the balcony of the resort for some coffee and muffins. By 6 a.m. you are in the land cruiser and driving through the bush during sunrise. The first and most common animal to see in the bush is impala- similar to a deer. Within an hour on the drive we saw one of the most exotic animals to see on a safari- the rhino. It was beautiful, grazing through the grass, for about 20 minutes we followed it until we snapped so many photos that we filled our cards. Next, we were on a mission, I knew that the tracker had seen something because we went flying through the bush, literally taking out trees! It just so happens this off roading adventure lead to a flat tire in the middle of the bush as well. Luckily we were only delayed about 5 minutes, but it turns out that land cruisers can maybe not conquer some plants or trees in the bush. Finally after the tire was replaced, we continued on our mission to find a baby leopard with its mother. Apparently this is extremely rare to find and let me tell you it was definitely something that you would see on National Geographic. The cub was adorable and about 5 months old. I was told that leopards would stay with their mothers until they are about 2 years old. The played, licked each other and even climbed trees as we followed them around. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. After we saw two of the rarest animals in the bush we celebrated with some hot cocoa and a quick snack before returning to breakfast. At about 9 a.m. we were finished with our morning game drive and we enjoyed a nice hot breakfast back at the camp. After breakfast you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy time in your villa, take a dip in the pool or enjoy the books and games provided in the resorts library. I know there are many options to choose from when selecting a resort to stay at, but I felt that the service was exceptionally good at King’s Camp.

Kruger National Park

Kruger is a must for those traveling to northern South Africa. While there are plenty of private game farms to visit and stay at, Kruger is a must just because it will amaze you even if you just drive through one day. While no one can guarantee that you see the BIG 5 during your stay in South Africa, a drive through Kruger can guarantee a lot of sightings – whether that is a giraffes, elephants, zebras, impalas, even some of the wildest cats! I was told I would see several of these, but I was lucky enough to see 7 of the 200 cheetahs in the entire park! Kruger is larger than the size of Wales and if you do drive through you will see how the landscape changes throughout. I spent about 3 hours driving through and I encountered giraffes, zebras and elephants in the road. In fact, we even made a few elephants mad and I saw my life flash before my eyes. It was so close to our car that I thought it was going to charge! I had completed my trip through the bush with seeing every animal except for a lion, which I would say is pretty successful.