I can only say that I have been very privileged to have lived in South Africa for nearly 12 years of my life. It’s a Country that is not only warmed daily by the Sun but by the People too. I return every couple of years to visit friends in Cape Town but this trip was different – I had a new Partner in tow and I was eager to showcase as much as possible in 2 weeks – and that’s exactly what I did, giving me every excuse to return to my favourite places… Arriving on easy overnight 10 hour non-stop flight from London to Johannesburg (there is only a 1 or 2 hour time change depending on the time of year) we hired car and drove eastwards, leaving Johannesburg behind us and spent a relaxing 5 hour drive with ever-changing, beautiful scenery to arrive at our first stop, Whiteriver which is a small Town just outside the Kruger National Park. It would have been pointless spending so much money on a safari and not enjoying the first night because of tiredness so this was our rest stop on the way. The following morning after a great breakfast we drove on the Panorama route in Mpumalanga (the area) taking us to Gods Window – aptly named because of the amazing views and small towns high in the mountains eventually winding our way down to the lowlands and into Thornybush Game Reserve where our Safari began.
I do not believe there is anywhere quite like South Africa in the World for game-viewing and we saw Africas BIG 5 in just 3 days. Luxury accommodation, super hospitality and food and most personal service makes it unforgettable. It is something everyone must do in a lifetime whilst we are lucky enough to still have some of these beautiful creatures grace the Earth.
Driving back to Johannesburg and then flying to Port Elizabeth, we collected another car and drove to Plettenberg Bay – which boasts amazing beaches and some of the best land and water based Whale Watching in the World. It was late in the Season and only a couple remained before their long journey back to the Antarctic.
Then onto Oudtshoorn which is traditionally known for its Ostrich farms for 1 night which lies in a Valley between 2 Mountain ranges…… before heading to Grootbos Nature Reserve for 2 nights. Rather than focusing on the Big 5, Grootbos focuses on coastal experiences, small mammals, flora and fauna and is located perfectly for Whales and cage diving with Great White Sharks – we did the Shark cage diving and it was truly amazing to see these giants.
Then it was off to Cape Town for 4 nights. A magnificent City with the famous Table Mountain as a backdrop, it feels as if you could be anywhere in Europe and weirdly you seem at home from the moment you arrive. So much to do and so little time – fantastic restaurants, a cable car ride up Table Mountain, A visit to robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, trips to see the Sea Lions and Penguins, the Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch and spending time on the fabulous beaches – the water is so cold but it’s the most refreshing dip you will ever have!
Our final 2 nights were in the Winelands – a chance to relax, reflect, visit the famous wine-estates and drink some of the finest wines around at a fraction of the prices here in the U.K. With the Rand so weak at the moment you can easily eat out at a fine dining restaurant with wine for about £20 per person.
I would like to crush some myths before I end – yes, South Africa has had a rough past but I have always found it safe both to stay and to drive and have encountered no problems even whilst living there. In the Cities you take normal precautions that you would in any World City… There is something to do all year round – Safaris are in fact better in their ‘Winter’ as is Whale watching and in Spring the flowers are unforgettable, coinciding with the best prices! South Africa is so very beautiful…. A World in one Country and I always leave with a very heavy heart…