By Sandra Gildea
Diverse cosmopolitan cities, incredible wildlife and never-ending scenery, just some of South Africa’s highlights. This September I was lucky enough to visit this stunning country with some colleagues. I will cherish the memories for the rest of my life! The journey began with a Turkish Airlines flight, which included complimentary drinks and great inflight entertainment, my South Africa holiday was off to a good start.
The first stop was Johannesburg, this amazing city has so much to see and do. We stayed in the Hallmark House Hotel. This trendy urban space offers 360˚ views and allows for an incredible city experience. It is surrounded by art galleries, retail outlets, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Next stop, Port Elizabeth. We took the 1.5-hour flight from Johannesburg Airport. This is where the wildlife experience began. The 5-star Shamwari Private Game Reserve was our home for the next 2 nights. Situated in the Eastern Cape, Shamwari is a malaria free game reserve with thousands of free roaming animals. The reserve boasts 5 different styles of accommodation. From Edwardian Manor style luxury lodges to authentic tented lodges. We were lucky enough to experience some luxury and stayed in the Long Lee Manor lodge.
A South Africa holiday is not complete without a visit to the iconic Cape Town. We made ourselves at home in the 5-Star Winchester Mansions. This property is situated along the scenic Sea Point Promenade facing the Atlantic Ocean, with the majestic backdrop of Table Mountain. Located only a 10min drive from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with its myriad of shopping, dining and entertainment venues.
Finally, I visited Hermanus. If you’re travelling here from Cape Town, I recommend going via the Cape winelands as the wine tasting experiences here are world renowned. We arrived at our accommodation, The Marine Hotel, just in time to see whales breaching the water off the shore. Guests are even able to view these majestic creatures from the comfort of their own sea view room.
I just loved the game drives! They go early morning and late afternoon as this is when the animals are most active. The drives last 3-4 hours with a coffee stop. I was fortunate enough to see giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, elephants, rhinos, lions and many more. Seeing such incredible wildlife up close and personal is an unforgettable experience. I want to organise another safari holiday ASAP!
A guided bike tour around Soweto, Johannesburg is a great way to explore the most interesting historical sites the town has to offer. The Orlando Towers are also nearby. These decommissioned coal-fired power stations are now used for Bungy jumping, Abseiling and Zip-lining
Take the cable car up Table Mountain and spend an hour taking in the breath-taking views of Cape Town. My colleagues and I were lucky enough to be whisked away for a 30min helicopter ride over Cape Town compliments of NAC Helicopters.
Simons Town is a small coastal village, 30 minutes from Cape Town. It is home to Kayak Cape Town, who offer guided Sea Kayaking tours of False Bay. No experience is required, I highly recommend, it was great fun!
Cape Point Nature Reserve aka the Cape of Good Hope is a must see! The world-famous nature reserve is bound by the cold waters of the Atlantic to the west and the warm waters of False Bay to the east. The park is part of Table Mountain National Park and offers unique fauna and flora.
Fairview is a working farm with a focus on wine and cheese. We were given a different cheese (made on site) to complement each wine we tasted. A visit to Fairview is a must!
The food in South Africa was to die for, there are so many restaurants to recommend! My favourite meal in Johannesburg was in Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers. I had a curry cooked the traditional way – over the fire – served either in a fresh piece of bread called “Bunny Chow”, or with the popular African staple food pap/maize porridge.
While in Cape Town, we ventured out about an hour from our hotel to dine in the 4Roomed Foods Restaurant. This delicious restaurant is run by South Africa MasterChef 2014 finalist Abigail Mbalo. She gave us a cooking demo while preparing our meal. Her small, intimate restaurant is award winning and features in South Africa’s list of best restaurants. Well worth a visit for a true South African experience!
From wildlife and adventure, to tranquillity and culture this country has something for everyone. My South Africa Holiday has left me with incredible memories that I will never forget. Whether you’re a family, solo traveller, elderly couple or newlyweds you will fall in love with the diversity of ‘The Rainbow Nation’.
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