Travel

A Beginner's Guide to South Africa

It's just as magical as everybody makes it out to be.
IMAGE Cyril Sazon
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Africa. It's one of those bucket-list types that somehow get lumped at the end probably because of budget and the pull of other places. But the trip is well worth it. South Africa is every bit as magical as literature makes it out to be. More than the picturesque spots, the vastness of everything—from the mountains to the seas to the reserves, the biodiversity and the wildflife—it helps put everything in perspective. 

Franscchoek, Paarl, Stellenbosch (Cape Winelands), Western Cape

Franscchoek and Stellenbosch are two beautiful towns in the Western Cape with centuries-old vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture.

Famous for wines, don't pass up the chance to take a full-day winelands countryside tour. Stellenbosch, with its tree-lined streets, historical architecture, al fresco cafés, and good shopping, is South Africa’s second-oldest town; Franschhoek meanwhile is a foodie’s paradise. If you're looking for the historical Afrikaans Taal monument, head on over to Paarl.

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One of the highlights of this tour was a visit at Bilton Wines situated on the foothills of a mountain at Stellenbosch where they offer chocolate pairing for the sweet tooth.


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Stellenbosch

The majestic scenery in Cape Winelands is unparalleled so even if you don’t drink wine, the countryside and the history make it well worth the visit.

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These towns are accessible only by car from Cape Town International/Domestic Airport, so make sure you book your land transfers beforehand.

 

Hermanus, Western Cape

Hermanus is a quiet seaside town on the southern coast famous for their Southern Right whales, which, unfortunately don't always make an appearance. This town has its own charmbreathtaking views of the sea with a cliff path literally a few steps away from our lodge. 


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Hermanus

For the best seafood experience visit Harbour Rock at sunset and devour on your Cajun-spiced grilled calamari with a cold glass of Chenin Blanc. 

Hermanus is an hour and a half drive from Cape Winelands but don’t fret, it’s a refreshing scenic drive with absolutely no traffic, so you’ll enjoy the ride.

 

Timbavati and Sabi Sands, South Africa

A trip to South Africa is never complete without going on safari. You're lucky if you catch the famous Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo), but we also got to see a wild dog and a cheeta. 

From the two main international airports in South Africa, you can take domestic flights to the three safari airports: Skukuza, Nelsruit, or Hoedspruit, the latter being the one nearest to Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.


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Simbavati Hilltop Lodge

For more diversity, try private reserves, as well. The Simbavati Hilltop Lodge is situated within the scenic Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, forming part of the Greater Kruger Park. The lodge features magnificent views of the surrounding wilderness, Nhlaralumi River, and the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain Range.

Another private reserve is the Lion Sands River Lodge, located in the renowned Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. Sabi Sand borders the world-famous Kruger National Park; together, they form 2.7 million hectares of protected wilderness. Game roams freely between the reserves, creating one of Africa’s most bio-diverse areas.


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Lion Sands River Lounge


Game drive


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You'll zoom through various animals like a buffalo herd, leopards, giraffes, and hippos.

Game drives take place early in the morning and evening when wildlife tends to be more active. They are conducted by experienced field guides and Shangaan trackers in open safari vehicles, with excellent photographic opportunities. Bush walks are also offered, subject to availability of a specialized walking guide.

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Cape Town

Cape Town is a quintessential stop when visiting South Africa. It has everything in one placenature, history, gourmet food, culture, and the warmest people. 


Table Mountain

Make sure to book a Private Full Day Table Mountain and Peninsula Scenic tour. Table Mountain affords bird's-eye views of both the city and peninsula, as you explore the summit and admire the incredible scenery. Visit the Chapman's Peak Drive, one of the world's most spectacular mountain passes and enter the Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park. Climb (or ride the unique 'Flying Dutchman' funicular, at additional cost) to the famous Cape Point Lighthouse, to capture the magical vistas of False Bay, and stop at the south-westernmost point of Africathe fabled Cape of Good Hope. Don’t forget to drive on to Boulders Beach for a close-up encounter with a colony of African penguins.

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Cyril Sazon
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