South Africa

Chris Ryan on 12 September 2012

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I had been to Zimbabwe in 1997 and fell in love with Africa. Ever since then I have always wanted to return. As I have never been to South Africa, and receive a good number of enquiries for there, I felt it was essential I get there, so off I went on a short ten day tour of the main tourist areas.

I flew with South African Airlines as when I visit a country for the first time I like to fly the national carrier to get a feeling for the country. They were also the cheapest on the route! I have to say they are probably one of the best airlines I have flown with. Modern planes, great leg room, friendly staff and service and excellent food (as much as airline food can be excellent).

We landed in Johannesburg after our 11 hour flight from London. I was immediately taken by how big and modern the airport is. Our transfer was waiting to bring us to the four ways area of the suburb of Santon. Santon is one of the more upmarket areas of Johannesburg. It has an amazing entertainment complex called Montecasino, which is built in the style of an Italian medieval town and would rival anything in Las Vegas. It actually reminded me of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. It is full of award winning Italian, steakhouse and Asian restaurants at amazing prices. One thing about South Africa is that the standard of food is excellent and very reasonable. There are also two 5* hotels, a casino, a cinema and concert venues all in one complex.

While in Johannesburg we took in some tours and this is the place to do your shopping if you like to. I did the tour of downtown Johannesburg, which is a very impressive city centre area with beautiful architecture showing its former glory. Tourists are not advised to walk around here unaccompanied. We also took in Constitutional Hill where the Constitutional Court is built on the site of Johannesburg’s notorious prison. Most of the prison is still standing and a tour here is well recommended where you can learn about the appalling treatment prisoners received under apartheid. You will also see the cell where Nelson Mandela and Ghandi before him were interred. The best tour of all for me was Soweto. Here you can see how people have transformed their lives since the end of apartheid. The once small huts have now been extended and some of them are quite lavish. You can also visit Nelson Mandela’s house. The history here is very interesting and it really is a ‘must’.

As I had already experienced South African airlines I decided to fly with Kulula to Cape Town, to experience a different airline within South Africa. They were also very efficient and good and I would have no problem recommending them.

Nothing could have prepared me for how fantastic Cape Town is. I never realised how trendy, modern and cosmopolitan it actually is. The scenery and standard of hotels and restaurants is great - I just couldn't find a fault. We stayed in a two bedroom apartment in the 4* Mandela Rhodes Apart Hotel which is centrally located and just a five euro taxi ride from the famous V&A (Victoria and Albert) waterfront. It is a huge pristine shopping mall with every type of restaurant you could think of. It is a great place to visit at night but it can grow thin after a few nights. Our hotel was near Long Street where there are clubs to suit all ages.

The day after we arrived, the weather was excellent so we decided to visit Table Mountain which is a must when in Cape Town. The only problem was that every other tourist was there too! I suggest you purchase the tickets online before you go. This way you can skip the queues (we had to queue for two and a half hours!) It is worth it as you will never experience views like it.

The wine land tours are also a must. We did a private tour with the taxi driver we met on the first night and he basically made himself available to us for the duration of our visit. The tour cost us the equivalent of €90 per person but that included visits to four vineyards. In each vineyard you are asked to select five wines from a menu. If there is one you particularly like you can buy it there. The cost of wine tasting varies from €3 to €8 per person for all the wines! It’s a good fun day out!

To make a visit to South Africa, I would suggest to clients to take in a safari and a visit to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, for the ultimate experience.

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