South Africa Experience

Sarah McCarthy 14 June 2015
After a very comfortable flight with South Africa Airlines we had a fast and efficient transfer via Johannesburg airport and landed in a very wet, windy but beautiful Cape Town.

A lovely journey via the Atlantic Coast road we passed by the stunning Camps Bay before arriving at the famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.We enjoyed some wonderful delights for lunch at the Market Place, various local vendors selling the most delicious savouries and desserts.

Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour whilst in Cape Town so our trip up Table Mountain was cancelled, but then again it's winter in June there so whilst it was very disappointing it was not surprising.

After a walk around the Waterfront we headed to the 5 Star Vineyard Hotel. Stunning property on the outskirts of Cape Town, the Vineyard is situated on beautiful landscaped parkland with Table Mountain as back drop. Idyllic setting and an oasis only 20 minutes from the city centre.

Next morning we woke to glorious sunshine and headed off on a full day Cape Point Tour. So we drove along a very beautiful coastal route. First port of call was Houts Bay where we boarded a 40 minute Seal Island Cruise enabling us to get a real close up view of hundreds of Cape Fur Seals in their natural habitat.

We then proceeded along the coast to Boulders Beach, home to the Jackass penguin colony. South Africa has lost 90% of their penguin population since the 1930s so they are very much an endangered species. I really enjoyed seeing the penguins.

Just beyond Boulders Beach we had lunch at the Black Merlin Seafood Restaurant, without doubt the best seafood I have ever tasted. Hake, prawns and lobster, yum, I would highly recommend.

Onwards to Cape Point, we drove over the famous Chapman's Peak Drive with a 200 meter drop on one side of the coach and a 200 meter rise on the other. It was the most dramatic drive I have ever experienced, a bit hairy at times, not for the faint hearted!!!!

At Cape Point we drove through the natural reserve and took the funicular to the lighthouse where I experienced the most panoramic views of the meeting place of the icy Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans, WOW.....

After a hearty breakfast we left the Vineyard Hotel and Cape Town behind us and drove to the Winelands. We were very lucky to visit Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch farm with vineyards and orchards surrounded by the dramatic mountains of the Drakenstein Valley.

Guests staying at the farm have full access to the entire farm so they can choose ingredients and pick from the fruit, vegetable and herb garden. A wide range of activities including spa, yoga, cycling, canoeing, swimming, guided walks and hiking and most tasting!!!

We arrived early afternoon at the quaint and picturesque University town of Stellenbosch. What a wonderful town amidst the many wine farms and vineyards. Very historic, leafy town centre with some fab restaurants, outdoor cafes, art galleries and boutiques. We were very lucky to be taken on a "Foodies and wine tasting walking tour" what a fantastic way to find one's way around this beautiful location.

We stayed 1 night at the Oude Werf Hotel. This hotel is ideally set amidst the towns many heritage sights, museums, galleries and vibrant cafe and boutique culture. I would highly recommend Stellenbosch, a very special town.

Our next day took us along the Garden Route. This drive was so enjoyable with spectacular sea and mountain views, after around 5 hours we arrived at Knysna. This town is famous for its oyster festival, warm people and the most magnificent views from Leisure Isle to Knysna Heads. The Knysna Heads is the most famed attraction; its treacherous entry into the Knysna Lagoon is where many an ancient vessel met its doom....We set sail on the 'John Benn' for a sunset cruise where some lovely food and refreshments were served. I really enjoyed this little town and would highly recommend a night of 2 here whilst travelling along the Garden Route.

The following morning we set off to one of the most famous private game reserves in the world. Shamwari Game Reserve was our home for 2 nights, 2 days and 3 game drives.

We stayed at one of the 6 safari lodges called Riverdene and I was very impressed with the welcome, friendliness & enthusiasm of all of the staff. Our game driver managed to find all of the 'big 5' as well as giraffe, zebras, hippos, monkeys, and many more species of wildlife & bird life. We also were very lucky to have a guided tour around the Born Free Foundation Animal Rescue & Education Centre. The goal of this foundation is to create an awareness of the horrific way in which wildlife is exploited in captivity around the world. We were very lucky to meet some of the rescue big cats.

There is also a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Shamwari. The aim of this centre is to rehabilitate and return all animals back into the wild. It was a very moving experience.

If you have the time, I would highly recommend combining Cape Town, the winelands, the 'Garden Route' and a safari experience, this is definitely a 'once in a lifetime' trip which is great value and will give you precious memories to last a lifetime!

I hope you enjoy looking through my photos and would love to hear from you if you are considering an "adventure of a lifetime".