South Africa

Susan Hegarty on 14 November 2003

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I had always wanted to see South Africa and it makes an ideal winter sun destination. We left on a chilly November day from Ireland and landed in sunny Cape Town the following morning.

Driving in South Africa is safe and it gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace but it is certainly possible to visit and not drive. Itineraries can be put together with transfers and pre-booked day trips as well as trips to safari parks. We stayed at The Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel which was perfectly located with a huge selection of bars, restaurants and shops to suit all tastes within walking distance.

That evening we made our way to Camps Bay, a short drive from Cape Town; it is a lovely beachfront town popular with the rich and famous. We met friends for dinner who were in the area and had a wonderful evening sipping cocktails and watching the most spectacular sunset over the ocean.

The following day we did a full day trip to the wine lands. As we had wanted to sample some wines we left the car behind and took a pre-booked excursion. We stopped at the lovely towns of Paarl and Stellenbosch before learning about the wine making process in one of the leading wineries in the area. We then had a beautiful picnic lunch in the same estate; the setting could not have been more perfect with a gorgeous lake filled with ducks, wonderful weather and delicious food washed down with wines from their own vineyard.

The next day we took the ferry to Robben Island. Our guide had himself been incarcerated there and this made the whole experience even more moving. He explained how he had been taken from his family and everyone he knew and brought to Cape Town, hundreds of miles away. He showed us the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and we were able to tour around the island seeing where the jailer’s families lived.

In the afternoon we took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. The view from the top was spectacular and is definitely a must see.

The following day we drove along Cape Peninsula. We stopped in the lovely seaside town of Hout Bay where we had a delicious fresh seafood lunch. In the afternoon we reached The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve where we were able to walk to the top of the peninsula and see where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. On the way back we stopped at Boulder Beach where we encountered the cutest penguins I have ever seen. At ease in their natural habitat they were a joy to watch. One final stop at the Kirstenbosch Gardens, a UNESCO Heritage Site and by then we were truly exhausted but happy.

The following day we took an organised tour to Cape Town’s largest township, Khayelitsha. Our guide explained how she herself was removed from her home in the centre of the city and was forced to move to this township for no other reason than the colour of their skin. She brought us to one of the local schools to meet the children and we went to visit two enterprising locals, one who had started a restaurant in her kitchen and another who had set up a bed and breakfast.

There are many other trips that can be organised such as boat and fishing trips, shark diving, city tours and the option of a day trip to a private malaria-free reserve where you can see the big five. This is a great alternative to a longer safari if time is limited.

The following morning we took a flight up the Kruger Park. Our home for the next three nights was Kruger Park Lodge. It was a magical spot with all of the comforts of a luxury hotel. Morning and evening game drinks we included and we were lucky enough to see a huge assortment of animals. Sumptuous food and great service made this a perfect end to our South African adventure.

South Africa is an enchanting land with gorgeous beaches, breath-taking scenery, welcoming people, quality accommodation as well as a rich diverse history and of course outstanding wildlife.

When planning a trip options include driving the Garden Route, visiting Sun City – the Las Vegas of South Africa with its glitzy hotels, casinos, golf courses and nearby game reserves. It is also easy to add a few nights in the nearby Victoria Falls.

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