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I wrote the following lines after my first visit to South Africa:
“A country from which every traveller will return enthralled, would return to again in an instant, and simply cannot stop euphorically raving about. I would even go so far as to emigrate.”
After my second journey through South Africa almost four years later, I reiterate my previous statement once again. Spectacular and versatile scenery, never-ending beaches, extraordinary safari experiences, friendly and open people with excellent cuisine – all this can be found in the southernmost country of the African continent. After a good five weeks in the country, I have now compiled a list of my highlights and favourite addresses for you.
Let us begin with two wonderful yet entirely different routes:
- The classic route
Safari through Kruger National Park. We slept in tents in an unfenced camp a little outside of Kruger National Park. Thirsty little monkeys, the roar of lions and countless colourful beetles kept us busy until dinner time.
The start to the day is tough – the alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. (this is still ok though, others are already woken at 3:30 a.m.). Then off we set: animal spotting galore!
Not only are we lucky enough to spot the big five, we also see crocodiles, hippos, hyenas, jackals, diving vultures, birds of prey, blue ball monkeys, a black mamba, a brooding ostrich, and hornbills … not to mention zebras, gnus, giraffes and impalas.
Hermanus and the Whale Crier Whales can be viewed from the shore here. When the muffled tones of a kelp horn can be heard in the town, then one thing is for sure: the whales are here. Between June and December, the only whale crier in the world travels around Hermanus making whale watching easier for tourists by announcing the presence of whales.
Hiking on Table Mountain in Cape Town You will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views in the whole of South Africa (amazing photo opportunities!). Ideally, enjoy the sunset up there with a bottle of pinotage.
- A little off the beaten track
Golden Gate Highlands National Park Trek through the park’s picturesque rocky landscape, bathed in intense orange light in the evening sun (wonderful photo motifs!).
Sani Pass Either travel via Lesotho or drive up from the South African side. You will be rewarded with spectacular views at an altitude of 2,874 m and the most beautiful descent in South Africa on and through the Drakensberg Mountains.
Camping and a 4×4 trek in the Amatikulu Nature Reserve There are just five pitches, each of which is hidden away in jungle-like surrounds, some with direct views over the sea. Those with a four-wheel-drive should explore the 4×4 track through the reserve – ideally early in the morning, as you will then have the park, zebras, monkeys and giraffes entirely to yourselves. Don’t worry though, there are not any wildcats.
Elephant Coast Has the most beautiful beaches in South Africa. Whether at Cape Vidal or in Kosi Bay, you will have kilometres of sandy beaches all to yourselves.
Must-visit cafés and restaurants in South Africa
Salvationcafe, 44 Stanley Avenue, in the 44 Stanley complex
Renovated former industrial buildings, now home to galleries, shops and restaurants. Try the burger with avocado, tomato relish and bacon served with yam fries.
The Attic, 24 4th Avenue, Parkhurst
An amazing blend of European cuisine with local influences, regionally-sourced fruit and vegetables, and the most audacious mix of sweet and savoury that will leave you craving more.
Turn ’n Tender, Parktown Quarter, 3rd/7th Avenue.
This is not the place for vegetarians: succulent steaks are served here for reasonable prices.
Forget Marine Drive – besides tourist dives, it does not have much else to offer. In contrast, Richmond Hill features an array of extremely pleasant little cafés and restaurants.
Vovo Telo, corner of Raleigh and Irvine Street, Richmond Hill
Deli Street Café, Stanley Street at the Bain Centre, Richmond Hill
Lookout at Lookout Rocks
Fresh oysters and seafood.
Nelson’s Eye, 9 Hof Straat
For the best ostrich steaks in town!
Lola’s Café, 228 Long Street
Does a great breakfast! My favourite: French toast with bacon, bananas and maple syrup or maize fritters with rocket, herbal cream cheese, bacon, fried tomato and pesto.
On the road
A huge poppy seed and lemon muffin from Mugg & Bean or the avocado chicken burger from Steers, with biltong and dried fruits as mango and guava for on the go.
Useful links and tips to prepare for your trip
The fantastic book by Derryn Campbell entitled “AWESOME SOUTH AFRICA” was the best travel guide. There are wonderfully entertaining and comprehensible illustrations explaining the infamous hand signals to hail a minibus, recipes for tasty South African dishes and typical South African cocktails, details of the country’s leading cult bars, the best YouTube videos from Kruger National Park, historical facts, information on flora and fauna, and much more.
The Coast to Coast Guide, which is freely available at all hostels, is great for finding accommodation (backpackers)!
Ideally, pick up the latest copy of EatOut when you arrive (www.eatout.co.za). It contains restaurant recommendations for the entire country – from Ethiopian and Italian naturally to South African cuisine, with price information, addresses, short reviews and reliable opening times.
Travel: The Baz Bus travels the classic route (www.bazbus.com). This hop-on hop-off service will even pick you up and drop you off directly at many of the hostels.
Alternatively, rent a 4×4 with a roof tent (e.g. from KEA Camper) and decide for yourselves where you wish to stop off.