A personal account from Highlights of South Africa
South Africa is a country that has it all; stunning scenery, wildlife, world renowned wines and plenty of history. From the rolling vineyards to the craggy cliffs of Cape Point, the expansive flats of the Kruger National Park to the dramatic landscapes of the Blyde River Canyon, South Africa offers so many wonderful highlights.
I have been lucky enough to travel extensively and it’s probably my favourite country in the world! A bold statement yet easy for me to explain why and after reading this I hope I inspire you to experience what this beautiful country has to offer.
I had the pleasure of accompanying the first departure of our 10-night Highlights of South Africa tour. It is a fantastic itinerary for a first timer, ticking many of the must-see sights; this was my third visit to South Africa and despite that this tour still has a lot to offer a returning visitor.
For any first timer to Cape Town the first glimpse of Table Mountain is the main focus of everyone’s attention on the short drive from the airport. You will not be disappointed when this prominent natural landmark finally comes into view, a perfect backdrop to the city!
Cape Town itself is a city of contrasts; from the greatly photographed colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap to Long Street lined with traditional Victorian and Cape Dutch architecture, bustling bars and restaurants which are only a stone throw away from the famous Greenmarket Square and Company Gardens..
The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a great part of the city for an afternoon wander.
Cape Town is the perfect base to explore the surrounding areas. The tour of Cape Peninsular is a must. The day starts with one of the most spectacular coastal drives, Chapman’s Peak Drive. You will be treated to breathtaking views looking back over Hout Bay and will find yourself marvelling at the engineering, where the road has been carved out of the rock face.
The tour then continues until you reach Cape Point, one of the most dramatic viewpoints in the country. Here you will have the opportunity to capture the iconic photo of the Cape of Good Hope sign, evidence you have indeed visited the most south-western point of the African continent! After all the fresh air you will be ready for lunch and Simon’s Town, one of South Africa’s oldest towns and Naval base is the perfect spot to enjoy fresh fish as you look out over the harbour. Now on to the only place in the world that you can get close to African Penguins, Boulders Beach. What better way to end the day then to make friends with the locals who casually waddle between the large granite boulders, a truly memorable experience. Confidently.
Any visit to South Africa will not be complete without experiencing at least one day in the Winelands region. Stellenbosch is a charming town; enjoy a leisurely stroll down the oak lined streets with numerous coffee shops, craft shops and art galleries to enjoy. Franschhoek, where French Huguenots settled over 300 years ago is most famous now for its fine wine and gastronomy; this picture perfect town is nestled between magnificent mountains right in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Whilst only a small town, it has plenty of character and a quaint high street dotted with beautiful restaurants and Cape Dutch architecture.
Now for the true highlight for any wine lover, the vineyards! There are so many and each are beautiful in their own right, from the small rustic family run wine estates to the larger vineyards offering a variety of experiences. Wine tasting offers a great opportunity to learn and experience wines that you may not usually choose. Sipping quality wines whilst admiring the stunning scenery that surrounds you is a truly memorable experience and a perfect way to spend a few hours!
Once you’ve experienced the highlights of the Western Cape it’s time to explore Gauteng and the Kruger region. Kruger National Park located in north eastern South Africa is one of Africa’s biggest game reserves, it’s easy to get a sense of this when you are in the park. Miles and miles of nature for as far as your eyes can see! Kruger National Park was my first taste of a safari and it did not disappoint, I was pleasantly surprised at the vast amount of wildlife we had the opportunity to spot. Lions lazing in the long grasses, a dazzle of zebras crossing the road, a tower of giraffe enjoying the luscious trees and herds of elephants that weren’t shy at all. We were lucky enough to experience sights of 4 of the Big 5 this time (on my previous trip we saw all of the Big 5 as well as the elusive wild dogs!) The Kruger National Park will be sure to offer an authentic and quite simply wonderful safari experience, one that many will never forget.
Another highlight is the beautiful Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve which is situated in the Drakensberg escarpment region of eastern Mpumalanga. The panorama route is a fantastic journey along the Drakensberg Mountains; along the way are various viewpoints offering the opportunity to admire the breathtaking views and visit natural wonders such as Bourke’s Luck Potholes. The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest in the world but is the largest ‘green canyon’. The view over the canyon and the Three Rondavels has to be one of my favourite views of all time; where the Blyde River meanders through the rocky and lush mountain peaks is a sight not to be missed.
South Africa has so much to offer and our Highlights tour is a perfect combination of the ‘must-see’ places. Still excellent value there is no better time to go and enjoy this country with our expert guides!