For the past five weeks, I've been traveling around Southern Africa. I climbed sand dunes in Namibia, saw the Big 5 in Kruger, flew high over Victoria Falls, and traveled more than 1,000 miles overland.
And then I got home and became absolutely overwhelmed by it all. After having so many amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I was at a loss as to where to begin writing about them all.
So, to quote one of my favorite movies of all time, “Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
My adventure in Africa began in South Africa, a country that I've been desperate to visit for years. All told, I spent two weeks in South Africa, most of the time on a Style Hi Club tour with my dad. It was a luxurious, decadent way to see South Africa – not necessarily my usual travel style, but I have to say that this is absolutely the way you should see South Africa if you can afford it.
With two weeks in the country, we saw and did a lot. But here are my top five highlights:
1. Adventure and relaxation in Gansbaai
We started out slow in the tiny coastal town of Gansbaai. This town is most famous for being close to Dyer Island, where lots of great white sharks can be found. But, thanks so some bad weather, we didn't get to go cage diving with the toothy giants until our very last morning in Gansbaai. Before that, we spent our time riding ATVs through vineyards, going to the southernmost point of Africa (Cape Agulhas), stuffing our faces with seafood, and watching some incredible sunsets.
The shark diving was the highlight of this part of the trip (post coming soon!), but I also appreciated the slow pace of life in Gansbaai – it was the perfect introduction to South Africa. (Oh, and The Roundhouse was probably my favorite place I stayed in SA!)
2. Discovering Cape Town
From Gansbaai, we moved on to Cape Town. There, we explored the city in just about every way possible: On foot, in WWII-era sidecars, and by helicopter. We wandered around the V&A Waterfront, visited the colorful Bo Kaap neighborhood, and squealed over the adorable penguins at Boulders Beach. We even took a short trip to the Cape of Good Hope.
The weather wasn't the greatest, though, and so it wasn't until I was back in Cape Town on my own after my Style Hi Club trip that I was able to see (and visit) Table Mountain, and go to Camps Bay for sunset. I was very thankful for that one day of sun!
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3. Sipping wine in Stellenbosch
South Africa is known for its delicious wines, with its most famous wine region being Stellenbosch. We spent an afternoon in wine country, tasting wines on a vineyard “safari” at Waterford Estate. I'm not really much of a wine drinker, but this was still a highlight for me. Waterford Estate is STUNNING, and it was a pleasure to sip wines there in the middle of the fall-colored vines.
If you're planning your trip to South Africa and looking for accommodation in Hermanus, Stellenbosch or Cape Town, I'd recommend taking a look at AccommoDirect.com – they focus almost solely on accommodation in Southern Africa.
4. Riding the Blue Train
Thanks to a strong US dollar and a struggling South African rand, our group got to ride the famous Blue Train from Cape Town to Pretoria. This luxury train, with its polished-wood interior and fancy lounge cars, is a throwback to the heyday of train travel. I was impressed by the efficiency of the tiny rooms, the service, the food, and how lovely it was to just relax for a day and a half and watch the countryside slip by outside the window.
5. Going on safari in Kruger
Lastly, the absolute highlight of my time in South Africa was going on safari in Kruger National Park. We stayed at the Jock Safari Lodge, which is a private concession within Kruger that I did not ever want to leave. We saw the Big 5 on our very first game drive, and went on to see things like lions mating, baby elephants charging our truck, wild dogs facing off with hyenas, and much, much more.
If “going on safari” is not on your bucket list, add it. Right now.
Weeks later, I'm still daydreaming about Jock and this experience. It was simply incredible and something I know I will never forget. I'm so glad I got to share it with my dad!
I'll be writing more about most of these experiences individually in the coming weeks, but for now, enjoy the photos!
Which part of my South Africa trip would you like to read more about?