On the southernmost part of Africa is a melting pot of people, and disparate terrains and wildlife. From a rich history to a multiethnic society, and a sumptuous culinary offering, South Africa is surely a country to awaken your senses.
Our hotel is about a kilometer from Nelson Mandela Square. I make sure to say hi to Mr. Mandela every time I pass by.
The city itself is a bustling metropolis, but the surrounding areas are home to national parks and game reserves. My first safari experience got me hooked on African wildlife; thanks to my tour guide from Ulysses Tours. The trip was supposed to be cancelled because I was the only person who confirmed (it was a weekday), and a minimum of 2 is required for the safari. The folks at Ulysses were really nice to make an exception for me, so it turned out to be like a private tour for the price of a group tour. 🙂
The day started early, with a SUV picking me up right at my hotel. I paid ZAR 1,200 (about USD 88) to the guide upfront before we drove for almost two hours from Sandton to Pilanesberg National Park. He was really informative, and he shared lots of stories about South African topography with every landscape or shrubbery that we passed by.
The Big 5 – lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and rhino; are all found in this park. Plus, a plethora of bird species (I’m scared of them), monkeys (scared of them), hippos (not scared!), and impalas (not the Chevrolet kind).
If you want to see the animals up close, a Lion Park is the place to go to. Although I prefer safaris because you get to see the animals roaming free in their natural habitat, the Lion Park is where you can play with a lion cub. 😀 They are just the cutest!!! Oh, there was also a baby cheetah, but he was a bit masungit. Still adorable though.
My favorite so far is the Krugersdorp horseback safari. I’ve loved riding horses since I was a kid, so pair that with a safari and I’m sold. The couple who owns the park are the most amazing tour guides! Besides being lovely people, they were really patient on first-time horse riders. They even provided the cowboy hats, sunscreen, and refreshments afterwards. My thighs hurt like hell after the tour, but it was so worth it. 🙂
Some tips: bring sunscreen for any outdoor activity, wear closed shoes, do not wear bright colors so as not to attract attention, and most importantly, DO NOT wear animal prints! You don’t want the zebras to run away, or cause a wildebeest stampede, right? Worse, you do not want to be mistaken for lunch. 😉
South Africa is also known for their huge servings of meat, and is home to a number of wineries. So what else was I supposed to do? Steak and wine everyday! 😀
One last thing! Be sure to try the cakes and pastries at Mugg and Bean. It’s a pretty popular restaurant, and is always packed with people. The red velvet cake and muffins are the best! Actually, everything on the menu is awesome. 😀
Going farther south, all the way to the very tip of South Africa (and the whole of Africa for that matter), is the city of Cape Town. I felt a more relaxed and peaceful ambience here, compared to Johannesburg, although both are the most populated cities in the country.
Due to time constraints (what’s new), we were only able to visit Cape of Good Hope – “The most south-western point of the African continent”; and Boulders Beach, where we saw penguins. Yes! There are penguins in Africa. 🙂 The drive from our hotel was scenic in itself, making every minute worthwhile. If you notice the photos that I took, they’re all in the GoPro, or using my iPhone’s panorama feature. That’s how beautiful the place is! I have to capture every inch of my view.
Food-wise, Cape Town is more into seafood dishes, obviously because of its location. But you can still get those good ol’ steak and ribs in every restaurant you go to. Hoping to go back to visit Table Mountain, and probably have lunch at a vineyard. See you again soon, South Africa!