Staff Picks for a Dream Trip to South Africa

by Sandy Salle on July 30, 2014

Post image for Staff Picks for a Dream Trip to South Africa

Article by Amy Green, Hills of Africa Travel’s Client Services Director

Image to the left of Amy, dressing as a Maasai in Tanzania.

Africa is always on my mind. I spend my days making sure every little detail is perfect for our Hills of Africa clients who are preparing to travel. So, it’s no surprise that I can’t help but start dreaming of my own perfect getaway to this great continent.

So here’s just a glimpse into what my dream trip to South Africa would look like . . .

First, I would want to take my dream South Africa safari vacation with my husband, Steve, who has not had the opportunity to visit Africa . . . yet!

Our first stop would be Cape Town, the Mother City. Right after 18+ hours of flying, some relaxation is essential, and the beautiful accommodations in Cape Town are perfect for an exhausted traveler.

There are so many fabulous hotels to choose from. Among our Hills of Africa favorites are Cape Grace or One & Only at the waterfront. But I am a bit more interested in a quiet, tucked away, intimate boutique hotel, so, for me, I would choose to stay at the quaint Four Rosmead Guest House. With only 8 rooms, this boutique hotel is in close proximity to Kloof Street, with its trendy shops and eclectic restaurants. It’s the perfect spot for relaxing and exploring a quaint Cape Town neighborhood. A 10-minute cab ride and we are at the waterfront for more opportunities to shop and dine at some of Cape Town’s finest.

Of course we’ll have a day to explore the Cape Peninsula, visiting the adorable penguins at Boulders Beach before heading to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, and the beautiful villages along the peninsula.

Another must-do for me would be a day hiking up Table Mountain. Living near the North Carolina mountains, I have developed a love for hiking up mountains with the reward of a gorgeous view after all that hard work. To gaze out over Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent so many years, is sure to be awe-inspiring.

An important part of travel for me is learning about the local culture and the people. Not just discovering the local culture through exploring the up-and-coming, trendy neighborhoods, but also by interacting with locals and helping those in need. A community has so much to tell through all its citizens. Ideally, I would love to take part in the Cape Malay cooking tour, where our guide would take us around the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town, enlightening us with the area’s culinary history, before going into a local’s home to cook up some delectable Cape Malay cuisine!

If I play my cards right, I’ll plan this trip well enough in advance to get reservations at The Test Kitchen—an extremely popular restaurant in Cape Town. Reservations can be hard to come by, often filling up 6 months in advance during busy seasons. But the ever-evolving menu has patrons returning repeatedly and awards flowing in, all thanks to the innovative dishes and delicious offerings.

Next on the agenda would be a visit to the Cape Winelands. There are so many lovely properties to choose from, but Babylonstoren and La Residence would have to be at the top of my list. I am certainly not a wine snob, but do have an appreciation for the story a wine tells. I love hearing about the grapes, the land, and the workers and owners putting their blood, sweat, and tears into a perfect glass of wine. And no one could lead me through the Winelands better than our Cape Winelands tour guide, Pam McOnie. To leave myself in her care for a day, enjoying fantastic wine and food would be heaven on earth.

A second day in the Winelands would be dedicated to a bicycle tour through vineyards, stopping at tasting rooms for chocolate tastings, wine and cheese pairings, and olive oil samplings.

The following day, we would drive along the Oceanside to the beautiful Grootbos Private Nature Reserve where we would spend two romantic days, tasting flavorful delights from the Grootbos garden and embarking on a horseback safari through the fynbos. We would also spend a day whale watching, shark cage diving, and exploring the Gansbaai township with our Grootbos guide.

After six amazing days in Cape Town, the Winelands, and on the quaint coast of South Africa, it’s time for safari!

Everyone has their own idea of the perfect trip, and for some, African safari tours bring forth images of luxurious camps tucked into the bush with all the trappings of the finest city hotels, including sleek floors, sparkling fixtures, fine china, fabulous crystal, and lavish plunge pools—yes, you can find this on safari in wild Africa. But my must-have for my dream trip to South Africa is a camp that allows me to be close to the bush as I lay in bed, expectantly waiting to hear the rustle or call of an animal wandering through camp.

Ngala Tented Camp in Kruger National Park combines the feel of a canvas tent with the luxury of a fine Cape Town hotel. Nestled along the banks of the seasonal Timbavati River, ample opportunities are provided to encounter elephant, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, all the Big 5, and so much more. Late afternoon sundowners at the waterhole followed by dinner and drinks back at camp lead to the perfect ending of peaceful rest in luxurious tents, waiting for the bush to come alive as camp drifts off to sleep.

The days would begin with early morning wake up calls where we would head into the bush on our game vehicle, in search of the animals coming to life. When we returned to camp, breakfast would be waiting for us, before heading off to enjoy a dip at the plunge pool. We would then embark on a nature walk around camp, looking for signs of wildlife and getting up close to the bush’s fascinating insect life. It’s then time for an afternoon game drive where we would track a lioness through the bush as she searched for her cubs, before stopping at an opening in the bush for a refreshing sundowner and some biltong (jerky). Then, it’s dinnertime . . . we enjoy an amazing five course meal, enveloped in a circle of flickering lanterns before heading off to bed to do it all over again!

I think I could stay on safari for months at a time, lazily moving from camp to camp so I can come home to share every nuance. But, of course, a three month safari isn’t a reality, so we must head home, but not without a stop in Johannesburg. I couldn’t go back to South Africa without going back to Soweto to see the friends I made on my last visit. I would want to spend an afternoon with Lindiwe and her neighbors, who welcomed us into their lives with food and fellowship. I would love to return to the Hector Pieterson Museum to spend more time learning about the struggles South Africans survived in the quest to abolish apartheid.

I could dream about this trip forever . . .

break from it all

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