Flight Centre's Helen Ray travels to South Africa and discovers the diverse nature of the country. Helen experiences the Cape wine region, the scenic beauty of the Garden Route and ends her visit with a safari. Let's hear more from Helen about her trip.
South Africa is a diverse and interesting country. You have beaches, mountains, great white sharks, penguins, wineries and great surf beaches. But, the main thing that people go to see is the wild life.
I'll start in Cape Town, as it is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. Table Mountain towers above the city and is visible from wherever you are in the city. Taking a cable car up to the top is a must because the views are spectacular. Cape Town is a laid back city with wide boulevards, gardens and a very relaxed atmosphere. The Albert and Victoria harbour is a lovely harbour surrounded by cafes and restaurants. With Table Mountain as a backdrop, it is worth a spending an afternoon over a nice long lunch and a couple of bottles of South African wine.
Just south of Cape Town is a peninsular which will take you down to the Cape of Good Hope. It does almost feel like the end of the earth. On a good day, you can see the waters of the Atlantic Ocean mixing with the waters of the Indian Ocean, two quite different colours. On the way down to the Cape of Good Hope, there are several places to stop, including a penguin sanctuary. Jackass penguins have taken over one of the beaches. It has become a wildlife sanctuary where you are allowed onto the beach, as long as you do not touch the penguins. The penguins don't know that though, and are very curious.
North east of Cape Town is the wine growing region called Stellenbosch. The winery homesteads are very Dutch colonial era, and I must say, the wines in this area are outstanding. We did a winery tour and it is a good idea not to drive, as you just have to try every wine! To the east of Cape Town you have a coastline called the Garden Route. This is a long stretch of coastline with long sweeping beaches and pounding surf. The coast is punctuated with headlands and cute little towns. If you are into surfing, or you are one of the brave ones who likes to take a boat out and do cage diving with white pointer sharks, then this would be the area to do it.
Johannesburg is not the best place to stay in so we travelled straight through and on to the Kruger National Park. In the Kruger National Park, which I must warn you does get rather crowded in the South African school holidays, you can see all the animals you want. Elephant, rhino, buffalo hyena, lion, leopard, cheetah, and the list goes on. My favourites are the elephant and giraffe. It does not matter how many documentaries you watch on wildlife, nothing will prepare you for the first time you come face to face with an African bull elephant. My husband and I were in a hired car. We were cruising slowly along a road in the middle of Kruger National Park when a little squirrel ran across the road in front of us. We stopped to watch it for a few minutes, completely unaware of anything else that was happening around us. When we looked up, we were looking into the knees of a bull elephant. All I remember of this is being both terrified and excited at the same time. Realising our predicament, all we were able to do was sit and watch. After a few minutes of trunk swinging and snorting he lumbered off, probably chuckling to himself as he disappeared into the bushes.
Attached to the main area of Kruger National Park are a lot of small privately owned game reserves. If you really want to spoil yourselves, this is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. The privately owned lodges are five star luxury. You will have your own guide to take you on safari. The early morning and late afternoon are the best game viewing times. For the rest of the day you can sit on your balcony; sipping champagne, overlooking a waterhole and watching the animals sleeping out the hottest part of the day.
I spent seven weeks in South Africa and saw most of the country. I enjoyed every minute of it. I loved the wildlife, the dramatic scenery, the friendly people, and the wine.
Looking for more information on travelling to South Africa for an African adventure? Contact [email]text=Helen Ray[/email], an International Travel Consultant with Flight Centre based in Cairns, Queensland who can be reached at 1300 538 508 or by [email]text=email[/email].