South Africa is a beautifully rich, diverse and engaging country that offers so much more beyond the quintessential safari experience. And with a 24-hour travel time to get there, it would be a shame to miss out on South Africa’s lesser known must-see highlights.
This past March, Royal Travel’s Melissa Lee traveled to South Africa for sightseeing and adventure. She used The Royal Portfolio’s group of hotels as her guide and spent two nights at each of their four properties. Here is her journey…
We began our trip with two nights in the Cape Winelands Coastal Region situated about a 45 minute drive from Cape Town, which is home to the established Franschhoek and Stellenbosch wine growing areas. Our home for for two nights was the colorful and elegant La Residence where we sipped Pinotage and Chenin Blanc on our balcony overlooking the property’s wineyards while spotting the resident springboks and peacocks wandering around the property. The area is home to many award-winning restaurants where we sampled farm-to-table cuisine and the nearby town played host to local craft and farmers markets where we admired the gorgeous protea flowers and bought colorful souvenirs to bring home. We enjoyed the Franschhoek wineries and tasting rooms and ventured into Stellenbosch next door. The excellent currency exchange rates meant that our tastings and bottle were guilt-free spending.
From Franschhoek we drove an hour and half south to the Western Cape and the seaside town of Hermanus in Walker Bay. Hermanus is the best spot for whale watching in South Africa, beach cliff wandering and dipping into or surfing the cool waters. However, my sister and I were there for another activity all together: great white shark cage diving at Shark Alley near Gansbaai. Donned in a thick wetsuit, protected by a stainless steel cage and guided by a team of marine biologists, we spotted about 10 great white sharks that approached our cage in what can only be described as a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience that was surprisingly far less scary than what I imagined.
From the sea we flew to Greater Kruger National Park and the Royal Malewane Safari Lodge for game drives and a taste of life in the bush. We took twice-daily game drives with experienced and certified trackers, environmentalists and biologists as we encountered herds of foraging elephants, a dazzle of running zebras and the solitary lion perhaps hunting for its next prey. The animals were magnificent to behold and learn about it in their natural environment.
Our last stop before heading home was a stay at the V & A Waterfront area in the center of Cape Town and the newly opened The Silo. Cape Town was a very friendly and walkable city to explore the history, arts and culture of second most populated city of South Africa. There is so much to see and do from museums (Nelson Mandela Museum, Zeitz MOCAA, Slave Lodge, Cape Town Diamond Museum, Iziko South African National Gallery, South African Jewish Museum), craft markets, local dining hot spots or visiting the lovely Camps Bay Beach for sunbathing and a sundowner cocktail. We organized a hike of Table Mountain in the mountains surrounding the city for aerial view of the city and managed a drive to the Cape of Good Hope and sighting of the wild penguins of Boulder Beach.
If a trip to South Africa is in your future, go for the safari, but stay to explore for the beaches, the winelands and Cape Town. You won’t be disappointed!