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South Africa

Wild, free and full of style 

Published in the Summer 2012 Issue of Canadian World Traveller
By Michael Morcos

My excursion to the scenic country of South Africa will not soon be forgotten. From the elegant game lodges and buzzing city streets to breathtaking mountain views and cascading waterfalls, there was an endless feast for the eyes everyday of the trip.

South Africa is cultural melting pot, boasting a vibrant people that offer guests a warm and fun atmosphere. While mingling with the locals can be a treat, I say the real highlight is the unbelievable landscapes found throughout the area, especially along the rugged coastline and the inland sweeping plains.

Johannesburg will be missed

While my travels this time did not bring me to experience Johannesburg, a trip to this bustling metropolis should be squeezed into your South African itinerary if you can. We flew into the city and experienced a wonderfully pleasant plane, despite the 15-hour flight. South African Airways took great care and every leg of the journey was on time to boot.

Next trip, I plan on spending some time here, as it offers a look into the country’s rich history and ongoing cultural expression. Many travellers choose to visit neighborhood and boroughs like Soweto, which tell a living story about the issues of segregation in South Africa. Alongside the beautiful churches, plazas, cemeteries and historical landmarks, visitors to this city can head to the Apartheid Museum, to get an overview of the impact the apartheid made on people nationwide.

However, this time around, we headed straight for the Bushmans Kloof wilderness reserve and wellness retreat for a few days of immersing in the wilds of this colourful destination.

A walk on the wild wide at Bushmans Kloof

I loved the sprawling, private estate of Bushmans Kloof, which was a perfect introduction to South Africa’s scenic beauty. Located a couple hours from Cape Town, the complex was a sanctuary of opulent decor in the individual cottages and lodge, delicious culinary delights and a top-notch staff. I couldn’t get enough of the plethora of activities either, such as a guided tour of the cave paintings, elegant afternoon teas and the opportunity for a classic gin-and-tonic sundowner in the bush.

Endless possibilities on the savannah

We journeyed onto the grounds and participated in one of Bushmans Kloof memorable game drives. Herds of the Cape Mountain zebra roam free here, as well as bouncing ostriches, graceful bontebok and chattering baboons, all seen from the back of a comfortable four-wheeled vehicle.

Cape Town: urban sights and natural wonders

After the wilderness reserve, I made my way back to Cape Town to check-in at the Pepper Club Hotel and was delighted to discover its great location. It also gave me easy access to check out the city and its array of cafes, historic points of interest and boutiques. This really heated up after the sun went down in Cape Town, as it provides locals and guests with countless venues to enjoy live music and a cold drink.

Time to check out the scenery of the peninsula

Cape Town in itself is a wildlife destination, harmoniously allowing wildlife and vegetation to thrive only a short distance from the populated areas on the coast and downtown. To get an overall panoramic view of the area, I took a cable car up Table Mountain and peered below to see the beaches, hills and tiny homes dotting the shoreline. The drives I enjoyed on the windy roads were also a thrill, as they quickly allowed me to take in the sights, sounds and even smells of nature. On this trip I happened upon a penguin colony and other animals at the Cape of Good Hope Park, where you can visit the southernmost tip of Africa too.

Oh, and the wine. Vineyards throughout South Africa are full of tasty libations and welcome guests to sample some of their signature varieties. I visited both the Boschendal and Tokara wineries to peruse the estate grounds, admire the views of mountainous peak and, of course, sample some wines. Some of the grape types used in this region include Shiraz, Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Tour of Robben Island

A visit to Robben Island may be a somber event, but should not be skipped on a trip to South Africa. This place is seen by taking a boat ride from the coast of Cape Town. The island has a closed prison, which once was the site where Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s leading civil rights support, was held captive for nearly three decades. These days, former inmates give a knowledgeable tour of the grounds that have now been honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I even spotted a penguin or two, as the island is home to various birds and marine life as well, like the Heaviside dolphin.

Augrabies Falls National Park

The dry season did not stop me from witnessing some amazing landscapes at this park. I took a quick flight from the city to Upington and was settled at Dundi Lodge in no time. From there a tour through the national park to see the giant cascades and curious animals of the reserve.

Kimberly, the diamond capital of the world

Another short plane ride brought me to Kimberley, where I stayed at the Protea Hotel and enjoyed a tour of the old diamond mine and museum nearby. I really had a great afternoon tea at the Kimberley Club, where I learned more about the area’s colonial history established by past British royalty.

Walking on the wild side in Kruger National Park

The final small flight of the trip had me arrive at Chitwa private lodge, inside Kruger National Park. This is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of the “Big Five” game in South Africa, which are the African rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard and lion.

I was certainly not disappointed on my own safari excursion, as I managed to see all of these impressive beasts within a short distance of each other. There is nothing quite like seeing these animals up close and in a habitat that suits their wild needs and gives them plenty of space to roam.

I felt as if I was part of the scenery, since my private lodge had perfect views of the watering hole that drew the animals practically to my front door. The atmosphere of my accommodations emulated the feels of safari, with canopy beds and wooden accents. Not to mention, the staff were unrivalled and the cuisine close to perfect, sourcing many local and fresh ingredients for their delectable dishes.

We also got the chance to see a local school close to the lodge to learn about the conservation efforts being made at the park to benefit the surrounding community. I loved playing with the kids and meeting a few residents in the village who seemed pleased to welcome us into their daily routine.

Can’t wait to return to the “Rainbow Nation”

It’s virtually impossible to see and do everything there is to experience in South Africa on one journey. Before the plane even left the runway in Johannesburg, I was already dreaming about my future trek to the Rainbow Nation, nicknamed by Nelson Mandela for it’s commitment to diversity and welcoming ambiance for all guests to indulge.

For More Info on South Africa:

South Africa Tourism
Tel: 1-800-593-1318