We crammed as much as was physically possible into our three-week trip to South Africa. Everyday was packed with adventure and sightseeing, I wanted to see as much as I could of this mammoth country during my stay. With that in mind, I’ve decided to condense this post into my ‘best bits’ of the trip. It was difficult to squeeze nearly a month of endless activity into one post, but here’s the experiences I’m still daydreaming about today.
Taking a dip with the crocs
This was a surprise bonus add-on activity which ended up being one of the best parts of the trip. I’ve always been reluctant to do any wildlife encounters due to shady ethical and environmental implications but I was assured that the staff at Cango Wildlife Ranch had only the best intentions for the animals in their care.
So, with that affirmation, I jumped in (literally) and got to know one of their resident crocs! I wasn’t expecting much from this experience, I thought the excitement of a dip in the freezing cold water would quickly wear off. Surprisingly though, the crocodile was so fascinating to admire and came so close to our cage that it ended up being one of the best animal encounters I’ve had. Oh, and I have this photo below to laugh at forever more…
Sunset on top of Table Mountain
Maybe one day I’ll stop going on about this experience… maybe. I know I’ve already hammered on about it on Instagram and in this post, but it really was one of the best things I’ve done on my travels. Watching the clouds spill over the neighbouring Twelve Apostles mountain range and pour into the sea was spectacular enough but paired with a burning sky and a lovely bottle of chenin the experience couldn’t be beaten.
Lunch in the vines
Our lunch between the vines at Bramon Winery was one of the best I’ve ever had. The setting was beautiful (despite the threatening rain clouds) and the food and wine were delicious. The winery focuses on fresh and simple sharing dishes, ranging from massive bowls of salad to dips and cheeses all accompanied by what must be the best bread in South Africa. If you fancy feasting here then make sure you book ahead and request a table in the vines, this isn’t a secret spot by any means!
Lunch at the township
I promise not every highlight is going to be food and wine based… but it wouldn’t be a round-up of best bits without this gem on the list. I’ve already dedicated a bumper Snap of the Week to this lunch and would like to write something more in-depth about it in future.
Travelling in South Africa can feel like a constant moral minefield. 22 years has passed since the end of apartheid but this is still a nation deeply divided by race. The majority of our stay was spent in restaurants, beaches and neighbourhoods frequented only by white people. In a country where 80% of its population is black, this was very strange.
So it was great to meet just a tiny number of that 80% when we went for lunch at a local township. Aside from the lunch being delicious, it felt so important to see South Africa in the same way the majority of its population does. To leave behind the fancy hotels and white-washed communities and realise just how much further this country has to go before any sort of tangible equality can be celebrated.
If you’re a nervous driver (or passenger) look away now. The Swartberg Pass in the Little Karoo is a drive like no other. In our tiny tin-can of a rental car we could feel every bump and divet of the 25km dirt road but the view outside the windows more than made up for our bruised bums.
From the town of Oudtshoorn the road takes you high up into the mountains with sheer drops and hairpin bends at every turn. After taking in the spectacular scenery from above, you descend deep into the valley below where the scenery becomes even more dramatic. The mountains sag into other-worldly folds of rock accompanied by streams and waterfalls which bubble at the side of the road. The desert scenery is more reminiscent of the American South-West than rural Africa.
The route is well worth exploring, if you’re brave enough…
Stellenbosch is one of the most recognised wine regions in the world and a staple on most South African itineraries. Situated just an hour outside Cape Town and 30 minutes from the airport, it’s an easy add-on and one, I discovered, that shouldn’t be missed.
We stayed in Stellenbosch for our final night in South Africa and we couldn’t have picked a better spot. We checked into a beautiful (and empty) B&B which was surrounded by lush gardens and towering mountains, ate at the incredible Spec & Bone restaurant and spent our final day wine tasting and browsing the quaint shops in the gorgeous university town.
The town is stunning and the rolling vineyards even more so. If you want to add a touch of luxury and indulgence to your trip, Stellenbosch is the place to go.