An Overdue Love Affair with South Africa’s Cape Town
Long ago, just after the end of apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela had both been announced, two lads from Wiltshire flew to Durban in South Africa to spend a couple of weeks with a friend who’d studied, played hockey and worked in our locality for a year or two. Neither of us knew what to expect, but we were overwhelmed by the hospitality shown to us by all we met on that holiday. We ate loads, drank even more, and laughed non-stop. We borrowed a car for a week, and drove from Durban to the Kruger and back – it was a good thing that one of us could read a map…. (Cape Town, South Africa)
Everywhere but Cape Town
After that, I spent nearly six years guiding all over the continent, travelling vast swathes of the wilderness north of the Limpopo, including much of West and Central Africa, but merely dipped my toes into South Africa, and never went to Cape Town. I also admit that the south didn’t really appeal to me as much as the lands north of the Limpopo.
This year I finally broke my Cape Town duck and learnt much more about the country’s near-universal appeal to visitors. It’s known as a ‘world in one country’ but I hadn’t appreciated just how much South Africa truly has to offer.
Sunny Smiles, Glorious Weather
When you’re met with a smile at immigration and the hire car desk, it bodes well for the forthcoming weeks. Sunshine, good roads, a lack of traffic, and good signposts also don’t hurt, and with a grin on my face I headed for the bush. In three weeks here’s what I covered:
- The Cape Region
- The Garden Route
- Kwandwe Game Reserve
- The Waterberg
- Kruger National Park
A Cape of Contrasts
Each region has a distinct character. This makes an itinerary combining several places even more satisfying than some other countries, thanks to the terrific contrasts that can be enjoyed. I sped round the parts that we at Aardvark Safaris love most, cramming as much as possible into the time on offer, although still barely scratching the surface. What became crystal clear was the different character of each region and the sheer quality of each place I visited.
I Lost My Heart In…
My favourite places are all completely different to one another, but all simply outstanding. They include:
- Tanda Tula
- Ant’s Hill
- Grootbos (one of the world’s best family hotels according to Conde Nast Traveler)
- Cape Grace (2014 TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice winner)
I rode great horses at speed, watched a lot of magnificent wildlife, enjoyed nothing but luxury everywhere I went, and saw some spectacular scenery in every part of the country.
In addition, there’s plenty of astonishing art to be seen, whether paintings or sculpture, and the gallery at Ellerman House was just jaw-dropping. I had incredible food everywhere, an amazing achievement in itself, and wherever I stayed the meals were works of passion, inventiveness and skill. The best dinner I’ve ever had was at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek—listed in the world’s top 100 best restaurants. Ask me, and I’ll tell you all about it.
Memories to Last a Lifetime
My abiding memory of this visit, as with so often in Africa, is the people I met who were without fail charming, welcoming, skilful and engaging. Their origins or roles mattered not a jot and all were superb ambassadors for their remarkable nation. Most of the properties I loved are privately owned, with hands-on owners who do nothing else but manage their lodge or hotel. Many of these places also contribute greatly to uplifting local communities that have missed out on the growth and development achieved in the big cities. In addition, several places such as Kwandwe Private Game Reserve also run outstanding conservation initiatives which are helping to protect species and habitats for future generations. Each place has an individual flavour, a character imparted by passionate owners and a team who love the place and what they do.
Live Like a King
As a visitor there’s a real joy in being welcomed as if into a family home, with warmth, generosity, and the feeling that no request is too much trouble. You’ll be indulged with beautifully presented meals, have numerous bottles of excellent Cape wine opened for you, and be treated like royalty wherever you go. It’s a feeling that rather grows on you.
I adore the unfenced lands, remote, isolated wilderness, the poor infrastructure, the lack of connectivity, and the detachment from normal life that so much of the wilder Africa further north imparts. I don’t need a phone, email, electricity or air conditioning; give me a bed, a cold beer, a decent meal and peaceful surroundings and I’m completely happy. But to my surprise and delight, I just wish I’d explored these parts of South Africa sooner. If you would like to experience the delights of Cape Town and the surrounding Cape the Aardvark Safaris team has lived and worked in Africa, many have taken their own family to luxury African private villas and safari houses. We can arrange everything to make your family safari or beach holiday special. All you need to do is email us or call us and tell us what you’d like to see and we’ll do the rest, giving tips and advice, and then putting together a full detailed itinerary.