Magical South Africa

May 22, 2013 Avatar Nina Omari Nina Omari

We arrived in Durban, South Africa late in the evening. Our tour guide, Anthony, was ready to welcome our select group of travel agents coming to attend Indaba, the annual meeting and trade show of African tour operators and travel agents from around the world.

In the darkness en route to our hotel, it was hard to see out of the coach window and make anything of the city. However, when I opened the curtains the following morning, I was so surprised by the vast and unobstructed view of the Indian Ocean before me! Wow! What incredible views. I couldn’t wait to start exploring.

Spending time at Indaba was a great opportunity to see what African tour operators, safari camps, and world class hotels had to offer on the African continent. This was an enriching experience in itself, and I certainly appreciated the privilege of being invited here.

From Durban, we made our way to the gorgeous city of Cape Town. I walked into my room at the Taj Hotel to be greeted by rose petals all about the room: roses on my pillow, rose petals floating gracefully in my bathtub! A bottle of red wine with a basket of fruit and truffles awaited me! Ahhh…I died and went to heaven. What a beautiful way to welcome a guest, and how can I forget the view of Table Mountain…just divine!

The days were filled with sweet surprises in Cape Town, starting with the boat ride in False Bay.

The name “False Bay” was applied some three hundred years ago by sailors who confused the bay with Table Bay to the north.

Another sightseeing day was to visit Stellenbosch, 31 miles east of Cape Town along the banks of the Eerste River. Stellenbosch is the second oldest European settlement in the province, and South Africa’s version of Napa Valley! With over 300 wineries, tasting South African wine should be high on a visitor’s list of things to do. Make time to stay in one of the beautiful bed and breakfasts in the area for a night or two, and enjoy horseback riding or a bike ride through the vineyards and trees surrounding them.

Next was our deluxe safari camp visit to Lion Sands. The staff warmly greeted each person in our group, learned our names quickly, and made everyone feel so welcome.

In preparation for our game drives, we were provided insect repellent, citronella wipes and sprays, which we hardly ever used.

I boarded the open safari vehicle with four of my colleagues, and off we went with our delightful guide, Syd, and his tracker, Patrick. Both were locals and knew the bush well. Coming from the city, I was amazed how, without any signage or “streets,” and with all the trees and plants looking similar, the guides always knew where they were. Within a few minutes of departing camp, we spotted an elephant. Syd stopped the vehicle and we watched the elephant crunching on the tree branches like they were cookies!

Every game drive we took offered up more experiences. The scents of the forest were magical, spotting wildlife was amazing, from the seven fascinating giraffes that were drinking at the river edge, to the black and white rhinos. Did you know the difference between black and white rhinos is the shape of their mouths; the white rhinos have broad fat lips for grazing, while the black rhinos have hook-shaped mouths.

Of course there were lions to watch, and the leopard who was after her kill, until the monkey warned all the other animals– the leopard had no chance after that.

In addition to morning and afternoon game drives, the traditional Sundowners (cocktails at sunset) were, of course, a highlight. Syd and Patrick brought wine, beer, and premium drinks, along with tasty munchies that were prepared for our enjoyment. It was hard to say goodbye to all of the lovely people we met at camp.

Our last night in Josie (Johannesburg) was a surprise as well. Our hosts, Tsogo Sun Hotels, formerly Sun International, invited Ms. South Africa, as well as Miss USA, to make a friendly appearance and take pictures with us. We had a cheer and a great dinner.

On our final day, we visited the Hector Pieterson Museum and memorial, dedicated to the 13-yr-old boy who was killed by police during the uprising against apartheid. We visited Mandela’s old house, had a great lunch down the street, and were dropped off at the airport terminal.

South Africa vacations are an amazing and magical experience. For more information you can contact me at Nina Omari.