South Africa Calling

Jan 07, 2020 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith
Crisp, flavorful local wines, spectacular ocean vistas, cosmopolitan cities, and the wildest of animals come together in a land called South Africa. My two weeks there were beyond my expectations and fulfilled every desire to explore and discover. I only wish I had more time there.

Early December is a wonderful time as summer is approaching but not the peak tourist season. There has been some rain in the bush but not too much yet. Cape Town in the south is also mainly dry.

Our adventure began with a brief stop in Johannesburg at the Four Seasons Westcliff in a beautiful residential area. We had a private guide and vehicle to allow us to explore both the moving Apartheid Museum and the former home of Nelson Mandela, the father of modern South Africa. It was worth the time to see this to better understand the history of the country.

Then it was a brief flight up north to Hoedspruit Airport where our guide Rudi from the new Farmstead part of Royal Malewane met us. It was about 40 minutes to the preserve, and we were already seeing animals including elephants on the way in. The thrill of the safari drive is not knowing what you will see each time. Expert guides like Rudi can handle the open vehicles and also anticipate where the animals may be. There were times when we positioned ourselves in a spot and the animals came to us. We did eight game drives in four nights including getting up at 4:30 a.m. and going back at 4:30 p.m. Each game drive was about three hours. In between was resting and eating at this amazing Royal Portfolio lodge.

This is not a trip for everyone, but for those who care, lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, wild dogs, buffalos, and the rest are there to see and experience with very little between you and them. There is nothing like it and you are contributing to their preservation.

With that part of the trip behind us, we flew down to Cape Town and then on about 45 minutes driving to the famous South African winelands with one night at the charming Ouwe Werf in Stellenbosch and one night at Mont Rochelle near Francheuck.

The former is a bigger town and more commercial; the latter is smaller but more touristy. Both are inundated with amazing South African wines at very affordable prices.

Following two days in the winelands, we moved the 45 minutes to our new temporary home, the amazing Silo Hotel in Cape Town overlooking the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The hotel and museum below were carved out of a series of grain silos built almost 100 years ago. The result is a dramatic, unique structure. The 28-room Silo Hotel is also part of the Royal Portfolio Collection. The rooms and suites are light and airy and service is personalized.
We spent three days of touring in and around Cape Town including Robbin Island where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner for 18 years, exploring scenic Table Mountain, lush Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a half-day tour of Cape Town, and a full-day Cape Peninsula Tour including the Cape of Good Hope. In the evenings we dined grandly at very affordable prices.
Cape Town and the rest of South Africa have some issues with “load shedding” with reduced power and with some crime elements. Business are coping well with both with generators, candles, and neighborhood watches. Uber is there as well at very, very affordable prices. We never felt uncomfortable and only experienced the warmth of the South African people. If you plan well, this could be a signature trip in your lifetime travel portfolio. It would be a rewarding journey to a fascinating country like no other.