[Guest Post] South African Adventures
Here we go, here we go, here we go again
A year and a half. That’s how long it has been since my brother, Matt, and I have gone on a trip together. Man was it fun to travel together again! When we went to Antarctica a year and half ago, it was my seventh continent, but Matt has never been to Africa. So, naturally, we made Africa our next trip so he could check off all seven continents. To South Africa we went!
Our trip started off with two very long flights, and a long layover. We left on a Friday but did not get to Johannesburg until Sunday morning. Shout out to Priority Pass through Chase Sapphire Reserved that enabled us to hang out in lounges during every flight and layover we had!
Once we finally got to Johannesburg, we checked into our hotel, Protea Park Suite Hotel, got on our walking shoes and headed out for the afternoon. We started our walk towards Maboneng Market where we met up with one of my friends from high school, who happened to be in Johannesburg for the summer with his grad school program. One of my favorite things about South Africa was that so many places had markets that were only open on the weekends, and they all had amazing food stands. Traveling with my brother makes life great! We tried so many different foods because we can split things, and also Matt always wants more food than I do, so more things to try. After the market we walked around downtown. We went to Gandhi Square, City Hall complex, Library Garden, Nelson Mandela Bridge and Constitution Hall. Honestly, there is not a whole lot to do, so that didn’t take long. After hanging out at the hotel we went to a local pizza place for dinner. Long days of travel mean I want comfort food!
Exploring “away” from Johannesburg
Fun fact: my favorite meal of the day is breakfast, so when I travel I always make a long list of cafes/coffee shops. We started our day off at POST Breakfast Lunch. I could not help myself, and I got avocado toast. With stomachs full we were ready for our day “away” from Johannesburg. Things I learned while there, even though things are labeled as being in Johannesburg or Cape Town, a lot of things to do were outside the city. During our adventure day we went to the Cradle of Human Kind, including Maropeng and Sterkfontien Caves, drove by FNB Stadium, and the Apartheid Museum. The cave system outside of Johannesburg was amazing! Of course I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with our hard hats and hairnets. Even though I have taken world history classes I was so unaware of what happened during Apartheid. It was hard to read what was going on and how people in other countries did not do much to stop it. That night for dinner we went to Urbonologi, which had Mad Giant Brewery attached. Wow! This was one of my favorite meals while we were in South Africa. The food was tapas, which means we could try so so many things! I love a good elongated meal so we sat and chatted over delicious food and great drinks for hours!
off to Hoedspruit
We started off our day getting breakfast at DoubleShot, then off to the airport we went, next stop Hoedspruit for our safari! We landed at the smallest airport I have ever been to, and were greeted by our safari guide, Hancho. Hancho drove us in that classic safari car to our home away from home for the next five days! We stayed at Kapama Buffalo Camp, and I could not recommend it more. One word: Glamping. This resort has 11 rooms where each room was its own building. The walls were made from tent material but that is the extent of “camping” that we had. Everything you could ever dream of and more! Days while on our safari were slow and relaxing with lots of food, drink, reading and of course sightings of animals!
On our first game drive we saw 6 lions (all female), warthogs, zebras, giraffes, African buffalo, antelopes, hawks, Zazoo birds [yes we called them Zazoo from The Lion King and never learned their real names], baboons, honey badger, wildebeests, leopard, vultures, hippos, and African civet. We were EXTREMELY lucky on our first game drive.
*side note photos are very hard to take of animals in the wild, I tried to experience being there as much as possible instead of trying to get the best shot
Days 4 to 7
Days 4 through 7 were all at the safari camp, so we did a whole lot of nothing, except go on game drives, eat way too much food, sit by the pool and relax.
The day that as a little change up was the morning of day 5, we went on a hot air balloon ride. I had never been on one before so it was an amazing experience. We got up super early so we would be up in the hot air balloon during the sunrise! Once we were up there we mostly looked and the landscape but did see zebras and giraffes.
Here is what we saw on each game drive:
Game drive 2
antelopes, wildebeests, rhino, giraffes, Zazoo birds, lilac pressed roller (bird), monkeys, squirrels, fowls, African buffalos, hippos, vultures, 2 lions (male), starling, warthogs, waterbuck, snack eagle and leopard.
Game drive 3
red crest heron, Zazoo birds, African buffalo, warthogs, giraffes, zebras, 7 white rhinos, antelopes, porcupine, and marsh terrapin.
Game drive 4
dekka, giraffes, 20 elephants (mix of male, female and babies!), antelopes, Zazoo birds, grey heron, African buffalo, warthogs, hippos, impala and hyenas.
Game drive 5
gush hawk, Zazoo birds, 5 types of antelopes (impala, dekka, nyala, bush back, kudu), baboons, 3 lions (1 male, 2 females), giraffes, velvet monkey, left wing bird, zebras, red crest heron, warthogs, and starlings.
Game drive 6
antelopes (impala, nyala, dekka, korhwan, stink buck, kudu, water buck), Zazoo birds, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, wildebeests, black jackal, 3 lions (kids), king fisher, hippos and catfish.
*side note: that night was the best lunar eclipse that South Africa could see in a century! And Mars was the closest to the moon than it has been in 25 years.
Game drive 7
antelope (kudu, dekka, impala), African buffalo, giraffes, 2 rhinos (momma and baby), warthogs, Zazoo birds, 3 lions (1 male and 2 females), Egyptian geese, grey go away bird, 2 rhinos (males), and vultures. This morning it was very windy and many animals were hiding away from the breeze.
At the end of day 7 we flew back to Johannesburg and went to dinner at Pata Pata.
Today we flew from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is located in both Zimbabwe (where we flew into) and Zambia. We dropped our stuff off at the Kingdom Hotel, and off we went. We POWER WALKED to the Zambia side to maximize our time there. If you are going to be in the area I would highly recommend getting visas for both countries when you land, it was super easy. All I can say about the falls was WOW. I have never seen a large set of waterfalls before and I was blown away. The area surrounding the falls was basically rainforests because there is a constant mist from the falls. At times we were soaking wet from the mist and there were constant rainbows. After seeing the falls from both sides we headed back to town and had dinner at Shearwater Café. Fun fact Zimbabwe does not have a currency of their own anymore because it was so inflated, so a lot of places have prices in USD.
Cape Town Bound
Another day, another flight. Today we flew from Victoria Falls to Cape Town. Once we got to Cape Town we rented a car. Shout out to my brother for being a champ and driving the whole time, especially since they drive on the opposite side of the road. The next couple days we were going to spend in wine country of South Africa. South Africa has three parts Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. We were staying in the Franschhoek area, so on the way we stopped in the Paarl area. At Fairview Wine and Cheese we did a wine and cheese tasting. We fell in love with the goat cheese and decided to buy that and a bottle of wine to take to our bed and breakfast. We stayed at the most magical bed and breakfast, Maison Chabilis. Pretty sure the owner thought we were married, but hey I will take the upgrade! We did happy hour on the porch, which had a spiral staircase leading up to it. Yes, Matt had to carry my bag up the staircase for me – what a nice brother. Then we went to French Connection for an amazing dinner!
Wine all day every day! Today we went on the Franschhoek wine tram and went to five different vineyards. We went to Maison, Leopards Leap, Dieu Donne (where we had lunch too), Rickety Bridge (my personal fav), and Grande Provence. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse that day and it was very windy and chilly with some rain. That night we knew we needed carbs so we went to a pizza place for pizza and pasta.
Cape Town and Around
Today we went to one vineyard, Jordan Estate, in Stellenbosch to hit every area. While we were there we had a tasting, and a meat and cheese board. After that we drove to our Airbnb in Cape Town. After sharing a room with Matt for a week and half it was really nice to have my own room! Then we drove the hour and half to Cape of Good Hope. Once again something that is a must in Cape Town, was actually not in Cape Town. We hiked around the area, then on the way back we stopped by Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town to see the penguins. That night we went to dinner Cod Father where you go up to the seafood counter, pick what you want, then they cook it for you.
Rise and Shine! This morning we woke up at 4:00 to drive to Gansbaai for shark cage diving. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I would say I am a pretty adventurous person but that morning I could barely eat bread for breakfast, that’s now nervous I was. We went out on the boat and suited up in our wet suits. While out on the water for 3 hours we saw 4 sharks, but I was only in the water for 1. We were in these huge cages and hung out with our heads above water. Then when a shark was coming they would yell down down and we would hold our breaths and go down to see the sharks. It was crazy!!
After that we drove to Cape Agulhas where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Things we should have kept in mind – there are not a lot of gas stations in the countryside of South Africa. Very pretty, but minimal gas stations – don’t worry we made it, but I might have been saying some prayers… Cape Agulhas reminded me of a small beach town in New England. After playing in the small town, we had a solid two and half hour drive back to Cape Town.
Not sure if you have noticed yet, but my brother and I can be little foodies. So naturally we made reservations at an amazing tasting restaurant called La Colombe. If I have ever had a long dinner full of great food and conversation, this was it. The tasting menu had 8 dishes but I went for the modified version of only 5. This food was so grand with the plating, and just out of this world tasty! Who makes a garden out of sweets for dessert?!
After a long day, we decided to sleep in a little. When we got up we decided to go hike Table Mountain.
So a little story on the side: Matt was going to stay in Africa after I left to go hike Mount Kilimanjaro and go to Dubai. So lets keep in mind that Matt was training to hike a mountain.
We are starting off this hike and I am like, okay its basically natural steps, but I can do this. After about 10 minutes I think, I am going to kill Matt, we are basically running up this mountain. It says that it takes people an hour and half to three hours to hike it. We made it up in an hour and fifteen minutes. But once we were up there is was AMAZING. The mountain over looks the city, and I was taken away by it all! After the hike we went to The Butcherman for lunch – who doesn’t want to refuel after a hike with meat and more meat. While walking to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront we passed by the Cape Town Stadium. That afternoon we hung out at the V&A Waterfront, had ice cream sandwiches from Crumbs and Cream, happy hour at Harbour House, and dinner at the V&A Marketplace.
One Last Day
Today was Saturday, which means we had to go to another food market. This morning we went to The Old Biscuit Mill, which has the Neighbour Goods Market on Saturdays. We walked around all the food stands and it was so hard to decide what to get! After that we went to the Bo-Kaap area, which is streets on streets of very colorful houses and cobblestone streets. We walked around downtown seeing the Grobte Kerk (oldest church), St George Cathedral and Company’s Garden. Then we headed to the Green Point area to walk along the water and get lunch at Caffe Neo. That afternoon Matt dropped me off at the airport and he was off to his next adventure.
Days 14 to 15
My last travel days were filled with two more long flights but luckily not as long of a layover.
Huge thank you to Matt for being the best travel partner a sister could ask for! You took selfies with me, you took photos of me, you drove the whole time (except for those five minutes I wanted to drive in the National park to say I drove on the other side of the road), you were kind when I wasn’t feeling good and started crying, and you always were willing to go on adventures!