I was so excited to travel to South Africa. I got to check a new continent off my bucket list. This was my first time to Africa, but certainly not my last. The cheap flights brought me from Table Mountain in Cape Town, to dinner in Johannesburg and ended the with a safari adventure in Kruger National Park.
Started the trip in Cape Town. We stayed in a hostel there called Once in Cape Town on a recommendation of a friend. The night we arrived, I felt crazy old (and sober) walking in at midnight. There were so many people in the bar having an amazing time. Our room though, was quiet and quaint. We woke up to an included breakfast (one I wish I could eat every day!) and met up with my friends Katie and Jake!
We decided to walk to the V&A waterfront to see the art markets and grab lunch.
We at in the Food Market there. I had a Lamb flatbread with Rocket, some nachos & a delicious fresh peach tea!
The waterfront was alive with people and was an awesome way to spend the afternoon.
After lunch we went and got ice cream at The Dairy Den. The ice cream was light and the cones made with black sugar.
We took a nap since we were exhausted and ate dinner at a beer hall before bed.
The next day we started at a local market with African goods before heading back to the waterfront area. The Oranjezicht City Farm Market only happens on weekends so we went there to have lunch.
My Flammkuchen (a german flatbread pizza) was excellent. I had it with an apple juice with a hint of vanilla. For dessert I had Moro Gelato. The bottom flavor was Milk Tart – a local pastry.
Here are some scenes from around Cape Town. The sea lions were smelly but filled with character. And while we didn’t get to see ALL the penguins, we caught a few on Robben Island.
We spend the afternoon on the Robben Island Tour. We took a ferry boat out and back.
The island itself was gorgeous which was a crazy juxtaposition for the atrocities that happened there.
Our guide himself was in solitary confinement on the island for 11 1/2 years. He started serving his sentence when he was just 19 years old. I truly couldn’t imagine and don’t know how he comes back to the island daily.
We got to see all areas inside and out of the prison and gained a deeper understanding of life there.
I wish there was more time to tour the cells. Each one has a photograph of an inmate and their story.
Here we all are!
For dinner we ate tapas on the waterfront. The power all over the country was going out so we were in a black out for par of dinner. The rolling blackouts were announced after we arrived in the country.
We separated from Katie and Jake the next day for the rest of the journey. For lunch I had this amazing toastie and wet fries at The Dog’s Bullocks at the Yard. The meal was fabulous and more than enough for me.
Then We took the cable car up Table Mountain.
The views here were beyond incredible. And being just outside the city was amazing. I was happy to walk around and breath in some nature.
It was a relatively clear day when we went up, but the sky started to blur right at the horizon line with the ocean.
Was so thankful for the weather and the chance to see the mountain.
For dinner that night we ate at Kloof Street House. It was just down the block from our hostel which was really convenient. We did have to make reservations in advanced. We tried the ostrich and king clip since they were both local items. We sat in the garden outside under the treetops.
The next day we woke up bright and early to head to Johannesburg. We didn’t have a lot of time there but we popped into the Apartheid Museum. I wish we had longer to walk around to soak it all in but we did see some really fascinating stuff. I plan on doing some follow up research when I get back.
I think one of the most impactful things was seeing a wall with all the laws set in place by Apartheid. It was outrageous to me that these all happened just a few years ago.
You couldn’t take pictures inside the museum so I got a few outside on the way in. I love the irony of the below picture with the fence and the “We are Global Citizens.” Driving through Johannesburg is just driving through a city of cement walls. I heard that, but didn’t believe the level until I saw it. And I saw the stark contrast in Alex vs other areas of town.
We stayed in a gorgeous (way too expensive) hotel for the night. In Cape Town, we had to take two minute cold showers to conserve water. So a nice hot FIVE minute shower was a dream in Jburg.
Our dinner was at Marble restaurant on the recommendation of friends. We ate SO MUCH FOOD. My cocktail, called The Frontier Key, was Bulleit Bourbon, Yellow Chartreuse, Banana Syrup, Citrus & Banana Bitters. It was dreamy. Our meat platter, was piled high and we finished the meal with a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.
The next morning, bright and early, we headed to Kruger National Park. Along the way we stopped my Pilgrim’s Rest (a small historic gold mining town), God’s Window (a beautiful overlook), and Lisbon Waterfall.
The waterfall was pretty and I would have liked to walk down the river a bit to see more of the drop off area.
We arrived HOURS later finally at Hippo Hollow – our hotel. Our room was comfortable and had an awesome double shower!
There was a small pool to relax by and a lovely dining room, though we ate on an outside porch for dinner while there. They included dinners in our hotel stay and gave us little lunch boxes while we were out on Safari.
Safari’s started at 4am. Yup. There was a little non clarity about who was picking us up when and timing but we trusted things, and it all worked out.
Here was the vehicle we took into the park. You can take any normal personal vehicle in the park but the height of this one helped see over the grasses. I also loved the open air. We had the safari car alone for two days.
The animals wander as they do so sometimes they block the roads. Our guide opened the front of the car up sometimes so we could see straight through. He made fun of us for only bringing our phones, but took it back when he saw how close the animals came to us.
I know not everyone is as lucky as we were. We had glorious weather and active animals every time we were in the park. Our guide also taught us a lot along the way about each animal we encountered.
He also would stop and teach us about the different footprints in the sand. We saw large and small cat prints, hippos, rhinos and plenty of impala. Below you can see the two buffalo in the mud. The buffalos are called daca boys. The mud not only keep them cool, and then when it dries, kills the bugs and ticks that would bother them.
Here’s a bunch of small or distant animals. Kudu, hippo and hyena are the highlights. The hippo was actually on the hotel property while we were eating dinner!
The birds here are hornbills (think cousin of Zazu from The Lion King). They are endangered. The birds only lay two eggs every nine years and only one of the hatchlings survives.
We saw wildebeest and learned that the long hair on there necks is similar to the hair on Zebras, but it doesn’t stand up because they don’t have the same fat deposits. They are also some of the first animals to die in a drought.
Giraffes were pretty common for us. They moved with both awkwardness and grace which is not a combination I would think to see. The Impala were the most common. Our guide called them the McDonalds of Kruger because you could find one on every corner and they were fast food for lions. They even have and M shaped pattern on their butts.
I really wanted to see rhinos and didn’t think we’d get the opportunity. Poaching of rhinos is very common in Kruger so they don’t track or announce their movements or numbers. We saw the anti-poaching units walking around with machine guns and flying their helicopter that day, so we know something was up. Poachers enter the park casually as guests and hop into the bush.
There are both black and white rhinos in the park. The photo below is a bunch of females (all picture perfect in a line) defended by a bull male.
The zebras were quirky and beautiful. They are very skiddish but social animals. Frequently we saw them with birds on them in a symbiotic relationship. The waterbuck in the bottom shot eat plants that make their meat taste bad to predators.
The bird below is a hornbill JUST like Zazu. I caught him mid flying away. And we got to see a small congress of baboons.
We stopped for a senic overlook and to eat our lunch in a canteen like area. There are no walls up in the park so animals just wander where they please. We saw a bunch of vultures finishing off an impala near the side of the road. And by a bunch I mean HUNDREDS. I got a picture but it was certainly not one for a weak stomach.
We were even lucky enough to see a leopard. She had just killed an impala and dragged it up a tree. You could see it hanging down just across from her. She was resting near a rock and I swear 100+ cars all around the park FLOODED towards her location. It was a crucial find since the morning was quiet with animal sightings.
I am so thankful that we did the Safari. I used African Budget Safaris and was pleased with the hotel, food and guide. On the final day, we got a ride to the airport for our LONG journey back to the US.
I am defiantly going back to Cape Town and seeing more things. Since going, I have also read more about the Apartheid and understand so much more about what I saw. The complicated past of South Africa makes it an incredible place to visit. If you want to see more of my vacations, you can find them here.