Submitted by Cristina Buaas
For those who have never been to Africa and have trepidations about the destination, South Africa is the perfect place to start! From Cape Town to Kruger National Park, this country offers cosmopolitan cities as well as varied and beautiful terrain. There are several options for a direct flight from the United States, including the one I took on South African Airways from JFK to Johannesburg, making the long journey easier. Depending on your interests and focus, your time can be spent exploring the political and historical roots of South Africa in Johannesburg, enjoying the beautiful waterfront, Cape of Good Hope, and nearby Cape Winelands in and around Cape Town, as well as the outstanding safari offerings in Kruger National Park.
Johannesburg served as the perfect start to my South African journey offering historic landmarks as well as cosmopolitan culture. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Saxon Hotel as well as our Soweto cultural tour and listening to live jazz at The Orbit. Lovingly called “the mother of all cities,” Cape Town was next on our itinerary. With its rugged beauty, exquisite cuisine, and so much to see and do, Cape Town proved to be a must-see. For example, the Waterfront in Cape Town is a phenomenal base for experiencing the city, including Table Mountain, going out to Robben Island, driving the scenic route to Chapman’s Peak, Cape Point, and Boulder’s Beach. Additionally, just a short drive from Cape Town, Franschhoek is a charming town with wonderful restaurants, quaint shops, and beautiful hotels such as La Residence. In this area, you can spend your days enjoying tastings at beautiful wineries, one of my favorites was Grand Provence. After a relaxing stay in this area, we flew to Kruger National Park for our safari, which is a breathtaking event that everyone should try to experience at least once in their lifetime. In South Africa, there are multiple game viewing options including open air vehicles, like I experienced, walking and even on elephant back! Within two game drives, I saw the “Big Five”: elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, and leopard! It was amazing how quickly I was able to see all of these majestic animals up close and personal, and our guide Nick and tracker Robert provided unbelievable knowledge about their land and the animals that inhabit it. So, not only was this safari enjoyable and exciting, but also a wonderful learning experience. A typical day on safari will include an early rise, 3-4 hour game drive, as well as an evening drive with a stop for sundowners while viewing a memorizing South African sunset. During our safari we lodged at the Royal Malewane, where we were greeted with refreshing fruit drinks, cold towels, and warm smiles upon arrival. Additionally, today’s safari experience comes replete with as many comforts as you are used to at home including delicious and diverse cuisine, luxurious accommodations, spa offerings, Wi-Fi, etc. while viewing amazing wildlife. You can really tailor your safari experience to your personal desires and tastes!
After my time spent in South Africa I can truly say that this destination lives up to its “Bucket List” status. Safari is a deeply moving experience that is hard to describe in words. I am so thankful for my experiences in South Africa and cannot wait to return!