Post-colonization, the beautiful country of South Africa is undergoing a lengthy process of training native African citizens to assume the levers of power in all professions, while healing many wounds. In many ways, it has addressed racism more concretely than America. The best remnants of the past combined with a brighter future allows you to visit this engaging Motherland with pride — Sherri Crawford.
Do I need shots? If so, how many shots? Where do I go to get shots? Will I get Malaria, if I chose not to get shots? What about Ebola, will I be at risk?
All of these and other questions swirled in conversations with friends about traveling to South Africa. Several of my friends asked these questions out of concern for me. In retrospect, I hadn’t given the questions much thought. After an office visit with my doctor, then a drive to the local drug store with prescription in hand for anti-malaria medicine, all uncertainty diminished.
The long haul flight is exhausting and will cause you to re-think your decision to visit South Africa. As with any international flight that will cross several time zones, be prepared with plenty of reading material. Or pass the time catching up on movies you missed.
Though South Africa was our primary destination, we began the first day of our adventure in Zimbabwe with a combination of shopping, chatting with local merchants, walking the streets and gazing at animals which roam free during the evening hours. On Day 2, we are led by our tour guide Sofreet, to see one of the most celebrated waterfalls in the world. Sofreet was quite knowledgeable — providing the factual data and historical information about Victoria Falls, the largest curtain of water in the world. Its affectionately called the “Smoke that Thunders”. Nothing can prepare you for what your eyes will behold when your gaze is fixed on the magnificent curtain of cascading water. The sheer beauty of Mother Nature by the Falls will completely mesmerize you.
Less than sixty seconds here, and legend is holding true to its name the sound of the falls is reminiscent of thunder. As we tune in to the smoke that thunders, suddenly you hear the rapid fire sound of electronic shutters from cameras as tourists are trying to capture the absolute beauty of gushing falls to seal that moment in time. The cloud of mist produced by the falls can be a rain shower in some places, and a fine trickle of soft tear drops in other locations. Still basking in the beauty and listening to the thunderous falls, we are reminded as with any good thing, our tour of Victoria Falls has come to an end.
Our evening concluded with a sunset cruise down the Zambezi River. Didn’t know what to expect on the cruise, but I was delightfully surprised as we sailed by a crocodile, a baby elephant feeding, and a family of hippos playing peek-a-boo. As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, we have the pleasure to see an authentic African Sunset bursting with a kaleidoscope of colors on the Zambezi River. This put an exclamation point on the cruise and ended our day with nothing more to say — just relax and be in the moment.
Our South Africa vacation is off to a great start, almost whimsical in a way. We’re anxious to see what’s next and how our first couple of days can be topped. If this is the way our vacation is beginning, what more can we expect as we twist, turn and wind our way through South Africa.
After a short flight to Johannesburg, first stop on the tour is Apartheid Museum. The museum provides a comprehensive story of apartheid and its effect on South Africa. Plan to spend a few hours here. You will need time to absorb the artifacts and historical data. While our time at the museum was short, we were quite intrigued with the exhibits. We continue our day with a ride on the motor coach, driving through the bustling streets of downtown Johannesburg is reminiscent of NYC. This large metropolitan city is densely populated with tall office buildings, shops, merchants, and local street vendors. The city streets were a buzz with a daily ebb and flow of business, tourists, and locals going to/from work.
A short distance away is the township of Soweto, where over 1.3 million residents of Johannesburg live. It certainly demands your attention as you visit the area. My recommendation is to really spend time amongst the locals in Soweto. If you are seeing Soweto from a bus window, it can be frowned upon. There’s more to be gained getting out and talking amongst the townspeople, instead of gawking from a bus window. Our time was short here, but the people I spoke with were engaging and welcoming. As you walk the streets of Soweto, stop by the Mandela House and visit Hector Pieterson Memorial. If you have additional time, pre-arrange a visit and volunteer at Orlando West School located in Soweto.
Our last evening in JoBerg is spent at the Emperors Palace, which is adjacent to our hotel. The Emperors Palace has a Las Vegas feel to it, with activities ranging from casino gaming, entertaining shows, a movie theatre, and a plethora of restaurants that will delight every palette. Don’t forget to try the traditional South African dessert Malva Pudding … scrumptious!!!
This vacation is still picking up more steam, our next stop is Kruger National Park. The game drives are scheduled for morning, afternoon, or evening depending on your preference. Early rise for the start of your morning game drive safari, we were in the open air jeep at 5:30am ready to see nature up close and personal. The jeep will make its way thru a maze of roads as your eyes are wide open with toothpicks to see the animal kingdom come to life. As the safari begins, you quickly realize there is nothing between you and the animals, one can literally “reach out and touch” if you like, although not recommended for safety reasons. As you trail through the safari, your wish list of sightings includes spotting the Big 5: Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard, Buffalo and Lion.
We were able to spot 3 of the big five, but my personal favorite was to see the Giraffes, such a statuesque intriguing animal. The others in our tour group were 100% spotting all 5 of the Big 5. The evening wraps up with us swapping stories about the animals we viewed during our experience.
I must admit, I completely underestimated Stellenbosch. I was not prepared for this picturesque, quaint vineyard town surrounded by mountains. The Victorian architecture gave me pause, as I had to be reminded this is Africa. This wine country town is populated with vineyards, farms, hills, orchards, and valleys that will give you plenty to discover. Shop in town square for artwork. Dine on traditional farm-to-table South African cuisine. Take a Segway tour. Glide thru the vineyards at the Spier Hotel. No visit is complete without wine tasting a succulent red or a crisp white. With more than 150 wine farms, there’s sure to be a place where you enjoy fruit of the vine.
Stellenbosch was a wonderful town to visit. One can only hope to visit here again, if only for a single glass of wine! Spier hotel was the perfect way to end our busy day at this enchanting place.
Our tour group is eager to explore the next fascinating stop, Cape Town. The city is overflowing with activities to suit any traveler. The major tourist attractions are Table Mountain and Robben Island. Be sure however, to carve out time to meander through the vibrant & colorful neighborhood Bo-Kaap. It is must see.
We were stunned that our Robben Island tour guide, Makwela Itumeleng, was an ex-prisoner who served during the same time as Nelson Mandela. His riveting tour was engrossing, as he effortlessly took us back in time to connect with his previous life on Robben Island. Other tourist options in this action-packed city include a visit to the botanical gardens. For the adventure-traveler, booking a shark cage diving encounter — an experience you won’t soon forget.
If you are a shopper we found several local merchants at the V&A Waterfront Shopping Mall. As our time in Cape Town is coming to a close, we spent the last day taking a scenic drive exploring breathtaking views along the rocky coastline of Cape Peninsula. Our drive included a few stops, one at Boulders Beach to see the African Penguins and the legendary Cape of Good Hope, which is a promontory off the southern tip of South Africa.
To close our day we decided to dine at a local favorite for dinner, The Codfather. This restaurant did not disappoint. They have a spectacular array of fresh seafood including prawns, oysters, linefish, and of course, king clip, all prepared to perfection.
My quest to the Motherland gave me the opportunity to see and learn about this continent and our people from the window of my eyelids and not rely on what I may see from TV or Internet. Many of us may arrive with preconceived thoughts or notions about Africa. In some ways I felt mis-informed to a degree. Departing, you realize the beauty and splendor that is held here in Africa, and why it lives up to its renowned name “The Motherland”.
Understand that one trip here is not enough. There is so much more to this continent to explore. South Africa, a trip of a lifetime, is forever etched in my memory. The wonders of this continent had me spellbound from our start in Victoria Falls. I’m often reminded about the essence Africa holds when I hear my melodious wind chime on my patio that was purchased in Cape Town. I’m thankful for my jaunt, and would encourage others to trek to the Motherland and experience an exhilarating trip worth the journey.
There are many tour operators that offer packages to South Africa. We used Indus Travels http://www.indus.travel to book our package, if you mention this article and my name (Sherri Crawford), Indus Travels will offer a $50 discount.