So with a few days back in the country, I’ve decided to warm myself up with warm thoughts of our three week trip to South Africa and produce my holiday Top Ten, in no particular order.
Hoerikwaggo Trail, Table Mountain National Park
Three days and nights hiking from Table Mountain, through the national park and culminating on Noordhoek Beach. We covered more than 60km and stayed in tented accommdation along the way, hiring the services of Frank Dwyer of Slackpacker SA (www.slackpackersa.co.za) to have a cold beer in the fridge and some meat on the braai for when we arrived. The trail is built on an ancient Khoi path and, when completed later this year, you’ll be able to hike from the Point right into Cape Town – a five night, six day hike of more than 100km.
Robben Island, Cape Town
It’s hard to talk to South Africans without race and Apartheid coming up somewhere along the line. Problems still exist – with some whites now claiming discrimination – but things seem to be getting better. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandella and other political prisoners were incarcerated for so long, proves a moving portrait of the years of shame.
The Vinehopper, Stellenbosch
While South African attitudes to drinking and driving are pretty lax compared to the UK we preferred to avoid the temptation by jumping on the Vine Hopper in the Stellenbosch wine region. There are two routes that run on alternate days that each take in six wineries; you get picked up at 10am, dropped off at 5pm and the cost is 150 rand (about £12). Tastings in each winery (you get to try between four and nine wines) cost no more than 20 rand (£1.40) and by the end of the day you are as the proverbial newt.
Umlani Bushcamp, Timbavati Reserve, Greater Kruger
I’ve been on some special game drives, but none like those offered by the Umlani Lodge in the Timbavati Reserve of the Greater Kruger Area. We got to see rare white lion cubs, leopard cubs, baby elephants and wild dogs on a kill – all discovered by our wonderful ranger, believe it or not called Elvis. The lodge itself is as close as you will get to sleeping out in the bush and if that is not enough, they’ll take you out to a treehouse at night to sleep among the animals by a watering hole.
Shark Diving, Gansbaai
Some people claim that sticking a load of tourists in a cage and putting them in the water where Great Whites hang out upsets the ecosystem and encourages more shark attacks in South African waters. Operators claim they keep the poachers away. Whatever the merits, being in the water as a 2.6m Great White glides by is a thrilling experience.
New Year’s Eve, Ballito
Durban may have a fabulous beach but the surrounding areas are pretty grim. Head north to the suburbs of Umhlanga Rocks and Ballito and it’s much prettier and there’s more fun stuff to do. Ballito plays host to South Africa’s biggest NYE party when more than 10,000 people gather in the street for an outdoor rave. Don’t bother getting dressed up – the code is flip flops, shorts and no T-shirt (the latter for boys only of course).
Grand Daddy Hotel Trailer Park, Long Street, Cape Town
The Grand Daddy is one of Cape Town’s premier boutique hotels but don’t expect to find a swimming pool on the roof – instead, the hotel has lifted seven 1950s Airstream trailers to provide the world’s only hotel trailer park. Each trailer has been designed by a different local artist; they’re a little cramped but a real experience. The cocktails in the hotel bar, Daddy Cool, are pretty special too.
Kaizer Chiefs, Johannesburg
Catching a match by South Africa’s most popular team will transport you to a footballing atmosphere unmatched elsewhere in the world. The ‘Amakhosi’ support is the most vocal in the country and the stadium buzzes to the angry wasp noise of vuvuzela horns.
Table Bay Hotel, Victoria & Albert Waterfront, Cape Town
Cape Town’s re-developed Waterfront area may be a little touristy but its also home to some of the city’s top hotels like the Cape Grace and the One & Only. Our pick though was the Table Bay – a big old Colonial-style place run by Sun International.
Premier Classe Train
For years people have rattled on about the super luxury Blue Train that cover the Cape Town to Jo’Burg route overnight. All well and good but the price is around £500 per person. For less than half the price, you can travel Premier Classe – another sleeper which may not be quite as luxe as the Blue Train but is more than adequate. Food is included in the price and you can even have a massage in the onboard spa room.