Planning a vacation in South Africa? South Africa Travel & Tours turns your dream vacation in Africa into a reality. Experts in arranging safaris and tours, we make sure you get the exact experience you want when visiting South Africa.
I could go on and on about what makes South Africa so special—but I don’t think you came here to read a full-scale novel, so I’ll bring it down to six top reasons. Whether its random acts of kindness among South Africans or our globally influenced culinary scene, it seems I just can’t stop gleaming with pride over my home country. Here are just a few of many reasons why you should vacation in South Africa.
1. The warm & hospitality of people is unparalleled
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and meet a lot of beautiful souls. Having said that, there’s something special about the community feeling that we have in South Africa. In my years of living in my home country, I’ve witnessed countless acts of kindness and helpful acts between strangers. It’s all I’ve ever known South Africa to be, and I couldn’t be more proud. No matter who you are or where you’re from, this country welcomes you with open arms.
2. There’s something for everyone in South Africa
Adrenaline activities? Check. Sightseeing? Check. Sports, adventure, fine dining, and history? Check—we’ve got it all! Even the pickiest traveler can find something they enjoy in South Africa. Not only do we have diversity in our activities, but we have it on our land as well. You can have an authentic safari, visit our world-class beaches, and hike a mountain all in the same week. Cape Town tours can include anything that you’d like! How’s that for a people pleaser?
Cape Town Kite Surfing – by Jean van der Meulen from Pixabay
3. Our sights are unlike anything you’ve ever seen
From Table Mountain to Kruger National Park, it’s easy to see why South Africa draws thousands in tourism each year. Our country is filled with natural wonders, a true showcase of some of the most magnificent sights that Mother Nature has to offer. It’s hard to pick a favorite (nearly impossible, really) but Signal Hill, with its unmatched views of Cape Town, might be at the top of my list. The bird’s eye views are captivating, whether you’re age 5 or 75.
Not to mention, our safaris are one of the top reasons that travelers visit. Experiencing a safari is unlike anything else: coming face to face with nature and immersing yourself in the environment is unparalleled. In a world of crowded cityscapes and inescapable technology, one of my most cherished soul-calming activities is being at one with the South African bush. There’s something undeniably special about an African safari vacation—I’ll let you see for yourself.
South Africa is a melting pot of culture, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our population is made up of Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Tswana, Ndebele, Khoisan, Hindu, Muslim, and Afrikaner—coming together to create a uniquely South African culture by combining our values and influences.
5. There’s nothing like some home cooking
With aromatic spices and a cultural mélange of flavors, South African cuisine is as unique as our nation itself. While I’m partial to curries, there’s a broad range of dishes for every palate—even the picky ones. Not only are our flavors special, but our food quality stands out as well. You won’t find strip malls full of Big Macs and Whoppers, because the focus generally rests on high-quality, health-conscious ingredients. I’m not saying you can’t find some greasy indulgent fries if you have an incessant crave, but we tend to save it for more rare occasions!
6. We’re resilient and ever-changing to be better
Formerly, culture was used to divide, but nowadays it unites us more than anything. The Apartheid attempted to separate South Africa based on our racial differences—a terrible and tragic part of our history. While we can’t undo the damage, we have been able to grow significantly from it. My love for South Africa extends to our persistent efforts to change and evolve.
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to travel more, and what better way to fulfill that sense of winter wanderlust than with a spectacular vacation in South Africa? Blessed by a mild sub-tropical climate, stunning coastline, majestic mountain ranges and the varied landscape of no less than 8 major geographical regions, this intriguing land is hard to beat when it comes to travel destinations with something for everyone.
The Allure of South Africa
One of the most exciting ways to explore South Africa’s breathtaking savannah – or highveld – is by safari. The area is rich with wildlife, much of it unique to the region, and for many visitors, the experience of viewing wild animals in their natural habitat is not only thrilling but life-changing. With outstanding wildlife-viewing opportunities in many of the most world-renowned game reserves in Africa – such as Kruger National Park – and an abundance of reputable tour operators, South Africa is one of the top safari destinations on the continent. Magnificent Cape Town is the jumping-off point for many of these adventures; South Africa Cape Town tours offer wonderful opportunities for both seasoned safari-goers and those new to the experience to explore local reserves and parks.
Not all safaris are the same, however. Some are designed for active adventurers who are accustomed to camping, trekking, and very hands-on experiences, while others are more geared to those whose idea of outdoor adventure might revolve around five-star lodge accommodations, shorter outings, and fine dining throughout. Certain safaris cater to those with special interests in bird or animal migration, photography, hot-air ballooning or wildlife conservation. Finally, some safaris are designed as a group or guided tour experiences, while others – for the most intrepid explorers – are entirely self-guided adventures.
What to Expect – and What Might Surprise You – on Your South African Safari
Ask any two aspiring safari-goers what most interests them about safari travel, and you’re sure to hear, from one or both, “seeing the Big Five!” – referring, of course, to the five animals that have traditionally posed the greatest threat to hunters. The excitement of viewing a lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo or leopard in its own environment tops the list of thrilling adventures for even the most experienced travelers. Lions, African elephants, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo are usually the easiest to spot out of the group, whereas leopards, well-camouflaged and nocturnal, are typically the most elusive. Some of these magnificent animals are more likely to be spotted in one region or park than in others – Addo Elephant National Park, for instance, is home to over 600 elephants – but chances are excellent that you’ll enjoy a viewing or two of one or more of the “Big Five” no matter where your safari takes you.
A typical day on safari depends very much on the time of year, location, and the type of safari you are on, but traditionally the day starts out, in temperatures often cooler than one might expect, with a game drive. Outings during these early morning hours and at dusk are especially thrilling, as wildlife activity – prime hunting time, for many predators – is at its peak. Following breakfast back at camp, you will likely enjoy what is considered a highlight of the safari for many: a mid-morning bush walk. These thrilling, informative bush walks into the wilderness allow guests to truly experience the wonders of the bush and connect with their surroundings in a very tangible way; small details which may be overlooked from a vehicle – the distinctive sound of a guinea fowl, the smell of wet earth after a sudden thunderstorm, up-close views of a hippopotamus at a watering hole or the engineering masterpiece of a termite mound – provide visitors with a much deeper understanding of the savannah’s ecosystem. Lunch in camp is often a generous buffet serving a variety of dishes (salads, fruit, soups, baked breads, hot and cold entrees including grilled or cold meats, and pasta) made from the freshest local ingredients. After a rest during the heat of the afternoon, you might venture out again for a late day game drive, and, finally, a return to camp in time for cocktails and a delicious dinner.
Accommodations range from top-of-the-line, luxurious lodges – most fully inclusive, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner in addition to coffees, teas and snacks on-site and on excursion – to hotels and luxury tents. Fresh water, electricity, bath, and shower facilities are provided as well as ongoing, detailed instruction regarding safety measures both in camp and in the bush. Meals are hearty and plentiful, often featuring game meat and game birds and a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and starches; beverages range from simple Rooibos (redbush) tea, perfect for cool mornings, to local coffees, spirits, and wine.
Typically located in more remote areas of most parks and reserves, safari camps allow guests to feel as close to nature as possible, with individual tents or huts offering broad, uninterrupted views of the savannah. Visitors are often treated to the thrilling sights and sounds of wildlife wandering through camp during the day and are immersed in a wild chorus of nighttime noises – the roaring, snorting and bellowing of animals hunting or grazing, in very close proximity – after the sun goes down. A centrally located dining area and fire pit offer plenty of opportunities for socializing, even for the youngest members of the group; some camps even offer both fun and educational kids’ programs!
For those who desire a more customized experience, a private, personalized safari provides a unique adventure that can be curated to individual needs and preferences. The expert guidance of professional trackers and rangers on immersive bush walks and game drives is always provided, as well as luxury accommodations including full meals and snacks and, often, relaxing pools and deluxe spa facilities.
Essentials for your African safari vacation include the proper clothing – light-colored shirts and pants (neutral tones reflect heat, blend into the environment more easily and tend not to attract as many insects as darker colors), a swimsuit (a number of lodges have swimming pools), good walking shoes, sun hat, and a warm and waterproof jacket for early morning and early evening game drives. Also critical are a flashlight, sunscreen, first aid kit, phone or electronics charger, and any medications or other personal items you might need. Finally, South Africa is a photographer’s dream, so don’t leave behind a good camera and the best pair of binoculars you can afford.
If there’s one thing South African Mamma knows best, it’s how to keep the kiddos entertained with activities that still manage to be fun for the adults. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, Cape Town hosts a handful of nearby sights and must-see attractions. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly day hike or an afternoon at a museum, South African Mamma’s list has it all!
Dive Into Cape Town’s Natural Beauty
Cape Town is jam-packed with activities for the adventurous soul for every age, all the way from 4 to 64. The whole family can enjoy marvelous Mother Nature, thanks to Cape Town’s proximity to various beaches and scenic favorites such as Table Mountain.
On the way up to Table Mountain
Table Mountain Cable Car
Table Mountain is a top-rated activity, and rightly so. This sky-high attraction presents wow-worthy views of the city on the way up, and from the summit. The ride up only takes about 5 minutes, but expect to linger at the top to enjoy the 360-degree visibility. Some opt to hike up to the top, but the cable car is a truly unique experience—and much easier when traveling with kids.
Camp’s Bay Beach
Although there’s a grand variety of beaches to choose from in the area, Camp’s Bay makes our list for being a top-rated family destination. The calm waters are great for a dip, and we can’t complain about the nearby restaurants either. You might even have time to grab a glass of local chardonnay from one of the sea-facing restaurants with outdoor seating, right on the bay.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
You certainly don’t have to be an avid botanist to appreciate the beauty at Kirstenbosch. This relaxed garden is great for aimless wandering, picnics, and those classic family photos everyone takes on vacations. Since it’s right next to Table Mountain, you might be able to explore both on the same day.
Embark On An Educational Afternoon
If there happens to be a rainy day during your visit to Cape Town, turn it into an opportunity for an afternoon of learning. From science and technology to marine biology, families can take their pick depending on which subject they fancy most. South African Mamma recommends a stop at each—why not become an expert in giant spider crabs, while you’re at it?
Two Oceans Aquarium
Carve out a full afternoon for this one, because the kids won’t want to leave. Say hello to jellyfish, seahorses, and more—perhaps even some creatures you had never heard of previously, such as the “spotted grunter” fish. Children will love the touch pool and microscope exhibits, where they can come face-to-face with hermit crabs, starfish, and sea plants.
Get up close and personal with sharks at Two Oceans Aquarium.
Cape Town Science Center
One of the best ways to ignite proper curiosity in a child is by a visit to a science museum. With more than 250 interactive exhibits and hands-on science experiments, this discovery land will keep everyone busy, and probably scattered across a handful of different areas in the center. Kids can travel to space by trying out the gravity-free human gyroscope, one of the more unique experiences available.
Cape Town is home to Africa’s most advanced digital planetarium, specializing in both research and “edutainment”—the winning combination of fascinating education that hooks you in like a binge-worthy TV show. The planetarium features a full dome theater, interactive learning exhibits, and enough digital displays to make you feel like you stepped into the future.
Hang Out With Local Wildlife
Both children and adults will love the experience of meeting some of Cape Town’s resident animals—considering there are plenty of them in both wildlife preserves and their natural habitats. South African Mamma recommends introducing the whole family to the local wildlife at these top picks.
Boulder’s Beach Penguins
In addition to soft waves and tremendous granite boulders, this beach is home to an energetic crowd of penguins, drawing thousands of visitors each year. These popular birds are most active during the summer months but can be seen year-round in the area.
Meeting the locals at Boulder’s Beach
The local colony has grown over the years, as a result of funded conservation efforts from a small entry fee. The beach has rock pools and powdery sand, making you feel like you’re much farther away from the bustle of Cape Town.
Penguins, boulders, and blue waters at Boulder’s Beach.
This small 5-acre island lives up to its namesake. Over 65,000 cape fur seals call this area home, which seems a bit cozy due to the size, but they don’t seem to mind. Getting to the island is an event in and of itself, with occasional shark sightings and thorough background information.
Stellenbosch Eagle Encounters
Combining fun with an important cause is definitely South African Mamma approved. A visit to this non-profit organization supports conservation, research, rehabilitation, and eco-tourism. Visitors are welcome to have a meet and greet with the eEagles, with the guidance of an experienced handler. The birds do not live in cages at Stellenbosch, creating a truly authentic experience.
You’re going to want to bring your camera to Stellenbosch.
Ostriches, seals, and eagles are only the tip of the iceberg for Cape Town animals, but they happen to be a few of our favorites.
Samantha West, CEO of South Africa Travel & Tours always knew that travel would be part of her future. Having herself grown up in South Africa, she was exposed to a variety of cultures and diverse landscapes which gave her an initial interest in connecting with different backgrounds and seeing the world through a different lens. One of her favorite childhood memories is hiking along the rugged, wild coast of South Africa at age 9 with her dad and three brothers. Her travel love-affair would later extend to countries around the world when at 23, she gave up her job and house to live in Holland for a year to experience a different way of life.
Eventually, travel would also allow her children to have a global perspective outside their life in the United States. It would become not only her chosen career path but something that bound her family together through a shared experience.
Travel continues to be an infatuation for Samantha with current bucket list places including Greece, Botswana, Kenya, and the Maldives. However, South Africa will always remain a place like no other for Samantha and is a place she wants to showcase to the rest of the world.
South Africa Travel & Tours has allowed her to provide her clients with an incredible once-in-a-lifetime travel experience. Having spent 39 years in South Africa before living abroad and having traveled extensively within the country, she has an in-depth knowledge of what experience will work well for a particular individual or family. She has an intimate familiarity with the country, having seen the evolution and progress of South Africa from the dismantlement of Apartheid (a feat she is proud to have witnessed). She now creates tours to South Africa using her first-hand experience and allowing travelers to enjoy the abundance her home country has to offer including its culture, diversity, hospitality, sightseeing, and history.
When your friends from Massachusetts fly in, what are your favorite places to show them?
Wine estates. The great restaurants that South Africa has to offer. The food in South Africa is of such a high standard.
What’s the wildest experience you’ve had on safari?
Being rushed by an elephant.
South Africa is home to you, but what country do you love to play tourist in when you’re not working?
Italy was my dream destination for ten years. After finally convincing my husband to travel to travel Italy with two small kids we have returned many times since our initial trip. As a result of my love for Italy, I have very few places on my bucket list.
What cultural activities to you genuinely enjoy in South Africa? Museums? Galleries?
Your absolute favorite place to sip a glass of stellar South African wine?
On the outdoor terrace at Ernie Els wine estate.
Favorite thing to do on a rainy day in Cape Town / Johannesburg / Durban?
Snuggle up on the couch overlooking the ocean.
When you want to get out on your own, what are you go-to solo spots? (Restaurants, bars, attractions, beaches, or hikes?)
My favorite solo spot is the Rosebank Flea Market; it has such a local vibe The Sandton Mall, some of my fondest memories I recall are dining out with my friends and shopping. Something I love to do to de-stress.
Where is your favorite spot to stay for a beachfront vacation in South Africa? Why?
Camps Bay in Camp Town. I don’t think there is anything that can compare with the beauty of Camps Bay.
What’s your favorite festival to hit with friends in South Africa? What makes it great to experience with a group?
When you’re shopping in South Africa, is there any particular item you have to “stock up on” before you go home?
Where do I start? I usually bring an empty suitcase to load up on all my favorite items- Rooibos tea, South Africa spices. I only cook with South African spices.
Is Kruger National Park the best spot for a safari or is it worth it to visit a smaller, less trafficked park?
I love Kruger, but I personally have TWO favorites. Kapama is near and dear to me, it was my first safari experience with my husband, and it will always hold an extraordinary place in my heart. We just recently visited Londolozi and was blown away by the service and attention to detail. Absolutely amazing.
After a day of tours in Cape Town, what’s the best local happy hour spot to unwind?
The 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa.
If I wanted to head to Durban, can you recommend a waterfront hotel that’s in the middle of all the action?
The Beverley Hills Hotel is a firm favorite. It overlooks the water and is close to all the amenities that a traveler requires.
I’m staying in Johannesburg and have a rental car for one day. Where should I go?
For most people, seeing majestic creatures like elephants and rhinos in the South African bush is plenty of adventure for one vacation. But for adrenaline junkies, a safari is the appetizer on an action-packed vacation menu loaded with adventure tours. We travel to collect experiences, but adventure travelers are in search of a feeling: a heart-racing adrenaline rush that makes them feel joyful, present, and alive. These activities are guaranteed to deliver a thrill.
The Best Activities for Thrill-Seekers in South Africa
1. Night Game Viewing Drive
What’s more exciting than seeing sleepy lions lounging in the sun during a safari? Catching a glimpse of these agile hunters at night, when they’re awake, alert, and on the prowl. Your chances of seeing these magnificent hunters increases in the dark. After the sun goes down in South Africa, the temperature drops. Predators like lions, leopards, and wild dogs take advantage of the cooler climate to run down their prey. A drive through the bush in the dark will deliver enough action for a National Geographic documentary. Many of the safaris arranged by South Africa Travel & Tours offer evening game drives.
2. Incredible Shipwreck Dives
Scuba diving is a known “gateway drug” for adventure travel. While scuba diving sounds tame — and is indeed very relaxing — your first dive in open water, at depths unfathomable, is sure to raise your heart rate and expand your mind. The ocean is another kind of wilderness altogether, which you will soon discover as the sun drifts away and transforms into tiny pinhole of light at the ocean’s sparkling surface. Many divers opt for shipwreck reef dives where they spot clusters of colorful fish, eels, stingrays, sea turtles, whales, and sharks. With 98 species of shark in South Africa, your odds of spotting one are relatively high. The haunting beauty of these wrecks will stay with you long after you return to the surface.
Bloukrans will send you plummeting headfirst for 708 feet!
3. Bloukrans Bungee Jumping
Bungee jumping is so angsty-1990s-thrill-seeker, right? Wrong. Bungee jumping isn’t just for an 18th birthday or a midlife crisis anymore. South Africa has earned a global reputation for a number of activities, including bungee jumping. The infamous Bloukrans Bridge jump on the gorgeous Garden Route is a must for adrenaline junkies. Bloukrans will send you plummeting headfirst down 216 meters (708 feet!) into a beautiful lush green gorge, giving you a unique view of the stunning vistas that the Garden Route is known for.
4. Climb the World’s Second Tallest Waterfall
If you are looking for incredible views, South Africa delivers at every turn. Outside of Angel Falls in Venezuela, Tugela Falls in South Africa is the highest waterfall in the world at 948 meters (3,110 feet). Some even argue that it is in fact taller than Angel Falls! To catch the best view, experienced hikers will make the steep trek up the stunning Drakensberg Mountains. Some of the hikes allow you to peer over the edge of the falls, but be warned: the climbs will have you scaling the mountains on ropes, chains, and ladders. The unforgettable views are well worth the effort and you’ll create a memory of an adventure that will last a lifetime.
5. Spelunking Inside Table Mountain
Not into climbing up? How about diving down? Into caves, that is. Spelunking or “caving” in South Africa is a popular choice for adventure veterans and caving novices alike. There are over a hundred caves just within the Cape Peninsula of South Africa, ranging from shallow overhangs to deep and winding tunnels that burrow into Table Mountain for more than a kilometer. Just like hiking, there are commercialized guided tours that provide a set route, handrails, and lights. However, you can opt for ‘adventure trails’ if you’re up for a challenge. These options will have you dropping into caves on ropes or shimmying down narrow crevices with footholds wearing hardhats and protective gear. Fantastic exercise and a truly unique experience.
6. Cage Diving with Great White Sharks
Arguably South Africa’s most unique and epic adrenaline rush is the rare opportunity to swim beside nature’s most lethal predator: the great white shark. At times you will find yourself mere inches from these beautiful, powerful creatures safe within a fully enclosed steel cage. Three of the best locations for great white shark cage dive tours are Cape Town, Gansbaai, and Mossel Bay. If great whites aren’t enough, you also have the opportunity to dive with hammerheads, tiger sharks, and whale sharks!
There are enough activities and sights across South Africa to keep an itinerary packed for months. However, the primary reason a person makes the journey to South Africa is to go on safari. Visitors participating in game drives are eager to catch a glimpse of the rarest of the Big Five: the rhinoceros.
Game drives are timed for optimal viewing, but the rhinoceros is becoming increasingly elusive. The rhino population worldwide is dangerously low. In fact, one subspecies of South Africa’s White Rhinoceros, the Northern White Rhinoceros, is now extinct — the victim of being poached for its horns, like the African elephant.
Safaris serve two purposes in South Africa. They provide people with the opportunity to experience majestic African wildlife in the wild, but more importantly, they provide visitors with a hands-on education in wildlife conservation.
Eco-Tourism’s Role in Rhino Conservation
South Africa works diligently to conserve its most precious resource: its wildlife. Rhinoceros are an important part of tourism in South Africa and tourism is an important part of conserving this delicate, endangered species. Eco-tourism’s core focus is educating the public about conservation and raising money to support the effort.
South Africa is fighting an uphill battle against poachers who are investing in new and innovative ways to target rhinos within its borders. Parks like Kruger National Park survive off the tourism industry and use the funds raised and profits earned from safaris to continue their ongoing conservation initiatives to combat the poaching epidemic.
South Africa is home to 90% of the world’s rhinoceros population and has gone to great lengths to protect and sustain it. Because South Africa has largest population of White Rhinoceros and, rarer, Black Rhinoceros, visitors can see both if they plan their safaris accordingly. Guests can feel good about their vacation too. Game lodges and game drives that do not outwardly market themselves as “eco-safaris” still work hard to maintain a small ecological footprint and educate guests about conservation efforts.
Luxurious Safari Lodges with Rhino-Friendly Conservation Initiatives
1. Motswari Private Game Reserve. Motswari shares an open 12 mile boundary with world-renowned Kruger National Park, allowing for many opportunities for game viewing — including an abundance of White Rhinoceros. Motswari means “to conserve and protect” in Tswana. The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve within Motswari lives up to that promise and funds a Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit equipped with specialized field ranger equipment and training.
2. Sabi Sands Game Reserve.Arathusa Safari Lodge is located in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, sharing a 31 mile unfenced boundary with Kruger. In addition to viewing White Rhinoceros and occasionally Black Rhinoceros, a portion of the proceeds from the lodges within Sabi Sands go towards rhino poaching awareness and prevention.
Rhinoceros are an important part of tourism in South Africa and tourism is an important part of conserving this delicate, endangered species.
3. Kapama Private Game Reserve. At the edge of Kruger National Park lies the Kapama River Lodge. Kapama provides 5-star safari accommodations against the stunning backdrop of the Drakensberg mountains — a picturesque location for game viewing. Kapama protects the biodiversity of the region through their Anti Poaching Unit (APU), which patrols the reserve both on and off foot, in search of wildlife traps and poachers.
4. Black Rhino Game Lodge. Pilanesberg National park has a higher concentration of Black Rhino per square mile, so your chances of seeing one increase exponentially. It is home to the Black Rhino Game Lodge which offers comfortable accommodations and private rhino tracking expeditions. A portion from each booking goes to the Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust. The trust gives priority to projects that protect the rhinos in the park from poachers.
Travelers interested in learning more about South Africa’s conservation efforts should consider eco-safaris that include trips to Hoedspruit’s Endangered Species Centre or the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre. Guests can learn about innovative conservation efforts, discover new species, and experience South Africa’s wildlife up-close.
Festival-goers and jazz fans around the world have heard of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival — one of the largest jazz festivals on the planet. The fest, which has a reputation for gathering some of the best musical talent from across the globe, is held annually in South Africa’s ‘Mother City.’ Combining jazz virtuosos with groundbreaking modern artists, this event a big draw for tourists and locals alike.
While ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’ boasts headlines such as Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Leela James, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu — the festival is also known for elevating the careers of up-and-coming artists, providing a platform for lesser-known musicians. If you’re visiting during our March 2018 Best of Cape Town Tour, you will be lucky enough to see these incredible shows in person.
5 Artists to Watch at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival
1. The Soil
Experience a different genre. The Soil is an award-winning three-person South African acapella group. The group’s style is described as “kasi soul,” which features an eclectic mix of jazz, hip hop, African-influenced pop, and soul. Despite being perfectly harmonized, not a single member of the trio is formally trained. Unable to read even a note of music between them, the group collaborates on every song with a heavy emphasis on poetic and inspirational lyrics. The result of their labor of love is a complex, exciting, and inspiring sound. Follow The Soil on Instagram.
Keenan Ahrends Quartet -- Here we go again (Pt. 2) - YouTube
2. Keenan Ahrends Quintet
Show some local love. Be sure to support Keenan Ahrends when you’re at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Ahrends is a Cape Town native. He started playing guitar at the age of 15 and studied under Mike Campbell. If you don’t recognize the name, Campbell is the famed guitarist, songwriter, and record producer best known for his work with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Ahrends is a local favorite and is heavily involved in the Cape Town music scene. In a quartet, this modern jazz sound is amplified by the soulful rock influence of Ahrends’ guitar. Definitely worth a listen. Follow Keenan Ahrends on SoundCloud and Instagram.
MILES MOSLEY "Voodoo Child" - YouTube
3. Miles Mosely
Not your mama’s bassist. Los Angeles-born Miles Mosely is a virtuoso on the upright bass. Set aside whatever preconceived notions you have about a mellow bass soloist. Mosely’s smooth vocals, thunderous horn section, and his expert use of a variety of pedals make for a bold, upbeat, and unexpected sound. This show will not disappoint. Follow Miles Mosely on Twitter and Instagram.
Nicholas Payton - Afro-Caribbean Mixtape - YouTube
4. Nicholas Payton: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
Listen to a new sound. “Experimental” is the word that comes to mind when describing Nicholas Payton: Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. This native New Orleans trumpeter will be unlike anyone you’ve ever heard. Payton’s style can be best described as the expert trumpeting of Wynton Marsalis overlayed with rhythmic Afro-Caribbean beats. The result is an experimental Moby-eque sound, without sounding anything like Moby. Payton is absolutely a ‘must-see live’ artist and musician. Follow Nicholas Payton on Facebook and Twitter.
Seu Jorge - The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (Full Album) - YouTube
5. Seu Jorge presents The Life Aquatic / A Tribute to David Bowie
Bowie-approved listening. You likely recognize singer-songwriter and “father of the Brazilian samba renaissance” Seu Jorge from the films City of God and The Life Aquatic, for which he provided much of the soundtrack in the form of Portuguese language cover versions of David Bowie classics. Bowie later went on to say that “had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.” Listen to Seu Jorge’s original work on Spotify.
Experience the Cape Town International Jazz Festival as part of a stellar lineup of the best sights and activities in South Africa. In our Cape Town Tour 2018, travelers will not only get to attend the festival, but will stay in premier oceanfront lodging, experience a two-day safari, and enjoy a leisurely day in South Africa’s famed Winelands. Learn more about this incredible 10-day adventure.
Grahamstown is near Port Elizabeth or “The Friendly City,” a historic colonial port city.
Less than 70 miles from Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Coast of South Africa, travelers have eleven days to view this ‘national treasure.’ Every year in June, the National Arts Festival attracts locals and tourists alike. South Africa’s rich cultural scene converges at this annual celebration of art, music, film and theater in Grahamstown.
Grahamstown has a 180-year reputation for going all-out for its celebrations. The town retains its old-world charm with an abundance of historic churches. Grahamstown also boasts the signature pastel-hued colonial revivalist architecture that is characteristic of South Africa. With its enchanting storybook inns, various festivals, and proximity to the Garden Route, Grahamstown is an inviting stop on any itinerary
photo credit: all4women.co.za
The Grahamstown National Arts Festival: A National Treasure
June 28 – July 8, 2018
The National Arts Festival is the most popular attraction in Grahamstown, drawing 250,000 visitors to the town annually. Each year hundreds of artists in fine art, design, dance, music, film, and theater are selected to present their work to the public on a grand scale. The work and performances are on view throughout multiple venues across the town.
Each festival has a theme and in 2017 the theme was ‘disruption.’ This concept was expressed in hundreds of ways, from visual artists exploring the depths of femininity to stand-up comics cracking jokes about politicians. The National Arts Festival prides itself on presenting every artist’s idea, in every medium, completely uncensored. Staying true to this promise, the event has only grown in popularity over the course of its 44-year run.
‘Nyanga’ at the 1920 Settler’s Monument in Grahamstown. photo credit: 20onemagazine.com
What to See on South Africa’s Eastern Cape
Festival-goers in Grahamstown can tour one of the 40 historic churches of “The City of Saints,” take in a meal at Haricots Bistro & Deli, enjoy a beer at The Rat & Parrot, or browse the shops along High Street. The town is home to several museums, the most popular being the quirky Observatory Museum, which chronicles the beginning of the diamond industry in South Africa. A few of the oddities inside the museum include the only camera obscura built in South Africa and the Meridian Room, the personal observatory of Henry Carter Galpin, the local watchmaker who designed the home that houses the museum.
The Garden Route is a 186-mile stretch of South Africa’s south-western coastline that consists of beautiful beaches, charming seaside cities, and an abundance of adventure activities for travelers to enjoy. The route stretches through Port Elizabeth, just northwest of Grahamstown. Popular sights along the route include Mossel Bay for surfing and sailing, Tsitsikamma National Park for South Africa’s most highly-rated long distance hike, and Port Elizabeth or “The Friendly City” for the Route 67 walking trail. The Route 67 trail consists of 67 public artworks, symbolizing the 67 years that Nelson Mandela dedicated to the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Addo Elephant National Park
Between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth is Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa’s third largest national park. Despite the name, Addo contains more than elephants. The park is home to the ‘Big 7’: rhinos, leopards, lions, buffalo, elephants, southern right whales, and great white sharks. Because Addo stretches to the sea, the park offers Marine Eco Tours to view the last two, southern right whales and great whites. Naturally, Addo offers game drives but also contains horse trails, hiking trails, and 4X4 trails — for those who want to do a little off-roading.
Whether you’re in Grahamstown for the National Arts Festival or on a road trip along the Garden Route, there is plenty to do and see along South Africa’s less-traveled Eastern Cape. For more tips, ideas, and advice for seeing all there is to see in South Africa, visit us at vacationtosouthafrica.com.
South Africa is home to safaris, family holidays, exotic beach vacations, wine country getaways, music tourism, and adventure tourism. Adventure travel is a popular vacation niche for thrill-seekers. Popular adventure tours in South Africa include spelunking, bungee jumping, cave diving, shipwreck exploration, and cage diving with great white sharks.
Hiking also qualifies as an adventure travel activity, especially if you’re hiking the world’s second largest waterfall or scaling Table Mountain’s steepest inclines. Avid hikers come to South Africa because of the diversity of the trails and ecosystems. On the same trip travelers can experience dense forests and waterfalls in the mountains and sandy dunes along the coast. When considering where to hike in South Africa, start with these best-loved trails.
Top 6 Hiking Trails in South Africa
1. Leopard’s Kloof Hiking Trail
East of Cape Town, hidden within Betty’s Bay — a small holiday town on the Western Cape — is the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden. Open to the public year round, this national treasure encompasses verdant mountain slopes, deep gorges, and abundant waterfalls. Leopard’s Kloof Hiking Trail follows various waterfalls and crystal clear pools within the dense forest of the botanical garden. This trail an excellent choice for the casual hiker or families since the trail is designed for people of all walking abilities.
2. Dolphin Hiking Trail
Dolphin Hiking Trail is ideal for hikers who are hoping to spot wildlife during their trek. This trail is located within Tsitsikamma National Park on the Eastern Cape. The park is home to a variety of wildlife including otters and dolphins. The famous Otter Trail is located within the same park, but the Dolphin Trail is far less strenuous. As the name suggests, hikers are likely to spot dolphins as the trail winds toward the coast.
3. Skeleton Gorge Hiking Trail
If you think that the name suggests a steep and daunting hike, you’d be correct in your assumption. The Skeleton Gorge Hiking Trail is for more advanced hikers and the athletically inclined. Hikers who choose to take this route up the famed Table Mountain will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Cape Town at the summit.
4. Roseate Tern Hiking Trail
Situated in charming Port Elizabeth on the Eastern Cape, Roseate Tern Hiking Trail is a lovely seaside stroll for all walking abilities. The trail is best known for its sweeping views of the dunes. Birdwatchers will enjoy the wide variety of coastal birds. Along the 6-mile trail is a 150-year old lighthouse, which makes for a perfect vacation photo op. This trail is a wonderful choice for hikers in search of a more relaxing experience.
5. Tugela Gorge Hiking Trail
Tugela Gorge is another trail for advanced hikers. You will need the stamina to scale boulders at the end of the trail in order to see views of Tugela, the 3,110 ft. waterfall. Many first time travelers to South Africa are surprised to learn that Tugela Falls is the world’s second largest waterfall. This makes the challenging trek well worth the effort.
6. Addo’s Alexandria Hiking Trail
For the expert hikers, the two-day hike along Addo’s Alexandria Hiking Trail will take travelers through three distinctly different ecosystems. The trail begins in Addo Elephant National Park and takes hikers through thick forests, expansive sand dunes, and long stretches of white beaches along the coast. The trail is nearly 20 miles long.
A few media outlets have jokingly referred to Cape Town as “The Cape of Good Hops,” in reference to the city’s newfound notoriety in the craft beer scene. As with most other metropolitan cities, the craft beer revolution began just a few short years ago in Cape Town. Ten years ago there was one brewery in Cape Town and now there are over 20, with several more on the way.
Microbreweries have existed in South Africa since the 1980s, but much like the rest of the world, this niche industry didn’t have the demand that it does today. By 2008, roughly twenty breweries had set up shop in South Africa. Between 2015 and 2016, the industry saw an astonishing 50% growth — from 80 breweries to 160, the bulk of which are located on the Western Cape. [Source]
The Global Demand for South African Hops
While the craft beer scene is still in its infancy, South African hops — known for their unique flavor profiles — are sought after by craft brewers globally. Anheuser Busch-InBev purchased the largest farms and growers last May in their continued effort to stifle craft competition globally, cancelling all shipments to craft breweries in the US and the UK.
The sudden global interest in South African hops and AB-InBev’s expensive move to monopolize the country’s hops supply line has only increased curiosity and interest in South Africa’s craft beer scene. Beer tourism has risen in popularity in the last five years and Cape Town is now a part of that industry boasting several notable breweries and brewpubs that are worth the trip.
Top 5 Places to Drink Craft Beer in Cape Town
1. Jack Black’s Brewing Co.
Jack Black’s Brewing Co. is a 25-barrel brewhouse located in the southern suburbs of Cape Town, in the heart of Diep River. In South Africa’s burgeoning beer scene, this is one of the largest craft breweries in the country. Jack Black’s brewing team produces a range of beers, including an unfiltered Pilsner and an American-style IPA. The taproom is open from Wednesday through Saturday with hours ranging from 10am to 10pm. Tours and tastings are also available throughout the week. The taproom also serves up it’s famous Butcher Block Burger and hosts Food Truck Fridays. Visitors can catch open mic nights, quiz nights, and live music throughout the week.
2. Devil’s Peak Brewing Company
Close to Cape Town’s city center, Devil’s Peak Brewing Company is a popular choice among visitors and locals alike. The brewery is best known for their inaugural hop-forward IPA. Devil’s Peak has a reputation of introducing new beer styles to local drinkers, even starting a barrel-aging program in 2016. In addition to the exciting beers, visitors can enjoy cheeseburgers, cider-glazed pork belly, and a variety of bar snacks designed to elevate the drinking experience. The tap room is open seven days a week with varying operating hours.
3. Woodstock Brewery
Woodstock Brewery, located in an industrial suburb of Cape Town, is best known for its seasonal ales. Their quarterly releases include an award-winning hazelnut brown ale, Mr. Brownstone. Limited releases are their mainstay, but Woodstock is also known to collaborate with nearby breweries such as Drifter Brewing Co. (more information below). The taproom, open Tuesday through Saturday, features weekly tours and a delicious menu from The Woodstock Grill.
4. Drifter Brewing Co.
Drifter Brewing Co. frequently collaborates with nearby Woodstock Brewery, with a ‘guest tap’ at Woodstock’s location. Visitors making the trip on a Friday would do well to visit both. Drifter Brewing’s head brewer started in the Portland, Oregon brewing scene so it’s no surprise the that the brewery features a West Coast-style IPA. Drifter also features several experimental brews including a coconut-infused ale and a brew that highlights the fruit of South Africa’s baobab tree. Drifter’s tasting room is only open on Fridays and tours are by advanced reservation only.
5. Banana Jam Cafe
Banana Jam isn’t a brewery, but it is the first and most celebrated craft beer bar in Cape Town with over 30 craft beers on tap and 80 in the bottle — the widest selection in South Africa. Banana Jam is a must-see if you’re a beer enthusiast. The cafe offers the best selection, but also serves up fantastic Caribbean fare from jerk Chicken to Goat Curry. If beer isn’t your jam, the cafe also boasts one of the best rum collections outside of the Caribbean. A great place to stop and recharge after a half-day tour of the Mother City.