#MeetSouthAfrica. – “I love to be lost. To explore again places that may seem familiar …” I love this quote, how true of me and the country I get to call home.
There is nothing quite like travelling in our own backyard, especially when South Africa always guarantees diversity, charm and endless surprises. Which meant that spending a week with a group of dynamic, interesting and talented storytellers from around the world, whilst flying the flag for SA Tourism on the recent #MeetSouthAfrica road trip, had me reintroduced to the wonders on offer through their freshly inspired eyes.
The itinerary we followed was one perfectly suited to first time visitors to the country, offering an overview of Cape Town, the Winelands, a stop in Elgin and a safari in the Western Cape. All before we met up with the rest of the group in Durban for Tourism Indaba and the Travel Bloggers Conference.
Here I share a few of the highlights of our time together, in photos.
Cape Town – For me the journey began when the group gathered in Cape Town for introductions and that natural ease of conversation that always exists so readily when travellers meet.
We took free time walking around the V & A Waterfront, had lunch overlooking the marina and a ride through the city on the Hop On Hop Off Red Bus, always a good orientation. Destination – Table Mountain. As no trip to Cape Town is complete without a summit and walk about on this iconic landmark.
We were treated to the most vibrant skies, light and sunset that kept us there until the call came for the last cable car down. Dinner was a mix of rich flavours, soulful voices and rhythmic drums as we embraced the African culture GOLD Restaurant and by the end of the evening, we were friends on an adventure.
Peeping Dassie poses for Inma of A World To Travel.
Cape of Good Hope – A full day that highlighted the incredible natural beauty of Cape Town. Moody skies accompanied us to visit the cute African Penguins at Boulders Beach, before heading to the Cape of Good Hope. Here we had an incredible ostrich sighting as they drank water from rain puddles right next to the road … A special thing. Time at the lighthouse at Cape Point, South Africa meant the chance to look south, to where nothing but ocean greets you.
Lunch was a delicious mix of delicate flavours at The Foodbarn in Noordhoek, where renowned Chef Franck Dangereux has created a relaxed balance of ‘fine-dining’ style food in a characterful old barn.
From there a over scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive and back to the V&A Waterfront for a champagne cruise onboard the Esperance before dinner at The Cellars Hohenort The Conservatory. A day in the Mother city is rarely better than that.
Boulders Beach, the African Penguin.
Ostriches on a cold tar road.
East. West. Home is best.
Looking down at Diaz Beach from the Lighthouse at Cape Point.
Driving Chapman’s Peak Drive.
Shark Cage Diving and the Cape Winelands – We were up at 3am to make the drive through to Gansbaai, coffee in hand, for shark cage diving with White Shark Projects which yielded incredible sightings and had a few of the group in the cage for the close up experience.
We followed this with the calming magic of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, where we enjoyed a delicious brunch and some quiet time before making our way over Sir Lowry’s Pass to Spier Wine Farm. Here we were indulged with beautiful rooms, enjoyed a fun Segway tour of the property (don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it), a wine and chocolate tasting, followed by a delicious meal.
I did not want my time at Spier to end and look forward to my return.
The endangered great white shark. The estimate is that there are only about 3000 left in all the oceans.
The view from the dining room at Grootbos.
Elgin – Saying goodbye to the Cape Winelands we headed a little inland for a look at the Elgin Valley, or apple country as it is known. A slower pace built up on heartfelt hospitality, we started at Charles Fox MCC, South Africa’s only dedicated bubbly estate. Even the French in the group had to concede that it is at least as good as French champagne … Their brut is in my opinion, a triumph.
Then how better to spend a morning than with a ‘make your own pizzas’ at Old Mac Daddy matched with a tasting by William of Everson’s Cider of their wonderful locally produced craft cider. Old Mac Daddy really is a place to know about if ever you’re planning an escape to the country, with airstream trailers individually decorated for maximum fun and the Chef and Manager Jay ensuring all details are considered.
From there we hit the open road towards Gondwana Game Reserve where we were to spend three nights on Safari.
Charles Fox MCC
Old Mac Daddy, cider and make-your-own pizza. Also Jay experiencing what travel and food bloggers do. Yummy ice cream!
African Safari – No trip to South Africa is complete without a safari.
Which meant that our three nights at Gondwana Game Reserve were sheer bliss in the bush. Game drives brought endless rolling hills, trees, rich vegetation and birdlife. Also lion on a kill, zebra, giraffe, eland, wildebeest, kudu, wild cat and all sorts of other wonderful wildlife we were lucky enough to come across on our game drives.
Inbetween we feasted on fine food and heartfelt conversation, took over the lounge and curled up next to the fireplace. Also sought out the very best spot for wifi. But when the sounds of the wilderness beckons, it is admittedly hard to focus on the outside world. After all there is nothing quite like a safari to humble you and make you feel alive.
Durban Bound – And then the week was done and we flew into Durban to meet the rest of the group for a walk on the Golden Mile, the Travel bloggers Conference and Indaba 2015.
Thankful for these core South African experiences and to you wonderful people for allowing me to share them with you – The Hungry Australian, Madame Oreille, Gaía Passarelli and Voyages etc as well as our cameraman Jason Aldridge and SA Tourism host Mpho Cornelius. Video to follow.
May the road always be a little wild, the company inspiring and the beauty of our own back yard, richly revered.
Footnote: I was invited to join the MeetSouthAfrica campaign by invitation of South African Tourism, what an honour to have been part of your amazing team.