THE BIG COUN­TRY

South Africa has enough mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences to last a life­time writes Tracey Bond.

Herald on Sunday - - SOUTH AFRICA -

South Africa has so much to of­fer it is worth tak­ing your time to ex­plore as much of the coun­try as pos­si­ble: from be­ing awo­ken on sa­fari by the roar of a lion to din­ing on spec­tac­u­lar seafood over­look­ing the place where the At­lantic and In­dian oceans meet. Cape Town

Cos­mopoli­tan Cape Town is dom­i­nated by Ta­ble Moun­tain, which tow­ers over the pic­turesque squares and colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture. Cape Town is the only city in the world where the sun rises and sets over the ocean.

What to do: You can hike up Ta­ble Moun­tain if you have the time and the en­ergy, or you can take the re­volv­ing ca­ble car up to the sum­mit. Ei­ther way you’ll be re­warded with stun­ning views.

Be aware that the weather can change quickly and bad weather can close the route for safety rea­sons at any time. Look out for dassies — a close rel­a­tive of the ele­phant which is also known as a rock badger, they like to sun them­selves on rocky out­crops at the top.

At Green Square, stop for some sou­venirs (bar­gain­ing is ex­pected) and take in the ar­chi­tec­ture and his­tory in the area.

Take a stroll along the V&A Water­front — a thriv­ing area of bars, restau­rants, shopping and mu­se­ums. If you get there early enough you might be lucky enough to see seals frolick­ing in the har­bour.

This is where you get the ferry over to Robben Is­land. How to get around: A hop-on-hop-off bus takes in most of the sites in the area. Where to eat: For food with a 360-de­gree view of Cape Town head along to The Pot Luck Club, with its in­no­va­tive shar­ing menu di­vided into five flavours: sweet, salty, sour, bit­ter and umami. Where to stay: The Silo is a se­ri­ously swanky ho­tel down by the V&A Water­front set in a for­mer grain silo. No two rooms have the same decor, as each one takes its theme from a piece of art­work. Where to party: Bars and restau­rants along the aptly-named Long St where peo­ple gather from Wed­nes­days on­wards to hang out into the early hours. Best place to take In­sta­gram: Bo Kaap with its cute, multi-coloured houses dat­ingfrom the late 1600s.

Around Cape Town

Cape Town is also a great jump­ing off point for winelands, sa­fari and amazing coastal drives.

Ex­plore the se­ries of bays be­low Ta­ble Moun­tain and hire a deck chair or beach bed at Camps Bay, grab a bite to eat at one of the many beach­side restau­rants and peo­ple watch.

Take a trip to Cape Point via Chap­mans Peak Drive — a stun­ning route that heads along the wind­ing road from Hout Bay.

Make sure to stop off at Boul­der’s Bay, home to a colony of en­dan­gered African Pen­guins and a con­ser­va­tion suc­cess story. From just two breed­ing pairs in 1982, more than 3000 birds have made this shel­tered bay their home. A se­ries of board­walks al­low vis­i­tors to get to within me­tres of the birds as they go about their daily life.

Carry on to the

Cape of Good Hope, where the In­dian and Pa­cific

Oceans meet.

En­trance to this part of the Ta­ble

Moun­tain

Na­tional Park is 135 Rand

(NZ$13.50) for adults, once in­side keep an eye out for ba­boons, eland and Im­pala.

Where to eat: Two Oceans Restau­rant, Cape of Good Hope: With amazing views over False Bay this award-win­ning restau­rant spe­cialises in sushi and seafood and is the per­fect place to look out over the ocean. On a sunny day, try to get a ta­ble out­side on the ex­pan­sive wooden deck. Best place to take

In­sta­gram: Boul­der’s Beach: what’s not to love about pen­guins?

Hoed­spruit

Part of the Greater Kruger Na­tional Park, Hoed­spruit is the gate­way to the Ka­pama pri­vate game re­serve and home to 42 species of mam­mals in­clud­ing the big five: lion, ele­phant, Cape buf­falo, rhi­noc­eros and the leop­ard.

What to do: Go on sa­fari and soak in the sights and sounds of the sa­van­nah. En­joy sun­down­ers in breath-tak­ing lo­ca­tions; get a birds-eye view of the wildlife in the park by tak­ing a hot-air bal­loon ride over the ma­jes­tic Drak­ens­berg moun­tain range. Learn about the part con­ser­va­tion plays in the lives of chee­tahs and watch the macabre bal­let of vul­tures feed­ing at the Hoed­spruit En­dan­gered Species Cen­tre.

Where to stay: One of the all-in­clu­sive

lodges in the re­serve. For next-level luxury check out Camp Jab­u­lani.

Best place to take In­sta­gram: It will be harder to de­cide what not to take a photo of (al­though putting your phone or cam­era away and ab­sorb­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence is highly rec­om­mended).

Jo­han­nes­burg

The sprawl­ing me­trop­o­lis of Jo­han­nes­burg is a city in the midst of com­ing to terms with its his­tory and rein­vent­ing it­self. What to do: Head to Vi­lakazi St in Soweto and visit Man­dela House to get a glimpse into the life of for­mer Pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela dur­ing the apartheid era from 1946 to 1962. For a dif­fer­ent view of Soweto take a bike tour. Head around the cor­ner to The Shack, one of the last she­beens in town and try the umqom­bothi (a tra­di­tional brew) and chat with the lo­cals. Adren­a­line junkies can bungee off the top of the cool­ing tow­ers at Chaf Pozi. Where to stay: At­tached to a big shopping cen­tre and within a stone’s throw of restau­rants is Sand­ton Sun. Where to eat: The Butcher Shop in Sand­ton fea­tures ev­ery meat known to man. Make sure to leave room for the malva, a tra­di­tional steamed honey sponge served with cus­tard. Where to party: Chaf Pozi in the heart of Soweto is the place to go to eat braai, drink lo­cal beer and learn some dance moves from the lo­cals.

Best place to take In­sta­gram: Ev­ery Satur­day, Arts on Main in the sub­urb of Mabo­neng is filled with amazing treats, great cof­fee, lo­cal artists and mak­ers. The vi­brant mar­ket over­flows on to the sur­round­ing streets which house stalls of sec­ond-hand books, hand­i­crafts and sou­venirs.

Dur­ban

From rolling green hills dusted with sugar cane to catch­ing some waves, Dur­ban is jus­ti­fi­ably known as the sun­shine state.

What to do: Spend some time at North Beach Pier watch­ing the dare­devil surfers leap­ing off the edge to paddle out to the break. If you fancy catch­ing a wave you can hire equip­ment on the beach front.

Take a town ship tour to learn about the his­tory of Dur­ban and how the lo­cal town ships were formed and learn some Zulu.

Visit Ma­hatma Gandhi’s house: Gandhi lived in South Africa for 11 years; you can visit his house and the site of his print­ing press and learn about his legacy.

What to eat: Try shisa nyama — a meal eaten us­ing hands which con­sists of braai (grilled meats), pap (po­lenta) and chakalaka (spicy veg­etable stew).

An­other great South African dish, which is cred­ited with be­ing cre­ated in Dur­ban, is Bunny Chow: chicken or mut­ton curry served in­side a loaf of bread. The bread soaks up the sauce and is very mor­eish. Best place to take In­sta­gram: Umh­langa, where you will find the highly in­sta­grammable Oys­ter Box Ho­tel (both in terms of ar­chi­tec­ture and de­li­cious food). The ho­tel has its very own light­house and a short walk away is the im­pres­sive, windswept Whale Bone Pier.

Where to party: The restau­rants and bars along Florida Rd are the place to be seen in Dur­ban.

Where to stay: There are plenty of ho­tels to choose from along Dur­ban’s beach front, in­clud­ing the Gar­den Court Ma­rine Court, which puts on a mean break­fast buf­fet. For a touch of luxury, stay at the Oys­ter Box Ho­tel in Umh­langa. Safety As with any trip abroad, use your com­mon sense; listen to lo­cals in the larger met­ro­pol­i­tan ar­eas, who will know which ar­eas are safe. Most of the pop­u­lar tourist ar­eas like V&A Water­front in Cape Town have safety of­fi­cers and in other des­ti­na­tion cities such as Dur­ban, there is a very vis­i­ble po­lice pres­ence around the beach. Leave your valu­ables at home but if you do take them, make use of the safe in your ho­tel room. Get­ting there Ap­ply­ing for a South African visa in New Zealand can be time-con­sum­ing and will re­quire a visit to ei­ther Welling­ton or Auck­land. Most air­lines will travel via Aus­tralia, which can make for a long trip. Tip­ping Tip­ping is ex­pected in South Africa. Ex­pect to add be­tween 10 and 15 per cent to your bill. On sa­fari 100 Rand (NZ$10) per ranger is a good guide. Be wary of your bags at air­port, porters will ex­pect and ask for a tip, even if you didn’t want your bags car­ry­ing in the first place.

Dur­ban is home to the most con­sis­tent waves in South Africa..

Pic­ture / 123RF

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