One week in South Africa is not enough!
Without considering flight duration (18 hrs each way departing from JFK through South African Air), we had exactly 7 days to explore South Africa. We spent most of our time in Cape Town, but rented a car to travel to some of the excursion sites. Below is a list of the top attractions in “The Mother City”. Regretfully, we were not able to do it all! But, here it goes!
We took a day to explore Simon’s Town, a charming beach community near Boulders Beach (where the penguins are!) about an hour away from Cape Town. We had Brunch at The Light House Café (which was delightful) and then headed to meet the penguins, which did not disappoint! These extraordinary creatures were super friendly and mesmerizing. Please keep in mind that Boulders Beach Penguin Colony is a sheltered beach where you can only see the penguins from the boardwalk. They charge a cover fee of R70, which goes towards the protection and research of the penguins. However, if you want to see the penguins up-close, you could go to Seaford Road by Café Penguino and head to the beach that’s there. The penguins will most likely be there late afternoon or early morning. Since there is no barrier between you and the penguins, please be mindful of their space, do not feed them, hold them or disrupt their natural habitat.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to make it to some of the bigger game reserves such as Kruger. But we did manage to visit Aquila, a smaller reserve about 2 hours Northeast of Cape Town. The Aquila Safari has beautiful landscapes and although it had a smaller population of animals, we managed to see four out of the Big Five and more. We spotted Lions, Rhinos, Buffalos, Elephants, Giraffes, & Zebras! The whole experience was breath taking and exhilarating. Best part of the experience was being chased around by a baby elephant!
Oh, my wine! We booked a day trip to the Stellenbosch Wine Country, about 45 minutes from Cape Town, and visited four wineries. The wine tasting was exquisite, informative and ample at each respective winery. My favorite winery was Fairview Wine and Cheese. Fairview makes their cheese in-house to pair with their rich but very affordable wines.
According to Google, this was supposed to be an “easy hike”. It might be an easy hike for a professional rock climber. It’s safe to say that I am not a professional rock climber. So, the hike started off flat and comfortable. That only lasted about 15 minutes. The rest of the 1 hour long hike was quite adventurous. My advice to anyone that decides to do this hike is to not make the same two mistakes I did. Do not attempt to do this hike under the hot, afternoon African sun. Secondly, do not always believe the recommended route is the “easiest”route. It took me an extra 30 minutes to get to the top of Lion’s Head using the “recommended route”. However, the view was worth the wild hike. It was absolutely breathtaking to see Cape Town from what it felt as the top of the world.
After climbing Lions Head, which was supposed to be the ‘easy hike’, we opted for taking the cable cars at Table Top both ways. The first day we attempted to go to Table Top, the queue was so long, we got discouraged and left. We decided to buy the tickets online for the “Sunset Special” instead, which did not disappoint. The views were mind-blowing and going up to 3,500 ft. above sea level on that cable car was a once in a life time experience. I would however, love to go back and actually hike Table Mountain during the day.
Camps Bay is a stunning beachfront suburb of Cape Town. If I get the opportunity to head back to Cape Town I would definitely stay in this area rather than on Long Street (the party street of Cape Town). This scenic community has great restaurants and views that will leave you wanting to stay forever.
We spent a lot of time at the V&A Waterfront, a harbor mall now considered one of the biggest attractions of Cape Town. It offers a dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain, has some unique shops, bars, and delicious restaurants like City Grill. The meal at City Grill was one of the best we had in Cape Town. They offer a variety of game meat for the adventurous eaters.
Cape Point is the southern most tip of Africa and promises beautiful and breathtaking sceneries. We drove there one afternoon after visiting the Penguins at Boulders beach, but by the time we made it there it was already closed. We did however, encountered some fascinating baboons right outside the entrance, which was in itself a highlight!
Shark Diving X
Shark Diving was one of the main reasons we wanted to go to South Africa. We wanted to see The Great White Sharks in their natural habitat. However, the timing was not in our favor. There were Orcas around, which scared away the sharks. We passed by the excursion site every day to ask if the sharks were back. But inopportunely, they were still hiding by the time we had to get back to the States. Sorry to say, this will have to be a next time adventure for us.
Test Kitchen X
Kitchen is a famous Cape Town restaurant that seats a small amount of people and is booked all year round. They take reservations three months out in advance. I called every day and pulled every string to try to get a table for four here, and it just didn’t happen. A friend also told me about La Colombe, which is supposed to be less famous and better food than Test Kitchen, but that too was booked solid for months. I recommend if you are going to South Africa, to plan your visit to these restaurants at least four months before and not wait until last minute like us.
Muizenberg Beach X
Muizenberg Beach is one of Cape Town’s most well-known beaches, situated on the warm Indian Ocean with colorful and faultless landscapes. Sadly, we did not have enough time to go here either, another reason to go back to stunning South Africa.
Robben Island X
Robben Island is the jail where political prisoners, like Nelson Mandela, were held and one of South Africa greatest history lesson. Again, another thing we didn’t get to check off our list. Maybe we were just a little lazy, since we spent a lot of time at Victoria & Alfred Water front, and the Island is only a ferry ride away from there. But again, definitely a must do for the next time.
The Bo Kaap X
The Bo Kaap is supposedly, the most photographed Instagram town. This vivid and colorful neighborhood has rich culture with roots as old as Cape Town itself is also another reason to return to “The Mother Land”.
Overall, I feel shortchanged with our time in South Africa. Now that I am more knowledgeable and familiar of this gorgeous country, I must go back without the need of rushing. Please learn from our mistakes and allow yourself as much time as you can to visit this amazing country.
Thanks for reading!