Brought to you by South African Tourism.
Having the opportunity to see and experience different parts of the world is one of life’s great pleasures.
And for me – going to South Africa is the very highlight of my travels.
Having spoken to people who had also visited the country in advance of my trip, I’ll admit that my expectations were sky-high: stunning landscapes, an array of second-to-none watersports, wildlife, bustling cities… there was plenty I wanted to get stuck into.
And thankfully, when I did arrive on South African soil, it entirely lived up to all my hopes – and in unexpected ways too.
The cuisine in South Africa is truly exceptional – probably the best food I’ve eaten abroad, in fact. The country combines a whole load of delicious influences – think French, African, Indian, and Malaysia flavours. Divine!
And, of course, there is the country’s famed barbecue: a traditional al fresco braai is a must for anyone travelling to the region – not just for the actual fare but also for the entire experience.
For those not familiar, a braai involves grilling food over hot coals. Ideally, you’ll sit around the fire to eat, talk, eat, make new friends, and… eat. Typical food enjoyed includes boerewors (a type of sausage), steak, lamb, chicken and sometimes even game. Sides and veggie-friendly offerings include baked potatoes and corn on the cob.
My words of advice are to arrive HUNGRY: you will get plenty of food.
The variety of hotels, hostels, guest-houses, and self-catering properties on offer in South Africa is fantastic – and I was really impressed with value you can get too.
For something a little more indulgent, however, on a drive towards Durban I stayed at the Zimbali hotel for a night. To this day, I maintain that it was the most wonderful spot I have ever stayed in.
We had our own lodge that had a balcony overlooking a stunning view of a forest and lake (I had a feeling of being submersed in wilderness despite being just a few steps from another building).
For good measure, the hotel also had an infinity pool, another pool right beside the sea, and access to the beach. Heaven!
Some people think of South Africa and immediately think of safaris – but the cities are bustling, a fusion of different cultures, and full of excursions, activities, and sights and sounds.
Case-in-point being Durban, a city of 600,000 people on the eastern coast that I visited and loved.
From this metropolis you can do the likes of swimming with sharks, walking on the Bay Of Plenty beach, and eating and drinking like royalty in some seriously amazing eateries and bars. The Durban Botanic Garden is also world-class while at the Moses Mabhida stadium (built for the 2010 World Cup) you can take tour of the grounds or else ride on a SkyCar to the top of the stadium’s iconic arch for spectacular views of the city.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a museum and gallery nerd – and South Africa certainly offered me plenty to whet my appetite. The Zeitz Museum Of Contemporary African Art, for example, opened less than two years ago in Cape Town and houses the world’s largest collection of contemporary African art. Some 9,500 sq metres in size, it spans nine floors and has a rooftop sculpture garden.
Staying in Cape Town, the perfume museum is considered among the best in the world of its kind. It contains around 5,000 bottles – including one from ancient Rome that is more than 2,000 years old. Needless-to-say, there is an array of incredible smells on offer, as well as great insight into the history of perfume.
Otherwise, the Heart Of Cape Town museum is dedicated to the world’s first heart transplant, which took place in the city in 1967.
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If you’re flying in or out of Johannesburg, make sure to make time for a spot of shopping. In fact, the city is often deemed the best for retail therapy across the entire continent (so it would be shame to miss out!).
For something different, 27 Boxes is a collection of shipping-crate boutiques that champion local design and production. And when you get hungry – there are fab restaurants too as well as bursts of live music.
Sandton City is a large complex complete with Coach, Bang & Olufsen, Jimmy Choo, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Armani Jeans, Zara, and Nike as well as jewellers, restaurants, hairdressers, and nail bars.
For something less mainstream, the Neighbourgoods Market takes place on Saturdays in Braamfontein. It’s a two-storey, red brick warehouse and has plenty of local ware including hand-crafted furniture, ceramics, jewellery not to mention fruit, vegetables, and snacks.
In such a diverse and vast country, I’ll admit it’s tough to tease out only a handful of South African highlights.
Whatever you decide on doing, however, there is a real sense of hospitality that will strike a chord with Irish people: the South African ubuntu is a philosophy that champions humanity towards others… and to this day it’s there in bucket-loads across almost every walk of life.
Brought to you by South African Tourism.