Type: adventure & luxury
Best from: Johannesburg
You need: 5 days
A popular African saying goes: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle — when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Africa is a nation stretching its extremities. And nowhere on the continent do you see this duality more sharply than in South Africa. The starkness of a young developing country transforms into the sophistication of a nation that wears its luxury with panache, just at the turn of a street corner.
Nelson Mandela’s nation, that emerged glowing out of the Apartheid, is today as much a country struggling to find its feet as it is a nation filled with sunshine, laughter and hope. Travel through the length of South Africa and let the pristine white beaches, breathtaking wildlife and delicious food lift your spirits.
Land at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo international airport and take a connecting flight to Cape Town international airport. From there it’s a short drive down to South Africa’s Cape coast. Cape Town is love at first sight. With its sprawling white beaches dotted with cafés and bars overflowing with fun, the awe-inspiring Table Mountain and of course, the picturesque drive down to the Cape of Good Hope — this is a city for everyone.
The best place to stay would be the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The award-winning Table Bay Hotel here is subtle opulence. Overlooking the stunning azure Atlantic waters lined with sailboats, yachts and speedboats, you should begin with their high-tea, with the gulls for company. Spend day one in Cape Town on a walking tour. The Malay quarters are sloping lanes with adjoining houses painted in different colours. From bright reds to pale yellows, it’s proof of Cape Town’s ethnic yet cosmopolitan cauldron.
Drive up to the Table Mountain summit, take the cable air up and down if you wish, and simply soak in the sprawling, wind-swept blue-and-green
views. Linger around at one of the many cafes along Camps Bay, Cape Town’s plush ocean-laced locality, and spend the evening soaking in the atmosphere. South Africa is a young country, the people are out to have fun, leave the political baggage behind, start afresh and drink up their Hunter’s Dry beer.
Head back to the waterfront and walk through the shopping plaza. With its Burberry, Armani and Gucci brands, the Victoria and Alfred plaza could be Milan. End your first day on the continent with dinner at The Conservatory. A candle-lit dinner with views of the glittering bay in the backdrop and spicy Cape Malay cuisine — could life get any better?
The Cape of Good Hope
Begin day two in style. Take a helicopter ride across the Table Mountain. The mist enveloping the plateau, a natural wonder of the world and aerial views of fairytale Cape Town, promise you the oohs and aahs. Then, begin the journey to the Cape Peninsula. Driving through the winding mountains, your car almost hugging a foaming ocean, the journey is so picture-postcard perfect that you have thoughts of second homes and relocations.
Your first stop has got to be Seal Island, off False Bay. Take a cruise with champagne on the deck and bob through the fairly strong currents to get a glimpse of the gentle creatures. When you reach their rock home, you are greeted with hundreds of seals snorting, basking upside down in the sun, cubs frisking in the waters around their island and huge loveable creatures lounging around. Noisy and happy — the atmosphere rubs off on you as the natives sing and dance to welcome you back on shore.
The ferry wharf is also a fun (and bargain happy) place to shop for African knick-knacks. You can pick up masks, forks and spoons, ostrich eggs and curios will remind of this beautiful land. Drive through some more gorgeous scenery, and the next stop is penguin land. These are much smaller, stouter little ones ambling on their rock in dozens. The adorable black-and-white creatures are as shy as the seals were boisterous. Wondering what brings penguins here from their chilled lands? Well, the Antarctic currents here are cold enough for them to enjoy waddling around.
Grab some authentic South African fare of fish-and-chips or ostrich kebabs at one of the bustling cafés by the sparkling sea and drive on. Ostrich farms beckon. Benign as these furry, elegant long-necks seem, they are ferocious birds and prone to attacking. After the eventful day, when you reach the serene southern-most tip of the Cape Peninsula, you reach the Cape of Good Hope.
Located in the Table Mountain National Park, you could take the funicular up to the peak. If it’s possible (and it is) the views are even more breathtaking. Interestingly, the cape was named the Cape of Storms, before it got its current name. Later, it was named so for the opening up of trade routes to India and the East from the African continent and hence, providing good hope to seafarers of yore. Walk around, and discover hidden alcoves beaches and romantic hideaways. Just remember to leave the Park by closing time, else fines are due.
Whether you choose to stay three nights or thirty (yes, there are service / rented apartments within all budgets), the Cape Town guarantee claims you will never tire of its beauty.
After a few days of tranquil bliss, it’s time to up the ante. Sun City is the luxurious yet raw, unadulterated side of Africa, with its proximity to the Pilanesberg National Park. It is also Africa’s kingdom of pleasure. Casinos are open all night as are adventure water parks, Segway safaris, elite restaurants and even walks with the lions.
At Sun City, a tropical paradise of luxury, spend your first day lounging around the pool or water park with some international cocktails for company. As the sun sets, dress up for dinner at The Villa, a premier Italian restaurant and indulge in flavourful smoked salmon, melting risottos and tiered desserts. Then, head to the casinos. World-class, you could Blackjack your night away here. Don’t miss a taste of some African wines.
Pilanesberg National Park
While Kruger may be the more famed African safari with various bush-stays, Pilanesberg’s much smaller. This means that if you go for at least three safaris — morning and noon (a night safari is recommended only if you are a skilled watcher or simply for the thrill of it), you are almost sure to catch a glimpse of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino)and more.
Early morning safaris are great for bird-watching, while the benefit of afternoon trips is that you can get a glimpse of the dusk and the African bush after dark. Hardly do you enter the park that you come across packs of kudu and stripped zebras grazing away. Follow the radio-trail of your guide and it is most likely that you will spot lions in the grasses. Cubs are adorable but more difficult to spot. The cheetah or leopard, of course, are the most elusive and you’ve got to be really lucky to spot them.
Then, there are herds of big-eared African elephants. Running to the watering holes, little ones trying to keep pace and kicking up a stand-storm in the bargain, these gentle giants will leave you gaping at their grace. At the watering holes, watch out for hippos immersed, with only the tops of their heads bobbing above.
Rumble on and you will meet the African white one-horned rhinos — majestic, calm animals that completely seem to ignore your presence. Finally, as dusk falls, we are privileged to stumble upon a group of giraffes. Grazing from tree-tops and galloping across the mud-paths, these beauties seem almost surreal. Innocent eyes, cocked ears and that long, graceful body, the giraffe is almost a mystical animal.
The thrill of an open vehicle, the wind in your hair and the connect of being a part of the African wilderness, are what Pilanesberg is all about.
As you lie back in your elephant-themed suite overlooking the forest at The Palace of The Lost City on your final day in South Africa, it’s the thrill of the wilderness and the spray of the ocean in your face that will be your most cherished memories.
Where to stay
Luxury: Palace of the Lost City, Sun City, is one of the most luxurious hotels in South Africa, inspired by an African fairytale palace and resplendent with wild embellishments and every luxury you wish.
Log on to: http://www.sun-city-south-africa.com/palace-of-the-lost-city
Mid-range:The Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, located right on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, offers gorgeous views of Table Mountain as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Opulence at pocket-friendly prices.
Log on to: http://www.suninternational.com/destinations/hotels/tablebay/pages/home.aspx /
Call: +27 11 780 7810
Budget: Whether you wish to stay in the City Bowl, Bantry Bay, Clifton or further up in the vineyards, there are several options in Cape Town. Try Bantry Bay Luxury, a self-serviced three-bedroom apartment.
Call: +27 21 438 9644 /
What to carry
Cape Town:This one is all about the good life. Ensure you have a bikini and a cool pair of shorts or capris, fun tops and sunglasses. Plus, you need to carry your pretty dresses for a night on the town, a pair of heels and some funky accessories. For guys, stay bohemian during the day and opt for the stylish for the evenings — no tuxedos here, just silk shirts, well-stitched pants and hair gelled back would suffice.
Sun City: Safaris need cool and warm clothing. Denims, pastel colours, a hat / cap and binoculars, if you own them. Don’t forget a bottle of water. The rest of your stay is all about casual understatements.
When to go
December to February
There are Mumbai-Johannesburg flights on South African airways. It’s a comfortable flight with enough legroom.
> Cape Town is fastest from O.R. Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.
> Cape Town to Sun City is an domestic
two-hour flight, plus a couple of hours by road. For all internal travel between cities, you may need to take connecting flights, rent a car (they drive on the left hand side of the road) or hire a cab.
Visa and travel
> South Africa Visa Application Centre, Apsara Complex, Fourth Floor, Dr. D.B Marg, Grant Road (East), Mumbai – 400007.
> South Africa Visa Application Centre, International Trade Tower, S-2 Level, Nehru Place, New Delhi - 110019.