Why South Africa Has To Be Your Next Vacation
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
It was the trip of a lifetime, and so much more than we could have ever expected. The beauty, the wildlife, the people, and oh the food, the most AMAZING food! I have to say, after this trip I couldn't agree more with Ernest Hemingway when he said, "I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy." Amazement pores from every crevasse of this beautiful country. There is so much to see and do from the extensive wildlife in Kruger National Park, the friendly people, great food, and beauty of Cape Town, and the delicious wines of Stellenbosch.
“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.” - Richard Mullin
We fist flew into Johannesburg from Atlanta and stayed the night before heading to Kruger the next morning. It was a 16 1/2 hour flight but totally worth it! Before going we did a lot of research on where to go, what to see, etc., and nothing really stood out for Johannesburg. After being there for just a few hours morning and evening we were happy we didn't spend much time there. There was a good bit of crime in the airport. We were advised not to take a taxi that wasn't assigned to you by airport staff. There were also a few thefts as well, so keep your belongings close. With all this said, we never felt like we weren't safe. Just make sure to take precautions wherever you travel.
The flight to Kruger National Park was by far the coolest flight you will ever take. Looking down from the air and watching herds of elephants crossing rivers and streets was something I could have never imagined! Once we arrived at the small half outdoor airport we were greeted by our safari driver to take us to our Jock Safari Lodge. Immediately you begin to see the vast amounts of wildlife, inluding the bats in the airport.
“It’s really beautiful. It feels like God visits everywhere else but lives in Africa.”
* Will Smith
As we rode to our lodge in the open air jeep you realize the animals appear everywhere. This is their home. This is not a zoo. They run free and for a short while you get to be apart of it. You become apart of their lives. There is no greater feeling. I promise you will never look at a zoo the same way again, you will never look at a captive animal the same again. The Kudo, Zebra, Buffalo, Giraffes, all out in the open as you pass them by, stop and take pictures, or just pause to marvel at them.
Once we arrived at Jock Safari Lodge we were greeted by their wonderful staff and given a tour of the lodge. The property is really great! it is completely enclosed so that you can walk around at anytime without being accompanied by staff like at some of the other lodges we looked at. The views are filled with animal sightings and the accommodations were fabulous. Each room comes with a plunge pool, outdoor shower, and outdoor day bed (which they will set up for you to sleep on at night if you choose). The nightly turn down service comes while you are at dinner and pulls down the mosquito nets around the bed each night and leaves a sweet treat for you. The staff was exceptional and ready to help make the our trip everything you want it to be.
Each morning you are woken by a wake up call from your safari driver (very early...like 5am!), and called to morning tea and coffee. I suggest you go to bed in something comfortable you can get up and just go in the morning. And then you are off to find the Big Five and whatever else you can find along the way. After the first morning when we didn't see any lions and a few other animals we had hoped to see our safari driver asked that we get up earlier the next morning (of course we were totally fine with this, because these animals are what you are there for). Each day the drivers would go out of their way to find something new and exciting. They would talk to each other through walkie-talkies and stop other drivers from different lodges to find where these animals were. They were a blessing, and our trip would not have been anywhere near as amazing without their hard work!
The Drive To The Lodge
After a few hours we were taken back to the lodge where an incredible breakfast was prepared each morning. Every Breakfast and dinner are eaten with your safari group and driver, lunch is eaten separately. You will spend a lot of time with your group and get to know each other well, it's a great part of the experience! Each meal is spectacular! Things I had never thought I would eat, I did and loved it (Luke will eat anything...you'll figure that out in some of our other posts). From ostrich tar-tar to warthog you will be pleasantly surprised with every bite, I know we were!
Between the morning and evening safaris we had some down time. Take a nap, get a massage, mingle, eat lunch, grab a drink, take a dip in the pool, whatever you want, just don't answer any emails. Yes they have wifi, but if you are working, you are missing the point!
Before each dinner you all come together and share your stories from the day while also sharing a drink and snacks (there are about three or four other groups in the lodge). What you each saw and are hoping to see the next day. Every other night there is a Boma, a South African style BBQ. Tables around a fire pit, traditional dancing, and buffet set up. On the other nights we ate in the restaurant area and were served dinner. In the entire time we were in the whole of South Africa, we never had an even okay meal, they were are fantastic and we would go back just for the food!
We stayed four days in Kruger. At first we thought maybe we had planned too much time there, but it was the perfect amount. It took us the whole time to see everything we had come to see. Also, we were there in early September (coming off of their winter). SA can be very lush and green in certain months and very dry in others. The dry months are the best time to go for animal viewing because there isn't a lot of water, therefore they have to travel out in search of it, and because it isn't lush with leaves and such the visibility is much better. On the down side, it is very hard on the animals. They don't have what they need readily available and they can suffer because of it.
The Food at Jock
Once we our time was up at Kruger we were off the Cape Town, and the next great adventure! Of all the places we have ever visited, Cape Town is probably our favorite. We loved it so much that while we were there we started looking at houses online and talking about retiring to this beautiful city (yes, it was that great). From the food (I guess by now you have probably figures our that we are foodies, lol), the wonderful people, the vast beauty of Table Mountain, the shopping, entertainment and so, so, so much more.
Lets start with the food and the wine (of course)! First of all just about every restaurant in South Africa has a sommelier (someone who pairs wine with food), and this is a free service. South Africa is a culinary destination if I have ever seen one. Some of the worlds top chefs reside here. Not to mention SA has 270 thousand acres of vineyards, and in 2003 held the title of 17th in the world for planted vine area according to Wikipedia. The wine that they are most know for is Pintage, and it is AMAZING. So just think, everytime you sit down to eat, there is someone there that knows just the perfect glass to pair with your dish, making your meal all the better.
The price of everything in SA is incredibly cheap. You won't beleive what you can get for your money there. One night we went out to a highly rated restaurant and got two appetizers, two (very large) bone in filet mignons, two bottles of wine (which again were paired for us), and a desert and it was under $100 American dollars with tip (and we tip well)!!! How can you beat that?
One meal after another after another down the hatch, we couldn't get enough. We gained so much weight on this trip and it was so worth it!
A Glimpse Into The Food Of Cape Town
With all this talk of wine I can't leave you without telling you about Stellenbosch, aka wine country. If you do any excursion while in Cape Town, tour Stellenbosch. We took a group tour that picked us and several others from the hotels in the area and drove us up to Stellenbosch. Our guide gave us a history of the area and talked about the different types of wines that are made from the vines grown in the area. We stopped at five vineyards along the way and were able to do tastings, learn about the different wines and how to taste them, and purchase any bottles we may like. Lunch was served at one of the vineyards and snacks and chocolates at the others. The wines were divine and so was the experience. Honestly, if we were to do anything different WHEN we go back one day, it would be to spend more time in this area.
All of the vineyards were great, but one of them was very interesting for completely different reasons. Annandale vineyard is where the wine was made for Prince Albert of Monaco and wife Charlene's wedding in 2005. She is South African and wanted their wedding wine from there. Another very cool fact about this vineyard, is that the owner Gerhard Hempies is a 5th generation wine maker and a very famous rugby player for SA, and we got to not only meet him but he was able to sign the bottles that we bought from him which made an amazing souvenir to bring home.
Oh, and by the way, almost every vineyard had at least one fury creature to keep you company along the way.
The Animals Of Stellenbosch
I guarantee you if you do all this, you will have one of, if not THE most amazing trip of your life! We think of going back every day. But if you are a risk taker and this just isn't quite enough then you will love what is up next...
The Shark Cage! SA is known to have Great White Sharks...
One of the most daring things we have ever done and we would do again in a heart beat! We took a tour with Marine Dynamics. They picked us up at our hotel and after about an hour drive we arrived at Kleinbaai. After a quick briefing we bundled up and headed out on the boat. The cage was strapped to the side of the boat and one group at a time we suited up and climbed in. The water was cold, but I think I shivered more from excitement from anything. As we were instructed to make what were supposed to me seal sounds under water they threw the chum out to try to lure them in, four of them to be exact. When they signaled we ducked under water and waited to see the magnificent creatures approach our cage and they didn't fail. One of them came up from the bottom, grabbed onto the chum lure and wouldn't let go, thrashing up against our cage, showing us all its rows of sharp deadly teeth before swimming away. And the best part, we got it all on our GoPro which you can see on our Facebook page and in the Gallery section of this site, please hit the like button! (That's Luke gasping for air and me of course right there beside him screaming, "that was so cool.") The still photo is one we froze from the Shark Cage video.
As we drove back to our hotel we stopped and saw the whales (which unfortunately we didn't get any pictures of). A very cool experience though. There are a bunch of excursions you can sign up for that will take you out specifically to whale watch. We didn't do it due to time, but it's something I would plan for our next trip.
All in all South Africa was INCREDIBLE! We couldn't recommend it enough! There are so many wonderful things to see and do, eat and drink, explore and plenty of places and time to relax. It's beauty goes with compare. To see these large animals roaming free, walking next to your vehicle, basking in the sun as you drive by is an experience like no other. Drinking wine with 5th generation (or more) wine makers. If this wonderful place hasn't made it onto your bucket list yet, it should. There is truly something for everyone here.
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