South Africa - a penguin paradise
Updated: Apr 13
After a few days in Zimbabwe and Botswana (read about my trip here), that was it -I knew then and there that I had been forever bewitched. The magic of Africa had permeated my skin and touched my soul and I could not be more excited about what was next on the itinerary, Cape Town, South Africa.
We landed in the port city in the evening, travelling in from Victoria Falls and hopping in a taxi straight to our hotel, the Hilton City Centre. This is a cosy, decently priced hotel with a rooftop pool, tasty breakfast and beautiful views of the colourful Malay quarter of Bo-Kaap which is worth a stroll.
You may have heard the stories about the safety concerns in Cape Town, and more widely in South Africa, and I have to say that you do need a higher level of care than usual and fewer valuables on you (!)
As it was rather late, we got an Uber (of which there are plenty and they are the safest way to travel in my opinion) and headed straight to Hard Rock Cafe, which is located in a beautiful spot in the affluent suburb of Camps Bay overlooking the sea...or in our case, the sea at night. More to follow on that...
The following day we woke up to glorious sunshine (the seasons are similar to California and at the end of October you are looking at gentle, early summer temperatures).
We were picked up by our tour guide and off we went to see the famous Table Mountain National Park, home to over two thousand plants and flowers native to the mountain. My prize for the cutest inhabitant, however, definitely goes to the Cape Hyrax. You can hike to the top if you're fit and brave, or you can take the panoramic cableway which offers 360-degree views by slowly rotating. The most photographed attraction in South Africa is an absolute must for a new visitor.
We next walked through the city centre and to the Company's Garden before returning to our hotel and getting a drink at the nearby Greenmarket Square, a trendy eating and drinking spot. We hopped in an Uber and once again we went to Camps Bay, this time in daylight taking in the beauty of the coast and the wide smiles on the faces of the other people enjoying it. We went for a drink at the hottest spot on the block, Chincilla Rooftop, an elegant beach bar great for a buzzing atmosphere and unbeatable sunsets.
After the pre-dinner drink, it was time to attempt the world-famous South African braai (meaning grill) which had to be a steak. To this day, this particular meal remains the best I've ever had (yes, I stand by my statement!) at Kloof Street House. The food, the charm of the place and the hospitality of the staff were simply perfect; I can still close my eyes and imagine I'm there, in the magic of it all.
The following day we had booked a trip (if you rent a car, you can do the same at your own pace!) to the Cape of the Good Hope, Bartholomew Dias' discovery dating back to the 15th century and most south-western point of the African continent. The entire area here is a natural park and the views are simply spectacular.
On the way back, we FINALLY stopped at Boulders Bay in Simon's Town, a small beach that the smallest and only African penguin breed calls home. To this day I remain surprised by my strength to come back to the UK rather than camp out on the beach with them for the rest of my days.
The next day we organised another trip to the South African wine region, Stellenbosch which is as big as it is beautiful - if you have been to Tuscany imagine its bigger brother, or better yet, its uncle. We stopped at Marianne Wine Estate for a tasting and enjoyed the mesmerising hills, wines and lemon plantation; it is a truly special place.
In the evening we went to a secret gin bar in the centre intuitively named the Gin Bar and accessible via a front chocolate shop, before heading to dinner at Clark's Bar and Dining Room, technically a cafe with unpretentious food to die for (and by the way, it has a pizzeria attached to the back which was absolutely packed at all times!).
The next morning we visited the District Six Museum, which offers a fascinating and tragic learning experience about human resilience, before heading to the most beautiful and my personal favourite, La Colombe restaurant for their tasting menu. The atmosphere here coupled with the art they call food make for a truly remarkable experience.
We followed with a walk through the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden located at the foot of Table Mountain before going out in the evening for drinks and music with an old friend turned Cape Town resident on the famous Long Street (WARNING - do not do this without a friend or resident as there have been incidents with tourists in the past with phones and money being stolen).
This was it, folks! I was extremely sad to have to leave one of the most magical places I encountered, however, since the next stop of my autumnal multicenter trip was Mauritius (read about it here), I somehow managed to survive :) But jokes aside, South Africa is an absolute gem and I cannot wait to go back and visit the safari parks, eat more delicious food and drink the beautiful wine from Stellenbosch.