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Touring and exploring

First timers visit to South Africa

Lucy Jarvis June 27, 2018

I’ve been to many beautiful countries like Australia, the Philippines and Greece. I’ve seen gorgeous landscapes and some pretty impressive scenery in my time. However, nothing could prepare me for the sheer, raw beauty of South Africa. From the jagged mountains to the white sand beaches and rocky coastline, it really is a country that will take your breath away.

First impressions – what’s South Africa like?

I’d like to say that from the moment I’d got there I loved it, however, the heavens decided to open as soon as we stepped off the plane. When our guides handed us a glass of champers, they couldn’t hide their elation. They had just been through an awful drought which was starting to get critical, so they couldn’t have been happier as we were dragging our suitcases through puddles out the airport.

I became excited once we got closer to the beautiful Cape Whale Coast, the sun started to part the clouds and the beauty of the mountainous backdrop came into view.

Where did you stay on the Cape Whale Coast?

Our first couple of nights were spent at the gorgeous Grootbos Nature Reserve, and it was hands down the best place we stayed. As we shook hands and were given warm towels by smiley staff and walked through the lobby of the Forest Lodge where the entire side of the building is floor to ceiling window. 

Here, we were greeted by the most spectacular view of the hills blanketed with thousands of species of flora, all the way down to the dunes and the white sands of the beach. The ocean was a sparkling royal blue and with the backdrop of the mountains and the waves crashing, it made quite a lasting impression. The food at the reserve is some of the best I have ever tasted. If you are foodie like me, then Grootbos is the place for you.

As I stepped out onto my balcony the first morning, I couldn’t believe how quiet and tranquil it was. I could hear the trees swishing in the wind, birds whistling and the rolling waves on the beach.

The one thing that surprised me about Grootbos  was the amount things to do. I recommend horse riding, even if you are a novice. I had only been on a horse twice and was a little bit scared (to say the least) but the horses were very good-natured. We plodded along through the rich vegetation with the morning sun rising and warming our faces - the most perfect way to start the day.

What is shark cage diving like?  

Now I’d seen Jaws and many other terrifying shark movies. Therefore, the prospect of swimming with Great White sharks was terrifying. However the staff at the dive centre made you feel very safe. When you see the first HUGE sharks from the boat, it is exhilarating.

We were lowered into the cage, goggles on, wet-suited up and a weight-band around our shoulders to help us dive for a better look at the many teeth of these amazing creatures. I was buzzing. I would also say it's best to ignore all the awful YouTube videos before you go. The sharks aren’t likely to attack the cage. They are solely interested in the bait on the rope – not the humans in the cage. I do warn you however, if you are prone to sea sickness, then make sure you prepare as the boat can be very tippy.

Best thing about the Winelands?

All aboard the wine tram! This was one of the funniest and tipsiest parts of my trip – hopping on board the Franschhoek classic tram coach at 9.30 am. It’s a great way of taking in the stunning views of this fertile wine region and its beautiful vineyards.

When we arrived at a winery we hopped off the tram and into a trailer that was pulled along by a tractor. Each vineyard had its own character and beauty. Plus, they had a great selection of exceptional wines, delicious cheeses, fresh oysters and other yummy food. You sip your glass of Rose and learn the science behind the wine. All the while you are immersed in glorious scenery.

Is Cape Town  really one of the finest cities in the world?

Cape Town is simply stunning. Walking through the Victoria and Albert Waterfront on a Friday afternoon was something else – seals lolloped around in the harbour dodging incoming fishing boats, friends poured out of the food mart holding bundles of Biltong, music pulsated from bars; the marina was alive with people enjoying a cold glass of beer out in the South African sunshine. There is so much culture, vibrancy, amazing architecture and gorgeous oceanfront restaurants.

We visited beautiful Camps Bay and had cocktails while the sun set into the sea. If you are after a more of a tranquil coastal stay a short drive away from buzzing V&A Waterfront then I would certainly recommend you find one here.

What’s the view like from Table Mountain?

Go out with a bang, I say. One of the highlights for me was wondering around the top of the mighty Table Mountain. We had clear blue skies. After a short (but slightly terrifying) cable car ride up - which please be warned the floor of the cable car actually rotates so that you can get a 360 degree view.

We were all taken-aback by the views. I was expecting it to be really crowded. It is, after all, a very popular tourist destination, however there is are plenty of areas to absorb views of Cape Town, Robin Island and Cape Point. Without doubt a top Instagram opportunity.

What memories will you take away with you?

It was a trip of a lifetime. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to spend time in the most insanely-beautiful country. It has so much to offer for everyone; thrills, stunning coastline, amazing wildlife on land and in the sea, plus nightlife, fantastic food and wine, dramatic mountains, and don’t take my word for it – just go.




Try these suggestions for South Africa

If you can’t yet decide what you’re looking for, and need more advice and inspiration, visit these pages to begin your adventure.

Cape Winelands

South Africa

Cape Winelands

Cape Winelands
Elephant about to cross the road in Kruger National Park

South Africa Safaris

South Africa Safaris