Cox & Kings Customer Review: South Africa
Cox & Kings Customer Review: South Africa
There’s something about South Africa that makes you want to smile, says Ninan Oommen. With fascinating historical sites, vibrant bazaars, dramatic landscapes, rugged wildlife and a mishmash of cultures, the Rainbow Nation had been on his bucket list for years. Some research and a lot of planning later, he and his wife were ready for their South African sojourn. Read about it here, and if you’re keen on perfection, try Cox & Kings’ South African Adventure for the complete experience.
All Photo Credits: Ninan Oommen
Day 1: Touchdown in South Africa
We touched down in Cape Town, excited for our holiday but tired after a 16-hour flight from India. A prominent economic centre, Cape Town is considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities, with breath-taking harbours and, of course, the Table Mountain. We headed to our hotel for a quick bite and some rest before going out to explore the city’s relaxed, multi-racial paradoxical character. It was fun strolling about the city, interacting with warm locals at the nearby eatery and hearing their take on the city’s rich heritage.
Day 2: Exploring Cape Town
We woke up to a sumptuous breakfast and quickly readied to explore the many sights and sounds of the city. A short drive later, we were at the base of Table Mountain waiting for the cable cars that would take us to the top for a breath-taking view of the town and its surroundings. We’re glad we braved the long queues, because the trip and the view from the top was an amazing, wonderfully awe-inspiring sight!
Once back down, we visited the Malay Quarter, strolled across the majestic V&A Waterfront, stood in line for the Cape Giant Wheel, and shopped at the famous Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. We stopped at Nobel Square and posed with larger-than-life statues of South Africa’s four Nobel laureates, standing proud against the Table Mountain. All in all, it was a busy but fantastic day!
Day 3: Wine, Cheese & A Culinary Adventure
While there was still a lot to see and do in Cape Town, we opted to explore its legendary vineyards, which have a 300-year tradition of wine-making. The tour started off in style with wine and cheese at the town of Paarl, with its iconic Dutch architecture and the scenic Paarl Wine Route. By mid-day we’d reached the Franschhoek, also known as the country’s gourmet capital, just in time for a freshly prepared lunch and some much-needed rest.
Finally, we visited the renowned Stellenbosch Vineyards, one of the country’s leading wine producers and exporters with its unique portfolio of exceptional brands. We spent a couple of hours at the grand 15,000-hectare estate, learning about the different types of wines and sampling the best wine and cheese combinations and it was a while before we were ready to call it a day.
Day 4: Road Trip & A Sunset Cruise
Rested, we made an early exit from Cape Town, heading east along the scenic Garden Route towards Knysna. After the long drive, we were ready to be pampered and that’s exactly what happened once we reached our final destination.
After checking into the hotel, we left for a private sunset cruise aboard the John Benn, a double-decker heritage boat that is also one of the best floating restaurants in Knysna. We enjoyed great food and an even better view as the sun set over the horizon. It tends to get a bit chilly once the sun sets, so you may want to carry a light jacket or cardigan along with you.
Day 5: The Best Of Nature & Wildlife
On our agenda today was the intriguing city of Oudtshoorn, also known as the world’s Ostrich Capital, where we got to interact with the magnificent birds on an ostrich farm. This town is also famous for the spectacular Cango Caves, Africa’s largest cave system that extends over 5kms. Sculpted by nature, these amazing limestone formations are said to have been inhabited over 80,000 years ago and are counted among one of the world’s greatest natural wonders today.
We also had quick stop-overs at the Monkey Land Sanctuary, Birds of Eden and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary. Apart from being the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary, Monkey Land has a 128-metre suspended canopy bridge that is a thrill to cross.
Next door stands the Birds of Eden, the world’s largest free-flight bird aviary (50 meters high and covering 23,000 square meters of forest), which has more than 280 species of African birds.
A few kilometres away is Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, home to big cats such as lions (both white and tawny), cheetahs, tigers (Siberian, Bengal and white), leopards (spotted and black), jaguars, pumas, caracals, and other animal species such as zebra, springbuck, honey badger and various snake species.
Day 6: Big Five In The Wilderness Experience
Today, we visited the 11,000-hectare Gondwana Private Game Reserve. A genuine free-roaming Big Five reserve, this is also home to a number of smaller animals and exotic birds. After sampling some mouth-watering delicacies at the lodge, we set out for an afternoon game drive, which was three hours of exciting scenes and stunning wildlife.
Day 7: A Fantastic Day In The Wild
We woke up to the sound of animals and the wind through the trees. The malaria-free Gondwana Game Reserve is set near the Outeniqua mountains, close to Mossel Bay along the Garden Route. The private reserve has the distinction of being the only Big Five fynbos (a cape floral kingdom) in the world.
We had fun on both our morning and afternoon game drives across the open grasslands and indigenous fynbos and encountered a wide variety of wildlife. Apart from the Big Five, this reserve is a refuge for a number of endangered species like the cape mountain zebra and the south-central black rhino.
Day 8: A Colourful City of Contrasts
After a thrilling day in the wild, we were ready to leave for Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest and most vibrant city. Once we’d checked into our hotel, we set out to explore the many tourist attractions and incredible entertainment and leisure options on offer. It was fun soaking in the city’s contrasts, from shiny shopping malls to pop-up street markets, and interesting but peaceful museums to the fast-paced city life.
We also made sure we visited Soweto, home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Southwest of the city, this suburban area was at the forefront of the fight against apartheid.
Day 9: Bidding Adieu To The Golden City
Staying out late the previous night meant we woke up later than usual, just in time for a filling breakfast. As we packed up and left for the airport, we had a bittersweet moment, where we were eager to return home but reluctant to bid farewell to the gentle, fun people of South Africa.
Its colourful culture, upbeat music and warm people left us with memories we will never forget. Believe me when I tell you that if you want to enjoy this country to the maximum, a short South African package is not an option!
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About The Author
Ninan is a retired professional, who finds ways to indulge his passion for travel and storytelling. Since his first taste of travel at the age of 16, he has been to over 20 countries and stacked up a lot of happy memories. When he’s not chasing his dreams, he spends his time reading, watching educational/travel TV shows, supporting social causes and playing scrabble.