South Africa


South Africa is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. I visited Cape Town and some of the surrounding areas, one of the country's nicest regions.

Cape Town is a beautiful city, set against the backdrop of fabulous Table Mountain. The V&A Waterfront is Cape Town's coolest spot, has a lively atmosphere and is full of restaurants, shops and entertainment options. The beautiful Company's Garden, originally set up by the famed Dutch East India Company as a supply point for its ships, is very nice for a leisurely walk and full of friendly characters - squirrels, cats, ducks and some cool-looking birds. Other nice spots in the city include the market at Greenmarket Square and Long Street.

One of the reasons one comes to Africa is its wildlife. There are some nice game reserves 1-2 hours away from Cape Town that have plenty on offer. I went to a safari at Inverdoorn and had a great time spotting lions, hippos, rhinos, elephants, oryx, gnus, giraffes, an ostrich and more. They also offer the chance to pet a cheetah, which was an amazing experience. The kitty was beautiful and relaxed, purring contentedly (and rather loudly). The fastest land animal on Earth, reaching speeds of up to 110 km/h, the cheetah is unfortunately threatened with extinction.

I wasn't prepared for how good the food in South Africa was. While not necessarily out of the ordinary in terms of ingredients, everything I had was very tasty and full of flavor. Biltong, the South African version of beef jerky, was also good.

Cape Town features some very fine beaches. Camps Bay was great both for the beach and for walking around. The Cape Peninsula is full of sights and attractions: the Bay Market in Hout Bay, Chapman's Peak drive, cool beaches all-around and the world-famous Cape of Good Hope were some of the things on my list. The latter is very cool, offering some incredibly scenic hikes (watch out for the baboons, though). Boulders Beach and its African penguin colony is also nice, as you get a chance to see the penguins from up close.

Another cool spot is Table Mountain, one of the oldest mountains on Earth, which is accessible by rotating "aerial cableway". The mountain also offers various hiking opportuinties as well as a large selection of South Africa's and the Cape Peninsula's unique flora. For more of it, head out to the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (don't miss the cool protea, the country's national flower).

Another reason you visit the region is for shark cage diving. I went with Marine Dynamics in Gansbaai and had a blast. We got to see about 8 3.5-4 meter sharks from up close. Sharks are fascinating creatures, and seeing one come directly at you and smash the underwater cage is a truly memorable experience; it's hard to describe unless you've lived it.

There's lots of other stuff to do in and around Cape Town. The noon gun on Signal Hill is fired every day at noon and includes a small ceremony that's pretty cool to watch (be prepared, the firing of the gun is incredibly loud which is even cooler). You can spend more time watching and petting cheetahs at the Cheetah Outreach Centre in Somerset West. In Big Bay you can get excellent views of Table Mountain while having some more amazing food at Moyo Restaurant.

There's lots of shopping too if that's what you like. Canal Walk is Africa's third largest shopping center; it is, indeed, huge.

South Africans call traffic lights robots, which I suppose is what they are. Someone providing directions might say "go down this street and turn left at those robots"; funny as hell.

Cape Town has some really friendly, open and fun-loving people (including some gorgeous dark-skinned beauties). I found South Africa a fascinating mix of people and cultures with a very unique and exciting vibe compared to places I've seen so far. It's easy to see why people who visit Africa absolutely fall in love with the continent, its people, cultures, food, wildlife, landscapes and everything else.

South Africa (and Africa in general, probably) is a place of contrasts. There were big differences between the poor and the middle class/rich, which is kind of sad. The issue of safety comes to mind when thinking about South Africa, but this was not a problem in Cape Town and the places we visited (provided you use common sense, drive more than walk around, are a little more careful than usual and strictly avoid high-risk areas, of which there are many). The townships looked grim and more than a bit scary, so avoid getting near them (check your GPS-suggested routes; sometimes the fastest option isn't the best). Traffic signs such as "Smash and grab hotspot", "Be vigilant", "High crime area, don't stop on the freeway" or "Danger zone" were a bit unsettling.

All in all, South Africa was absolutely amazing, a fantastic place to experience culture, food, wildlife and get a taste of the African continent.

Additional info:
- country entry on Wikipedia
- country profile on Wikivoyage

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South Africa

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