South Africa

South Africa

My two journeys to South Africa have taken me to vastly different parts of the country – Johannesburg, dubbed the ‘City of Gold’, and Cape Town, the so-called ‘Mother City’. Along the way, I’ve searched for ‘Big Five’ animals at national parks, delved into the nation’s harsh Apartheid-era past, and sipped wine in the shadows of stately Cape Dutch homes.

Below, you’ll find my clickable South Africa index, as well as destination-specific tips, accommodation, and transportation resources.


Click the index button below to see all my posts from South Africa.

south-africa-index

Table of Contents

General

Places


Cape Town and Beyond

  • Walk among the treetops, and stroll among ground-level blooms at the meticulously-maintained Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. You can picnic there independently or dine at the Tea Room. (The Tea Room had some delightful gluten-free desserts and hearty sandwiches, as well as a lovely tea selection.) Kirstenbosch is located at the eastern foot of Table Mountain.
  • Seek out rainbow-hued homes in Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap neighborhood, then fill up your luggage with spices from the Atlas Trading Company.
  • Go wine tasting in the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek areas. With more than 150 wineries in the Western Cape, we had a hard time choosing which wine farms to visit, but greatly enjoyed Groot Constantia, Spier, Vergenoegd, and Haute Cabrière.
  • Brave choppy waters and visit Robben Island, the site where Nelson Mandela was tragically imprisoned for 18 years.
  • Watch the African penguins frolic in sand and sea at the Boulder Penguin Colony. The colony is situated near Simon’s Town.
  • Take in extraordinary views from Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, then explore the greater Cape Point Nature Reserve. We spotted whales, ostriches, deer, and lizards there.
  • Journey into Khayelitsha with a well-connected guide, and learn about this township’s challenges – and triumphs.
  • Stroll through the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – you’ll encounter everything from lively marimba bands to gargantuan seals.
Bo-Kaap street art Cape Town South Africa
A man and three children walk, hand in hand, through Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap neighborhood.
A wine glass sits on a barrel in front of Groot Constantia Winery in South Africa.
A glass of Sauvignon Blanc sits atop a barrel at Groot Constantia Winery. With its elegant Manor House, duck ponds, and immaculate vineyards, it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.  Groot Constantia is historic too – it’s been producing wine since the 17th century!
View Haute Cabriere Winery Franschhoek South Africa
Franschhoek’s mountains, framed by a sign at the Haute Cabrière Winery.
African penguins walk on the rocks near Simons Town, South Africa.
African penguins walk on the rocks near Simon’s Town.

Johannesburg

  • Learn about South Africa’s somber Apartheid chapter of history by visiting the Apartheid Museum.
  • Mingle with locals and enjoy a meal in Soweto, generally said to be South Africa’s largest township.
  • Take a day trip northwest to Pilanesberg National Park, and if you’re lucky, spot lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos. I caught glimpses of three of the ‘Big Five’ here.
An exterior wall of the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa. On it, Nelson Mandela's quote reads: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum. Nelson Mandela’s quote reads: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Soweto street art South Africa
Street art and graffiti on a wall in Soweto.
Soapstone art for sale on an outdoors table in Soweto, South Africa.
In Soweto, a township of Johannesburg, a man sells abstract soapstone art.
zebras Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve
Zebras at Pilanesberg National Park & Game Reserve.
South Africa
With Thulani, the taxi driver who kindly looked after me in Johannesburg. His daughter is on the right. Thulani and I had insightful conversations about life during the Apartheid and post-Apartheid chapters of history

Port Elizabeth

  • Seek out elephants and other ‘Big Five’ animals at the Addo Elephant Park, South Africa’s third-largest national park. We spotted mother & baby elephants, zebras, lions, and protected dung beetles here.
A pair of elephants drink from a watering hole in South Africa.
A pair of elephants drink from a watering hole in Addo Elephant Park, located in the Eastern Cape.

Accommodation

  • Stellenbosch Area – We spent two wonderful weeks exploring the Western Cape, and stayed at the Beau Belle Guest Cottages (affiliate link). Set amid the lush vineyards of the Stellenbosch area, the accommodation was situated behind a gated fence on a wine-growing estate. Our cottage had two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, washer and dryer. The location was perfect for day trips to the Western Cape’s wineries, Cape of Good Hope, Simon’s Town, Cape Town, and more. A shopping complex – including supermarkets – was a 10-minute drive. When we weren’t exploring the area by car, we loved walking among the Beau Belle vineyards, strolling past the property’s goose-filled pond. We also spent relaxing hours sitting on our outdoor terrace and enjoying meals, or a glass of wine. Shawn and his parents wine-tasted on site, too.
Silhouette of Table Mountain at sunset
A view of Table Mountain from our accommodation – not far from Stellenbosch.

Transportation

  • When I traveled to Johannesburg solo – my first trip to South Africa – I relied on taxis to get me from my accommodation to the sites I visited. Visiting the Cape Town area about one decade later (with Shawn and his parents), we found it was invaluable having a rental car. This allowed us to make day-trips from our Stellenbosch-area cottage. If we hadn’t had a car, I think we would’ve needed to have stayed in Cape Town and relied on organized tours to get to sites outside of the city. Some locals told me that the MyCiTi bus system within Cape Town was reliable, though. We didn’t get a chance to try it.

Additional South Africa Resources

A pair of kudu (left) and a solo zebra (right) in Addo Elephant National Park.