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.


Cape Town & Beyond

  • Walk among the treetops, and learn about the area’s magnificent flora at the meticulously-maintained Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. This paradisical natural spot 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 – and now famously – imprisoned for 18 years.
  • Allow yourself to be charmed by the antics of the African penguins resident at the Boulder Penguin Colony near Simons Town.
  • Take in extraordinary views of Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, then explore the greater Cape Point nature reserve. In addition to glimpsing the breathtaking scenery here, we spotted whales, ostriches, deer, and lizards during our day trip.
  • Journey into Khayelitsha with a well-connected guide, and learn about this township’s challenges and triumphs.


  • 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.)

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.)