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A Bucket List Trip of a Lifetime

SOUTH AFRICA IS A ONCE IN A LIFETIME TRAVEL EXPERIENCE THAT WOWS

Article by Mindy Hargesheimer

Photography by Mindy Hargesheimer

Visually Stunning. Culturally Enriching. Globally Eye Opening. An Emotionally Charged Trip of a Lifetime!

A multi-week, 3-part trip to South Africa was everything and MORE you could ask for in a travel experience. And several years later, those emotions still arise as we revisit the nostalgia of this honeymoon on ours!

Several day visits to Cape Town, the Coastal Wine Region on the Western Cape, and a private game reserve adjacent to the famous Kruger National Park made for 14 days of pure cultural bliss. While a visit to Africa, much less South Africa alone, could be done a 1000+ ways over with the amount of destinations and adventures waiting at your fingertips, our trip was curated to meet the foremost experiences we were looking for knowing it would likely be awhile before we would have, if ever, the chance to return for more!


City: Cape Town

Filled with color, cuisine, side trips and unexpected animal encounters, we filled our 5 days with loads of ‘Oohs’ and ‘Mmms’ as we kicked off our urban jaunt at Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill Market full of local makers, food purveyors, offering the likes of local cuts of wild game, regional flora, and handmade jewelry. 

We next moved on to walk inside and out Cape Town’s vibrant side streets and picturesque (albeit touristy) V&A Waterfront. Gorgeous harbor landmarks with the profound Table Mountain as the primary backdrop, the town’s waterside destination offers elevated cuisine, hundreds of shops, boat rides, and helicopter tours giving you the bird’s eye view of the Full Cape Peninsula.

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Seaside: Full Cape Peninsula Tour

On the subject, the Full Cape Peninsula Tour is a must: Scenic drives, the southernmost tip of Africa/Cape of Good Hope, Botanical Gardens, Ostrich Farms, and best of all, PENGUINS! Waddle your way to Boulder Beach to see the cutest warm weather African birds. After a full day tour of the Cape, end your day with a hike or gondola ride to the top of Table Mountain where views surpass any other metropolitan space you’ve encountered before.

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Shark Diving:

Speaking of wildlife; if cage diving with Great White Sharks is on your bucket list, you would be REMISS to omit scheduling this into your agenda. Terrifying? Yeah, sure. Exhilarating? UNBELIEVABLY! Suit up and drop down as your guides tempt these intimidating creatures with chum to get you as up close and personal as they can to these native “fish.” 


Beach Life:

Last but not least, you must leave the metropolitan grounds of Cape Town to experience its sister beach town, Camps Bay Beach. Stunning views from the base of the Twelve Apostles mountains. Grab drinks and food at a variety of gorgeous hotel and restaurants rooftop bars while soaking up the sights and sounds of Atlantic waves crashing beneath the South African sun and moon.


Coastal Wine Region: Western Cape

With a variety of districts to choose from, we found our way to the Stellenbosch and Paarl Districts. Jaw dropping vineyards set amongst Stellenbosch mountain slopes make for a globally unique winery experience. Known for its unique Pinotage blend, Stellenbosch also bears grapes perfect for the Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers. We were particularly fond of the Ernie Ells and Delair Graff Estate grounds that prompted us to feel as though we were thrown back in time and making our great escape into South African paradise.

Franscchoek Wine Valley offered it owns unique look and feel as we continued our progressive winery crawl from the Haute Cabriere underground cave to the sprawling 47-acre Grand Provence Estate. From tasting room to table-top, we continued noshing on seafood and wild game inspired dishes paired with regional fresh vegetables and perfectly paired cheeses.Enter text.

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Safari: Sabi Sands Game Reserve

Our grand finale was one for the Big 5 books! A full week of sunrise to sunset safaris is what African travel dreams are made of. What we didn’t expect was the heartfelt personal connections were made from the get-go with our lodge staff, Safari Ranger & Tracker. From 4:30am wake up calls for our 3-hour sunrise safaris, to the 5:30pm happy hours, in the literal wild, with rhinos and elephants happily encompassing our company. 

The enlightening insights into these beautiful animals and how they respond to Land Cruiser-clad humans is surprising, as we learned why and how they don’t feel threatened or aggressive as the human race slowly and peacefully make their close approach. Sabi Sands is one of many game reserves, but a differentiator we learned in research our trip is the fact that it is private allows you to journey “off course” and casually follow these otherwise quite creatures into the depths of the grounds.  


If travelers can get a glimpse at “The Big 5” (Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros Elephant, and Cape Buffalo), consider yourself complete as this is the aspirational achievement. But the wealth of additional sightings seems limitless, as warthogs, giraffes, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, and the alarming oversized spiders and insects invade your peripheral no matter where you turn!

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The pure joy of the intimate lodge is everything. Camping out (not literally!) in a high end yet rustic game lodge allows you to develop deep personal connections to the handful of others staying and dining next to you, and as you engage with the on property “Butler” and his or her staff that become your friends. Speaking of intimated, one is warned to not be surprised should they encounter an elephant walking the lodge walkways or adorable monkeys clawing their way into your room looking for snacks. Mouthwatering cuisine is one of our BEST memories, particularly as part of under the stars bonfires and dinner parties prevailed on property. 


South African Goodbyes

As our South African trip came to a close, we literally found ourselves in tears, as we have never felt more “moved” and “connected” to this earth, our animals, and human nature in the way we did, leaving on the highest note possible. If you are even remotely considering tucking away savings for an African excursion, DO IT. You'll never regret, and you will be changed forever!