For a start, food and drink costs half of what it does in the UK. You can go to some very decent restaurants for relatively little money. Then there's the scenery. Once you're out of Cape Town and into the wine region or Garden Route, there's no shortage of stunning views, rolling hills, green forested mountains, endless plains, that sort of thing.
That isn't to say South Africa doesn't have its problems. Poverty is very visible, from the large townships on the edge of all major towns and cities to the homelessness in Cape Town. Or the advice (which we followed) that you should get taxis after dark in the capital. I wouldn't say we ever felt unsafe but the streets did become completely empty after sunset in a way I'd find strange in any other major city.
But every country has its own problems (cough Brexit cough) and to focus too much on them would do South Africa a disservice. I loved it there and would happily go back again. It was always sunny and warm, the aforementioned food was excellent, the people were friendly and there was loads to do and see. There was tons of stuff we didn't have time to do in both Cape Town and on the Garden Route.
Our trip began with three days in the wine region, staying in a homestead on a vineyard near Wellington, followed by a road trip along the Garden Route before heading back for four days in Cape Town. It was 10 days altogether but we could have easily spent much longer there and detoured from the Garden Route a bit more, or spent more time checking out the many amazing beaches dotted along the coast.
If you made me pick some highlights, they might be:
- Climbing Table Mountain
- Cape Point Nature Reserve
- Driving along the Garden Route - beautiful scenery all the way
- National Art Gallery of South Africa, in Company Gardens (much better art and cheaper entry than the Zeitz Museum, which was a bit pretentious in my opinion)
- The Stack - restaurant in Cape Town
- The food in general
- Monkeyland, near Plettenberg Bay
Stellenbosch is worth a visit, to wander round and check out the university museum/art gallery and its various cafes and shops.
Obligatory holiday sunset photo, from the vineyard near Wellington.
The vineyard's homestead and our home for three nights. The bell in the foreground was known as a slave bell, used to signal the start and end of the working day for slaves back in the times of slavery. There are a lot of these bells still standing in rural areas, acting as reminders of history.
On our way to the Garden Route we stopped at a great example of the 'weird roadside cafe' genre. The menu was exclusively things with chips (or just chips on their own) and it had a barn that contained the world's biggest knitted jumper, complete with certificate from Guinness World Records.
Near Plettenburg Bay was Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. Monleyland is a "free roaming" monkey sanctuary, largely for monkeys that have been abandoned or suffered some kind of cruelty. They are rehabilitated here and some are released back into the wild. I'm not really a fan of zoos or anything resembling them but this was more like a giant forest you could walk through (with a guide).
One of the lemurs in Monkeyland. It was an odd sensation at first, walking through a forest with loads of monkeys completely ignoring you and running/climbing about but it was a memorable experience and I would definitely recommend.
When you buy a ticket for Monkeyworld you can double up and see Birds of Eden too, which is the biggest bird enclosure I've ever seen - it was vast. Plenty of room for birds of all kinds of species to fly about. Or as these two seemed to prefer, just perch on a walkway and watch people go by.
Taken from a viewpoint called Map Of Africa, near Wilderness on the Garden Route.
The entrance to the museum just off the central courtyard of the Castle of Good Hope. It was built in the 17th century and changed hands a few times between various colonial oppressors (largely British and Dutch) before it was declared a historical monument in 1936. We went on the guided tour, which was much better than the 'key ceremony' - essentially a bunch of people in old fashioned military uniforms faffing about handing a key back and forth for 10 minutes.
One of the colourful buildings in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town. It was formerly known as the Malay Quarter and has a largely Muslim population.
More brightly painted houses in Bo Kaap. It was very photogenic, as you can tell from my top notch photography skills and was an absolute scorcher that day.
This restaurant in Cape Town is called The Stack and dinner here was one of the culinary highlights of the trip. Big recommend.
Penguins on Boulders Beach, south of Cape Town.
In Cape Point Nature Reserve, looking down at the sea from the cliffs near the lighthouse. This is somewhere I could have happily spent a couple more hours, but we got there a bit late after spending longer than expected at Boulders Beach.
Trying to take an arty shot of the beach at the Cape of Good Hope.
And here's us doing the tourist photo in Cape Point Nature Reserve. Had to really.
View of Table Mountain just before we started climbing it. When the clouds roll in over the top like that, locals call it the 'table cloth'.
Cape Town below from somewhere near the top of Table Mountain.
Visiting the District Six Museum was a good way to try to get an idea of the kind of ordeals and hardship people went through during Apartheid because of unchecked racism.
A view of the mountains from Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which you can happily spend a few hours wandering about in or even take a picnic with you.
Thanks for reading and there's a few more photos from the trip on my Instagram if you're really keen.