As the people, and are captured by the vibrancy of the culture. Often called the “Rainbow Nation,” a term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu post-apartheid, it’s the spirit of South Africa’s people that makes this country so magical. Having been born in South Africa, I feel a strong connection to this enchanting land and privileged to provide an “insider’s guide” to journey to this part of the world.
With one of the world’s most progressive constitutions and eleven official languages, the New South Africa is layered on many senses with a unique blend of flavors and cultures, mixed with Westernized luxuries and raw African nativism. Whether it be the dramatic landscape of tribal villages, world-class metropolises, unrivalled wildlife or the spectacular wine region, you can truly experience it all with no more than a three-hour plane ride from one end of the country to the next.
Johannesburg: Where Old Meets New
The first stop of our African journey is Johannesburg, the main urban and financial center of South Africa that has become the “Capital of Cool.” It’s an urban blend of hip music, cutting-edge art, and chic fashion epitomizing the old and new South Africa.
Brammfontein, a newly gentrified, trendy part of Johannesburg, is an epicenter of stylish streets lined with designer boutiques, world-renowned galleries, and the famed Alexander Theatre. Mandela Square and Sandton Shopping Center, the second-largest retail complex in Africa, is a central hub of shopping and finance. And to get a true education in South African history, visit Liliesleaf Farm, known as a place of liberation, and The Apartheid Museum – the heart of the apartheid story.
No visit to Johannesburg is complete without a trip to Soweto, the largest township in South Africa with a population of close to a million and a rich history. Take a private tour and experience history by visiting the homes of Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. Or take an urban cycling tour and stop at a local shebben to enjoy a traditional umqombothi beer while listening to some cool jazz.
For a world-class experience, stay at the luxurious Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, rated amongst the top hotels in the world. Set on ten beautifully manicured acres near Sandton, the resort features extensive and lavish amenities including award-winning restaurants, state-of-the-art spa, wellness center and vibrant art collection of both contemporary and African art. The property’s commitment to green efficiencies reduces their carbon and ecological footprint. Be sure to watch the sun set over the Gauteng skies as you enjoy a glass of Amarula. saxon.co.za
Safari Experiences in Kruger Private Game Parks
Experience the true essence of South Africa with a bespoke safari blending old-world luxury with the raw indigenous elements. Renowned for its wildlife reserves, explore the largest and most well-known protected area of Kruger National Park, which will leave you breathless.
As your hour-and-a-half flight from Johannesburg via Airlink Airlines descends on the Skukuza Airport strip, the immediate beauty captivates you. With the sounds of Africa and the innate spirit of the land permeating your senses, you are instantly immersed in your surroundings. An open-air range rover drives you through the unspoiled landscape to your destination, &Beyond’s Ngala Tented Camp in the Private Ngala Reserve within Kruger National Park. &Beyond, a leader in tailor-made, luxury travel, offers an assortment of South Africa safaris in iconic settings. &Beyond celebrates sustainable luxury with its deep commitment to sustainable tourism and support of its social development partner, the Africa Foundation.
At Ngala (meaning lion in the local tongue), the spirit of the safari comes alive. Set along the Timbavati River, stay in one of the 21 cottages, each with an outdoor shower. Experience the colonial atmosphere juxtaposed with the untamed wilderness, when you awaken to the sounds of the Hoopoe bird chirping and trees canopying your luxurious tent.
You are greeted with the smells of African coffee and home-baked cakes at the main lodge, before your early morning game drive. The ranger and trekker guide you through the reserve, using their native instincts to track down the Big 5 — buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino — looking for the subtlety of a lion’s footprint or listening for the distant murmur of a lion’s roar. After this breathtaking experience, relax poolside with vistas of the river, followed by a massage to truly ingratiate yourself into the surroundings. Then, set off on an interpretive bush walk where you feel the excitement of experiencing nature up close. End your adventures with cocktails in the bush where a white-linen draped table is lined with rare single malt scotches as you watch the sunset over majestic plains. Experience a bush dinner, dining on exotic African delicacies, surrounded by the sounds of Africa. andbeyond.comandbeyond.com
For another diverse sojourn, venture to &Beyond’s Exeter River Lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve (adjacent to Kruger). Stay in one of Exeter River Lodge’s eight suites, where you can take an afternoon dip in your own private plunge pool, overlooking the Sand River. After a day in the bush, unwind at the lodge shaded by ebony trees gazing out at elephants drinking in the river below. Experience a true African dinner as you dine by candlelight in an open-air boma under a sea of stars. And for the truly adventurous who want to feel like an explorer in untethered territory, take a thrilling night drive to spot nocturnal wildlife.
Cape Town: Architecture, Wine… and Penguins
Cape Town, otherwise known as the “Mother City,” hosted the Soccer World Cup in 2014. Just over a two-hour plane ride from Johannesburg, also via Airlink, it is a cultural metropolis with a strong European influence, framed by the iconic Table Mountain, dramatic and jagged cliffs, and magnificent white sand beaches. This cosmopolitan city by the sea is surrounded by nature with the world-renowned wine country, quaint fishing villages up the coast and a beach filled with a colony of African penguins.
For an ideal day sojourn, hire a private driver to take you on an excursion along the Atlantic coast where you will begin by driving along the dramatic cliffs of Chapman’s Peak Drive. Explore the unspoiled beaches of Noordhoek by horseback, stop at the picturesque Hout Bay and Fish Hoek and then visit Olympia Café in Kalk where the local catch is featured daily on the chalkboard. To get some wildlife viewing by the ocean, Boulder’s Beach is a rare wonder with a colony of over 2,000 endangered African penguins sheltered by granite boulders. And for the finale, land at Cape Point to witness the Indian and Atlantic oceans splashing together at the tip of Africa.
For nature lovers, the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens, spanning 1,300 acres at the foot of Table Mountain, is a unique conservatory of some of the most rare biodiversity on earth. And for a relaxing day in Cape Town, Clifton Beach, rated one of the top beaches in the world, is a definite must. To end a perfect day, visit Bantry Bay for sundowners (what the locals call cocktails at sunset) at one of the many watering holes for jet setters and locals alike.
For a cultural adventure, visit the colorful architecture of the Cape Quarter filled with an eclectic mix of artisan and couture boutiques along with local farm-to-table fresh fish restaurants, located in the unique piazza of De Waterkant, the former District 5 of Cape Town.
Ellerman House, one of Cape Town’s most regarded properties – a beacon of luxury. Perched on Signal Hill with stunning views of Bantry Bay and Table Bay, it has housed many esteemed guests including Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Sean Penn to name a few. Once home to shipping magnates Sir John and Lady Ellerman, this Edwardian mansion feels more like a regal estate than a hotel with 11 rooms, two suites, and two private villas. This boutique hotel personifying grace and elegance, featuring all the necessary luxe, modernized amenities including a sophisticated and serene spa experience, a 7,500-bottle collection of South African wines, and a distinguished art collection spanning two centuries. Ellerman House is a featured partner of &Beyond. ellerman.co.za
Touring the Cape Winelands
Known as the culinary and wine capital of South Africa, the Cape Winelands (Constantia, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch) will ignite your senses. Surrounded by seemingly endless fields of fragrant flowers and the famed Cape Dutch architecture, drive through winding country roads. The Cape Winelands were influenced by the French Huguenots, who brought vines from Europe and cultivated the area in the late 17th century.
Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch is widely considered the jewel of the region. A perfect intersection of wine, art, and cultured elegance, Delaire Graff Estate is owned by renowned visionary Laurence Graff, Chairman of Graff Diamonds International. Its awe-inspiring setting, exquisite collections of fine wines and unrivalled art collection, consisting of many of Laurence Graff’s personal collection, makes it an indulgence worth experiencing.
Also in Stellenbosch, visit Jordan Wine Estate, the winery of famed South African golfer Ernie Els, and for delicious ports, visit the Muratie. In Franschhoek – a gourmand’s paradise – visit the farm-to-table Foliage Restaurant and Babel Restaurants, housed in an old cow shed.
Upon arrival at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek, one feels as if they’ve escaped to the exquisite countryside where all your senses come alive,
surrounded by the flourishing Pinotage vines, fragrant flowers blooming, and spectacular mountain ranges. Le Quartier Francais, with its 21 rooms, encapsulates elegance and grace with the warmth of the countryside. You can experience a decadent culinary adventure of African delicacies, masterfully prepared by executive chef Margot Janse, complemented by award-winning wines. Unwind from a full day of wine tasting in the rose-filled courtyard or take a dip in the refreshing swimming pool. leeucollection.com/lqf/
South Africa, where European sophistication meets African culture, embodies the magic of Africa. So if you are seeking a country rich in heritage and cultural experiences, yet highly advanced with African roots, South Africa is your timeless paradise.