Sadly, we had to leave Cape Town. We spent a little under two weeks exploring Cape Town and the Western Cape and were floored with our experiences. We were surprised to find Cape Town is the number one visited place in Africa, not the pyramids in Egypt. Since it is currently winter in South Africa, we didn’t have too many crowds to deal with and found everything relaxed and laid back. Not many Americans make it to South Africa which is really too bad. The country has a fully developed infrastructure, some great national parks, delicious food, friendly people, very interesting history, and very good values.
We love visiting national parks in the US but we have found most countries’ national parks are nothing like the US’s – they would be very commercialized, no rangers, no real management, lots of people would live in the park, and so on. South Africa is definitely the exception, their national parks are very similar to the US’s. The parks are well structured, well signed, easy to visit, and very good values. There are parks all over the country and we visited three just in the Cape Town area alone. They are truly gems and they alone make South Africa worth visiting for nature lovers.
Jacquelyn and I are not wine drinkers and really do not know much about wine other than we like the white colored kind and the red colored kind is a bit more abrasive and unenjoyable. Since the Cape Town area is a famous wine region we decided to tour around a bit and check out the different manors and try some wine; it was fantastically delicious! There’s a really neat feature with some of the wineries: they offer picnics! All a person has to do is make a reservation the day before, show up at the appointed time, and enjoy picnic food and good wine around some very beautiful scenery. We had a lot of fun so I can only imagine how awesome it would be for wine aficionados. Unsurprisingly, there are many wine choices in the super market and most are pretty inexpensive, like $1.5-$3, so it was fun to handful of different kinds.
The food was very good. The Dutch and British ruled Cape Town and brought different groups, like Malaysians and Indians, to South Africa for labor which resulted in the melding of food to create some very distinct flavors we’ve never had before! The Malay food style is called Cape Malay; it takes the Malaysian cooking style and blends in Indian spices for European style dishes. There’s a dish called bobotie which can only be described as a meatloaf like dish with very mild curry flavors served with rice. It’s amazing.
Apartheid ended about 25 years ago yet it’s clear Apartheid made a lasting mark on South Africa. We had a handful of conversations with white and black people who lived through Apartheid and I still can’t think of a good way to summarize what we learned as it’s a blend of happy, sad, tragic, heroic, and villainous stories. Things have improved for a lot of people since the end of apartheid but there are still many problems. For people who like history and learning about different cultures, South Africa and Cape Town is a great place to visit to learn about an awful period of time from the very people who lived it.
There weren’t really any downsides visiting South Africa. Infrastructure was great, things were really easy/straightforward to do, and we didn’t encounter many surprises. The only slight inconveniences were the precautions we took for our safety. We received a lot of tips on how to keep ourselves and our personal belongings safe. In general, it seemed like everyone had different strategies for coping with the crime like hiding money in multiple pockets or carrying a large rock in case muggers come out on a hiking trail. Fortunately, we didn’t encounter any muggers and we were never in a situation where we were concerned for our safety. We found Cape Town and the surround area to be very safe. Even with the security / safety situation, I would still recommend anyone visit as common sense goes a long way.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in South Africa and Cape Town. It was very memorable stay and we can’t wait to return!
Enjoy the photos!