Travel Series: Africa Part 1
Updated: Feb 27, 2019
I wanted to start by talking about the four countries in Africa that I've been to so far and finish the series off with a packing guide on how I'm preparing for 2 years in Ethiopia for the #PeaceCorps.(which is slow but steady, yes it is still happening). For those that know me, know that I am obsessed with Africa, the culture, the kindness, openness of the people, the history, and so much more so this is truly a travel series that is close with my heart. I want to show you what a lot of people don't really know about and why you should really think of Africa as more than a place with corrupt countries.
First up? South Africa. One of my absolute favorite countries. Need some great food options? Perhaps some exciting adventures in your life? South Africa literally has it all, and while they yes, unfortunately struggle with some major political and racial tensions, they are working to overcome it constantly. There are incredible organizations looking to change the situation, which I will also include in this detailed travel review.
(*Fun fact: South Africa is also known to be the place for adrenaline junkies, LOTS to do here!)
English is spoken very much here. Zulu is the most widely spoken South African language,followed by Zhosa and Afrikaans. There are many more dialects however.
Best Time to Visit:
Year round. The climate of South Africa isn't as humid as other African countries, its similar to Seattle weather with a cool breeze often making you crave a light sweater. It gets a little hotter from November to February. For whale watching, the best time to visit is from July to November.
If you plan on staying a bit, rent a car, its your best bet to see everything as it is a bit widespread. They do have a ton of cabs that are easy to use and get around, they'll also give you deals if you want them for the day or something (go in on it with friends and its not bad at all price wise). They are pretty "with it" when it comes to other forms of transportation, like the busses can take you around the city or to see the college downtown and there are trains that can take you to Pretoria or to the border of Zimbabwe and more! Very easy and cheap to come across.
Unfortunately there are several that might be used here. Plug types C, D, M, and N. C is the 2 pins (small round holes side by side), D is 3 round pins in a triangle, M and N have 3 round holes in a different type of triangle. I recommend getting the multiple adapter for this that can change into any type needed. This can be approx $20 from Amazon: click here
South African Rand (r)
Food: What to Try
Depending on where you are in South Africa, you'll either get a true local experience with the food or something similar to what you'd find at your local organic market. I will say one of the best markets of all time for me was at the waterfront of South Africa (they make amazing pesto sandwiches and have a ton of safe-to-eat, fresh foods for you to try). In contrast, I also had a few dishes that were authentic and delicious in other areas with smaller communities. The local cuisine is primarly based on a lot of meat products but there are a few must haves for us veggies out there as well.
Chakalaka - an authentic relish type dish, with beans and peppers mixed in with some sort of barbecue sauce. I washed it down with some fresh bread and have to say it was pretty good. The barbecue sauce was strange for me at first, but with some steamed rice on the side I loved it.
Curry - there are a lot of different types of curry to try that are authentic to their culture, for you meat eaters theres a lot more options for you, but for us veg-heads, I recommend a curry made with vegetables and coconut milk. They add a lot of saffron and cinnamon so it it extremely flavorful!
Pudding - Pudding is at the top of their dessert list. The traditional name is Malva pudding, its spongy cake with apricot jam mixed in and in the middle, a hot cream is poured over usually, however at small cafes you'll often find it resembling some sort of coffee cake topped with a slice of apricot.
Food: Where to go
V & A Food Market (Waterfront farmers market)
This is the farmers market with lots of options for you, want to find a brewer? Maybe some fresh cooking spices or veggies? Or a BOMB pesto sandwich (I can't get over it guys).You'll find it all here.
Hours: Open 7 days a week! Only exclusion would be holidays like Christmas Day &
New Years Day. 10 am - 6 pm (May-October) 10 am - 7 pm (November-April).
This is a great way to get the full course treatment on South African cuisine. It's a fun and festive experience with full South African entertainment, and you'll get to decide what to order at local areas from this trial run, definitely recommend!
Hours: (Best to make reservations) Lunch 12-3 pm, reservations for 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 pm, after
9 pm it's first come first serve. Closed on Sundays.
To get a little taste of Ethiopia in South Africa, even the locals eat here, it is incredible courses with delicious and flavorful food. Seriously worth the trip.
Hours: Lunch: Mon-Sat 12-4 pm, Dinner: Mon-Sat: 4:30 - 10:30
(Closed on Sundays), (Closed for lunch on public holidays), Closed all day on Christmas Eve & Day, & New Years Day.
Over in Cape Malay you'll find this gem of a find, where you can also check out their menu online ahead of time. Lots of veggies, flat pancake breads dipped in garlic and stir fried noodles galore.
Hours: 12 - 10 pm Mon-Sat, Closed on Sundays
Drinks & Nightlife
Long Street, Cape town
Ah Long Street, I have both very fond and very horrible memories here but that's part of the fun right? Do make note though: be wary, there is a lot of crime in this area of Cape town but just know that going in and be smart about where you go and with who. I happened to be really dumb in this area unfortunately and I left my cell phone on the side pocket of my backpack, rookie mistake. Don't do that. Do however, make friends with the locals, so that if this does happen they'll run him down and make sure the punk gives it back. Smart choice.
This is such a fun party area though, with lots of options for you, some clubs, bars and random shops. Also: tattoo parlors and so much art! If you're looking to get a professional tattoo for a cheap price this is also your place. For now though, lets talk drinking spots.
The Dubliner: Dance club atmosphere with different music in different rooms, vibe is
fun and friendly.
Hours: 12 pm - 4 am (click above link for more details on their venue)
Cafe Mojito: (Trip Advisor) Cuban themed bar, fun and cozy with some great music to play.
Hours: 11 am - 2 am
The Waiting Room: An incredible balcony, great dancing, and lots of lounge areas as well. A great choice to go with for your night out on the town.
Hours: 9 pm - 2 am
Want more of a brewery experience? This will give you a chill vibe with some great food pairings
as well. There's a cute outdoor area under the lights too that I think you'll love if you want that quiet atmosphere.
Hours: 12 pm - 12 am
This is such a cool place with an old school vibe. Dinner and a show too? Winning. These light meals are only served until midnight though so be aware of that.
Hours: 5 pm - 1 am
Inspired by the South African historical healing ways, this bar takes on a twist with how they serve their drinks and gives it to you almost as if they are perscribing something for you, specifically. A unique experience for sure. Low key vibe.
Hours: 5 pm - 1 am
Some of the best for you to check out while in South Africa.
Honestly, the wine selection is really great in South Africa and I often compared the taste of their local wines to some of the most famous wines of California or Washington. Definitely a top experience of South Africa. Plus its just a nice and relaxing way to spend a day in the sun.
Groot Constantia: Located in Cape Town, Hours: 9 am-5:30 pm
A beautiful location and great way to spend your day, plus I mean who doesn't love wine right?
This is the only one I personally know about but I'll give you some others in case you're spending time in a different area:
All have great reviews, gorgeous views and fun tastes for you to try out.
...Why was I so tan? Can I be this tan again please?
Activities: What to do?
Explore the beachy side of things, with some penguins out on shore for you to enjoy. It's a fun little touristy area but great to get out in the sun and take a walk!
Whether you want to take a little cable car up to the top, or hike it up, its worth a trip to explore the top of this gorgeous mountain with a view that will leave you breathless. The clouds in some viewpoints will wave through and it can be a bit chilly so take note of that, but its truly incredible to see! You can also repel down the mountain as an adventurous option for ya!
Really into the adventure side of things? I HIGHLY recommend trying out skydiving here. It is seriously worth it to conquer your fear for a view like this one.
Skydiving Cape Town is the company I went through and they are really great guys that make it a bit more fun of an experience if you think you might wuss out like I thought I might. I truly asked at one point on the plane ride if I could go back and my guy just goes "No turning back, you've signed your life away" and just starts laughing. He was a jokester for sure and it was bonding when at one point I just swore as we were falling and when I finally stopped clutching his arm I think he realized my fear was pretty much out of my head. I recommend everyone to try this at least once, you really won't regret it!
Price: about $200 without the video and pictures (About $250 with, which I recommend if its your first time)
Kruger National Park
Came to Africa for the animals? This is the place for you to live out your Lion King dream. They offer some massive safaris for you, and do have lodging as well if thats where you want to stay for a bit.
Here is the official link for more information on lodging, packages and more!
Cape of Good Hope
This was a last minute addition to my exploration in South Africa and I loved it actually. It was a stunning arena of rocks along the water. The waves were intense and would hit pretty viciously but it was worth the trip for me. I sat and listened to the waves for a bit and explored the different rock areas, and saw I view I'll never forget.
Blyde River Canyon
I didn't get the chance to go here but mannnn I wish I did, so its officially added to my to-do list. It's wonderful canyons with epic viewpoints and some hiking mixed in so basically, its all my favorite things. They also offer paragliding off of certain points so I know what I'll be doing next!
Lion's Head Hike
A lot of my friends told me about this one, that instead of hiking Table Mountain they decided to do this one, which had a view point that was spectacular but its not an easy feat. Your only way up is hiking also so make sure you prepare ahead of time and bring lots of water and snacks (my friends did not and they suffered tremendously).
I think an important part of visiting another country is understanding the history of the area and taking in everything the country views, the differences, all of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. Apartheid is an important part of South Africa's history that everyone should know about before heading in blindly. It is still massively apparent today and the more you educate yourself on it the more you'll compare it to what the rest of the world struggles with as well.
You can also visit the prison Nelson Mandela stayed in on Robbin Island, which is another great way to get the historical stories of South Africa.
Volunteer at the Shantytowns -
Or even just go to experience the different viewpoints that South Africa still unfortunately struggles with. Open your mind to the different sides of South African culture and the deeper historical and political views that it is based off. Open yourself to understanding different economies, different systems on how they go about taking on daily life. Understand both and come to your own conclusion on how this works, don't base it off of judgments or misconceptions you walk in with. Leave that at the door.
!Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre
Depending on how much interest you have in the cultural side of things, they also offer an experience for you to meet and interact with some of the first indigenous people of South Africa, the San. These people want to educate others on how their culture runs and how it works for them so I think it's important to support that kind of education.
Hole in the Wall
A beach with a picture-esque opportunity. Reminds me a little bit of the Oregon Coast area but definitely a great hidden gem to put on your visit list. A little more secluded, which is nice if you're trying to get away from the touristy areas.
This one is quite the drive, but if you're trying to spend a weekend or longer in an area surrounded my nature with beautiful viewpoints that's a little more secluded, this is your spot! Plus as a bonus for all your driving on the rough terrain, this is also the place with the 'highest pub in Africa' aka one of the tallest points in Africa is on this mountain.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next part of this series where I'll be talking about Ghana.