The blackness swallowed us as we descended down into the earth. We carried lights, but the darkness encroached on us from all sides. The gentle scuffling of feet on the gravel, an occasional soft trickle of water in the abyss and our own breathing were the only sounds. These are the Sterkfontein Caves inside the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
South Africa is one of the world’s most remarkable travel destinations. For years in the Apartheid-era, South Africa was a pariah state. Racism and divisiveness ruled the country and the tourism industry suffered. In many ways, this terrible part of South Africa’s past preserved some of the best parts of the country from development. There are still hidden gems to be found in South Africa.
The dark days of the Apartheid-era are long over. There are ton of great things to do in South Africa. Cape Town is solidly one of the world’s great cities with amazing natural beauty, world-class dining and a long, storied history. Two of the world’s greatest wine regions (Stellenbosch and Hemel-en-Aarde) produce some remarkable vintages that are in high demand around the world (and are some of our absolute favorite wines). And most importantly, national parks and nature preserves offer the chance to go on safari and see Africa’s best animals up close.
Cape Town is a modern, worldly city with an appeal that keeps visitors coming back again and again. While there are many Cape Town attractions to fill your days, it’s also a great city for just living in the moment. There are so many great things to do in Cape Town that you could easily spend a week and only begin to scratch the surface!
South Africa’s southern coast is a wind battered land. Low, scrubby bushes (fynboos) with small leaves dot the coastal land of the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. Hearty milkwood trees, some growing for over 1,000 years, provide isolated cover. From a distance, this is a barren land. But up close, the hillsides are exploding with plant and animal life. We rode out a violent storm from Antarctica here in complete luxury at the Grootbos Garden Lodge.
South African wines leave some people salivating and some scratching their heads. For years, South African wine was essentially limited to the domestic market due to international boycotts. Those days are long gone. Now, oenophiles far and wide are recognizing the superiority of wines from the Rainbow Nation – exciting things are happening in the South Africa wine region!
South African wines are some of the best in the world. And many of the best South African wines come from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside of Hermanus. Hemel-en-Aarde means “heaven on earth” in Afrikaans and we can attest to the fact that this is not an embellishment. We visited Creation Wines to taste the distinctively elegant wines that come from the terroir of heaven on earth.
Long before the days of Land Rovers with padded seats, Africa was experienced on foot. Men would hike for days or weeks deep into “The Bush” for close encounters with fearsome beasts. The animals of the Big Five received that honor because they were the most dangerous to hunt on foot. Today, by leaving the safety of the vehicle and experiencing Africa on foot, we can replicate some of that experience and appreciate the bush the way it was meant to be – up close and personal, with elements of thrill and danger.