South Africa: Past & Future

By Cathy Brooks-Oliver and Pat Schneider

Pat Schneider

South Africa was the first country I ever visited in Africa, so it was the one that made the biggest impression on me. It’s also the country that offers the greatest variety of experiences; from wildlife safaris to wine-tasting.

Seeing animals up close—especially the Big Five--is thrilling. What I love about South Africa is that its private game parks offer wonderfully intimate experiences. The guides and drivers usually know each animal in their zone as individuals and have amazingly in-depth knowledge about their habits and relationships with each other. Seeing a lion or an elephant almost close enough to touch is unforgettable.

Another nice thing about is that I can offer my clients a wide range of pricing and accommodation styles. You can stay in a deluxe tented camp, with dinner served on your deck under the stars or in the bush, or experience a more traditional luxury hotel or lodge, with a choice of restaurants.

Tourists on safari take pictures of giraffes in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya, Africa

South Africa is far more than safaris. I spent a lot of time in Cape Town. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters were imprisoned, is now a museum offering a fascinating look at South Africa’s history through the stories of those who were incarcerated there. You can even see Mandela’s cell and learn about the garden he planted.

The Boulders Penguin Colony—a sanctuary home to thousands of African penguins—is beautiful, just for the scenery. But being able to watch the penguins up close was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was tempting to reach out and pet them, but they would feel threatened, and they have sharp beaks, so we were warned not to try!

Franschoek Winelands, South Africa

South Africa’s wine country is also possible as a day trip, although it is worth several days if you have the time. Many small wineries in the region welcome visitors for tours, tastings and gourmet meals overlooking the vineyards.

I’ve been back to Africa several times since that first trip, but South Africa has a special place in my heart. That’s where I experienced my first safari and much more, making it one of my favorite countries to send first-time visitors to Africa.

Cathy Brooks-Oliver

Almost twice the size of Texas, South Africa often surprises people with its diversity of experiences. In many ways, South Africa offers the best of everything:

  • Diverse cultures, art and handcrafts, food and wine
  • Natural terrains that range from cliff-backed beaches to wild lands where lions still rule 
  • Sophisticated cities as well as vineyards that produce some of the world’s most acclaimed wine

Picture of Nelson Mandela's face on a hundred rand bill, South Africa

And the living record of the struggle to defeat of Apartheid and the legacy of Nelson Mandela are everywhere: Robbin Island and The Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto are especially moving.

Cape Town surprises visitors with its beauty, and it has some truly awesome luxury hotels. Among the top-rated is One&Only Cape Town, located on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The resort has its own spa and marina and a heated infinity-edge pool and awesome views of Table Mountain. It makes a great home base for exploring everything Cape Town has to offer, from world-class art galleries, to Robben Island, to whale watching cruises and even excursions to nearby vineyards.

Landscape seen from Table Mountain tourist hike, Cape Town, South Africa

For those who want a more natural setting, The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, named for the line of mountains rising majestically on one side of the property, is also flanked by the Atlantic Ocean Marine Park, where you may spot breeching whales and playful dolphins. And at your doorstep are the miles of flowered wilderness trails of the Table Mountain National Park, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. And although it feels quite removed from Cape Town, it’s actually quite nearby, so you can easily pop in to shop along the waterfront, check out Long Street’s eclectic buzz and investigate the hundreds of museums and galleries.

Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, offers painting classes and yoga sessions on Table Mountain and has a hosted guests including John Lennon, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, is another great choice. Many of my clients also enjoy a stay at Ellerman House, an elegant Edwardian mansion, overlooking the Atlantic and within walking distance of two beaches.

In addition to driving through wine country, many clients enjoy visiting South Africa’s hip beach city, Durban, with its boardwalk—built for the 2010 World Cup.

Lion and cub, Kruger National Park, South Africa

And no one should miss Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Here, the Royal Malewane is the place for lovers of the luxe. Each suite has a private infinity pool and terrace as well as spacious marble bathrooms and there’s an onsite spa. But most important, in addition to a butler and chef who can prepare a private Bedouin tent dinner under the stars, you’ll have also have your own driver and tracker to help you spot the big five in Krueger Park in South Africa, and even take you on a wildlife walk through the bushveld. And if you like, they’ll even set up a visit to a local school and some wildlife photography coaching.

Taj Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, luxury hotel

Taj Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa

  • City Walking Tour; Cape Gin Experience
  • Complimentary daily full breakfast for two
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Property will offer upgrade upon availability at time of check-in
  • High-Speed/Enhanced Wi-Fi
Royal Malewane Hoespruit, South Africa, luxury hotel

Royal Malewane

Hoedspruit, South Africa

  • Daily full breakfast
  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability (not applicable to Royal Suites or Africa House)
  • Virtuoso guests will have the option of a complimentary one way transfer from HDS airport OR donating the $100 to the philanthropic projects of The Royal Portfolio Foundation
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability
  • Basic Wi-Fi
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, luxury resort

Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel

Cape Town, South Africa

  • Daily Full Breakfast in restaurant for up to 2 in room guests in restaurant
  • Private Afternoon tea OR Evening tea for two served once during stay
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi
  • Upgrade at time of booking subject to availability
  • Early check-in upon availability
  • Late check-out upon availability

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