South African Adventures

Johannesburg

Where we stayed: The Aeroguest Lodge, Kempton ParkIMG_5144

There were a lot of pros to this place, it had such a comfortable feel and felt secluded in it’s location. It had a shuttle to and from the airport that was free of charge, which was very convenient after an extremely long day of traveling. The rooms were clean and comfortable and the garden out back was to die for. However, Kempton Park is a bit outside of Johannesburg, so we did have to take longer Uber rides to get into the city (quick side note: Ubers are very reliable here and probably the most convenient way to get around). The other big con was that the area wasn’t the safest. The lodge does have a large gate and security, but even an Uber driver said to us that the area has a lot of “funny people.”

What we did:

Nelson Mandela Square & Street Markets: The square was a really nice tribute to Nelson Mandela, especially with the celebration of his 100th birthday. Aside from the large statue, the square is mainly shops and restaurants. Our Uber driver told us that some of the best dining is in the square. We ate at a place called Cilantros, which was a perfect meal after too much airplane food. Their menu had a big variety, including tapas!

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The streets surrounding the square also have some small markets, where we bought some beautiful art!

Safari in Pilanesberg National Park:

We booked our safari with Safari With Us, a website that helps direct you to ethical safaris. Our trip picked us up directly from our hotel and drove us about two hours out to Pilanesberg. The safari was a full day, so we spent both the morning and afternoon driving around the park with a very informative guide named Rafa. We took a break for lunch which was included with the price we had paid for the safari.

 

We were both extremely satisfied with the safari. We saw 22 different animals (yes I kept a list) including hippos, giraffes, rhinos, lions, zebras, and an amazingly close encounter with elephants.

Neighbourgoods Market: This market that runs on Sundays is such a cool spot! There was live music, local creators, an awesome bar, and SO much amazing food (think: Korean, Indian, Ethiopian,  Greek, Vegan)

The Neighbourgoods Market is located on Juta Street in Jo’burg. If you can’t make this market while you’re in Jo’burg it runs in Cape Town too!

 

Witt Museum:  This museum was a short walk from the market, so we decided to check it out. It had a small, thought-provoking collection that included modern as well as some ancient/traditional art.

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Cape Town 

Where we stayed: We booked our stay in Cape Town through Airbnb. We adored everything about our stay here. It two gorgeous courtyards in the front and back, a beautiful tub and shower, a convenient kitchen so we could save some money on eating out, and a cozy bed. Our host Stefanie was incredibly kind and welcoming, not to mention the area felt incredibly safe too.

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What we did: 

SunsetKayak: We booked this kayak adventure also through the Airbnb app. Although our guides were a bit late for the tour, we had a wonderful time. They were very friendly and helpful for those who didn’t have much experience. The kayak adventure provided amazing views of Lions Head and Table Mountain from the water. We also got the chance to see some dolphins playing around in the water!

 

Grand Africa Cafe & Beach at V&A waterfront: We stumbled upon this place almost entirely by accident while looking for the meeting spot for our kayak tour. This place is essentially a huge beach bar with such a fun vibe. It’s right on the water overlooking table bay. We were there on a Sunday night, which we had heard was a big night for partying. There was a live DJ playing Afrikaan house music (apparently a very popular genre there) and a great beer and cocktail selection!

 

We hung out for a little while and had a great time! If you’re looking for a night out this may be your place.

Boulder Beach:  Famous Boulder Beach, where the penguins are at! There are a few ways to see the penguins. The first, which we opted for, was a walkway along Boulder Beach which is a free way to view the penguins. If you walk the whole path there are closer views towards the end.

 

To get close up and on Boulder Beach you do have to pay. There are two entrances, one is not a beach! It’s just a viewing site, my understanding is that the purchase of a ticket can get you into both spots.  Also keep in mind that the number of people allowed on the beach at any given time is restricted, so you may want to go early to guarantee entry.

While getting close to the penguins can make for a cool picture, it’s important to keep in mind that this is their natural habitat and to respect that!

Snorkeling in Simon’s Town: We booked our snorkeling tour once again through the Airbnb app, This directed us to the Shark Warrior Adventure Center, which doesn’t just do snorkeling, but paddle boarding and kayaking too. We opted for the kelp forest snorkel safari, and though we spent a brief moment wishing we had selected the snorkeling with seals, the kelp forests ending up being amazing!

We swam alongside shoal sharks and spotted a HUGE southern stingray. It was also so cool to pop our heads above the water and see penguins hanging out on the rocks near by.

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Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: One of 11 national botanical gardens in South Africa, this was an unexpected highlight of our trip. It had breathtaking views all around and amazing exotic plants. One of the coolest parts was the tree canopy walkway, which gives full 360 views of the mountains and the coast of Cape Town. If we could do this again, we would recommend bringing a picnic and setting up camp for a little while. I’d say this is a must see in Cape Town!

 

Hiking Lion’s Head Mountain 

Our kayak instructor told us that sunrise is no doubt the best time to hike up the mountain. We left our Airbnb around 4:15 am and ubered to the Lions Head Parking lot. It was an extremely foggy day, so unfortunately we didn’t see much of a sunrise or a view from the top. It was still a great way to get active before our long flight home later that day. Be aware that this hike is somewhat physically demanding, with certain parts only having chains and staples to ascend the mountain.

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Free Walking Tour:

These free tours leave from Motherland Coffee Company, which is in the city center. We grabbed cappuccinos and then joined in the 11am Apartheid to Freedom tour. They have a few different tours so you can chose based on what you’re most interested in. These tours are free but it’s expected that you tip your guide at the end.

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District Six Museum: Our guide from the walking tour recommended this museum because it’s not just a museum full of facts, but a museum about people. In fact some of the guided tours inside are lead by people who were forcefully evicted from the district back in the 1960s. You can learn more about the District Six Museum here.

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