Where The Two Oceans Meet: Discover South Africa!

By Mariam Ottimofiore
March 13, 2018
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As I stood at the tip of the Cape of Good Hope and looked out at the vast expanse of sea ahead of me, I realized I was standing at the southernmost tip of the African continent; a spot where the two oceans (the Atlantic and the Indian) meet. To my left were the cold currents of the Atlantic, roughly brushing shore, and crashing eagerly into the warm currents of the Indian Ocean to my right. As I stood there, I realized this is also a place where two different worlds meet; this is South Africa – where Europe meets Africa, where the blacks meet the whites, and Indians meet Afrikaners; where first-world meets third-world, and where, one moment you can be in an African safari watching an elephant up close, and the next, you can be sitting at Table Mountain enjoying the spectacular scenery.

South Africa is an incredible holiday destination; but with so much to see and do, where do you start? After three weeks of travelling all over the country, I have concluded that there are 3 experiences not to be missed: soaking in the rich and inspiring history of apartheid South Africa in Johannesburg; enjoying the magnificent natural landscape and beauty of Cape Town, and indulging in animals in the wild through an African Safari.

1.  Appreciate History and Culture in Johannesburg:

Commonly held as Africa’s commercial center, Johannesburg (or Jo’burg as it is popularly referred to) is a buzzing, thriving and multicultural city, with the remains of the country’s troubled past and pre-apartheid era. A sprawling megalopolis with skyscrapers and leafy suburbs, Johannesburg is packed with world-class restaurants, memorials, museums, and authentic African villages to explore. Aim to spend 3 to 4 days here to soak in the rich history of the continent.

Top on our list of Jo’burg highlights was our tour of the SOWETO Township. This guided tour included a visit to the Hector Pietersen Memorial, in honor of the young boy who was shot while protesting the apartheid government in 1976, and who became a national symbol. It also included a visit to the Apartheid Museum. We chose a half-day tour, and topped it off by sampling a traditional African lunch at Wandies Place in SOWETO. In stark contrast to our morning, we spent the afternoon in up-market Sandton, commonly known as ‘Africa’s richest square mile’, enjoying coffee at one the many cafes at Nelson Mandela Square. This was before embarking on a shopping spree at adjacent Sandton City, the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere.

The next day brought a visit to the Museum of Africa, dedicated to South African history and anthropology, which is conveniently located in Newtown, a cultural precinct and gentrified (and safe) part of Downtown Jo’burg. Continuing our cultural exploration, we paid a visit to the Lesedi Cultural Village on the outskirts of Jo’burg, touring our way through the traditional homesteads of Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi and Sotho villages, tapping our feet to the beats and rhythm of a song-and-dance performance; and trying specialities at a grand African fest. A visit to Lesedi village gave us a great overview of South Africa’s history and culture – and the chance to experience it all for ourselves. We finished off the day with a memorable dinner at Moyo’s, a popular African-themed restaurant with traditional live music, in ritzy Melrose Arch, one of Jo’burg’s favorite nightlife spots.

2.  Enjoy Natural Beauty and Wildlife in Cape Town:

Cape Town, also known as the ‘Mother City’ is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nestled between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, with the city centre charmingly called the City Bowl due its amphitheatre setting, Cape Town combines quaint Victorian architecture and a breathtakingly beautiful natural environment. To really appreciate the city, we made sure to seize the first opportunity to catch the cable car up Table Mountain, as the winds change quickly, leading to temporary closures. The view from the top, with the city and the sparkling Table Bay laid out in front of us, was truly remarkable.

Our hotel was conveniently located on the fringe of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, one of the world’s most successful urban redevelopment projects, with old harbour sheds converted into upmarket hotels, restaurants, and shops, and an atmosphere that stays vibrant till the wee hours of the night.

The Waterfront proved to be an ideal departure point for our ferry to Robben Island, and the drive around Cape Peninsula, which juts out southwards from central Cape Town. Cape Peninsula has the Atlantic Ocean on its western shore, and the Indian Ocean on its eastern, all the way to the Cape of Good Hope, which is an hour’s drive south. The Atlantic Seaboard boasts a string of Cape Town’s most desirable and stunning seaside suburbs. This includes Camps Bay, with its buzzing beach promenade and luxury villas huddled against the dramatic backdrop of the Twelve Apostles mountain chain. This is followed by Hout Bay, with its fish restaurants and ever-popular boat excursions to the sealion colony right off the coast.

My favourite part of the trip was our scenic drive through Chapman’s Peak, which took us on breathlessly windy roads, with the ocean beckoning on one side and mountainous terrain on the other. The Indian Ocean side, on the other hand, seemed to transport us to the South of England, with its quaint Victorian seaside villages such as Simon’s Town, where we stopped for an energizing seafood lunch at The Meeting Place, followed by a visit to the penguin colony in nearby Boulder’s Beach, an attraction especially popular with families.

Finally, our drive led us to Cape Point at the southern tip of the peninsula, one of those end-of-the- world places, but nonetheless teeming with ostriches and wild baboons adding to the unspoiled feel.

(From Top to Bottom: Cable car up Table Mountain, Splendid views of the City Bowl, V&A Waterfront, Chapman’s Peak, Sea Lions off Hout Bay, Penguins in Boulders Beach, Ostriches and Baboons and view of the Cape of Good Hope)

3.  Indulge in an African Safari at the Pilanesberg National Park:

Most tourists flock to Kruger National Park for the safari, but we opted to take ours in Pilanesberg National Park instead. Being smaller and more easily accessible from Jo’burg, there is a chance you will see more animals in the wild as opposed to at Kruger, where there can be an entire days pent without spotting a single one of the Big African 5 (Lions, Elephants, Rhinos, Leopards, Buffalo).

Lesson number one: If you want to spot some animals, you need to get up when they do; which means taking the morning safari at 5:30 am! A night safari should follow so as not to miss the beautiful nocturnal creatures. It was a truly humbling experience to witness the animals in their natural habitat; time seemed to stand still as a rhinoceros nonchalantly crossed right in front of our jeep, while a herd of elephants took their time munching leaves and grass.

Later that night as we trudged back to our lodge, a warm fire awaited us. Here, we chatted with other safari guests over sumptuous local cuisine, and learned how to play an African drumbeat under the starry skies, re-playing in our heads the truly wonderful time spent in South Africa over the past three weeks.

Later that night as we trudged back to our lodge, a warm fire awaited us. Here, we chatted with other safari guests over sumptuous local cuisine, and learned how to play an African drumbeat under the starry skies, re-playing in our heads the truly wonderful time spent in South Africa over the past three weeks.

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About Mariam Ottimofiore

Mariam Navaid Ottimofiore was one of Fuchsia's founding members, its first content editor and a regular writer and contributer for the magazine. Mariam holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in the United States, and has 7+ years of experience in the finance and corporate world. She is also the Co-author of the book "Export Success and Industrial Linkages in South Asia" published in 2008. She is a travel enthusiast and a long-term expat, having lived in 7 countries in the past 12 years, but is still hopeless at packing suitcases and an expert at getting lost in every new city she calls home. She currently resides in Dubai with her husband and two children. To follow her expat adventures, you can read more on her blog "www.andthenwemovedto.com".