Updated: Apr 22, 2020
I went on a journey to South Africa (Johannesburg and Cape Town) and let's just say it was the adventure of a lifetime! It has always been a dream of mine to visit Africa, in hopes of reconnecting with my own history and culture. To say this trip exceeded my expectations, is an understatement. Africa should be at the top of everyone's travel list.
In the midst of all the hysteria of the current pandemic, I was able to travel thousands of miles across the world to spend a week in South Africa. From playing with lion cubs and visiting Nelson Mandela's House to hanging out on the beaches with African Penguins, South Africa has a plethora of cultural experiences to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Travel Tip: Exchange your currency to the local currency, South African Rand. While the US Dollar is worth more than the Rand, it's easier to shop and pay for local goods with their local currency. We did our currency exchange at the airport.
Travel time: Washington Dulles International Airport (Washington, DC) --> O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg, South Africa) - about 17 hours (including 1 stop in Ghana for an hour)
Airline: South African Airways
An African Adventure
I traveled to South Africa with two friends and we started our journey in Johannesburg, better known as "Joburg." We stayed there for three days then took a short hour and a half flight to Cape Town, South Africa. This flight only cost about $50 on Mango Airlines, which operates through South African Airways. Although the trip was planned to celebrate my birthday, the itinerary included a variety of activities for everyone to get a well-rounded experience of South Africa. We couldn't have picked a better time to travel: the vibes were so pure and serene, away from much of the panic in the rest of the world. South Africa has something for everyone: there are plenty of things to do indoors like museums and restaurants, as well as outdoors like safaris, hiking, and relaxing on the beach. As we got closer to the end of our trip, we were aware of the growing concern for the coronavirus. Therefore, we were unable to visit the Stellenbosch Winelands (highly recommended) or hike Table Mountain. No worries, I have both at the top of my list for my next trip to South Africa.
Recommendations for Joburg
Rosebank: a cool, artsy area of Johannesburg with plenty of restaurants and shopping (Rosebank Mall) within walking distance of most lodging in the area. We stayed in an Airbnb: a very nice apartment/condo with 24-hour security called The Vantage.
Things to do:
Lion & Safari Park - for up close & personal interaction with lions, hyenas, leopards, and giraffes. *Definitely pay for the hands-on playtime with the lion cubs (so worth it!)
News Café Sandton - great food and great vibes; the night we went there was a DJ and plenty of dancing
Nelson Mandela Square - a must see to visit the famous Nelson Mandela statue in person, there are also plenty of restaurants and shops here
Soweto - home of the famous Vilakazi Street: where Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once resided; also plenty of street dancing and street markets to buy authentic African clothing, art, and goods.
Mandela's House - also located in Soweto, this is a must see. Nelson Mandela's actual house where he resided with his second wife, Winnie Mandela, is now turned into a museum with plenty of artifacts and memorabilia to preserve the history and legacy of Nelson Mandela.
Chaf Pozi - a restaurant in Soweto that serves the best braai (South African barbecue) and other great traditional African food (chakalaka and porridge). Make sure you come prepared to leave with a full belly. It is traditional to eat in a communal setting with a table filled with food, surrounded by family and friends. Everyone just digs in and puts their own portion on their plates; this dining experience was cool to experience that sense of community around the table.
Recommendations for Cape Town
De Waterkant: a quaint area of Cape Town, very close to Long Street (where all of the clubs and parties are) and the waterfront. We stayed in an Airbnb in a condo-style high rise, on the penthouse level with a rooftop pool. This Airbnb had amazing views of Table Mountain and Lion's Head. The name of the building is called The Docklands and it also has 24-hour security.
Things to do:
Long Street - the lively street filled with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants; this is a must-do if you are looking to go out for a night of fun. *Space Bar and Bob's Bar are usually pretty busy on most nights.
Camps Bay Beach - a beautiful beach with breathtaking views of the mountains and the sunset; there are great restaurants and bars along the beach as well.
Boulders Beach (AKA Penguin Beach) - located in the Cape Peninsula, near Simon's Town. The home of the African Penguin (yes penguins live in Africa and yes they live on a beach). This is actually a national park, where they preserve the penguins so there is small fee for entry (about $10 USD per person), but it's so worth it. You can't really get close to the penguins here, but you can at the Cape of Good Hope.
Canal Walk Shopping Centre - a nice mall in an area close to the waterfront; great, affordable shopping with plenty of stores, including popular ones like H&M.
Good eats - Noble on Long (located on Long Street): plantains, chicken, turkey, rice, and more mouth-watering food options. Café Caprice (located on Camps Bay Beach): great drinks, tasty pasta, and a variety of entrees sure to fill you up.