South Africa has come a long way since 1994. In April of that year, Apartheid’s more than 45-year reign of terror ended and a new era was ushered in. There were bumps and bruises along the way. Yet, the country is completely different than it once was. Over two decades have passed since Apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s president. The country has been transformed and today it is a popular tourist destination.
The country is the second most visited on the African continent. Around 9.5 million travelers visit South Africa each year putting it just behind Morocco. South Africa is a country with modern cities, national parks, beautiful coastlines, and vineyards producing some of the world’s best wines. It is known as one of the world’s megadiverse countries, giving tourists the chance to do a variety of activities involving nature, history, and more.
South Africa is also a country known for its luxurious resorts and hotels, 5-star restaurants, and nights out. There are plenty of reasons to visit South Africa and explore the country’s luxurious side. From Cape Town to Johannesburg, luxury is at your fingertips when visiting South Africa.
Where to stay on a holiday to South Africa
Located in the beautiful city of Cape Town, MannaBay is situated on Table Mountain. It looks down over the city and out to the gorgeous blue waters of the chilly Atlantic Ocean. From your windows you will be able to see the waves crashing on to the beaches and rocks that run along the shoreline. The hotel is in Cape Town’s ritzy Oranjezicht area and a short drive away from the heart of the city.
MannaBay is a former private house that has been transformed into a chic hotel. The walls are adorned with eye-catching local art. Guests are well looked after thanks to the 24-hour butler service. The hotel is relaxed and offers an air of independence suitable for modern travelers. Each room has a mountain or city view and plenty of space to stretch out. One of the best parts about MannaBay is the complimentary wine and high tea served to guests each day.
Rhulani Safari Lodge
Do you want to have a South African experience that will impress your co-workers, friends and family, and Instagram followers? Then the Rhulani Safari Lodge is your best bet. Located in the Madikwe Game Reserve, the lodge is designed in wood, stone, and local grasses which are used for the chalets’ thatched roofs. The Rhulani Safari Lodge gives you the opportunity to see South Africa’s amazing wildlife from your window. Visitors also have exclusive access to the Madikwe Game Reserve. In fact, staying at the lodge is the only way to explore the reserve. Guests rave about seeing lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos during their safaris in Madikwe. You will have plenty of chances to snap photos of the amazing creatures in their own natural habitat.
You will feel away from it all at Rhulani Safari Lodge. The nearest town is 60 miles away. Despite being in the middle of nowhere with wild animals all around, Rhulani Safari Lodge provides guests with maximum comfort. You won’t live like a wild animal while staying at the hotel. The lodge looks rustic on the outside, but inside it is gorgeous and wouldn’t look out of place in Cape Town or Joburg. Guests stay in chalets with outstanding facilities including swimming pools, bars, and a restaurant.
Where to eat on a holiday to South Africa
The Test Kitchen
The Test Kitchen has been one of the world’s top-rated restaurants for the last six years. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts takes diners on a food journey. Menu items have been culled from all over the globe making diners’ experience truly unique. The dining experience begins in the Dark Room where you are treated to appetisers before you are ushered in to the Light Room. There, you will experience the fine dining portion of your meal. The extravagant food is paired with local South African wines. The Cape Town restaurant doesn’t offer just meals. It provides guests with an experience.
Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient
Chef Chantel Dartnall creates dynamic flavors from locally sourced foods and seasonal ingredients at this Pretoria restaurant. Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient has a creative menu that fuses her cooking skills learned while traveling the world with the ingredients she finds in South Africa. Dartnall doesn’t just create food for her diners, but every dish is a work of art. Favorites include goose-liver spheres, brussels sprout leaves, cauliflower purée and truffle; scallops and lobster; and halibut and tilapia. Each dish has its own creative name. It is like poetry, but in the place of words is the delicately prepared food on Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient’s menu.
Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia
Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia opened in 2016, but in its short lifetime, it has garnered fantastic reviews thanks to its out of this world menu. Located in Cape Town, Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia was opened by former Test Kitchen head chef Ivor Jones. Every dining experience at Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia is different as Jones regularly rotates the restaurant’s menu. Diners can expect small plates with dynamic flavors. One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes is the home-smoked trout with burrata. The zingy tuna with lime-cured cream cheese is another hit. The coup de grace is the wild honey and lavender crème dessert.
Things to do on a holiday to South Africa
South Africa has been called the adventure capital of the world. If you like being outdoors and active, then South Africa is the country for you. Wild safaris are the most popular adventure activity and they get you so close to the animals, you can practically touch them. Kruger National Park is the most famous nature center in the country. In 2015, over 1.3 million day visitors explored Kruger National Park. There is also the chance to sleepover in the park’s lodges.
By no means is Kruger National Park the only wildlife and safari location in South Africa. It is the most popular and due to this it can become crowded. KgalagadiTransfrontier Park is a popular destination near the South Africa-Botswana border. You can also find self-driving safari adventures and more game reserves dotted around the country.
South Africa may not be the first country you think of when it comes to golf, but it possesses some world-class courses to add to your bucket list. Not only are the courses lush and smooth, but they are set amongst the beautiful South African landscape. Players are provided with a one of a kind experience while walking the fairways. Pearl Valley, a Jack Nicklaus designed golf course, is one of the country’s best. It is home to the South African Open and offers a challenge to golfers no matter their skill level.
While in South Africa try your hand at the Extreme 19th. Located at the Legend Golf Resort, you will tee off from the top of Hanglip Mountain. Measuring 391 feet, it is the longest par 3 in the world. It takes about 30 seconds for your tee shot to reach the green 400 meters below. To reach the tee box you will have to take a helicopter to the top of Hanglip Mountain. It is truly an extreme golf experience.
Explore the waters
South Africa’s major cities offer seaside locations and the chance to explore the waters. Sailboat and yacht rentals are available in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and more coastal cities. You can feel the spray of the ocean and the winds on the high seas while sailing around the coastline. Trophy fishing is another popular activity as you can snare a sea bass or a giant marlin from your boat.
Snorkeling and scuba diving give you the opportunity to view South Africa’s waters just below the surface. Fancy swimming with sharks? Tours offer travelers the chance to see giant sharks and swim amongst them.
If sporty activities are not your thing, then there are the beaches with fine golden sand that absorb the rich golden rays of the sun. Sit out under the sun and work on a South African golden tan or splash in the ocean’s waters. South Africa has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to beaches. From popular locales to deserted spots with glorious ocean views, there is a beach for every mood.
South Africa is a gem and more travelers are discovering it than ever before. With world-class accommodation, fine dining, and unique activities, you shouldn’t miss your opportunity to visit South Africa.
By Drew Farmer
Journalist and author. Contributor