Intrepid explorer Jane Thesinger has travelled the world, experiencing exotic cultures and visiting faraway lands that many of us only dream about. Her latest excursion certainly continues in that adventurous vain. Store manager of Thesinger & Turner Travel Associates, Jane recently enjoyed seven action packed days exploring South Africa, from the wilds of the national parks to the bustling cities and lush wine country. These are destinations that must be seen to be believed. Jane shares with us her favourite highlights of her trip.
Table Mountain Views
If you like an exhilarating cable car ride with stunning coastal views as a reward than this is just the activity for you. Spectacular ocean views, stretches of white sand beaches and vibrant Cape Town itself can all be seen from the ecological wonder known as Table Mountain. This is one of Africa’s most memorable vistas where visitors can take in the famous geographical location known as the Cape of Good Hope. And while the steep climb of the cable car isn’t for the faint at heart, it’s a dramatic yet leisurely way to see firsthand the scale of the rugged mountain and southern tip of the great African continent. Jane says the lookouts are “a great way to get your bearings and the views of Cape Town are incredible”.
Paarl and the Wine Region
Just a short drive north east of Cape Town, the Paarl Wine Region offers excellent day trip opportunities where wine and cheese tastings are the order of the day.
The historical charm, natural beauty and culinary delights offer an inviting backdrop to the famous wine route where many of the country’s finest wines can be sampled. One of Jane’s most memorable stops was at the Grand Roche Hotel. The beautifully restored Dutch home offers an elegant location where guests are able to sample a great Shiraz or Malbec as well as a delicious meal or bistro lunch. “Sitting at lunch at the Grande Roche Hotel, looking over the beautiful gardens took my breath away” said Jane. For anyone who loves good food and good wine within a grand historic setting, this is the place for you.
Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve
A visit to South Africa would not be complete without experiencing the continent’s great wildlife. Set within an extinct volcano, the Pilanesberg National Park and Game Reserve features several different topographical landscapes where everything from Cape buffalo, elephants, leopard and lions can be seen up close. Jane was quick to add “I felt safe at all times and the guide was amazing!” While many different types of vegetation and bird life can be found here, Jane was most impressed with the leopards, as she gleefully recounted, “we saw four out of the five big leopards. They’re hard to find but they are there!”
Step back in time on one of the world’s most iconic rail journeys, the Rovos Rail. Any train or rail aficionado will especially enjoy the historic nature of the Rovos, travelling in fully restored wood panelled rail cars, all exquisitely decorated for optimum comfort. Jane travelled in style from Cape Town to Pretoria and was treated to a first class experience throughout. As the grand train snaked its way along the lush South African landscape, the journey was highlighted by what Jane described as “amazing food and service,” excited at “seeing rhinos, elephants, giraffes, hippos and lions in the wild!” Jane met a Canadian man on the train who had been wishing to make the Rovos journey for over twenty years and Jane could sense the long time train enthusiast’s excitement as their coach glided along the rails.
Jane advised the best time to travel to South Africa is late summer or early autumn in February and March when the weather is quite moderate. While South Africa is a friendly, inviting country Jane also recommends doing this trip as part of an organised tour as making your way through the country on your own can sometimes be challenging. And Jane’s final word of advice – “dinner at Gold restaurant in Cape Town for a real African experience” is a must – a culinary experience mixed with the sights, sounds and traditions of Africa.