Johannesburg was once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. It's also South Africa's biggest city and the best place to soak in the country's recent Apartheid history. The Mandela House, where Nelson Mandela lived in 1946 and 1962, is a great intro to the city and to the man. The neighboring Apartheid Museum is a museum complex in Johannesburg. Set aside a few hours, as there is a lot to see and a lot to take in.
Soweto, a cluster of South West Townships, is an urban area within Johannesburg, with a population of 1 million. It's also the area where Mandela and Tutu lived and where the Apartheid struggles and many uprisings took place. Many say Soweto is the heart and soul of the country.
Hop a quick flight from Jo'Burg to Cape Town. South African Airways' service is so impressive, you'll get a full meal, poured wines and a cloth on your tray for a one hour flight.
You can reach the top of Table Mountain, a national park, via cable car or by hiking. Either way provides stunning 360-degree views of the city. Once below, V&A (Victoria & Albert's) waterfront is a great place to catch a music festival or an inspired street performance. It's also home to over 80 eateries, many of which are on the waterfront. All provide views of Table Mountain, the backdrop of the city.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is where 9,000 of South Africa's plants are grown and protected. Here again, you are privy to a view of the city and garden grounds below on their Canopy Walkway.
The Cape of Good Hope is a picture perfect place. It's also the southernmost point of African continent. Watch for the Chacma baboons. Finish with a visit to Boulders Beach. It's a part of Table Mountain National Park and home to many penguins. The rugged coastal road from Cape Town to the Western Cape is simply stunning, so be sure to factor in many photo stops in your travel plans.
Wine, Dine & Detour
There's so much to see in and around Cape Town. You could easily spend a week or more here. East (31 mi.) of Cape Town, the bucolic region of Stellenbosch consists of 150+ wine and farm estates where Pinotage takes center stage. Sideways Tours offers boutique winery and culinary tours to neighboring Franschhoek, the culinary capital of the Western Cape.
Atlantic Dune 4x4 Adventures offers off-roading, piloting a Land Rover in the dune fields, a luxury dune picnic, and sand-boarding. Cape Peninsula Wet & Wild provides a day of exploring Cape Peninsula on Stand-Up-Paddle Boards, a surfboard, by snorkeling, and fishing. Expect secret beaches, off the beaten path dining, and gorgeous Atlantic views.
For serious surfers, options are endless with nearby Cape Peninsula. Eland's Bay, is a three hour drive up the west coast of Cape Town, and Long Beach is on the Atlantic side of Southern Cape.The World Heritage site of Robbens Island provides a historical book end to your trip. It's where Mandela was imprisoned for years, a mere 12 km. from Cape Town.
No trip to South Africa is complete without a big five safari. Kruger became a national park in 1926 and remains one of the largest game reserves in Africa. There are several lodges and operators in Kruger Park, known for it's game and crowds.
Private reserves can provide a more intimate experience. Singita has properties in and out of Kruger. In Sabi Sand, their Ebony Lodge is very African tribal in design and was the brand's first lodge. Lebombo is more English colonial, set on a 45,000 acre private reserve.
Leobo is another reserve, a three-hour drive from Jo'burg. The 20,000 acres on this private reserve in the Waterberg Mountains offers plenty of ways with which to take in Africa. You can opt for a quad or mountain bike, a boat or horse, or you can take part in a tug of war with resident crocodile while the reserve's giraffe, hippo, zebra, wildebeest, cheetah and buffalo look on.
Whatever direction you head in, South Africa is always a life changing, soul sating trip.
If looking to go local, consider Tsogo Sun (www.tsogosun.com). With more than 45 years experience and over 90 hotels throughout the country, and in other parts of Africa, Tsogo Sun is the leading hotel group in Africa.
In Johannesburg, Tsogo Sun's Sandton Hotel (www.tsogosunhotels.com/de
luxe/sandton-sun) is conveniently located in the heart of Jo'Burg's business district. Many industry leaders favor the Relais & Chateaux property, AtholPlace in Johannesburg. Aardvark Safaris president, John Spence, loves the leafy suburban oasis. (www.aardvarksafaris.com/south-africa/athol-place).
In Cape Town, Grace Hotel (www.capegrace.com) is a luxury option on the V&A waterfront, while the 12 Apostles (www.12apostleshotel.com) is a chic boutique option, just outside of Cape Town's downtown area.
INDABA is one of the biggest tourism and marketing events on any African calendar. Next year's conference takes place May 7-9 in the host city of Durban.
We Are Africa takes place just before May 2-5 in the host city of Cape Town. www.weareafricatravel.com
South African Airways is South Africa's premier airline. You are immersed in South African culture and cuisine once in-flight experiencing their award winning wines and exceptional cuisine. There are direct flights from DC and NY's JFK and DC's Dulles.