Culture and Wildlife in South Africa

By Natalie Faggianelli

Many of us have what is now referred to as a bucket list. I prefer calling them my dream destinations, Places I have wanted to visit since I was a child. The African continent is one of them for me. 

My first trip recently took me to South Africa for 9 days. While my trip was not as long as others my experience was unforgettable. I spent 4 days in Cape Town a wonderful city rich in history, beautiful coastlines, and accommodations, shopping and dining for all budgets. 

Penguins Soth Africa.jpg

There is so much to experience while in Cape Town I suggest you allow the time to enjoy the city. A full day tour will take you by boat out to Seal Island, while the trip is about 45 minutes long to the island the views of the Cape town coastline is beautiful and viewing the seals up close in the sea- while smell is awful- the experience is memorable. My trip continued with a drive out to the Cape of Good Hope along the beautiful coastline, en route we found a group of baboons enjoying themselves by the side of the road while they were a surprise to see you do need to take precaution as they are dangerous. The Cape of Good Hope is where it is believed the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet, but they actually are believed to meet just under a mile from this location, and well worth the trip the views are beautiful. After lunch I continued my trip over to the lighthouse to again take in the majestic beauty of the coast line. My next stop on the drive was to Boulders beach to see the penguins! At the time of year I visited the penguins were in their molting season, which keeps them on land for about 2-3 weeks, seeing the penguin in their natural habitat is a truly memorable experience. 

After a full day of touring I returned to my hotel and relaxed on the balcony by the bar to enjoy the beautiful Cape Town Sunset should not be missed. 

A visit to Robbens Island is a must while in Cape Town. The history of this island is in my opinion very interesting and you are guided by men who were held has political prisoners during the apartheid. What these people endured in the name of freedom should give us all a reason to pause and appreciate the freedom we enjoy today. The trip by boat weather permitting is about 30 minutes each way. The island is famous for housing the political prisoners especially Nelson Mandela. The Island was also a leper colony as well as used for the chronically and mentally ill with political prisoners during the 1800s. The Island was made ready to use during World War II should the need have arisen. 

My last day in Cape Town was spent the day visiting the wine region. 

The areas are known as Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. I chose to spend the day visiting each of these 3 regions visiting 7 vineyards. You do not need to enjoy wine to visit this region the area is beautiful whether you choose to spend the day or a few days at one of the many lodges. The region offers golf, biking, horseback riding, dining, shopping   along with tasting some of the wonderful locally produced wines. 

The next part of my trip took me to Sabi Sands where I stayed for 3 nights on safari. I spent one afternoon visiting the local village to learn a little of their daily lives. My visit took me to one of the local schools where the children were preparing for their graduation from their pre- school, I met a young adult choir who performed for us and taught us a few local dances giving me the opportunity to learn one myself. My visit then took me to the home of one of the villagers where I was taught the process of tuning corn into meal which they use in some of their local recipes and invited to taste some of foods that is prepared. 

 There are few words the first time you look into the eyes of a leopard or lion and be close enough to touch them if you have always dreamed of going on safari and the opportunity presents itself! With each drive the excitement of not knowing what animals or birds you may find is indescribable! On the second night drive out of the bushes appeared 4 male lions along the dirt road- the sight was just incredible. 

Other amazing sightings included, a herd of elephants heading to the watering hole with their babies, baby Hyenas waiting outside their den for their mother. An unforgettable experience was watching a female leopard hunt an impala to feed her baby. There are few moments in life that can match watching the sunset enjoying a glass a wine, while the hippos are in the watering hole within a few feet of us. 

Kelly O'Brien