What to Do in South Africa
Patrick Ashworth, founder and CEO of Ashworth Africa Luxury Tours & Safaris, talks about the things to see and do while in South Africa
What are the most popular destinations in South Africa right now?
With its Californian climate and breathtaking scenery, Cape Town is always popular. Kruger National Park (and the adjacent private Sabi Sand Game Reserve) is another huge attraction, being one of the oldest and largest game reserves in the world.
Are there any resorts with special views or history?
There are a couple in Cape Town. Ellerman House, a boutique hotel, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and boasts one of the finest private collections of South African paintings. The colonial Mount Nelson Hotel, with its magnificent gardens, was built in 1899 and visited over the years by personalities such as Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill. Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger Park features luxurious timber and glass suites elevated on stilts along a cliff face. The suites all have floor to ceiling glass walls and are ideal for game viewing. At Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge, the eco-sensitive luxury suites have been excavated into a slope and partly covered with earth, giving one the impression of sleeping in a luxurious cave.
Is there a thriving art and design scene in the area?
Yes. Cape Town is bidding to be World Design Capital 2014. Visitors can head to galleries such as João Ferreira or The Goodman Gallery to learn about local art. Cape Town also has its own fashion week in August and boutiques such as Darkie, Mungo and Jemima are great places to view local fashion design.
What are some of the unique local crafts that visitors must get?
Accessories made from ostrich leather, as South Africa raises more ostriches than any other nation, with the birds being farmed for their feathers, meat and skin. Wire art is a way to take home some of South Africa’s vibrant culture as well. South African wire artists create ingenious works of functional and decorative art from discarded metal and telephone wire; from elephants, Nguni cattle and Nelson Mandela, to CD stands, key rings, picture frames, baskets and egg cups. Ceramic art collectors should also purchase Ardmore ceramic pieces, which are functional and decorative artworks known for their daring display of bold Zulu colour and folklore.
Where can visitors go for these wares?
For ostrich leather, head to Cape Cobra (4th Floor Hill House, 43 Somerset Road, Greenpoint). Streetwires (77 Shortmarket Street) offers outstanding wire beading creations and Tribal Trends (72 Long Street) carries a wide array of Ardmore pottery. These stores are all located in Cape Town, so be sure to allocate more time in the city if you want to shop.
What is the best time to visit South Africa, and why?
Every season offers something special. In the summer months (December to March) Cape Town has perfect beach weather, with hot sunny days and low humidity. In Kruger Park, the days are hot and you might see some rain showers but prices tend to be lower during this low season and there is a proliferation of birdlife and newborn animals. In winter (June to August), Cape Town experiences cool, rainy days with mild, sunny weather. This is the best time for game viewing.
Does South Africa have its own cuisine?
Cape Malay cuisine is unique to Cape Town. It dates back to the 17th century and has evolved to reflect the influences of the times. Originally a product of the early Indian and Malay settlers in the Cape, examples today includes smoorsnoek – snoek (a local barracuda-type fish) simmered with onions and tomatoes. Oumens onder die kombers, a meat patty dish wrapped in cabbage leaves, is also recommended. Head to Noon Gun Restaurant (273 Longmarket Street, Bo-Kaap) located on the slopes of Signal Hill with glorious views over Cape Town to try the cuisine.
With a bespoke tour operator like Ashworth Africa Luxury Tours & Safaris, what can visitors expect in their exclusive itinerary?
Personalised itineraries pay great attention to detail. Expect the best rooms in hotels and game lodges; the best tables at the finest restaurants; top tourist guides and game rangers. A well-planned itinerary ensures that guests see and do far more than if they had booked the trip themselves, but it also allows for a decent amount of downtime to include additional stops or last minute changes if necessary.
Pictures courtesy of Ashworth Africa Luxury Tours & Safaris
This story is adapted from "Jewels of Adventure, published in Singapore Tatler Homes June-July 2012 issue.