Affordable extravagance, accessible adventure, amazing wildlife, and experiences as diverse as the culture – 2016 is the perfect time to explore the Rainbow nation. Luxury travel in South Africa is quite unlike anywhere else in the world; from Michelin-standard fare at fast-food prices, to five-star private camping in the middle of the desert, this beautiful country still manages to surprise and delight even the most frequent visitors.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CAPETONIAN
Capetonians love getting outside. From shark-diving to sand-boarding, or a more sedate journey via cable car up Table Mountain, there is no shortage of outdoor activities. Start the day with a sunrise hike up Lion’s Head Mountain, and blow any remaining cobwebs away with a spot of yoga as the sun comes up over the city. Next, head down to Woodstock, the fashionable suburb celebrated for its eclectic mix of authentic and vibrant shops, galleries and restaurants. From here, a short drive takes you to the trendy Cape Quarter Village to explore the lifestyle concept stores and excellent eateries. In true Capetonian spirit, round off the day with a sundowner aboard a Table Bay cruise, or – to finish as you started, at altitude – on the top of Table Mountain.
ROBBEN ISLAND TRIATHALON
For those looking to really push themselves, visitors can take part in the Robben Island Triathlon; a swim in the frigid waters of the harbour before cycling and running through and around the island’s historic landmark, including the famous limestone pits. You arrive several days before the main event and spend some time training with local top athletes and fellow adventurers before taking part. For a personal edge to the physical challenge, you can also arrange to stay overnight in one of the prison cells – truly appreciating the scale and isolation of this off-shore heritage site.
PADDLE WITH PENGUINS
If swimming with sharks is not your thing, you can try paddling with penguins; the charming seaside retreat of Simon’s Town (on Cape Point Peninsula) plays host to a rare colony of African Penguins on a small, protected secret beach. Using paddle boards, visitors can glide by with little disturbance for incredible vantage points. To get even closer, snorkels are available for those willing to brave the chilly waters to swing alongside these beautiful birds.
JOIN AN ANTI-RHINO POACHING TEAM
For a twist on the traditional safari experience, head to the scenic Eastern Cape where you can enjoy a rare opportunity to help preserve endangered species on a Rhino Conservation Safari. The four-day programme starts in the classroom, learning about the black and white rhinos in the region; their conservation status, behavioural patterns, and so on. Alongside a team of experts including vets and rangers, guests are then assigned specific roles for the anti-poaching task before heading in the Kwandwe Private Game Reserve.
You’ll help track, dart and sedate the mighty animals before administering any necessary medication, measuring and recording health data – you can also help with horn-drilling (for the insertion of microchips) and ear-notching procedures for future identification, both crucial tasks in supporting the preservation and protection of these magnificent beasts. Reward yourself with a helicopter trip back over the reserve to your luxury safari lodge.
SLEEP UNDER THE STARS IN THE KALAHARI
From the stunning base camp of Tsawlu (luxury living in the middle of the Kalahari), guests can venture further out into the desert on a guided horseback tour at sunset to observe the elusive and unique wildlife. Arriving at a spectacularly isolated camp-out, you can enjoy drinks and canapes while enjoying a completely unspoiled panoramic view of the savannah. Relax on the private viewing deck as the sun sets and listen to the sounds of the bush as it comes alive at night. The bare-foot luxury camp boats a four-poster bed, Egyptian cotton bedding, and a unique candle-lit shower.
SAND BOARD AND QUAD BIKE THE ATLANTIC COAST
For the thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies, head up the Atlantic coast to the Atlantis Dune to learn the basics of sandboarding; the gleaming ocean and distant Table Mountain provide stunning views as you glide down the desert slopes. You can then take a guided quad bike tour up, down and sideways along the dunes before finding a secluded spot for a picnic lunch.