Late last month and slipping into the beginning of September, I spent the most amazing time in South Africa. Within a space of five days, I was taken on an adventure of fun and discovery which left me with a deep fondness for the country and its people. While in South Africa, I gave you a sneak peek of my time there in my earlier post. As promised, here is a report of my trip and exciting pictures of my time spent at the Rainbow Nation.
When I first heard I would be going on a trip to Africa’s choicest tourist destination, I was naturally expectant. A bit excited, but curious to see what pleasures the country had in store for me. It was my first time in the lush country and to say that my experience totally surpassed my expectations would be an understatement!
South Africa stands proud as the continent’s most favoured tourist destination, and for good reasons too. From the point of entry to the country, the OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg is a pride of Africa and it gave us an impressive glimpse of the kind of infrastructural development the country held.
As our tour guide, John, reminded us, it was rebuilt ahead of the world cup which was hosted in South Africa in 2010. Africa’s busiest airport is an expansive building with an impressive number of luggage carousels, multi-storey parkades, a host of check-in booths and over a hundred stores. We were totally blown away by the sophistication of the airport and had to frequently remind ourselves that we were still in Africa.
Oh, I forgot my manners. Let me introduce you to the “we”. South Africa Tourism sponsored a group of journalists from Nigeria for a five-day trip to witness the Tourism Month Launch and have an interesting tour of the country. We were there in two capacities – as journalists and as tourists. I was privileged to represent yours truly, Bellanaija and I met some of the finest journalists and editors from various media houses. Charles from BusinessDay, Jewell from Guardian, Nse from ThisDay, Kunle from Vanguard, Chico an OAP from Classic FM, Gabriel and Wale from NTA.
Did I mention I was the only female in the group. Oh yes. I was worried at first, thinking I wouldn’t have anyone to share any “girl talk” with. But it wasn’t a problem at all. They were all gentlemen and being the only lady in the group, I was constantly dotted upon.
From the airport, we were taken to a sophisticated 5 Star Luxury hotel called ‘54 On Bath’ at Rosemond, not too far from the Airport.
My first impression of the hotel as I stepped into its reception was ‘homely’. There was nothing stiff about the place. The couches were cosy, the colours were brilliant and the staff was welcoming. An enclosed sky bridge links the 54 on Bath to the Mall of Rosebank, perfect for the avid curio shopper.
It was a newly renovated hotel that had been operating for just two months and the staff were only to eager to make us feel welcome. And we definitely did.
Our trip was split in two cities – Johannesburg and CapeTown. We were in Johannesburg to witness the Tourism Month Launch, a yearly program organized by South Africa Tourism to highlight the tourism potentials of the country.
After a few hours rest, we were whisked off to Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa where we met with the Nigerian Minister of Tourism, Edem Duke for an interesting interview.
Our tour guide, John, was a very funny and down-to-earth man somewhere in his 50s. I was curious about his tribe, (he wasn’t really dark or light skinned, somewhere in between) and he told me he was “coloured”, not because he was trying to be sarcastic, but that was the accepted name for calling his people.
He had a vast knowledge of the history of Johannesburg and filled our ears with stories of the gold-rich city as we drove on.
We passed through the Pelindaba Nuclear Research Center and were awed with the view of the Magaliesberg mountain range.
Johannesburg is the economic powerhouse of Africa with its ever-growing suburban sprawl creeping outwards from the central city skyscrapers and ring-road motorways. We drove through several tree-lined cosmopolitan suburbs rich in eclectic restaurants, shopping centres and cinemas. But it didn’t subdue the rich culture of the city remembered through its many memorials and monuments.
The Union buildings in Pretoria was a good stop for an elevated view of the city and a photograph session. With large beautifully maintained terraced gardens and buildings in English monumental style, we were temporarily transfixed by the beauty and serenity of the place.
Back at Joburg (as it is popularly called) after our meeting with the Minister, we had more time to interact with the fundamental ingredient which made the city a great cultural hub – Its people. Warm, friendly people who infected you with their bubbly personality and were too ready to share a few jokes.
Lunch was spent at pool-side restaurants. It was a mix of their rich local flavours and continental dishes with up tempo South African music playing in the background. We bobbed our heads and shook our upper bodies as the food settled nicely in our bellies.
I found myself coming around to Joburg’s humble charms and was sad to leave when the time came.
Compared to the warm weather in Johannesburg, Cape Town was a bit cold. The sun shone hard but so did the 12oc chill and it almost made me uncomfortable.
But once we got into the groove of our fun filled activities, I totally forgot about the cold.
Majority of the tourists come to Cape Town. It is an all-encompassing city of hotels, eateries, malls, electrifying harbour side, exciting night life and entertainment.
We were lodged in the city’s only 6-star hotel, aptly named One & Only, and my experience of the luxury treatment is better experienced than described. The view from the balcony of my room was simply breath-taking. The hotel was surrounded with waters deep enough to accommodate super yachts. I was entertained with teams practicing their canoe rides and white doves flying around the pool side. The magnificent Table Mountains loomed in the background like the city’s guardian angel.
In Cape Town, I was enthralled by the mix of glamour and scenery. The city is surrounded by glorious landscapes, stunning beaches and a bounty of unique vegetation.
If you are not the type that hangs around the hotel lobby on a weekend evening, then you can head up to the ‘Long Street’ for a taste of a very high life and encounter beautiful Europeans who’d flown in for the weekend. Long Street is mix of soft hangout, big name Djs and the hard clubbing.
I must confess, I don’t have a very vibrant clubbing habit. Once in a couple of months usually does it for me. But the guys were eager to see what the city’s night life had in store and we found ourselves trotting to some of its clubs and bars. It was refreshing enjoying a good night out and of course having free drinks.
On our second day in Cape Town, we had a blast shopping at the Canal Walk. It was the first time I truly spent my own money in South Africa and probably because I hadn’t spent most of it on drinks I returned back to the bus with the largest number of shopping bags.
We were told that Nigerian’s in the city hang out in and around the Olimp sports bar on 120 Loop Street. And of course, we did visit there. Eating lumps of semovita with egusi soup and listening to sounds from P-Square and Timaya, we brought a bit of home to Cape Town.
Our boat cruise on the luxury yatch, Sherilyn was unarguably the highlight of our trip. Due to the cold and foggy weather, we couldn’t do some of the fun things planned on our itinerary like the helicopter ride and trip to the top of Table Mountain. But we had a blast on the boat.
We got close to the sea lions that had come out of the water to rest on the harbor and saw some whales from afar, sprouting water up into the air. The view of the table mountains was even more beautiful from the sea and the sun setting in the distance was a sight to behold. I had the most splendid time.
Dinner at the Japanese restaurant in the hotel was a delight. The chefs brought dish after dish of prawns, grilled fish, rice, meat, chicken soups, salad and more which I can’t really put a name to. I can’t remember the last time I ate a whole range of dishes at the same time and at the end, I had only good feelings in my stomach.
South Africa has a very proud tradition of wine making, a fact that you get reminded of almost everywhere you go. The waiters constantly refilled our glasses with the best wine I had ever tasted. My glass was never empty, not even while I was done with my meal.
Our last night again ended with some dancing at Long Street.
Each part of the trip was unique. Our hosts made us feel very welcome and we had a splendid time. It was totally fun and if you haven’t been to South Africa, I urge you to make it your next holiday destination. You will be glad you did!
Special thanks to South Africa Tourism