I’m excited to bring you a post on South Africa from World Famous Photographer and friend, Lou Skayhan. Lou grew up in Maryland and currently resides in San Francisco. She shares my love of travel (although she actually travels, I just plan fake trips). She also has her very own printing service for any of you in need of a high-quality print or two. Last year, she designed and printed my Christmas cards which now hangs framed in my bedroom. Thank you Lulu!
SOUTH AFRICA: Cape Town, Stellenbosch & Franschhoek, Hermanus and Ulusaba
A friend of mine owns a travel company in South Africa and organized our trip. They could not have done a better job with our itinerary and if you’re planning a trip to SA, I highly recommend using them!
Our adventure in South Africa began in Cape Town. Everything about this foreign city was magnificent: Table Mountain, the architecture, the palm trees and it only got better we arrived to our adorable hotel, Cape Cadogan .This hotel was an old plantation home in Cape Town off the typical tourist track, which I loved. I felt that it gave us a different perspective on the city. We awoke early our first morning to the sun shining and incredible views of Table Mountain. We hurried downstairs to find all white linen tables serving the most delicious breakfast. We spent evenings our evenings in the living room enjoying wine and tea before we’d venture out to dinner.
Activities in Cape Town:
Hike Table Mountain: make sure you stick to the path for safety reasons. We ventured off the path (by accident) and added about an hour to our hike. Have you seen the mountain?
Surfing in Muizenberg: we took a surf lesson regardless of the strongest shark warning flag flying high.
Constantia Uitsig: you should have heard our attempts at trying to pronounce this name! Just a short drive outside of CT, where wine country begins, this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and the meal was amazing.
Stellenbosch and Franschhoek:
After acclimating to the time difference and enjoying our days in CT, we headed to the wine country. We arrived at our hotel called Clouds and what a perfect name!! It was a dream. Have I mentioned that I was not on a honeymoon?! I was traveling with one of my best friends from high school and were definitely mistaken as a couple quite a few times. Clouds was set up on a hill overlooking wine country and located next to Graft vineyard, which had an amazing restaurant. We were driven over there for dinner on a golf cart and had a lovely evening eating on their porch overlooking the vines.
Our travel agent set us up on a tour of three vineyards. They were all boutique wineries that one would never find in America. The wine was fantastic (and a quarter of the price of American wine)! I had to buy an extra suitcase to fit all of the bottles of wine I purchased! The next day we explored Stellenbosch which was remarkable. I was so taken by the Dutch architecture. Franschooek, meaning the french quarter was the “foodie” town of South Africa we had an unbelievable meal at Ryan’s Kitchen where we watched the Chef in the kitchen from our table and drank fantastic wine.
After another breathtaking drive through the South African countryside, we arrived in Hermanus, South Africa. Our hotel the Ocean Eleven Guest House was once again jaw-dropping. Within minutes of arriving, we had a whale tail sighting. Spot the tail…
Since we were located just miles away from the most populated great white shark population in the world, we decided to go cage diving. This was my first experience with sea sickness and I grew up on boats my entire life. Nothing like 10 foot swells, multiple people vomiting and dead fish being mashed up three feet away from you. While I was too sick to get in the cage, I saw plenty of sharks and at one point I thought the better alternative would be chumming myself…
When we decided to go to South Africa, I began googling the most luxurious safaris available – not a good way to start. Once you begin looking at the reasonably priced safaris they look like a middle school camping trips. One of my parents good friends had once told me they went on Richard Branson’s Safari, so of course I became fixated on Ulusaba. They were offering a special through AmEx: stay four nights and get the fifth free. Luckily, the dates worked. At Ulusaba you pay per person per diem which includes: two driven safaris morning and evening per day, tea and snacks before the morning safari followed by a full breakfast, lunch snacks and cocktails before the evening safari, dinner and drinks followed by the evening safari. It was worth every penny spent!
Every morning at 5am, we met for tea and snacks . We had the most amazing ranger, Greg so if you ever go to Ulusaba request him as your guide! He’s been out in the bush for years and his wealth of knowledge and desire for adventure is something else. We were there in November which conveniently is the time when most of the animals had their young (springtime in South Africa).
On the evening drive we would stop near a little pond where there were always hippos wading in the water. We would stop the car and set up a little bar and enjoy a drink it was so amazing as the sun was setting. After the evening drive, we would all sit down at a large table and enjoy dinner together. We met a lot of great people on that trip. We met an English couple and learned it was their 11th time at Ulusaba–that’s telling you something!
We ventured into a town near Ulusaba to visit a school. We had the amazing experience of meeting the children and helped paint the walls with fun murals. I painted a bird that I always painted as a child. Friends of Richard Branson donated enough money to the community so they were able to open the school. The program is called Pride ‘n Purpose so don’t miss out on visiting if you stay here!
I hope that when my niece and nephew are old enough, my family will go on this adventure together!