It was only six months ago that I returned to Africa. It was exactly the right time for anyone who’ll love a spruced up South Africa, but who will want fervently to keep away from the raucous crowds that inevitably follow the World Cup anywhere in the world. I particularly liked the time I spent in Cape Town in my travel to Africa this time around. It was summer in the southern hemisphere, but curiously, the sun wasn’t as hot as it usually is at this time of the year.
There is a certain quality to Cape Town – it seems impossible to tame, as much as the city has been built up. Right outside the city are the wide-open skies, awesome canyons, the freezing Atlantic, and vast white sands beaches with seals and pelicans flopping about in all their wild glory. There is something so remote about Cape Town, that it makes you feel like you’re in some kind of a tropical Alaska. It’s that grand, it is that vast, it is untamed. If you have never been to Alaska, travel to Africa, and come to Cape Town. This windswept corner of the world will transport you somehow to reaches far, far away.
This isn’t a fact that escaped the early Dutch settlers, or one that escapes today’s Capetonians. There are beach communities who live right along the beaches living the rugged life; and then there are the depressing shantytowns that line both sides of the road on your way to the international airport. Like shantytowns elsewhere in the world these are filled with desperation, poverty, unemployment and alcohol. To lots of western tourists who travel to Africa, poverty tourism is a part of the attraction. The thing is, South Africa is particularly affordable now. The local currency, the Rand, has been devalued repeatedly over the last few years, thanks to political trouble in countries around. When you travel here, be pleasantly surprised at how much your dollar can buy.
Let’s say you take the best room in the fashionable Constantia boutique hotel in the Constantia Valley. A room like that would probably set you back $1000 stateside. Here, it’s fallen to no more than $345 today. The same goes for your trips to the best local restaurants, renting a car, safaris and the most breathtaking wildlife reserves. You could probably take in all of that for no more than $250 a day, and you travel first class all the way. This is a great time to travel to Africa.
As for the eating out in part, Cape Town could actually make it worthwhile if you were to travel to Africa just for the cuisine. There’s been a revolution of sorts here in this department in the last 10 years. But sometimes, it can be a little hard to get to. Take the Foodbarn in Noordhoek for instance (did you know that the beach out there is spectacular and untouched by tourists and everyone else?); getting there can be quite a trick, but it can be worth it. The affluent beachside community there feels disturbingly like something you’d see in California. And here you find the Foodbarn, which has been named South Africa’s best restaurant several times in a row. It’s a bistro dedicated to experimental cuisine that borrows from the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and French Provençal.
The highlight of your travel to Africa if you choose to make it that, could well be your visit to Cape Town. Take the Table Mountain for instance. Of course the monolithic mountain is a rare sight; but the way it is surrounded by tropical greenery, with natural wildflowers, is something else. The Kristenbosch botanical gardens are in the region, and for a $3 entry fee, you go past immaculately maintained plants that are riot of color. There is too much to be seen here to describe in one article; but all the serenity, beauty and majestic wilderness you always wanted out of Africa is right here exactly where you want it. You only need to make the trip.