Think a gay trip to South Africa is just lions and tigers…and bears taking pictures of the lions and tigers?
Then you’ve barely scratched the surface of what this amazing country has to offer.
South Africa has fabulous safaris, to be sure. But it also has amazing sights – there are 153 UNESCO World Heritage sites on the African continent, including 9 in South Africa – gorgeous scenery, and culture (in sophisticated Cape Town) that rivals any city in the world.
Brand g’s South Africa trips make the most of these diverse experiences, with an incredible luxury safari, a journey to the gorgeous Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and a comprehensive visit to Cape Town, routinely voted one of the top cities in the world for its beauty and cultural offerings.
But whether you go with Brand g, or on your own, just promise us you won’t do a safari and then leave. This is an amazing continent, and when you’re flying this far (it’s a good 20 hours or more of flight time from most of the U.S.) it would be a CRIME to leave without visiting some of these other amazing locales. And we really don’t want to have to chant, “Lock her up!”
(Cape Town waterfront)
Cape Town is flat-out gorgeous. Framed by water on three sides and the flat-topped Table Mountain on the fourth, it’s scenic, temperate, and has more things to do than we could ever cover in one blog post.
But here’s a quick sampling:
The Victoria & Albert Waterfront – Known by locals as the V&A, this has to be one of the most scenic outdoor malls anywhere in the world. Filled with great shopping and dining options, you’ll want to hang out here for days.
(One of many views from atop Table Mountain)
Table Mountain Cable Car – Sure, it’s touristy, but what a view. There are spectacular city and ocean vistas everywhere you turn. And because Table Mountain is flat on top, there are 360 degree views. Be warned: it can be a good 35 degrees cooler atop the mountain, so bring a jacket or you’ll be clinging to strangers in really awkward ways.
The Cape of Good Hope – The Cape Peninsula is chock full of natural beauty, and a full-day tour of the nature reserve and surrounding areas is a must. Make sure your tour includes a visit to Boulders Beach, which hundreds of South African penguins call home. You can get within several feet of these affable little guys. But don’t try to stuff one in your purse.
(De Grendel Estate Winery)
The Cape Winelands, South Africa’s wine country, is about an hour outside the city. The two regions – Stellenbosch and Franschoek – offer award-winning red and (especially) white wines, along with exquisite olive oils, all at wineries so scenic, they put Napa Valley and Provence to shame. A picnic lunch at Warwick Wine Estate and dinner at De Grendel are two absolute standouts.
Robben Island – a short ferry ride takes you over to Robben Island, home of the prison where Nelson Mandela spent a good part of his 27 years behind bars. Particularly if you don’t make it to Johannesburg (and its amazing Apartheid Museum), this will give you a dose of the struggle and heroism of this man who changed South Africa. And the tours are guided by actual former political prisoners!
VICTORIA FALLS (ZIMBABWE)
Although Victoria Falls is located over the border of South Africa in Zimbabwe, it’s worth the trek (it’s about a 1-1/2 hour flight). Zimbabwe has its problems with infrastructure, but the Victoria Falls region is built for tourists, with a few stunning, 5-star properties like the Victoria Falls Hotel, where you’ll feel like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. Bring a big hat.
(Victoria Falls Hotel)
If it’s been a rainy year, the falls are spectacular, and there’s plenty of great hiking in the parks that border both sides of the falls. A great way to get a sense of the enormity of the falls (and to see migrations of wild game, like buffaloes, wildebeasts, etc) is to take a helicopter over them. (Brand g includes this, and it is memorable.)
Then, be sure to take a dinner or cocktail cruise on the Zambezi river, where you’ll see alligators sunning themselves on the banks and herds of hippos having happy hour in the water.
SAFARI (KRUGER NATIONAL PARK)
This is, of course, still the star of any trip to South Africa, because where else in the world but Africa can you sit in a jeep amidst wild lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffalos, etc?
It is an otherworldly experience to have a pride of lions relaxing ten feet from your open-air jeep, or a herd of elephants brushing past you in the pitch black of night, the only sound being the rustling of the brush.
But, of course, we are gay, and most of us aren’t really up for camping under a tarp with a Bowie knife tucked under our pillow. Fortunately, South Africa has a host of 5-star luxury camps on massive private reserves within the park (like Lion Sands, where Brand g takes over its River Lodge). Here, the term “glamping” is dialed up to 11, with stunning, air-conditioned villas.
So, if you haven’t been to South Africa, go. It truly is one of the ultimate bucket list destinations. And when you do, plan to see as much of it as you can. It will be an experience you will never forget, and certainly one you will never regret.
And the slideshow you force your friends to sit through when you return will be SPECTACULAR.