South Africa was not on my list this year of places to explore. Zambia, Namibia and Botswana were, but my budget and work commitments did not allow it. I heard it was difficult to obtain a visa for Africa’s southern tip, but I tried and thankfully I was accepted!

Skyline of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg was unlike any other place I’ve ever experienced. South Africa’s largest city (4.5 million citizens according to Wikipedia) is colourful and diverse. A tour opened my eyes to street art that made my eyes pop. I loved their art galleries and museums. The skyline view was rich with skyscrapers that kissed the sky.
Soweto was quite an experience. I expected to see only people in tough economic circumstances as it houses the biggest slum in Africa, but every social status lives there—rich, middle-class, and in between. Posh houses were not too far from ram-shacked houses built of iron sheets. The history in this place was really interesting. Everything I had learned was from school but it was good to hear first hand about history with some evidence. Nelson Mandela’s first home is here, a single-story red brick house. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s place is not too far away.

Strolling down Maboneng- Joburg

Jumping over Clean streets.

A building with Mandela’s painting in Maboneng.

In the background is one of the 2010 World Cup stadiums in Soweto.
On this trip I was able to visit my penpal whom I have been writing for four years. We visited the Mandela National Museum (or Mandela House) which is a must see. We also visited the Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site that tells the story of “stones and bones.” It was interesting to learn about the evolution of our species. It was cool to go inside a cave and witness ancient carvings.
Pretoria was visited on a rainy day but South Africa’s capital city did not disappoint. You must visit the union buildings. They house government offices and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see President Jacob Zuma as his office is there. The union buildings also offer an amazing view of the city. The Voortrekker Monument, located just south of Pretoria, is a huge granite monument on a hilltop that tells the story of Dutch settlers. The history of the great trek is told with illustrations carved in stone.
My penpal Lizelle and her husband while at the Mandela Museum.

The Apartheid Museum.

Maropeng- Cradle of Human Kind.
Mandela’s statue.

The union buildings.

As my time to leave Johannesburg arrived I was looking forward to Cape Town. I traveled to O.R Tambo International Airport on a posh train known as the Gautrain. It took only about 15 minutes from the downtown core, and the flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town was about an hour. If you’re on a leisurely pace, you can easily drive there. The sights on the coastline are gorgeous.
Cape Town was the highlight of my trip! The city was so nice and clean. It was  modern and majestic with beautiful ancient architecture (my favourite). I had to remind myself that I was still in Africa, it looked like a European nirvana. I took a million photos as the city left quite an impression. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are such a beautiful backdrop to Cape Town. The sunsets are spectacular.

Some of the architecture in Cape Town.

The view of Lion’s head from Table Mountain.

On Table Mountain.

Magical sunsets in Cape Town over the Ocean.

Be sure to bring your hiking shoes and climb Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. You can go alone or with some friends because using a guide is pretty expensive. We climbed up taking a longer route that was less hectic. Back down we used a cable car because it was a tiring hike. Afterwards we ended up by the beach and watched some amazing sunsets and waves.
While in the area I suggest you check out Bo-Kaap, a colourful Muslim township located on the slopes of Signal Hill. The neighbourhood houses every colour of the rainbow lined with cobble-stone streets. Walking and bus tours are available. From there I traveled along the Garden Route of the Eastern Cape which is one of the most scenic areas I’ve ever seen. It’s named as such for their natural gardens and magnificent forests. Since I’m such an adrenaline seeker, I was looking forward to jumping off the highest bridge in the world located at Tsisikama National Park. It’s 216  meters high (don’t need to be an engineer to know that’s a long way up). I had never tried bungee jumping but was anxious to try and placed my faith with the good people at “Face Adrenalin- Bloukrans Bungy.” The instructors are great and put you at ease with their professionalism as music plays while you’re getting strapped up. I took the plunge and had no time to think about how fast I was travelling in the air. When I reached my destination 700 plus feet below, the fear was gone but the euphoria remained. It was so energizing.
Bo-kaap neighborhood.

Bloukrans bungee bridge at 216 meters.
The big jump!

Do you know there’s such a thing as African penguins? Yep! They’re located at Boulders Beach in the Cape peninsular near Simon’s Town towards the Cape Point. Absolutely adorable as they waddle through sparkling sand. If you like big jaws maybe you’ll see sharks or goofy seals like I did at Muizenburg Beach. We had our lunch inside the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park with the ocean providing a spectacular view. If you’d like to sample some grapes a wine farm is nearby.
Chapmans Peak Drive (affectionately known as “Chappies”) is about a twenty minute ride from Cape Town and is a beautiful coastal road. It’s ideal for cyclists and many American movies have been filmed here. My last evening in Cape Town was enjoyed with a friend when we went bar hopping on Long Street, a famous party neighbourhood.

Muizenburg beach.

Trying a headstand on the way to the Cape of Good Hope.

Penguins at Boulders bridge.

Chapman’s drive.

Camps Bay, the Beverly Hills of Cape Town.

Cape of Good Hope

Before leaving Cape Town I had to visit Robben Island Museum and see where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated along with so many political prisoners. It was sad to hear about apartheid’s past through the stories of former inmates but these stories should never be forgotten.

I flew to Durban though I did not do much here here. I spent two nights here, I went walking around with a friend and then spent sometime at the beach where by we got chance to visit the marine park. If you are into water sports activities, Durban would be great for you.  

At Ribben Island with Table Mountain in the back.

Along a beach in Durban.

Beautiful architecture.

At the marine park with a mate.

I finalised my time in South Africa along the Drakensberg mountains. There is a gorgeous waterfall located at the top; Tugela Falls, the highest on the continent at 983 meters (3,200 feet) and second in the world. I even saw snow for the first time (who would’ve thought I’d see penguins and snow on Africa’s southern tip!). These last three days was a perfect way to end my travels. I stayed at a hostel named The Amphitheatre  Backpackers lodge, a beautiful place to stay if you’re on a budget.

If you’re in the area, don’t miss the Drakensberg Amphitheatre; it houses one of the most beautiful cliffs on earth.

Tugela Water fall.

Breathtaking views.

Ascending down after the hike.

We made it to the top!
There is crime in South Africa, but like every populated country you should be smart and aware of your surroundings. If you go around at night, take a licensed taxi. South Africa isn’t cheap, so I recommend preparing your own meals to save your dollars for the big sights.
South Africa is internationally known for its beauty. Its the most amazing in Africa according to research. Experience it. I guarantee it’ll live in your heart long after you return home.