South Africa is constantly changing and always keeping on top of the latest trends and offering travelers more reasons to visit and return.
South Africa, or ‘SA’ as the locals call it, practically embodies the definition of ‘variety.’ The wide-open spaces of the African bush teem with diverse wildlife, from elephants to zebras, and an incredible variety of plants including the baobab tree and the vibrant wildflowers that blanket the land in springtime. Meanwhile, cities like Cape Town provide a unique cosmopolitan experience of fashionable restaurants, gorgeous beaches and a music scene that seems to pervade every street corner.
From claiming more than 15 World Travel Awards to being the home of Travel + Leisure’s second best hotel in the world, South Africa is topping awards lists across the globe. Here, we catch you up on what’s new and exciting in this cutting-edge corner of the world.
There are a whole lot of changes going on in the South African hotel world. Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel will open a brand new $2 million spa this year. At 6,100 square-feet, the spa will utilize a Victorian-era design concept that incorporates natural light, potted flowers and palms to create the ultimate relaxing atmosphere. Knysna, along South Africa’s Garden Route and not far from Cape Town, is home to the Pezula Resort Hotel. Perched above the Indian Ocean with sweeping views of the Outeniqua Mountains, Pezula is all about indulgence, with gourmet cuisine, an exclusive spa and championship golf course rounding out the amenities. But South Africa’s real hotel showpiece is the Singita Sabi Sand Hotel in the country’s world-renowned Kruger National Park. Picturing a rustic hunting lodge? Think again. The Singita Sabi Sand was just ranked number two by Travel + Leisure on their “2007 World’s Best Top 100 Hotels” list. The Singita Sabi Sand combines world-class amenities and fashionable, hip décor, with walls made entirely of glass to showcase the exhilarating scenery of Kruger National Park that is, quite literally, all around you.
In addition to a crop of innovative hotels, South Africa’s restaurant scene is heating up as well. One example in Durban, up the Eastern coast, is the Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant, The Green Mango, which offers incredible sushi and a selection of unique Japanese ‘sandwiches’ that are not to be missed. Johannesburg has a multitude of dining options, including The Green Truffle, which specializes in unusual flavor pairings like cumin-crusted roasted lamb with eggplant, Marsala jus, salsa and watercress. And in Cape Town, the offerings are myriad. SALT specializes in a unique blend of modern cuisine with authentic ethnic dishes; Pepenero’s offers an upscale blend of seafood and Italian cuisine; and celebrity chef Cass Abrahams whips up creations that blend eastern spice with Dutch cuisine at De Leuwen Jagt on the Seidelberg Wine Estate.
South Africa’s constitution guarantees every citizen the exclusive right to “have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations.” Add to this the distinction of being ranked third in the world for biodiversity, a near-perfect ethical tourism record and 20 Blue Flag Beaches. It only stands to reason that South Africa would have plenty of eco-friendly tour companies ready to show you what makes their country so magnificent. Companies like African Travel Inc., who dedicate a portion of their profits to the Cheetah Outreach Foundation, which works to protect endangered cheetahs, lead the trend of providing ecologically and environmentally responsible ways to explore South Africa.
Fashion is fast becoming one of South Africa’s most important industries. Each June, African mobile phone provider MTN sponsors Durban Fashion Week, which focuses on new and up-and-coming designers. July brings the Nokia Cape Town Fashion Week, which provides a platform for designers from across sub-Saharan Africa and draws some 30,000 fashion luminaries, media, buyers and celebrities each year. The design talent is undeniable, with big names like Durban’s Amanda Laird Cherry, known for drawing inspiration from traditional tribal blankets and ceremonies; and Cape Town’s Anthea Mooney, whose hand-painted dresses are a favorite for special events.
Indigenous Spa Treatments
At Cape Town’s Sanctuary Spa at the 12 Apostles Hotel, treatments are extraordinary. Here, the flagship service is the Moya Crystal Massage, which uses products from South African company Moya. The products, rich in the healing properties of the indigenous fynbos plant, combine with African-mined crystals for a head-to-toe massage that is light, flowing and luxurious. The method works to alleviate stress and promote health by balancing the body’s energies in a uniquely African way. There are distinct versions for men and women using selected botanicals beneficial to each gender. All treatments utilize heated Obsidian stones to relax muscles and end with soothing head massages to leave you rejuvenated and recharged.
South African wines are constantly increasing in popularity around the world and for wine lovers, there is no better place to travel. Several vineyards in South Africa have teamed with local hotels to offer travel packages specifically geared toward wine-lovers. Packages include exclusive tours—including one by helicopter—of the region’s finest vineyards. Best of all, the tours include an assortment of area wines—some only available on the South African mainland—delivered to your front door. Still others offer monthly deliveries of wines you select for as long as you like, so you can continue enjoying the new vintages you’ve discovered and share them with your friends.
South Africa’s heritage is diverse and rich. After all, this is the home of “The Cradle of Humankind,” a region of the country where scores of humanoid fossils have been discovered. As such, UNESCO has recognized South Africa seven times in the past as a place of deeply important world history. Recently, UNESCO designated an eighth World Heritage Site, the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape. Consisting of 400,000 acres of northwestern South Africa’s rugged desert, the Richtersveld is home to the semi-nomadic Nama people, whose migration customs—such as building portable houses called haru oms—reflect the seasonal patterns that have been in effect in the area for at least two millennia. The Nama are descendants of the even older Khoi-Khoi tribe, who once called the lands of southern Namibia home, before migrating into the present-day Western and Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Fittingly, the Richtersveld has been put back into the ownership of the Nama people, giving it the extraordinary distinction of being the first World Heritage Site to be managed by an indigenous community that until recently had little to call its own.
12 Apostles Hotel – While in South Africa, indulge at the 12 Apostles Hotel. If you reserve your vacation with us, and stay three nights in a suite, we’ll give you two free spa treatments, a complimentary afternoon tea, a two-course lunch and daily breakfast.
MOVING FORWARD… REMEMBERING THE PAST
Johannesburg has been quickly moving forward into a fascinating renaissance. But unlike many places that have been no strangers to turmoil, Johannesburg has chosen not to forget its past.
The Apartheid Museum is an extraordinary achievement of a cross-cultural team of curators, filmmakers, historians and designers using large-scale photographs, artifacts, newspaper clippings and film footage to powerfully recreate the history of apartheid. The illustration begins by separating all visitors from their parties in an effort to mirror the experience of being forced to live in separate societies.
One of the most affecting exhibits is a quiet space centered on a copy of the post-apartheid Constitution, and a floor covered in pebbles. Visitors can express their solidarity with modern-day South Africa by adding their own pebble to the floor. Perhaps the most impacting feature is a recording studio in which visitors who lived under apartheid can record their stories and experiences for other visitors to hear. These first-hand accounts bring apartheid to life in a way like no other.
Content provided by South African Tourism