South Africa

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  1. I am going to South Africa next month and I was wondering if anyone here had been there? I am spending 4 nights in Johannesburg, then we're going on a 4-night safari in the Kruger National Park and then we're going to Cape Town for 11 nights. We'll be cage diving with Great White Sharks. Scary!

    Does anyone have any suggestions on things to do/places to visit?

  2. I'm from Cape Town! Our house is on the beach in Camp's Bay.

    Also, my cousin works and runs with the Great White Shark Research Institute that runs out of the V&A Waterfront. He takes tourists out, too! Do you know who you're going with it? And it's an amazing experience.

    I have a whole list that I send to people when they go. If you want, I can email that to you--just let me know. (It's probably too big to PM.)

    Yay! I love it when people go to my hometown. They are always so pleasantly surprised and end up loving it more than they expected.
  3. OK...I just decided to post it here--warning it's long!

    I’ve outlined some of my favourite places to eat, shop and hang out there. I did not talk about safaris, wineries, since the best way to do that is with travel outfits, not on your own, which it sounds like you're doing. If you get some time, go up to wine country and drive the Garden Route for more awesome photos!

    Penguins – You need to see the Penguins, and Boulders Beach is the place to do that. You can hit it up on your way to Simon’s Town and Cape Point. FYI, it’s very touristy, but worth it. You can see them and even swim with them. (Water is very, very, very cold, though.) But, they bite, so watch out. I’ve been bitten.

    Robben Island – Obviously, this is the prison where Mandela was housed. It’s been turned into a museum and I really recommend visiting. It’s important to learn about his experience and what South Africa went through as a nation and people to fully get the most from your trip there.

    Table Mountain – Take the hike to the top if you can and are able. They have cable cars, but the walk is amazing. One thing to note is that the cable car can close at any time due to weather, so be careful to leave yourself enough time to get up and get down. But the view is breathtaking--THIS is your spot for some brilliant photos. We do this walk on Christmas morning as a tradition each year.

    Victoria & Albert Waterfront – Touristy, but still fun and great place to take photos! Lost of shops, restaurants, bars, etc.

    In terms of restaurants:

    Cape Malay cuisine is the distinctive local cuisine - I pulled this from the web that explains it -- “With the rise of the middle class and the shift in wealth in South Africa, this has meant an elevation of the cultures of that middle class, and in Cape Town that means coloured culture(s). Like great port cities of the world, there is a wonderful, powerful, distinctive and heady mix of cultures and pleasures to be discovered! Think of New Orleans -- Cajun and Creole, Jazz, Mardi Gras, history, mystery and a dash of hedonism."

    A couple fun and authentic local places and cafes are Zorina's (lunch only) and The Noon Gun, and Biesmiellah (popular, but it's not as nice a place). None have or allow alcohol. Higher end restaurants specialising in Cape Malay cuisine include the Cape Colony at the Mount Nelson Hotel and the Cape Malay restaurant at Cellars-Hohenort.

    Other awesome food-lover’s places are Olympia Café and Bakery in Kalk Bay (very casual) but a local fav. still unknown to most tourists, Jardine on Bree, Aubergine and a great new place near my house, the Round House above Camps Bay. Definitely have fish and chips at Fish on the Rock in Hout Bay. Have cocktails with the "beautiful people" at Cafe Caprice in Camps Bay. You should try braai Xhosa style at Mzoli's (go with a guide, though, to understand the full experience). One of my favourite things, too, is to have at sunset at the Table Mountain Cableway restaurant (on top of Table Mountain).

    If you like Indian – which is popular in Cape Town --the original Bukhara restaurant on Church Street has exceptional Indian, but Chandani on Roodebloem in Woodstock is my recommendation. A good lunch spot is Masala Dosa on Long Street.

    Addis in Cape Town -on Long and Church - is great for Ethiopian - but go early. If want to try real game, Khaya Nyama is a good choice. I don't like any of the other 'African' restaurants aimed at tourists, although Marimba in the convention centre may be an exception if you're with a group and get their 'feast.'

    I also don't care for the restaurants at the V&A Waterfront either, though many people enjoy them. Den Anker for a beer and moules frites is fun, though, and Willoughby's is a good choice for sushi.

    There are some exceptional places in the Cape Winelands as well, several in Franschhoek (but some are overrated, IMHO). Ruben’s in Franschoek is wonderful though!! Highly recommended! Depending on your travel, different restaurants will be appropriate, but De Leuwen Jagt restauraunt on the Seidelberg wine estate in Paarl is first-class Cape Malay by celeb chef Cass Abrahams, done in a relaxed wine estate style...lovely!

    The Black Marlin on Main Road in Millers Point, Simonstown ( serve wonderful seafood as well as some great game. When in SA you've got to try some venison (game) pie.

    For great Malay food, give Gold Restaurant, Gold of Africa Museum, 96 Strand Street ( a try - and while you’re there, go to the museum. Besides having one of the best lunch spots in all of Cape Town, this museum also houses an amazing African collection of gold jewellery and artefacts, displayed in a stunning, stylish exhibition space in an 18th century home. Good for gifts, too, with some exceptional design for sale. (

    A great and safe Cape Town Walking tour—

    There are some fantastic walking tours of Cape Town and many people will shop around for trinkets and stuff, so this is a great way to do both. It makes a great addition when mixed in with a few days of Cape Point tours (ie Penguins), Table Mountain, Winelands, Robben Island and the V&A Waterfront. Here's the basic template:

    Walk the SA National Art Gallery in the Company's Gardens, then go down to the Cultural History Museum (also at the bottom end of the Company's Gardens, and sometimes referred to as the Slave Lodge). Walk down Adderley Street and have lunch in Riboville restaurant (higher end) or grab a made-to-order schwarma (Egyptian pita filled with your choice of delicious things) from the schwarma king of "Cairo Schwarma" on the Shortmarket Street pedestrian section between Adderley and St George's Mall -- great people watching too.

    (Other lunch options are Addis in Cape Ethiopian Restaurant on Long and Church or Baran's on the corner of Burg and Shortmarket overlooking Greenmarket Square -- sit on the first floor balcony!).

    Enjoy Greenmarket Square, walk along Church Street and poke in the African Image shop for unique contemporary African gifts and curios. There are other shops there offering serious museum-quality African objects and also Cape antiques.

    2 different options/directions to go from there:

    You can either walk back to Adderley Street, stroll through the flower sellers and then across in front of the Old Town Hall to Buitenkant Street, then up to the District Six Museum, or just take a 20 rand taxi ride (from the taxi rank on Greenmarket Square) to the District Six Museum.

    Or, from Church Street walk two blocks up Long Street to the African Music Store (just above Wale Street). It’s the best music store in the city and has tons! Up another block or so is Clarke's Bookstore, it’s a really awesome book shop with all sorts of cool stuff. Not to be missed. Grab a drink at Lola's (great people watching) or across the street from Lola's at the Long Street Cafe.


    First off - In Africa, the classic place to go is the market. However, in South Africa, touristy markets for the most part have very little that is actually made in South Africa! (it's all made in Swaziland) So, FYI, most of the masks, bowls, fabrics, etc. that are wooden, mud cloth, kente cloth, etc. come from other countries. These markets are fun to walk through and souvenirs are fun and cheap! In Cape Town, you can hit Greenmarket Square and on Sundays there is Greenpoint Market and the Hout Bay Craft Market.

    Wire and bead and recycled-good craft is almost all South African, though. Buy a plastic bag chicken -- iconic SA craft item.

    Good shops in Cape Town for "higher-end" craft and some jewellery that aren't selling schlock, kitsch or crap:

    - Heartworks (Gardens Centre and Kloof Street near Melissa's)
    -Africa Nova (Cape Quarter in De Waterkant)
    -African Image (Church Street pedestrian section, just off Greenmarket Square)
    -Golden Flowers (Khayelitsha)
    -Montebello (Newlands Avenue in Newlands)
    The gift shops in the SA National Gallery and in the SA Museum are also good places to find really nice stuff (both in the Company's Gardens). Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden also has a good gift shop at the lower entrance and a garden centre at the upper entrance.

    -A VERY popular and very South African shop is Carrol Boyes. The flagship store is in the V&A, but you'll find licensed shops across town. Pewter and stainless steel cutlery, vases, etc. Also linked with Monkey Biz, one of the best beading collectives in the country.

    If you want to shop for clothes:
    -Sun Goddess in the V&A Mall
    -Mali South on Long Street and Longmarket Street

    Serious (ie, expensive!) contemporary art galleries:
    -Michael Stevenson Contemporary
    -Joao Ferreira
    -AVA Gallery

    Nice pottery and ceramics can be found reliably at the Potter's Studio in Kalk Bay. It's a bit hard to find as it's just off the main road, but ask around and they'll tell you which side street to turn down. Otherwise, Kalk Bay shops are...well...let's just say most of them strike me as tourist traps.

    A great item often overlooked or overpaid-for are Zulu baskets. You'll see them around once you start looking. They have designs sort of like Hopi baskets in the US, but the shapes are very different. The best source (and pricing) is in KwaZulu-Natal near Hluhluwe -- Ilala Weavers. Fortunately, they're online ( and will e-mail you pics and prices of their inventory and ship anywhere in the world reliably. I give them a big endorsement and have spent more money with them than I care to admit...

    Of course then there's the wine, and the diamonds, gold and tanzanite that are also quite popular, but I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding them!

    Let me know if you have any other questions! (I didn't include a ton of shopping for high end stuff, but if you want to know it, just let me know!)

    Hope this all helps!
  4. As far as safety can you give some pointers.

    I can't believe the number of close friends I have that our family grew up w/

    Many from Cape Town, Durbin and Joburg.
  5. Sharkbait: Thanks for all that info! I booked my cage diving trip with Great White Ecoventures. Are there any good? I'm scared as hell to do this but I think I would regret not doing it. I can't wait!