Getting to know… South Africa
My wife and I recently travelled to South Africa with Cox & Kings; we had a fantastic experience that we both thoroughly enjoyed. The trip was chosen largely for the itinerary, as well as having previously travelled with Cox & Kings and been well looked after – this time was no different.
We flew overnight with British Airways to Cape Town and were met on arrival by a young lad who took us through passport control and baggage claim before handing us over to the cab driver, who drove us to our hotel. The standard was set and we were not disappointed; we had the same personal treatment throughout the whole trip! Our accommodation was consistently of a high standard, and the food and drink were superb.
Everyone we met was pleasant and sociable, and we were very well looked after by Alistair, our guide in Cape Town, Jabin, July and the staff at the Simbambili Safari Park and Trevor and his team on the Blue Train. To summarise, our trip consisted of four days in Cape Town, crossing Africa to Pretoria on the Blue Train and a few days in the Kruger National Park. We had so many highlights, including the following:
- Table Mountain – dominant over Cape Town – the ascent and the incredible panoramic views from the top.
- Robben Island, with its poignancy and historical impact.
- The Cape with its overt ‘Britishness’, the fabulous scenery and wildlife.
- Cape Town with its diverse architecture, culture and historical impact that was linked to colonialism, slavery, conflict and revolution.
- Stellenbosch, the quaint university city with its Dutch influence.
- Stroking a fully grown male cheetah.
Stroking a cheetah
- The sheer indulgence of the Blue Train as it travelled across the vast veldt of Africa, interspersed with villages, townships and industry.
- Pretoria with the jacaranda trees in full bloom.
- Travelling through village after village, the schoolchildren and the range of housing and facilities on the way from the small airport of Skukoza to the Kruger National Park.
- The welcome received at the lavish Simbambili Lodge.
And last, but not least:
- The wildlife was wonderful – spotting leopards, lions and rhinos to name but a few – all in their natural environment.
A hungry cheetah (not the same one!)
Despite the glorious views, wonderful travel and gastronomic experiences my wife and I had, it was the social aspects that we found the most impactful. The interaction with the South Africans was the most emotive experience; some of the stories we were told of life under the old regime we found distressing. The problems ahead are challenging; physical projects to rehouse millions are compounded by the need to socially realign, educate and train large numbers. Tourism provides employment, but this means many of the men are away from home for long periods at a time. What’s more, there is talk of corruption and exploitation at all administrative levels. The list goes on…
Having travelled widely and being well-accustomed to seeing great social divides, in South Africa there was no language barrier, meaning we were able to speak to people who felt comfortable sharing their experiences. Our health professional backgrounds probably helped: we noticed the positive and forward-thinking attitude people had adapted – ostensibly forgiving, but not forgetting the past. This was a most humbling experience.
We had put off visiting this country, largely because of an apprehension that was, in retrospect, misconceived. Thank you to Cox & Kings for helping us lay that ghost. Next stop, Cuba!
Terry and Pam Davies
Lions feeding on a giraffe