A South African Safari

Tracks across the Karoo and in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve
By John Manton
  |  Gorp.com
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John Manton in front of Africa's Rovos Rail.
John Manton in front of Africa's Rovos Rail.

The Rovos Rail, taking us from Cape Town to Pretoria in South Africa, served as the beginning of the luxuries that would await us on our African safari adventure. Chamber music and champagne greeted us on the platform as passengers awaited boarding.

We spent four days at the foot of Table Mountain in Cape Town, a picturesque city founded in the 18th century by the Dutch East India Company as a supply depot for ships plying the spice trade. Awakening from its Victorian past and getting ready for the 21st century, the city boasts world-class hotels as well as historic colonial buildings.

This port city's past is recaptured by the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront district, known as the V&A. Children and their parents come from all over to watch tugs, pilot boats, ferries and other vessels of the working harbor. It's a great dose of local culture as well as a great place to meet fellow travelers. This is also the melting pot for performers like jugglers, mime artistes, rock 'n' roll bands, magicians, sword-swallowers, and fire-eaters who will entertain for a few Rand (US$1 = R4.60) in appreciation.

Shoppers will find this a mecca for local crafts. Crafts from Natal, neighboring Mozambique, Tanzania and Namibia vie for attention with the latest from Nike, Britain's Marks & Spencer, posh leather goods from Italy and, yes, genuine safari gear. The V&A caters to all taste buds with restaurants for any budget.

A short drive south, en route to the Cape of Good Hope, was the launching off point for our trip to Seal Rocks. The spectacle of thousands of seals sunning themselves on the boulders, cavorting in the surf, and diving for fun and food was an amazing sight. Even the penguins were amused.

Gazing south from The Fairest Cape, practically the southernmost tip of Africa, it was hard to believe that there was nothing but ocean until Antarctica—to the right the south Atlantic, to the left the Indian Ocean.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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