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Carol Mccarthy

Roseland, New Jersey Travel Agent

The Exotic Joys of South Africa

To this day, when I look at my photos from South Africa, I am thrilled to know that I was really there. It is so far away, and so much of what we did was different from anything I’d ever experienced.

It was my first trip to Africa and I’d never been on safari before. We stayed at Sabi Sands Game Reserve in Krueger National Park for three days and it felt unreal to get as close as we did to some of the animals. The nice thing is they have a range of accommodations and price points, so clients can visit on various budgets. No matter where you stay, the safari experience is amazing.

You go out with a driver who is in communication with other drivers so when there is an important sighting, everyone knows. A spotter sits in the front and points out things you’d never see on your own. For example, he pointed to monkeys playing in the trees and if he hadn’t pointed them out, I’m sure we’d have missed them. At one point, a lion crossed in front of our vehicle, not five feet from us. It’s like it didn’t even know we were there. Our guide said that they are used to the vehicles and have never been hunted by people, so they’re not afraid. 

Cape Town was another highlight. We stayed at the five-star Cape Grace Hotel, which has a strong sense of place, from afternoon tea to the antiques and artifacts gracing its public spaces and its location along the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. 

During our stay, we visited Robbins Island, where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner, and learned a lot about how apartheid had worked and how it was ended. The city itself is beautiful to walk around. We also took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, where we had awesome views of the coast, and also got to see an amazing array of beautiful endemic flowers. 

Since I’m an animal lover, one of my favorite Cape Town excursions was to the area where the African penguins live. The babies were quite small, and the mothers would shelter them. You’d see a baby poke its head up and the mother gently push it back—just as we would do with a toddler headed for danger.  It was so fun to watch! Not far from Cape Town is the wine region, where we toured a vineyard and met with one of the vintners. 

Our last stoop was Victoria Falls. It was astonishing from a historic point of view and for its extraordinary beauty, the animals and the people.  I loved staying at the gracious Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe. It was built in 1904 and among its historic photos was one of Queen Elizabeth as a girl with her family. I looked at that and thought, “here I am where they were so many years ago!”     

Since my trip I have sent honeymooners, multi-generational family groups and couples of all ages to Africa. I often use Tauck Tours. It has specific departures for families and covers everything from soup to nuts so you get the best experiences with nothing left to chance. For kids, Africa is totally engaging and educational, and for everyone, it is surely the experience of a lifetime. 

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