I recently finished up a month-long journalism internship with Africa Media, a company in South Africa that allows students from around the world the experience to write, photograph, and/or film the people and wildlife of Africa. My visit has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I have no doubt I'll be returning to this beautiful continent one day. Here are the top five reasons you should book a trip to South Africa ASAP:
1. The Animals
Duh! My favorite part of my time in Africa has definitely been anytime I was on a game reserve. South Africa has plenty of luxury game reserves to vacation at. During my month in Africa, I have been to Madikwe, Indalu, and Mount Camdeboo. Each was absolutely breath-taking, and I got to see a large variety of African species on each trip. I left satisfied after every safari drive, with my favorite spottings including: giraffes, lions, elephants, buffalos, wildebeests, ostriches, rhinos, warthogs, aardvark, cheetah, impala, and much, much more. There's something about seeing animals in wild Africa that makes a human still and feel really connected with the Earth. If you come to Africa for any one reason, let it be this first one.
2. The Land
If there's one thing that matches the beauty of wild animals, it's a wild landscape. African sunsets and sunrises will never disappoint (think, The Lion King). Plants an animals galore make for beautiful scenery. South Africa also runs into the ocean, which makes for very lovely views. Different reserves provided different landscapes, some with flat land, some with mountain ranges. Both provided breath-taking views, which like the animals, allows the human visitor to feel a deep connection with Mother Nature.
3. The People
Besides the game reserves I have been to, I have also been to cities including Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Mossel Bay. Everywhere I've gone, the people have been so welcoming and kind. They know their manners, and they don't all hate on you just because your American, like i have known several European countries to do from my study abroad experience there. In addition, the population is diverse. Read more about this diversity in reason #5.
4. The Food
I'm very picky about food, and I got to be honest, I haven't always been impressed with the meals I've been served in Africa. However, I swear the game reserves make sure to provide their visitors with 5-star meals. At Mount Camdeboo, I had the best lamb stew with jasmine rice I have ever had. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I've also had my fair share of delicious steaks, so I highly recommend any meat lovers try a fillet at least once if they are to journey to this continent. My favorite steak dinner was from either Bistro Blues in Barrydale or Karibu in Cape Town.
5. The History and Culture
Similar to the U.S., South Africa is a sort of melting pot. They have a rich history filled with negative occurrences such as oppression and apartheid, but also positive occurrences like the end of apartheid, the influences and ruling of Nelson Mandela, and a movement into restoring the endangered wild African species. While their does seem to still be some separation between races as apartheid only ended so recently (for example, the existence of shanty towns), it is clear the country is finally moving in the right direction. An especial thanks to Nelson Mandela for this one! The best place to truly experience this history is probably Johannesburg, but you'll come across South Africa's fascinating culture anywhere you go.