This past April, I was given the opportunity to travel to South Africa not only with my parents but with one of my best friends Kate. My parents were asked to judge the South African Championship Horse Show in Bloemfontein which gave us the ability to travel there with them and spend an additional week traveling to other areas in South Africa. Here are some of my favorites from the trip. It was an experience of a lifetime and something I am so grateful to have been given the chance to do.
Our flight from Atlanta to South Africa was 17 hours (not including any other connecting flights or additional travel time). By the time we arrived in our hotel room in Cape Town where we began our exploring, it had been over 24 hours of travel time. We were 7 hours ahead of Illinois time which made adjusting a little bit of a challenge! However, once our day began in Cape Town and we saw how absolutely beautiful it was, getting over jet lag became much easier.
We spent our first day in Cape Town walking around down by the waterfront area. We went to lunch at a cute little place and explored the little shops throughout the area. We rode the ferris wheel that gave us a really neat view of everything around us. We considered the 30 minute long VIP ferris ride that included champagne and music in the cab… but we figured we could do without that! Haha!
On our first day exploring, we also went into the aquarium that was on the Capetown waterfront. They had so many neat fish and sea creatures.. not to mention..how adorable is this penguin?!
We had dinner at Baja Seafood Restaurant and enjoyed probably too many glasses of wine and more seafood than you can even imagine.
Our second day in Capetown, we went on a tour of the highlights of the city. It was an overwhelming amount but it was very, very cool. We went to Cape Point where we hiked up to the top of the lighthouse and experienced the strongest winds I have ever seen. We saw penguins at Boulder Beach and seals out on a boat near Cape Point. We finished our day by exploring Kirstenbosch National Botantical Garden that was filled with flowers, trees, and grassy areas.
While in Cape Town, we also did a wine tour. We went to three different vineyards and each stood out in their own way. The first, KMV Wine Emporium, was more of a guided, educational tour. It was very neat to see how the wine was actually made and where it was all stored. The second of the tour, Fairview, was a very hands on, open tasting. We were able to mingle, taste wines, and taste cheeses. Of the three vineyards, it was probably my favorite because of it’s laid back environment. Our third stop was at Stellenbosch Vineyards, which is a very well known winery in the area. It was delicious wine and had a very upscale atmosphere.
Once in Bloemfontein for the horse show, we spent most days watching the show and exploring the fair that was going on nearby. We went to lots of different little stands and were able to get some of our souvenirs and gifts there.
One of the days we were in Bloemfontein, Kate and I went to Bagamoya Wildlife Estate for the day. It was the most incredible experience I have ever had. We were able to play with baby lions, “teenage” lions, a meerkat, puppies, dogs, monkeys…the list goes on. At Bagamoya, they have bottle raised over 30 lions to full adult age. They teach them when they are young and these lions live in their backyard until they are of mature age. We were able to play with the baby lions Storm and Thunder who are around 4 months old anytime that we wanted during the day. The best way I can describe these loving lions is that they are somehow the perfect combination of a cat and a dog. They want to snuggle you like a cat but they are also very playful like puppies.
Along with all of the lions and animals that live around their house, we were also able to go out with them and watch them feed the adult lions. It was such an adrenaline rush to see a full size lion coming up to the car you are in, hungry and looking for food!!! We were also able to see lots of other animals in their lots like zebras, gazelle and camels. I could go on and on about this experience and never feel like I did it justice. All I can say is if you are ever in South Africa, make the trip to Bloemfontein just to visit Bagamoya Wildlife Estate.
Meet Glen, the hippo!
Our last two days in South Africa were spent in Johannesburg at a hotel in an adorable area. The area was surrounded by shops, restaurants, and cute bars. We spent the two days relaxing by the pool and having nice dinners in nearby restaurants. By this point in the trip, my parents were very tired from judging the horse show all week and it was a great way to unwind. Overall, my trip to South Africa was absolutely incredible and I am so happy to have had my camera to document the memories I made.