Will I Enjoy The Food In South Africa?

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Cape Town, food lovers' capital of South Africa

We’re all familiar with the famous flavors of Italian spices, hearty German food, French delicacies, and Chinese take-out, but what about South African cuisine? For many travelers to South Africa, who are unfamiliar with traditional South African cuisine, there is a concern about whether or not they will be able to enjoy the food on their trip to Africa.

In order to get a better idea for South African dishes, you will find a brief description of the influences on the evolution of South African cuisine below:

Dutch settlers brought . . .

• A variety of seeds from Europe to grow watermelon, cucumbers, pineapples, and potatoes.
• Traditional English and Dutch recipes for stews and dishes.

French settlers brought . . .

• Wine and facilitated vineyard growth throughout the region. Now, Cape Winelands, South Africa, is one of the greatest wine production regions in the world and is a must visit destination for wine lovers.

Malaysian slaves (traded by the Dutch East India Company) brought . . .

• Spices that added zest and life to traditional English and Dutch stews.

German settlers brought . . .

• German desserts including pastries and baked goods.

All of these countries, as well as influences from India and China, have shaped South African cuisine into what it is today.

Specific types of food and dishes you can find in South Africa today include:

• Produce: corn, squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, fruits, and green beans.
• Seafood (a main dietary staple in South Africa): hake (commonly sold as fish and chips), rock lobster, mussels, and cod.
• Meat pies (inspired by the English and Dutch): The Boer Chicken Pie and Bobotie.
• Sausages: beef, pork, lamb, ostrich, and chicken.
• Desserts: rice pudding and melktert.
• Other dishes: rice, Frikkadels (hamburgers), and Bredies (stews).

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Lunch at La Colombe Restaurant

One of the greatest misconceptions some visitors to the region may have about South Africa is that all accommodations offer South African dishes and meats that are unappetizing. This, in fact, is an inaccurate assumption, not only because many South African dishes have been inspired by Europeans, but also since many of the hotels, camps, and lodges throughout the region accommodate foreigners who are used to more westernized flavors and dishes and prefer these types of meals. 

Although this concern is understandable as there are some dishes, meats, and ways of preparing meals in the country that many foreigners would find to be unappetizing, there are also a wealth of traditional dishes that incorporate Asian and European spices and flavors.

Some of the popular cuts of meat found in restaurants and accommodations throughout South Africa (that are traditional dietary staples throughout many regions of the world) include beef, lamb, duck, chicken, and fish. And for the more adventurous eater, there are delicious meats primarily served only in Africa, which include springbok, kudu, and crocodile.

With a variety of westernized dishes and traditional South African dishes, visitors to the region are guaranteed to find meals that fit their liking. Therefore, whether you’re a more adventurous eater or a conservative eater, you will find delicious eats.

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Who Knew Merlot Cared So Much About Labels?

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Photo from Avondale website

The wine country of South Africa is full of old-world Dutch estates, family-owned vineyards, and charming countryside, but there is one vineyard, in particular, that is appraised for not only its eco-friendly practices, but also for its delectable wines.

Each year, Avondale picks their best wine from the barrel and awards it the Les Perleus label. This label of excellence was given to their Merlot 2006 this year because of its “deep velvety texture,” hints of fruit flavors, and long, subtle tannin finish.

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Photo from Avondale website

Below you will find more information about the Les Perleus Merlot 2006:

• Some of the grapes were fermented in open tanks and the other part in closed tanks.

• Part of the fermentation process occurred in French oak barrels to draw out deep flavors of wood.

• The wine is ready to drink now. However, if you would like to wait until the wine has aged the recommended time is 15 years.

Avondale, an exceptional vineyard that began in Paarl, South Africa, features some of the most exquisite wines in the world and since its opening has expanded satellite vineyards to fifteen countries across the globe. But Avondale is famous for more than its splendid wines—they are Bio-LOGIC certified for their entire farm. In a nutshell, Bio-LOGIC certification requires that a farm does not use pesticides (even if they’re organic) or herbicides in their grape growing process. Avondale has taken great pride in this certification and strives to do their part in sustaining the environment.

Learn more about this exceptional vineyard here:

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The Elephant Sanctuary: The Ultimate Place to Connect With Nature

elephantImagine standing in the bush as you watch a 12,000 lb. mammal approach you without the restraint of a fence or cage. It would be exhilarating to say the least.

At the Elephant Sanctuary in Garden Route, South Africa, this situation is a reality. At the Elephant Sanctuary, you’ll not only be able to witness these creatures up-close, you will also have the opportunity to pet, feed, and walk with them trunk-in-hand. There is also the option to ride these magnificent creatures, which is a favorite among children and adults alike.

The staff members at the Elephant Sanctuary are completely dedicated to the safety, happiness, and well-being of the elephants and are equally committed to the enjoyment and learning experience guests have with the elephants. Because of their passion for guest and elephant happiness alike, staff at the Elephant Sanctuary takes great pride in their ability to foster relationships between elephants and humans.

elephant logoThe Elephant Sanctuary has three different locations including Plettenberg Bay, Hartbeespoort Dam, and Hazyview. All three locations provide excellent care for young African elephants that need a temporary home. Once the elephants become more independent, The Elephant Sanctuary will release the elephant into the wild.

During your visit to the Elephant Sanctuary, you have your pick of several different activities . . .

One-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program: This program is designed for all ages and is an excellent way to learn about elephant behavior and personalities from expert guides. You will also have the opportunity to pet, feed, and walk trunk-in-hand with these delightful animals.

Elephant-back ride: This includes the one-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program with the addition of a 15 minute elephant-back ride. Because there is no saddle between you and the elephant, you are able to have direct contact with the elephant and feel its natural movements beneath you.

elephant and boysEarly morning elephant brush downs: During this program, you have the rare opportunity to interact with the elephants as they are groomed and brushed down as well as view their daily training and stimulation program. In addition to these wonderful activities, the early morning elephant brush down program also includes the one-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program.

Afternoon sundowner elephant experience: This program is the ultimate experience for visitors to the Elephant Sanctuary. The program includes all three of the above programs: the one-hour-trunk-in-hand elephant education program, the elephant-back ride, and the elephant brush down.

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Animal Spotlight: The Baboon

babooncarAs the largest and quite possibly the most destructive species of the monkey family, the baboon has made an unfortunate name for itself in Cape Town’s growing suburbs. In the recent months, Cape Town’s suburbs have become more populated and in turn have moved in on the baboon’s territory. Baboons are frequently spotted in these Cape Town suburbs opening windows, car doors, and even refrigerators! 

Aside from their intrusive behavior, baboons are some of the most interesting monkey species in Africa—in both appearance and behavior.

Interesting Baboon Facts:

• Similar to humans, baboons are extremely social beings and take great pride in their friendships. Baboons, however, do differ from humans in the way they express their friendships to one another. Expressing friendship includes grooming, food sharing, and sometimes mating rights.

baboon• Weighing anywhere form 50 – 100 lbs., the baboon’s primary diet consists of grass, berries, seeds, and sometimes meat such as small fish, insects, and other monkey species. 

• Baboons communicate with others using over 30 different types of calls including grunts, screams, and barks. They can also communicate with body language. Non-oral forms of communication include facial expressions, shoulder shrugging, and lip smacking. Not too far off from some humans?

• Living in large troops—up to about 50 members—baboons will spend most of their day socializing and grooming each other.

• Equipped with pouch-like cheeks, baboons store their food when there is a predator in sight or when they simply have too much food in their mouth at once.

baboon teeth• With canine teeth that can grow up to 2 inches long (as long as a lion’s canines), the baboon is an intimidating sight. However, these teeth aren’t primarily used for attacking, rather, they are meant to intimidate other baboons.

• Baboons can live without water for several days at a time. What’s their secret? They lick the dew from their fur during the night to stay hydrated.

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Imagine the Perfect Trip to Africa . . . It Begins At Cape Grace

Cape graceNothing in the world can compare to Cape Town’s surreal atmosphere, inspirational spirit, world-famous accommodations, fascinating culture, and delectable food and wines. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a romantic honeymoon or an unforgettable family vacation, Cape Town, South Africa has everything to satisfy your every individual needs and desires.

Located in close proximity to a wealth of day trip destinations including Cape Winelands, Robben Island, Hout Bay, and Simon’s Town, Cape Town is the ideal place to get a taste of everything southern Africa has to offer. But, Cape Town is famous for more than its perfect location, stunning landscape, and exceptional amenities—a handful of award-winning accommodations simply add to Cape Town’s extraordinary characteristics. One accommodation in particular is Cape Grace . . .

Cape Grace:

• Ambiance and Location: If you’re looking for a hotel where intimacy and privacy are at an optimum, than Cape Grace is the perfect place for you. Radiating elegance from every intricate detail, Cape Grace is nothing short of exceptional. Its location in Cape Town’s famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront make it a close walk to some of Cape Town’s most celebrated shopping hubs, restaurants, and hot-spots.

cape grace bedroom• Rooms: Designed with elegant, comfortable, and sophisticated décor, each of Cape Grace’s 121 rooms is individually designed with subtle reflections of Cape Town’s bright spirit and accents of authentic Cape culture. Rooms to choose from include the penthouse, three bedroom suite, two bedroom suite, one bedroom suite, rooftop terrace, rooftop luxury, superior, and luxury.

• Exclusive Activities: Cape Grace prides itself on its personalized and exclusive services and amenities, including its private yacht charters and the Spa at Cape Grace. At the spa, you can choose from a variety of revolutionary treatments and massages that will completely refresh and rejuvenate your senses. And, if you want to experience luxury and relaxation at its best, then a yacht charter is the perfect activity for you. When you book a chartered cruise, you choose where you want to go on your private 56 foot Aicon fly-bridge luxury motor yacht. Whether you want to see Robben Island, Haut Bay, Langebaan Lagoon, or any other bay or island off the coast, the choice is yours. 

• Dining: If you’re looking for an exceptional dining experience rich with a fusion of both local and international flavors, than Cape Grace’s award-winning Signal Restaurant is where you want to be. Crafted from the freshest local product and some of South Africa’s best chef’s, Signal’s dishes are an absolute treat to taste.

 

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3 Tips for Surviving In the African Savannah—Alone

BearInspired by Bear Grylls, adventurist and host of Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild, I’m going to share with you some tips on surviving in Africa’s wilderness, without becoming dinner. Rest assured, all certified safari excursions are completely safe and you won’t ever need to use these tactics—but just for curiosity’s sake, don’t you want to know how you would go about avoiding the dangers of Africa’s savannah on your own?

Here’s a scenario for you: You’re driving by yourself and your vehicle breaks down. You have no food, no protection from fierce predators and the scorching sun, no water, and no direction on where to go. What do you do?

Here are 3 ways to survive in the African savannah in the most vulnerable state—as prey:

1. Find water: Many times, it won’t rain for weeks or months in the savannah, which is why finding water is such a difficult task. There are several ways to find water sources throughout the savannah. One way to find water is to search for animal tracks and follow their footsteps to see if they lead to water. If you come across a fast moving river, you’re in luck. Streams and rivers that sit without a current can harbor parasites and bacteria, which is why it’s important to find a fast moving river. You should boil the water though, no matter what, to prevent bacteria and organisms from entering your body.

If you don’t find a river, it’s time to dig. Many times, water will be beneath the surface of a dried up river bed. Before committing to digging a hole that could take up to 10 minutes to dig, it’s important to find the lowest part of the river bed (water will collect here). If you do happen to strike water, use a piece of clothing to act as a sponge and trickle the water into your mouth.

fruit2. Find Food: Finding food can be just as difficult as finding water, but if you do find water, chances are there will be food in the area as well. Throughout the vicinity you may find some berries and fruit, but before eating them, it’s crucial that you check to see if they’re poisonous. Here are a few tips to test a fruit or berry:

• The smell of the fruit plays a large role in detecting whether it is poisonous or not. First, cut the fruit open. If it smells like peaches or almonds, it’s poisonous.

• If the fruit passes the scent test, it’s time to place the fleshy part of the fruit on your skin. Rub this part of the fruit up and down your forearm and wait a minute to see if it produces a rash on your skin. If so, it’s poisonous.

• If the fruit passes the above tests, it’s time to bring the fruit to your lips. If you feel a burning sensation on your lips, the fruit is not safe to eat. If not, move the fruit to your tongue, but don’t swallow. If the fruit doesn’t agitate your tongue, take a bite of the fruit and wait several hours to see if you become sick. If not, the fruit is edible.

3. Protect yourself against predators: When walking through the African bush, it’s crucial to keep your attention on every element around you. Being observant will help you to avoid unwanted “surprises.” Depending on which animal you see in the bush, you want to know different tactics and movements to avoid becoming their dinner.

If you see a lion, keep your distance, remain calm, don’t turn your back, and don’t run. Move your arms, head, and feet around, and clap your hands together to avoid them coming closer. Slowly back away from the lions while continuing to face them.

BuffaloAlthough lions can be extremely intimidating to see in the wild, especially if you’re by yourself and lost, there are a variety of other animals to be careful of including buffalos and black rhinos. Both species need their space, which is why it’s important to always keep your eyes open and stay clear of these animals. Rhinos have a fantastic sense of smell and hearing, which makes up for their lack of good eyesight. Because of their keen sense of smell and hearing, it’s important to be extremely quiet and know the direction of the wind to prevent your scent from lingering in their direction.

Do you have any other tips for surviving in the African savannah? If so, we’d love to hear them in our comments section.

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Things To Do and See In Africa: A – Z Part II

View Part I here.

leopardNight drive: Observe some of South Africa’s most interesting wildlife—at dark. During night drives, you’ll see Africa’s nocturnal wildlife and some of the Big Five at their most active. At night, lions and leopards are frequently spotted on the move or hunting.

Ostrich farm: Visit Western Cape’s Little Karoo for a unique tour through one of its many ostrich farms. During these tours, you’ll observe breeding behaviors and witness how ostrich eggs and feathers are crafted into decorative assortments for the home and stylish accessories.

Port Elizabeth: Filled with an array of stunning beaches, nearby golf courses, boardwalk shopping, a casino, water sport activities, and an aquarium, Port Elizabeth creatively combines relaxation with adventure. And at night, the city comes to life with exciting ghost, graveyard, and cell tours.

Quad Biking: South Africa’s rugged, bumpy terrain has made this country synonymous with quad biker’s paradise. Whether you want to ride through the Drakensberg Mountains or the beaches, the bushveld or the Valley of The Elephants, Mpumalanga wetlands or Kruger National Park, you’re guaranteed to find adventure in the varying terrains of South Africa.

Rust en Vrede: This exceptional estate exclusively produces only red wines and is located in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Their wines include 1694 Classification, Syrah 2006 (which has already sold out), Estate 2005, Shiraz 2005, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, and Merlot 2008. Their bold, full-bodied reds are a treat to anyone’s itinerary and this estate should not be missed. In 2008, the Rust en Vrede estate’s 1694 Classification wine and the Syrah 2006 wine both received the double golden Veritas Award for excellence.

penguinSwim with the penguins: Not as traditional as swimming with the dolphins, swimming with the penguins offers a completely unique experience if you’re looking to get up-close-and-personal with these adorable little creatures. Boulders Beach on the Cape Peninsula is one of the only places in all of Africa where the African penguin lives and it is a highly-rewarding experience to interact with them in their natural environment.  

Tour Table Mountain: Enjoy a panoramic view of Table Mountain as you journey up the rocky mountainside in a rotating cable car. Each cable car has the ability to fully rotate, giving you the opportunity to see 360 degrees around you. On your cable car trip you’ll see stunning gardens, death-defying cliffs, and playful dassies—furry brown creatures that live on the mountain whose closest relatives are the elephants. Because there are 350 routes up the mountain, having a guided tour is highly recommended, as it can be extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous to navigate the mountain on your own.

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg: As the longest, tallest, and largest mountain range in all of South Africa, uKhahlamba-Drakensberg (meaning “Dragon Mountain”) is a must-see natural phenomena. This World Heritage site has one of the largest collections of Sans rock paintings in all of Africa. On the mountain you can also see a wide variety of plant, bird, mammal, and reptile species, and you can experience exciting activities such as hang gliding, hiking, and rock climbing. 

Victoria and Alford Waterfront in Cape Town:  This area is one of the most culturally enriching places to see in Cape Town. With a working harbor, unique seaside culture, five-star restaurants, historical monuments, and world-famous shopping hubs, Victoria and Alford Waterfront has it all.

Walking_SafarisWalking safari: If you’re looking for an African safari tour that combines an interactive experience with a rich cultural and learning environment, then you’ll want to take part in a walking safari through Kruger National Park, South Africa. On a walking safari, you’ll learn to listen for the distinct callings of South Africa’s wildlife, search for animal markings, and track paths of residential lions and elephants with the invaluable expertise of certified local guides. These highly knowledgeable guides introduce you to the hidden elements of indigenous wildlife that ranges from larger game to intricate wildlife hidden beneath rocks and inside crevasses.

Xhosa People: With a population of around 7 million individuals, the Xhosa people primarily live in the Eastern Cape and are the ancestors of the Nguni, a group that migrated from central and northern Africa to southern Africa. Keeping their traditional culture alive, the Xhosa people provide visitors to the region with a culturally enlightening experience. Watch as they craft exceptional beadwork, perform dance rituals, and speak in the Xhosa language (comprised of clicking sounds).

honeYmoon safari: South Africa is one of the most exceptional places to enjoy a romantic honeymoon safari. With a variety of intimate and luxurious accommodations that provide honeymooners with superior service and care, and a wide spectrum of activities for honeymooners, it’s no wonder South Africa has made a name for itself as the perfect honeymoon destination.

Zulu Traditions: Zulu culture has kept the same traditions passed down from their ancestors including ceremonies, rituals, and old traditions. With the belief that birth, marriage, and death are important times to interact with the ancestors, the Zulu people will sacrifice a variety of items to the ancestors during these moments in life such as home-brewed beer or a slaughtered animal.

View Part I of this post here.

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