I have never before felt so strong a connection to a place I had never been to as the connection I felt in South Africa. Mama Africa!
I landed in Johannesburg for meetings and managed to squeeze in a few more touristy things than I’m accustomed to being able to enjoy on business trips, including a visit to Lion Park!
Because my meetings were during the day, I was part of the very last tour group at Lion Park – a night tour! – and with lions being nocturnal, I was able to see them totally active and in their element, which was INCREDIBLE! And then to top it all off, I got to spend some solo time playing with some fourteen week old cubs! I swear I’m the luckiest girl.
I stayed at St. Andrew’s Signature Hotel & Spa, a little ways out of the city, but worth it in my opinion. I always opt for more personal, boutique style accommodations when I can get away with it, and the service was spectacular (even if the wifi was lacking!). And the view from my room was beautiful!
After meeting up with an old (and new!) friend in Johannesburg, Ella the Elephant and I were back at it, traveling to Cape Town for some more meetings, but had the luxury of an entire weekend in between to be a real live tourist, and with the abundance of historical tours and cultural excursions in Cape Town, I was in just the right place to do it.
I stayed at the Cape Town Hollow Boutique Hotel – another beautiful view and more exemplary service. The adjoining restaurant is also amazing!
Because of all the rich and not so distant history of South Africa, and Cape Town specifically, there’s been an obvious amount of effort put into education and awareness through several tours (both paid and free) throughout the city. I was able to take advantage of a few, the first being a double decker bus ride through the city, noting important landmarks and stopping for dinner and the sunset at the top of Signal Hill.
I even caught a glimpse of the World Cup stadium!
The next day, I traveled to Robben Island, an island in Table Bay, 6.9 km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town. Over the centuries, the island housed prisons, hospitals, leper colonies, mental institutions, and military bases, but it is most significantly known as the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years total he was incarcerated.
The tour was led by a former prisoner who spent three years at the prison (from 1989 – 1992 if I remember correctly), and his first hand testimony about the trials and triumphs of living and fighting through the apartheid system in South Africa was awesome in the truest meaning of the word.
He shared how the prison became known among inmates as the University of Robben Island, with the number of scholars and activists who became prisoners and continued to learn and teach even while incarcerated.
And standing in front Nelson Mandela’s prison cell was indescribable.
Without a doubt, one of the most powerful moments of my entire life.
On my last day in Cape Town, I had an early morning meeting and then a four hour gap before I needed to be at the airport, so I went on a free walking tour to visit some more historic and cultural sites.
Oh, and my meetings went great too, lol. All in all, a beautiful trip. I can’t wait to go back! Until then!