If you had a free ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I was given that choice and decided to take the longest flight that my company offered, Atlanta to Johannesburg! Taking this flight allowed me to cross of a bucket list item for flying the longest Delta flight, how cool is that?! Since my other family members have already benefited from some flight perks, it was finally my little brother’s turn to take advantage of my career choices! He is a college football player, so our window of opportunity was kind of small, but we made it work and here is how we maximized our time in South Africa over a course of 10 days!
Long-haul flights mean missing out on full days, but it was a small price to pay! After packing my bag (for tips on backing only a carry-on, click here) I headed down to Atlanta to meet my brother who was traveling from Phoenix! I had to take the first flight out of Minneapolis, so I had a long airport appreciation day to sit and admire the ATL airport…I seriously could make a whole post about how to waste countless hours here since it would seem to be one of my favorite things to do lately, but for that, you will have to stay tuned!
Anyways, after meeting my brother we grabbed a late lunch and then headed to our gate! When we realized that we were not going to be able to sit in first class, we snagged a few sleeping pills to pop in after the meal service on the FULL flight to Jo-burg. Even though the plane was a little crammed, we made the best of it and the time flew by…pun intended! With the meal services, movies, music, and several short periods of time where we were able to doze off, we hardly noticed the 16 hours that it took us to get there.
Once we landed, we took an uber to our hotel for the evening. Before heading down to South Africa, I read an article about an Uber-Taxi war. The taxi drivers in Johannesburg are not keen on the ever-growing business of Uber, and the article was pointing out a need to be extra cautious while visiting. Even though this hostility is a prevalent thing, our Uber driver was self-aware and made us feel safe. In areas known to have trouble, he moved his phone out of view so passerbys could not see the Uber navigation app and we never had an issue. Later in our trip while we were in Cape Town, we took Uber every day and did not need to think twice about it! Uber is a very affordable and accessible option in this area and was highly recommended as our main source of transportation.
In Jo-burg we stayed at the City Lodge Hotel and it was everything needed and more! This hotel is only about a year old, so very modern and very clean, with a cute shopping center adjacent to it! We ate dinner at the hotel that night and then crashed fairly early since we had a 6am pick up for a safari the next day!
An early morning was definitely worth the incredible experience that we had at Pilanesberg National Park. If I could choose one thing that would be a must-do while in South Africa, it would be a game tour! Seeing the animals in their natural habit was unbelievably beautiful and a truly unique experience that you will not find anywhere else in the world! If you want to read all the details about our safari and the company to book with, check out my other blog post-Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh My! 🦁.
The safari took the entire day, but once we got back to the hotel, we went for a quick dinner before getting ready for bed. We ate at the News Cafe which was right by the hotel and it was delicious! The food was cheap (under $20 for both of us including drinks) and I would 100 percent recommend ordering a side of macaroni and cheese with your dinner…so yummy!
Another early morning followed as our short time in Johannesburg came to an end and we headed out to the airport to catch our Mango Airlines flight to Cape Town! Once at the airport, security was a breeze, so we had time to grab some breakfast at a place called Wimpys! Most full breakfast platters were under 5 USD which was right up my alley! “Give me all the bacon and eggs you have!” (only cool kids will get the reference, Ron Swanson is my spirit animal). After breakfast we grabbed some drinks for the plane ride since they are not complimentary on Mango and then we were off! A short little ride to Cape Town where we then took Uber once again!
For our stay in Cape Town, we rented an apartment off of Airbnb and HOLY CUTE! This apartment was everything! A sweet younger couple rented us their place and it was in such an ideal location for us since it was in walking distance, or a quick Uber ride, to everything that we wanted to do that didn’t already provide a shuttle service! If you are interested in booking with them, here is the link!
Once we were settled, we walked around the surrounding area to get a feel for our new home for the next week and we then grabbed some lunch at a diner style restaurant called Stacked. They serve breakfast all day, so already you know I think it is a winner, but their other menu items include hot dogs, hamburgers, and so many flavors of milkshakes! Highly recommend this place for a quick bite to eat!
We ended the day with a hike to Signal Hill and made it back after sunset! Grabbed some pizza and beer for dinner at a cool place called Yours Truly! Very young crowd with a beer garden feel and fun music always playing!
This day was a major highlight for me looking back at our time in Cape Town! Our day begun with some french toast and eggs benny from a place that we thought was called “a” legit not even capitalized, but later found out that it was called Arnold. Whatever you want to call it, we were impressed! One of the best eggs benedict dishes I have ever had! So tasty! Then, we set out on a trek up to Wally’s Cave and then to Lion’s Head for one of the most breath taking views that I have ever seen! The hike was intermediate level and we definitely walked away with a couple of blisters, but it was still one of my favorite parts of the trip! Since I knew I could go on about this hike in much more detail, I wrote a separate post for it, so if you want to check out all the pictures and get more info, click here!
After our hike we went down and spent the evening at the Victoria and Alfred water front. This quaint little area will leave you with hours of entertainment filled with live music, ferris wheels, local eateries, shopping and other activities you can take part in if you have time, such as water tours and the Cape Town Aquarium! For our night, we just grabbed some fish and chips and then strolled around with some gelato afterwards while we looked at the shops and picked out a few souvenirs for some special people back home!
We lived out the mermaid lifestyle on this beach filled day! Probably my brother’s favorite day of the whole trip! Such a simple day that provided so much relaxation, vitamin D, and a pop of color in or lives!
We begun our day at Camps Bay where we ate at a waterfront property called La Belle! The breakfast was good, not too memorable, but the views were amazing and thats really what you go for!
As we headed out, we picked a place on the sand to lay our stuff down, and as I caught up on some sun and light reading, my brother explored the area and dove right in, to swim in the bright blue colored water! A couple of hours was all we had time for at this beach, but you could easily spend an entire day here! I was anxious to check out Wale St. to see this vibrant colored neighborhood before we ventured to another beach later in the day, so we packed up and ordered an Uber once more!
Wondering around downtown, we made our way to the colorful neighborhood on Wale St. and took in the masterpiece that some locals get to call home! We strolled down rows and rows of colorful buildings and snapped a pictures or two here and there and then grabbed lunch at a place called Thy Neighbor! The food here was INCREDIBLE! My brother said it was the best thing he had ever eaten and if we had more time, we would have been making more stops there before heading home! Thy Neighbor was a mediterranean style restaurant with a small menu that packed huge flavor! I got a pita wrap and my brother got lamb chops that left his mouth watering! If you are in the area you have to check this place out!
Once our bellies were full, we went to showcase our bikini bods at Muizenberg beach were all the hottie surfers go to hang! Seriously, this place was rad! So many local surfer families scattered the area and left such a positive vibe that made us wish we spent the whole day there! By the time we got there, the sun was setting, so we didn’t have too long to simply layout and enjoy the water. However, we still had a blast walking around and admiring the beauty of the area!
On day 7 we slept.
Okay, we just slept in, but it was amazing! My sleep schedule this whole trip was wonky, more due to being sick than to the jet-leg, but a few extra hours in the AM to snooze were much appreciated! We woke up to lunch time and headed to Stacked again because I’ll repeat, “ALL DAY BREAKFAST!” and then after we grubbed, we headed back to get ready for our wine tasting adventure! We had been told by numerous people that we couldn’t go to South Africa and not do a tour! So even though my brother is not a huge fan of wine, he was such a champ and went anyways! We booked through ‘Get Your Guide’ and did a Half Day Wine Tasting. The only thing I would recommend, is if you are truly into wine, book a full day tour instead to get the full experience!
For the half day though, we paid 56 USD a person and that included transportation both ways, all the wine and info, cheeses and meats, and great company for the afternoon! We started at the first wine farm (I learned there is a difference between vineyard and farm, but I am not going to tell you because it’ll ruin the tour…or you’ll just google it) we paired 4 different wine’s with 4 different cheeses and our little group of 8 started getting to know each other. There was a family of 4, and a couple from Israel, in our group and my brother and I instantly hit it off with the newly weds from Israel. They were a crazy pair and had a plan to get drunk that day, so they ordered a few bottles of wine throughout the experience as well.
After the first wine farm we stopped in a little town and were supposed to have time to explore, but we were rushing the schedule a little to make times work out at both wineries. At the next wine tasting we paired 4 wines with different types of animal jerky which I thought was a really unique experience! This area definitely had some amazing views that were worth seeing even if you wanted to skip out on the wine! Unfortunately, due to my amateur skills and poor lighting, I didn’t get many pictures.
When we were finished, we all headed back and our “crazy” friends were so drunk that the wife puked on me and it had a domino effect that resulted in me puking and continuing to puke for the next 2 days. I literally can still picture and smell every second of it and it makes me feel sick all over again. Such an awful experience, but in no way does that reflect on the tour itself, just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This day can be summed up pretty quickly because it was by far the worst day on our trip. Due to me being sick and puking all night/morning and a lack of shark diving that was originally planned, the day was a wash. We booked a cage diving tour with Extreme Scene and above all else, I have to go ahead and say that I would have booked with them again even given the circumstances. Let me explain.
May is peak season for shark sightings however, due to Orcas being in the area this year and attacking/killing the sharks, and due to higher water temperatures than normal, the shark sightings had been few and far in between. Gavin however was amazing and very honest and he let us know the situation beforehand. He offered to refund our money (115 USD) before we left if that was what we wanted, however, said it was our choice and if we wanted to take our chances and did not see anything, that we would not be able to get a refund, but would receive a voucher to return another time. We tried out luck and struck out, all while puking my guts out on the boat all morning.
The transportation there was 2 hours, then there was a quick briefing over a provided breakfast, then two and a half hours on the boat with food and drinks, and then we headed back after realizing there were not going to be any sharks that day. Then, we were given a small lunch while the guys went around explaining that the vouchers could be used at another time during your trip, sold once you returned home, or saved for a future visit as they said there was no expiration and could be used as long as the company was still around. After a 2 hour ride back to our place, our day was basically over and my brother brought home pizza while I slept and recovered the rest of the day.
On our last full day in Cape Town we headed up to Table Mountain via cable car and had a little breakfast before exploring the vast national park on top of one of the oldest mountains to date! The views were incredible and it was breathtaking being at one of the 7 “Natural” Wonders of the World! We spent a total of about 2.5 hours at the top and then headed to our next venture which was seeing the botanical gardens.
My brother wasn’t too keen on this originally, but even he stepped up and admitted that it was pretty freaking cool once we got there! for the small entrance fee of 4.50 USD it was a must-do for myself! I had seen pictures of this canopy walkway that I had to see in person and thats why we went. When we walked in though, it was like stepping onto the set of Jurassic Park! The gardens were out of this world! So lush and green, with the most amazing mountains surrounding you in all directions! We wondered around and explored for about 2.5 hours before heading to our final supper!
We decided to splurge and go out to a little bit of a nicer dinner for our last night, so we ended up at this place called The Deck House. The Deck House is a seafood restaurant were we feasted like kings! With drinks, mussel appetizers, steaks for both of us with sides of hake and sweet potato pie for my brother, and Calamari and chips for me, our bill was only 39 USD! Definitely worth the price and the food was something to write home about, literally 😉
Our trip had come to a close and today was a day full of travel. We ubered to the airport where we ate at Mugg and Bean, a local cafe style restaurant, before catching another Mango Airlines flight back to JNB, where we hung out most of the day before catching our 16 hour flight back to ATL where we parted ways!
Overall, this trip was such an incredible experience and I feel forever blessed that I was not only able to take this trip as a work perk, but my little brother was able to go on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation as well. Trips like these always remind me how in love I am with my job and how surreal my life truly is! Thanks Daddy Delta for all these stellar opportunities and shoutout to South Africa for letting the two of us in to explore for a few days! On to the next adventure!