#TravelGoals: Our Epic Trip To South Africa

A travel blogger shares moments and lessons from the trip of a lifetime.

Rondel Holder Mar, 17, 2016

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“They don’t want you to pet lion cubs.” Wrong. One of the first stops in Johannesburg was to the Lion Park. How cool is it that you get the opportunity to pet a lion cub? I learned that lions sleep for up to 18 hours a day (the good life) so baby Simba was napping while we took this amazing photo. Surreal!

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Where Johannesburg reminded me a lot of Brooklyn, NY, Cape Town reminded me a lot of LA and Malibu. There are beaches, mountains and jaw dropping views at every corner. Johannesburg and Cape Town are like yin and yang, but all part of the beauty of the country!

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As much as we enjoyed the city experiences in South Africa, we wouldn’t feel complete with our first trip to the Motherland without being able to see exotic animals roaming naturally? Read more about our safari adventures and spotting "The Big Five" - African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White/Black rhinoceros just two and a half hours outside of Cape Town.

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A trip to Soweto is a must. Other than a visit to Nelson Mandela’s former home, this area a lot less touristy than other parts of Johannesburg. But here is where you will get the most authentic Jozi experience. We met with our new friend Loreto who took us to a Saturday afternoon hang out spot called Sakhumzi where we ate and drank until the late night. Our conversations of Zulu and Sotho tribes, race relations, political and pop culture banter felt a lot like home.

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We made it to Cape Town, South Africa and dived right on in. First stop was the area of Bo-Kaap, which is densely populated with Indian, Indonesian and Malaysian Muslims who came to South Africa for work in the early 1900s. It's known for amazing Asian and South African fusion dishes and of course these brightly painted houses that span about eight blocks in total.

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A trip to Boulder Beach in Cape Town in worth it to see African penguins up close and personal. We watched them waddle back and forth and dig holes in the sand for hours.

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There are amazing views all over Cape Town, like this one at Chapman’s Peak.

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“They also don’t want you to feed giraffes.” He or she was literally eating out the palm of my hand. What an epic way to start our trip.

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Braamfontein is where the cool kids hang out in Johannesburg, or as the locals call it, Jozi. You’ll get lots of good shopping in from stores you’re familiar with in the U.S. to local South African designers. The people watching is also great here because everyone is dressed to impress, in a style I would call afro-urban-chic.

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Another amazing shot from Safari.

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My lady and I were planning to spend some time exploring the unique culture of Bo-Kaap, and of course taking pics in front of popping color-block backdrops.

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Randomly as I was taking a picture of my fiancée, a nice older Indian-South African man named Nasser, walks up to us and starts telling us about the history of the block, his house, his unique experience in Apartheid and we built this whole dialogue. We were just as interested in Bo-Kapp as he was about our perspective being from New York City.

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I tried so many new and familiar foods in South Africa. My favorite, hands down, is the dessert Malva Pudding. I would most closely relate it to a warm toffee cake with sweet vanilla icing/pudding on top. Everyone makes it slightly different which is even more reason to ask for it everywhere you dine out.

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I love a good rooftop scene! This is Summer in South Africa.

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On a more somber moment, you absolutely MUST check out the Apartheid Museum. It’s a walking tour through the history of South Africa from its origins, through Apartheid (which just ended 21 years ago) to its current state. It helps to put the entire trip in perspective and shows how much change has been made, as well as how much more there is left to be done. "Today I think the split between black and white in South Africa is irreconcilable" Ernest Cole, 1967.

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We spent our last morning enjoying our hotel rooftop and just thinking about our experience to date. Johannesburg is our new favorite city away from home. It’s just our speed.

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When shopping in Braam on a Saturday, check out Neighbourgoods Market where you can pick from over 30 food vendors, hear South African house music and socialize with the people. NOTE: Johannesburg is very much a metropolitan city. If I had to compare it to somewhere, I would say it’s most similar to Brooklyn. High energy, cool, hustle and bustle, and as you can see, diverse.

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Don’t mind us, just more shopping and people watching in Braam. You can’t help but wonder why you never see these types of images of Africa in mainstream media.

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Then Nasser and his wife, Mimi, spent the afternoon driving us around the vineyards and winding roads along the mountains, Hout Bay market for shopping and more eating and the view from Chapman's Peak, sharing stories and thoughts and also inquiring about us. We just met them a few hours ago. This is what love and being open to people feels like. We need more people and experiences like this in the world. I need to be more like this.

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