My most recent trip to South Africa (and a brief stop in Zambia), was a long time in the making and certainly one with a lot of high expectations. All of them were exceeded. Within my first 24 hours in Cape Town, I already found myself gazing down over a hazy Cape Town from atop Table Mountain. After, a stroll through the beautiful V & A Waterfront confirmed that Cape Town is a special place. A winery is a must while in South Africa. On a whim, we found nearby Beau Constantia. The wine tasting in a beautiful, serene glass room featured a variety of amazing wines (my favorite was the Lucca Merlot) overlooking the vineyards. The next day, a scenic coastal drive through Table Mountain National Park brought us to the Cape of Good Hope, where visitors from around the world lined up to get a picture by the famous sign. Check out my travel video for highlights from the trip:
A highlight was a shark diving excursion through Apex Shark Expeditions in Simon's Town (45 minutes from Cape Town). Our original shark diving excursion with another company was cancelled (due to "weather," but I'm not sure I believe it). Apex organized a special mid-day tour, but informed our group that shark sightings were not guaranteed and there had been limited activity this season. After arriving to our spot off the coast of Seal Island, we suited up and waited. About 45 minutes in, the crew started to shout and point "right over there, right over there!" as they saw a shark swim in view of the boat. When it was my turn in the cage off the side of the boat, I waited about 15 minutes before the crew, once again, yelled "to your left!" As I dunked my head back under the cold, salty water, I was greeted about 5-10 feet away from a massive Great White Shark headed towards the bait thrown from the boat. The shark took a giant bite from the bait, and kept swimming into the distance. It was amazing to see such a powerful living creature, one that many fear, so close and real.
A short flight to Johannesburg plus a 3 hour drive brought Mabula Game Lodge in the Limpopo Province as the next destination. After arrival, I quickly settled in and boarded the vehicle for the first game drive. Over the next few days, we came across a family of cheetahs who just caught their next meal, a rhino family grazing, giraffes eating leaves from the tall trees, lions lounging in the shade, and plenty of buffalo seemingly watching our every move.
Next, a brief stay in Sandton permitted some rest before flying to Livingstone, Zambia. For me, I'd wanted to visit Victoria Falls ever since seeing it first on The Amazing Race. Our group arrived, checked into the bed and breakfast, and then visited the absolutely stunning Victoria Falls. The sheer power and force behind the water is breathtaking and captivating. The night ended with a Zambezi River Cruise showcasing a sunset of a caliber I've never in my life seen before.
As a final highlight on the last morning in Africa, I arrived to Maramba Aerodrome to ride a microlight through Batoka Sky over Victoria Falls. I first asked my pilot , "So how long have you been flying?" "Ten years," he assured me. Words cannot describe this experience. The moment you lift off from the ground, a weightlessness feeling takes over and you forget about everything else going on. You can see for miles into the distance and the town below your feet. I look up a bit further, into the direction we're headed, and see the mist rising into the sky from Victoria Falls. As we get closer, you can see elephants and hippos playing in the river banks below. We flew directly through the mist of the falls, up and around to capture every view, and then landed softly back at the runway. If there's one thing to not miss on your visit, it's a microlight flight with Batoka Sky.
With time to reflect back on the trip, I'm so thankful for the group of friends who joined me, and Gate 1 Travel for being exceptional travel organizers. If you're interested in booking your own dream trip, I just launched a travel counseling and planning agency focusing on custom & specialty travel for millennials. We can book everything and plan out as much or as little as you'd like. Visit www.TravelSwoon.com for more information.
Jesse is a Nashville native and avid traveler.
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