Rainer Jenss and his family are currently on an around-the-world journey, and they’re blogging about their experiences for us at Intelligent Travel. Keep up with the Jensses by bookmarking their posts, and follow the boys’ Global Bros blog at National Geographic Kids.
Let me say upfront that it’s an incredible privilege to be able to travel around the world with my family for a year, especially during a time when there’s so much economic uncertainty. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. But as fulfilling as it is to show the boys all the wonderful places we’ve been, being around each other pretty much 24/7 for such a long stretch can be quite testing at times–on all of us. That’s why we were enthusiastically counting down the days to when a group of our friends (including some good buddies Tyler and Stefan grew up with) would be meeting us in Cape Town for a two-week tour of South Africa. So besides being excited about arriving in one of my favorite countries, we were getting a much welcomed release that would allow us to take a break from constantly being around each other. Plus, the boys would have kids their age to be with after more than three months without such company. Yeehaw!
As delighted as I was to be seeing everyone, I was also quite anxious. When our friends decided they wanted to connect with us in Africa, I told them to trust me in arranging everything and that I would put together a game plan everyone would be happy with. Easily being one of my favorite places, I sold them on South Africa pretty hard, guaranteeing that it would be the best family vacation they’d ever have. Since I had been to the country on four separate occasions and had experience with the proposed itinerary, I felt reasonably confident it would deliver. So I handed a wish list to an operator called Footprints Africa, and they made all the pieces come together.
So why South Africa? When most people consider traveling to Africa, going on a safari is usually a prime motivator. Being fortunate to have been on a few before, all in South Africa, I can attest that it is life changing and certainly ranks as a top highlight of my all my travel experiences. I haven’t been to Botswana, Tanzania, or Kenya (yet), which all undoubtedly have some of the best game viewing around, but what I’ve heard from those who know is that South Africa offers perhaps the widest variety of wildlife, all within a relatively small space. Unlike the massive planes of the Serengeti, Kruger National Park and it’s private game reserves have much thicker bush, which brings in the diversity, but not in the large numbers found elsewhere on the continent.
The diversity South Africa offers is not only limited to its wildlife.
Ultimately, you don’t come all this way just to go on safari. Our friends are not only adventurous, they also very much enjoy their food and wine, which is something else this country knows a thing or two about. There’s also a fare share of incredible natural beauty found here, from mountainous countryside to world-class surf and sand.
Finally, there probably aren’t too many other places in the world that offer the opportunity to dive with great white sharks, which in our case, might have closed the deal. What kids wouldn’t want to do that?!
We arrived in Cape Town a few days before the others, which gave us a chance to recuperate from the twelve-hour flight from Perth and get a lay of the land. Once again, we had the luxury of staying with a local family who we were introduced to by a friend. Because they had a seven-year-old daughter, it gave us the perfect excuse to go see Madagascar 2: Return to Africa
at a nearby cinema to get the kids in the mood. And fortunately for us, her father Richard took the time to show us around a city that is quickly becoming one of the more popular destinations for the global jet set. We visited The World of Birds
with its over 100 aviaries, most of which you can walk right through, with every type of African bird you can imagine. We also spent some time on the beach best known for its surfing schools in Muizenberg and toured around the waterfront with its restaurants and African markets.
Equipped with some useful insider information and a block of rooms at the Rosedene Guest House, we were all set to greet our friends.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Before their arrival, I felt compelled to warn them that Cape Town wouldn’t feel much like “Africa.” Instead, they could expect quite a cosmopolitan city and a landscape that more closely resembles California or the Caribbean, where one of the families was from. During our three days in the area, we took the compulsory cable car to the top of Table Mountain, which was finally operating after two days of heavy southeasterly winds and a small patch of cloud cover that blanketed the mountain known as ‘the table cloth’. Then we did the drive to the Cape of Good Hope, which we learned is neither the southern most point of Africa nor the spot where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Not to despair. The stunning scenery and rugged coastline more than made up for this minor detail.
Our biggest challenge perhaps was what to do with twelve people for dinner–six of them kids. Best known for its marvelous seafood, we ventured into trendy Camp’s Bay, where at the recommendation of our driver, we found a table to accommodate all of us at Blues Restaurant.
With an excellent view of the wind-swept beach, grilled prawns, and a couple of bottles of Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc, the six adults couldn’t have been happier. They caught us up on life back home while Carol and I reflected on our first six months on the road. Then as I had done for months leading up, I started building up the hype for our next stop, the African bush.
Photos: Rainer Jenss