What is it about islands? We associate them with buried treasure, footprint-free beaches, swaying palm trees, lapping waves and carefree days wiled away under a life-giving sun. Most of us will never be lucky enough to own a private island and have a piece of paradise all to ourselves, but there are places in this world where our dreams and fantasies about islands can come true, if only for a little while.
She pushes her huge tail down, ducks under the waves with tremendous forces and then, with colossal power, launches her huge body above the water, coming down with a fantastic splash. Everything is quiet except for the chorus of ‘Wows!’ from my fellow boat passengers. There’s a shared anticipation and keen excitement as we hope she’ll do it again… Our luck is in as she once again uses her tail fin to propel herself like an aquatic rocket above the ocean off Kleinbaai, a tiny hamlet on South Africa’s Whale Coast, less than an hour’s drive from Hermanus and regarded as the whale-watching capital of the world.
Timing is everything. If you want the best seats in the house, you need to book your place well in advance. When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime journeys to Africa’s vast playground, you definitely want front-row seats to all the legendary spectacles.
Africa is a vast destination, home to untamed wilderness, idyllic islands and modern cities. You’ll find this same rich variety in the cuisine served here. Cast an eye over our guide to the Top 10 Restaurants in Africa, and you’ll find everything from internationally awarded gourmet restaurants to aromatic fusion food inspired by Africa’s rich cultural heritage… and that’s not counting the mouthwatering local ingredients served in spectacular wilderness settings at our top lodges.
If you and your family are waterbabies, then Africa’s magnificent lakes and sultry Indian Ocean should be on your all-time bucket list. Offering exciting destinations that are somewhat off the beaten track, the sheer diversity of both the topography and creatures of these underwater worlds has to be experienced to be believed.
A three-centuries-old port city, Cape Town is flanked by both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Known to sailors by the rather alarming ‘Cape of Storms’ because of the fierce gales that can surge around the peninsula, we landlubbers prefer to think of it by its gentler nickname: ‘the Fairest Cape’. It's a seaside city renowned for easy living, gourmet food, fine wines and an efficient infrastructure. Cape Town's top beach hotels allow you to sample the best of the ocean - with its frolicking dolphins, seals and whales - in utter comfort and sheer luxury.
Summer in Cape Town sees up to 14-hours of daylight, with the sun setting at about 8pm at the height of the season when temperatures regularly hit the 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit). And what a sunset it usually is: the sky streaked with candy floss-pink clouds and the sun slipping beneath the horizon as it bathes all in a soft, golden light.
It’s just after dawn, a time rarely seen on traditional beach holidays. Yet a group of guests has already gathered in front of the Rocktail Beach Dive Centre. I wander up - weight belt in one hand, cup of coffee in the other - and listen to the excited chatter about what lies ahead (or rather below): “There have been fantastic whale shark sightings recently!”; “Massive mantas circled us yesterday!”; “I hear the coral is incredible!”
The full bodied pinotage swirled in my glass, its luscious plum colour staining the edges. Aromas of raspberries and black cherries floated through the air and I offered up my glass for a refill. Wine tasting at Spier means three things: generous helpings, numerous samplings and expert advice.
Before I travelled to Zanzibar, it had never occurred to me that Stone Town would be a highlight of the trip. I had done some research on what activities to do on the island and of course Stone Town - a World Heritage Site - came up but I didn't pay it much attention. It was my first visit to Zanzibar and I was focused on experiencing as many ocean and beach-based activities as possible. I tentatively added Stone Town to my to-do list but thought a quick afternoon visit - if at all - would be more than enough.