When you think of South Africa, what comes to mind? Table Mountain? Sure. Kruger National Park? Definitely. Robben Island and the Apartheid Museum? Of course.
Those are all worthwhile sights to check out, but there’s also a different side of South Africa that’s worth exploring. It’s a side that not many people experience, and it’s a side that will definitely give you something you talk about with friends and family back home.
Ready for it? Great! Let’s get into it then.
STAY AT THE SANTOS EXPRESS TRAIN HOTEL
Unlike a regular train, the Santos Express doesn’t move. And that’s probably a good thing considering that it’s actually a hotel just 30 metres from the beach of Mossel Bay on the southern cape of South Africa.
The Santos Express contains private cabooses with spectacular views over the Indian Ocean, and offers guests the unique and romantic experience of staying on a real train. So, all aboard?
EAT WITH SOUTH AFRICA’S MOST WANTED
Make a reservation at one of South Africa’s two prison restaurants and eat with some of the country’s most hardened criminals. How’s that for something a bit different?
Not for the faint-hearted, the waiters here aren’t just serving food, they’re serving time too. Pollsmoor Mess in Cape Town and Drakenstein A La Carte in Paarl are housed in actual prisons, and offer cheap, good food. All the inmates who work in the restaurants have qualifications and training in the positions they hold. Warning: you’ll need to book in advance as these restaurants are surprisingly popular.
GO ON A HORSE SAFARI IN THE ISIMANGALISO WETLANDS
Forget about chasing African wildlife in the back of a jeep. That’s what everyone else does. Do something a little different this year, hop on a horse instead and immerse yourself in the stunning iSimangaliso Wetlands – a 32,000 hectare park that is South Africa’s first World Heritage Site.
All riding levels can be catered for on a safari, from complete beginners to riders who would give even Genghis Khan a run for his money. As suitable and well-trained horses are chosen based on the terrain to be covered, all you’ll need to is hold on and enjoy the ride.
GRAB A DRINK AT THE HIGHEST PUB IN AFRICA
Down a pint or glass of Cabernet at the Sani Mountain Lodge and lay claim to having had a drink at the highest pub in Africa. Although not technically in South Africa (the pub is located in the Kingdom of Lesotho, a landlocked, high-altitude country surrounded by South Africa), it is only a 7 hour drive from Durban and one of the country’s best kept secrets.
The cosy pub’s walls are adorned with pictures and articles about Sani Pass, and views from the balcony over the Sani Valley are incredible. The roads leading out from the pub are pretty hairy, so you may want to have one more drink before you go.
EXPLORE DURBAN’S VIBRANT INDIAN NEIGHBOURHOOD
Soak up some history, find some bargains, and treat your taste buds to some excellent subcontinent fare in the ever-vibrant Indian quarter in Durban – South Africa’s most multicultural city. The narrow little lanes and avenues here just beg to be explored, particularly Madressa and Ajmeri arcades, and it’s certainly a different side of South Africa worth exploring.
It’s also one of the best places to pick up a bunny chow – a quarter loaf of bread filled with some curry. Don’t leave without trying it.