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South Africa is a mix of romantic cities and expansive nature, rich history and bustling arts, opulent hotels and fine dining. There’s truly something for everyone. Adventure seekers can test their endurance on a challenging trek to the top of Cape Town’s Table Mountain or conquer their fears on a night game drive in Kruger National Park. Those looking for a more tranquil vacation can take an early morning hot-air balloon ride to watch the sun rise over the Magalies River Valley near Johannesburg or hop on a quad bike to meander through wine country. Each region is unique to itself, and just when you think it could not get more beautiful, the next gorgeous vista appears.


Getting there: Daily direct flights are available from New York City to O.R Tambo International Airport on South African Airways.  What to know: Over the past 15 years, Johannesburg has begun a rebirth as a lively, affluent city.


Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff

Offering panoramic views, this chic resort is situated hillside amongst gardens and courtyards. Modern African is the feel in the 117 freshly renovated guest rooms and suites. Each opens to a lovely patio or balcony, the perfect place to enjoy afternoon tea or a post-dinner nightcap. Beat jet lag at the nature-inspired spa, with its variety of treatments sure to rid your body of the aches and pains of the 15-hour journey. Relax post-treatment at the city’s only outdoor spa lounge, Après-Spa, complete with plush chairs and light fare overlooking the infinity pool.

Rise + Shine

Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris

This South African institution is located just outside Joburg. After a short drive, you’ll arrive for your balloon safari before sunrise, greeted by Bill Harrop himself, with a pitcher of hot chocolate and a pot of fresh coffee. The thrill of the one-hour journey as you ascend a kilometer off the ground is indescribable, and your time high above the Magaliesberg range, taking in the majestic valleys and wildlife, will not be forgotten. Upon landing, bubbly is poured to celebrate the experience. From there, you are served a delectable breakfast at the Clubhouse Pavilion and Restaurant. Harrop will likely win you over with his Northumbrian porridge, best served with a pinch of salt, a sprinkle of sugar, a dollop of cream and a dribble of whiskey.


Trumps Grillhouse & Butchery

Nelson Mandela Square is a fashionable area home to shops, cafés, luxury hotels and fine-dining restaurants. For a great lunch spot, head to Trumps Grillhouse & Butchery. Start with the delicious beef carpaccio and a bottle of Pinotage. Trumps is known for its meat, so you can’t go wrong with a sirloin and a side of chips. For a lighter meal, order the kingklip, seasoned with spices and grilled in lemon butter. And save room for dessert; the cheese board, with its variety of local fromage and housemade jam, is not to be missed.



For the best meal in town, head to View at the Four Seasons. The eatery’s name says it all: The indoor-outdoor space affords sweeping vistas of the city. The inventive cuisine changes seasonally, featuring such starters as smoked quail and peas served alongside cauliflower couscous. For a true fine-dining experience, opt for the chef’s tasting menu. And be sure to choose a bottle or two off the sommelier- and chef-curated wine list, which includes more than 120 fine vinos that perfectly accompany the culinary creations.


Getting there: Daily direct flights are available from Johannesburg.  What to know: Cape Town has it all, from beaches and harbors to mountains and wildlife.


Cape Grace

Located on a private quay on the V&A Waterfront, this luxury hotel is surrounded by a yacht marina. From the minute you set foot in the lobby, you will feel at home: Antique tables serve as check-in desks, hundreds of books line the shelves, and hand-painted murals depicting Cape Town’s marine history adorn the walls. The spacious guest quarters come equipped with large French windows or step-out balconies with views of the marina or working harbor. Personal touches like fresh flowers, an assortment of tea and coffee, and hand-selected books make each room’s reading nook a cozy spot to unwind after a day of sightseeing. Amenities include a state-of-the-art fitness studio, luxurious spa and outdoor pool deck reminiscent of a stately Mediterranean yacht.


Robben Island

Once a leper colony, a mental hospital and a training base, Robben Island is best known as the prison that housed anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years incarcerated here. Today, this World Heritage Site offers daily tours that celebrate both its tragedy and triumph. Lead by former political prisoners, the tour winds around the island by bus and foot, with stops at the leprosy graveyard, lime quarry, army and navy bunkers, and maximum-security prison. As you peer into the cells, it becomes clear why UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee marked this location for its triumph of the human spirit.


Signal Restaurant

Executive Chef Malika van Reenen celebrates Cape Town’s colorful past with dishes full of spice and flavor. The seasonal main menu and six-course tasting menu employ local ingredients that truly embody South African cuisine. A memorable meal begins with risotto served alongside grilled prawns and a spiced mango purée, perfectly complemented by a glass of chilled Chenin Blanc. Other highlights include pan-fried hake, beef fillet, and braised lentils with sweet-potato croquettes. Save room for the housemade ice cream and sorbet. For a nightcap, head downstairs to Bascule Bar, where barkeeps pour the largest selection of whiskeys in the southern hemisphere.


Getting there: Daily direct flights are available from Johannesburg to Hoedspruit on South African Express. What to know: The safari experience begins the moment you land.


Camp Jabulani

A member of Relais & Châteaux, this family-owned lodge is set within the Kapama Private Game Reserve. A river runs through the property, with a suspension bridge connecting the public areas to the guest quarters tucked within the dense foliage. Each of the six suites offers a plush canopy bed, a lounge area with fireplace, and an en-suite bathroom complete with an oversize stone soaking tub and a glass-enclosed shower. Expansive windows overlook a private deck oasis with a plunge pool — the perfect spot to cool off after a day in the bush.

Each day begins and ends with a game drive in an open-air safari jeep. You can expect to see antelope, blue wildebeest, giraffes and zebras. Kapama is also home to the Big Five, with a handful of lion prides and the chance of buffalo, elephant, leopard and rhino sightings. Upon your return, enjoy the spa, relax in a hammock, visit the open-air fitness center, or indulge in a cocktail or two.


Elephant Encounter

In 1997, a tiny elephant arrived at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre after being injured and abandoned. He was nursed back to health and named Jabulani, meaning “to rejoice.” When numerous attempts to reintroduce him to the wild failed, it became clear that the humans who saved him had become his family. A few years later, a trained elephant-back safari herd was in need of rescue. The HESC team took on the challenge and responsibility of caring for them. Camp Jabulani was created to support the animals.

Today, guests can experience the elephants in their natural environment. The adventure begins with an
up-close encounter, pairing each person with an elephant. Perched atop, you will embark on an exhilarating tour through the reserve. The ride concludes as you enter a romantic clearing in the African wilderness at sunset. Savor apéritifs and hors d’oeuvres as you take in the peaceful surroundings illuminated by lanterns.


Camp Jabulani

Head Chef Johan Christiaan Kriek creates fusion dishes with a South African twist. Many flavors are courtesy of the on-site herb garden. And the chefs make a point to interact with guests. Case in point: After a particular craving for warm chocolate-chip cookies one night, we were presented with a tray of some fresh from the oven at our next meal.

The highlight of the experience comes at sundown with a traditional boma night in the bush. Tables are set around a blazing fire, with lanterns and starlight adding to the ambiance. Appetizers are presented tableside, while the main entrée is served buffet-style, with a variety of barbeque and vegetarian options. South African wine pairs perfectly with the dishes, and the dessert is an ideal ending to a wonderful meal in the African wilderness.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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