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Close Up: South Africa Calling–There’s Never Been a Better Time to Visit

March 12, 2015 Southern Africa Bush Tails

South Africa is calling – can you hear it? A perennial favorite at AAC for its Big 5 luxurious safaris, incredible culture, and the spectacular Cape, we’re especially excited to be able to say that South Africa is now a great value for US travelers as well.

If you’ve been waiting for the perfect time to visit, take this into consideration: the US Dollar is the strongest it’s been in years, with an average of 12 SA Rand in exchange for every dollar. With this great rate, premium South African wines and 5-star cuisine are available even to those on a budget. Nonstop flights from New York City to South Africa mean you can hop on the plane, take a long nap, and wake up in one of the most remarkable countries on the planet.

Recently, three of our consultants visited South Africa, veering off the safari and Cape Town trails (although they love it there as well) to offer their insights on Johannesburg (Jozi) and the western “Gold Coast”. Here are their insights:

Nershada Stone, originally from South Africa, visited the beautiful resort town of Uhmlanga Rocks on the KwaZulu Natal coast of the Indian Ocean (about 24 miles, a 30 minute ride, from the King Shaka International Airport ). “The weather in February is warm and sunny, so it was a perfect time to explore the beautiful beaches, myriad restaurants, shopping and other attractions. A great paved walkway runs all along the beach, great for jogging, walking, etc. Luxury accommodations are on offer at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which boasts the Cabana Café, and the Oyster Box Hotel, home of the Terrace Restaurant: You can enjoy meals at both these restaurants taking in the beautiful ocean view. For shopping, there’s Gateway Mall, La Lucia Mall, and Umhlanga Village. Beyond the beach, we could also visit the Umhlanga Lighthouse, Umhlanga Lagoon Reserve, Umgeni River Bird Park.” Durban (one The New York Times’ 52 Places to Visit in 2015) is about 10 miles from Umhlanga with more beachfront hotels along the “Golden Mile.” This is a great area to stroll or bike, take city tours, visit the Indian market, or explore the Ushaka Marine World.



Within a few hours’ drive are Phinda and Thanda Private Game Reserves, which offer Africa’s Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, black and white rhino, buffalo) in addition to hundreds of bird species.

Senior consultant Elena Theodosiou, who also is from South Africa, regularly spends time in the Johannesburg area. She visited the Sandton neighborhood on her most recent trip where she recommends the Michelangelo Hotel as a great option for AAC clients who have limited time, but still want to get out of the hotel to shop and eat. It connects straight into Sandton Square with its cafes, shops, and larger-than-life Nelson Mandela bronze statue. Says Elena: “The Square is open air and has lots of outdoor restaurants and bars – so a great place to have a drink or dinner. I love to people watch, and this is a great place to do that. Also on Friday nights they often have local performers in the square – so dinner and music!” Outside of Sandton, Elena continues: “My personal favorite place for breakfast (or lunch) is Tasha’s. It is now a chain and they have a few – but my favorite is the original – Tasha’s in Bedfordview – the food is phenomenal – and it’s a local crowd.”


AAC team member Monica Kowalski also stopped in Johannesburg this past month on her way to Botswana. She stayed at City Lodge, right at the airport, and says: “While it is more of a business hotel, it was really nice for an overnight – a very short walk from the terminal (under cover). Friendly staff, clean room and the buffet style breakfast in the morning offered everything you could want. When we left the hotel to walk back to the terminal, a staff member found us a luggage cart so that we didn’t have to carry our bags. Nice touch! Would not hesitate to stay there again, or put clients there.”


The eating out scene in Johannesburg features some outstanding experiences like DW Eleven-13, Five Hundred, Cube Tasting Kitchen, Mythos and The Local Grill. We highly recommend to round out your Kruger-Sabi Sands safari with an overnight stay in Jozi city to enjoy the Big 5 Eat (South Africa rock lobster and calamari (squid), Mozambique peri peri prawns, a Karan steak, Karoo lamb, and Namibian oysters).