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Stuck for things to do in South Africa? Unthinkable! But if you do want to want to spice up your South Africa vacation (Perhaps literally. Foodies, take note.), here are some popular, distinctly South African experiences away from the tourist sights that will bring a touch of local flavour to your vacation.
When it comes to southern hemisphere wines, let others keep their snobbery! You’ll be too busy enjoying the bold flavours of local reds including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz. Don’t skip over the whites, which in Stellenbosch tend to include Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and a certain amount of Chenin blanc.
Then, there’s Stellenbosch itself, a university town where rocky mountains tower in the distance, providing a dramatic backdrop. Even if it doesn’t enhance the flavour, it certainly compliments it well. Best of all, Stellenbosch is located less than 30 miles from Cape Town.
Just a little beyond it lies the Franschhoek Valley, where French techniques were first brought to South African winemaking.
Day trip, anybody?
Follow the coast to Camp’s Bay, Clifton, or Durban, and one thing becomes clear. South Africans love the beach, and they know they’ve got some of the best beaches in the world! Most are concentrated either on the Western Cape, or around KwaZulu-Natal, where Durban is located. The year-round temperate climates mean there’s never a bad time to go, and South Africa’s variety of wildlife extends to its coastal areas, so you never know what you might see. You can even take an organized cage-diving trip from Cape Town or Durban makes a thrilling addition to any South Africa vacation.
To sum up South African cuisine in one paragraph would be impossible. Consider the country’s influences, from traditional African, to European colonisation, to the spicy flavours brought by immigrants from across Asia, and it’s clear there’s plenty to try either with, or without wine. Here are just a few local favourites to get your tastebuds dancing.
Bunny chow – Rabbit food? Not quite. This snack, a hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed with delicious, spicy curry first hit the streets of Durban thanks to Indian migrants, and has since spread across South Africa, and even into food markets in other parts of the world. Still, nothing quite beats ordering one from a busy South African street vendor. As is always the case with street food, look for a queue!
Bobotie – This delicious baked dish is a ground beef curry with dried fruit and herbs, all topped with an egg and milk mixture. It might have started as an Asian import, but it’s since become the by-word for South African comfort food.
Boerewors – Translated simply to ‘farmer’s sausage,’ you’ll likely see plenty of these if you attend a Braai. The meat is a mix of beef, and either pork or lamb, all blended with plenty of spice, of course.
Chakalaka & pap – Tasty, quite healthy, and found on many a South African table, this is the local staple for getting your veggies and carbs in. Chakalaka is a spicy vegetable dish often served cold, while pap is a simple corn maize porridge, a little like American style grits.
Melktert – There are variations on the humble egg or custard tart to be found all over the world, and South Africa is not without its own contribution, which is usually dusted with cinnamon.
South Africa is among the most comfortable countries you can visit for a safari, but having that extra layer of luxury, particularly out in the bush, can make a big difference to your trip.
With early starts for game drives, and often a considerable amount of down-time while the animals rest, you’ll want to be comfortable on safari! Each lodge offers its own slightly different facilities, style, and emphasis, so choosing the right lodge can turn a great safari into a terrific one, more than justifying the extra cost.
Originating in the Johannesburg townships, this community tradition has spread across the country. Pronounced ‘bry’ (as in ‘cry’), it is as much a social experience as a culinary one. It’s become so much a part of South Africa’s identity that September 24 is National Braai Day!
A neighbourhood braai can feel not unlike a big potluck where the meat is the star. Expect the previously mentioned boerewors, skewers known as sosatie, kebabs, steaks, marinated chicken, pork and lamb of various kinds… Most any popular meat can wind up on the braai, even seafood in the coastal areas. You can expect to eat a lot of chakalaka and pap as well, just to balance out all that delicious meat.
Oh, and vegetarians? We’re sorry.
Work your way through these five, and you’re still just scratching the surface of South Africa. But it’s a great way to start.
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