WHY WE LOVE IT
- Romantic settings in the bush at small, elegant lodges—perfect for secluded interludes.
- Mind-altering safaris in which you'll see the Big Five—the lion, African elephant, African buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.
- Bird-watching and other adventures in Kruger National Park and other wildlife preserves.
- Cosmopolitan Johannesburg, the wild and adventurous bush, Cape Town’s dazzling seaside—there’s something in South Africa for every mood.
- The majestic estates of Cape Winelands, South Africa’s equivalent of the Napa Valley, where guests enjoy tastings, tours and festive picnics on enormous lawns.
- Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds (we don't mean rhinestones). They may not be any less expensive here, but there’s something to be said for purchasing a stone where it was mined.
- Five-star service on luxury trains like Rovos Rail's wood-paneled coaches or the Blue Train, whose cuisine and wines receive deserved acclaim. There's also the Shongololo Express and Spoornet’s Premier Classe.
WHEN TO GO
Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. In the bush, temperatures range from 78 to 93 degrees in the late spring and summer (from November through March) and in winter can range from 27 to 75 degrees. Beachgoers will enjoy stays from October to March; for safari goers, from June through August is ideal because the grass is lower, making game viewing easier. However, if you plan to head to the beach and go on safari, October and November are good bets because temperatures remain warm but you can still see animals. South Africans generally vacation in the summer; tourist spots are most crowded from mid-December to late January.
WHAT TO PACK
Camera, binoculars, electrical converter. Hat and sunglasses regardless of the season—the African sun often blazes brightly. Sunscreen, insect repellent. Formal wear is rarely necessary in South Africa, but avoid shorts at dinner at most establishments; smart casual will be fine.
For safari, pack sneakers or other comfortable shoes and clothing with pale and neutral colors such as greens and browns to blend into the scenery. Pack washable clothes, because lodges typically provide complimentary same-day laundry service. In summer, pack lightweight clothes but also a windbreaker or light jacket for the evenings. In winter, bring a sweater and a fleece or warm jacket.
On most flights within South Africa, passengers may bring only one bag weighing a maximum of 20 kilos, or 44 pounds. Carry along a duffel bag so you can bring only the essentials on safari and store the excess.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers visiting low-altitude areas of the Mpumalanga Province, Northern Province (Limpopo), northeastern Kwa- Zulu-Natal as far south as the Tugela River and Kruger National Park take antimalarial drugs. In addition to routine vaccinations, the CDC recommends that travelers to South Africa receive vaccinations from four to six weeks prior to entering the country to prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies and polio. The CDC also recommends that travelers visit a travel-medicine specialist before heading to South Africa, especially if they are pregnant or planning on becoming so, as this can affect some medications.
WHAT TO BUY
Gold and diamond jewelry; African art; traditional handcrafted items such as Zulu beadwork, carved chessboards, painted ostrich eggs, colorful woven baskets, handbags (especially ones made from springbok) and mohair or sisal rugs; traditional wooden masks and carvings; pottery; wine; biltong (a dried meat snack similar to beef jerky); Rooibos tea; chutney.
In the U.S., contact South African Tourism’s New York office, 500 Fifth Ave., Suite 2040 (800-593-1318, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.southafrica.net). Contact South African Tourism's Los Angeles office by phone at 310-407-8642.
GETTING MARRIED IN SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is so culturally diverse that people often refer to it as a world within a country. That bodes well for weddings, because practically anyone’s personal, religious or nontraditional matrimonial wishes can be accommodated.
Couples wishing to marry must have birth certificates and sign affidavit BI-31 stating their dates and places of birth. Nonresidents must also show the wedding official their passport. Proof of termination of any previous marriages is also required: a certified copy of the final decree of divorce (or, if not available, an affidavit stating that the party is legally divorced and indicating the name of the court that granted the divorce and the date on which it was granted) or a deceased spouse's death certificate. Parental consent on form BI-32 is required for those under 18 years of age who haven't married before. Same-sex marriages are allowed, though religious and civil officers have the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples.
Two witnesses and the marriage officer are required to sign an "acknowledgement of marriage certificate" at a ceremony. For more information, contact an office of the South African Department of Home Affairs (www.home-affairs.gov.za).
Most of the hotels and resorts listed in the Sleep section of this guide have highly competent wedding planners, and you can find planners and weddings information at Celebration (celebration.co.za), the South African online wedding directory. Another good place to check is the Weddings section of the South Africa Travel Corporation (satravelco.com) Web site.
Grande Roche Hotel, Relais & Chateaux
Paarl, Winelands, Western Cape
Tel: 27 21 863 5100
The breaded wrapped springbok loin, served with sautéed asparagus and cherry-crusted foie-gras sauce, draws rave reviews at this superb restaurant, one of two restaurants in South Africa to receive Relais Gourmand status. The honor is well deserved. Executive chef Frank Zlomke crafts three menus—the Flavors of the Cape, the Vegetarian and the Epicurean—and a daily changing à la carte menu. Eight- and 12-course tasting menus are also available. As if the varied food choices weren't bewildering enough, there's a 68-page wine list, though the well-trained sommeliers are happy to assist you with your selection. Though you'll want to dress smartly, jacket and tie are not required. The restaurant is closed from mid-May through July.
121 Castle St.
Tel: 27 21 426 2368
Chef Mike Bassett delights diners at his global-fusion restaurant—on a short alley in the hip Bo-Kaap district—with dishes such as the Indian apple char sui lamb rack with pomegranate juice and the springbok Wellington with caramelized red braised cabbage and asparagus spears. The high ceilings, heavy wooden doors, dim lighting and copper pipes at Ginja (the name comes from Japanese word for root ginger) lend it an industrial feel, but the rich red walls and black-and-white floor make for an intimate French-brasserie look. After dining, head upstairs to relax at Shoga, a bistro-bar run by the owners of Ginja.
Mont Rochelle Hotel & Mountain Vineyards
Tel: 27 21 876 2770
It's easy to get distracted by the stunning views of vineyards and the Dassenberg Mountains from the terrace and mildly postmodern, Provençal-esque dining room of this stylish restaurant. Executive chef Ryan Smith's pan-European menu includes rich dishes such as slivers of foie gras and French chèvre with a beetroot drizzle. Forget about your waistline and devour the wide selection of freshly baked breads. A pianist from Turin, Italy, plays nightly. During the day, sneak away to one of the property's picnic areas and feast on a gourmet basket prepared at the Country Kitchen, a more casual facility located in the wine-tasting center.
151 Kloof St.
Tel: 27 21 426 2413
The aroma of freshly baked breads wafts into the street from this casual spot that's open only for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is a real treat, especially the toasted homemade coconut bread with scrambled eggs (the fluffiest ever!), avocado and smoked salmon trout. Capetonians love this place for its sandwiches, healthy drinks, clever cocktails, contemporary tea infusions and organic foods. For lunch, try the free-range duck breast or the warm salad made with fried Brie, mustard-roasted pear, Serrano ham and fresh chicory. Glass accordion doors open onto a front porch perfect for outdoor dining; you can also sit inside in a stark-white room.
MOYO MELROSE ARCH
The High Street
Tel: 27 11 684 1477
This multilevel eatery oozes African charm. The downstairs dining area has a cavelike feel, with colorful blankets and waitresses in headdress; live musicians perform nightly. The menu takes you on a gastronomic journey throughout the continent; cumin, paprika and saffron lace the seafood and meat dishes, and the wine list is equally adventurous. Moyo has several locations throughout South Africa, including a buffet-only, 1,200-seat outpost at Spier winery in Stellenbosch, where you can dine in the main area or in a tree house amid an African village–like environment of Bedouin tents and gazebos.
6877 Vilakazi St.
Orlando West, Soweto
Tel: 27 11 936 9128
With the township of Soweto growing as a tourist destination, this is a splendid place to stop for lunch after a visit to Nelson Mandela’s former home, now a museum. Archbishop Desmond Tutu's residence is down the street from this Nambitha, which opened in 1999. Menu highlights include the tender grilled calamari, the succulent hake (a white fish) and the dangerously delicious skewered chicken, which arrives on a dagger. Be sure to check out the restaurant's gallery of works by acclaimed photographers such as Peter Magubane, who chronicled the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa.
95 Keerom St.
Gardens, Cape Town
Tel: 27 21 422 0765
Owner and executive chef Giorgio Nava, who hails from Milan, opened his glamorous authentic northern Italian restaurant in a circa-1682 building that originally housed stables and slave quarters. Nava, who personally visits each table to explain the specials, cooks in true Italian style—putting the focus on the raw ingredients rather than on fancy preparations. Favorite dishes here include l'insalata caprese (made with mozzarella di bufala that arrives from Naples every two days), the butternut ravioli and the tiramisu.
THE TASTING ROOM
Le Quartier Français
16 Huguenot Rd.
Tel: 27 21 876 2151
A foodie's dream, Dutch-born chef Margot Janse's dinner-only restaurant has won numerous awards, both locally and internationally. Emphasizing seasonal local meats and produce, Janse crafts exotic meals that don't just please the palate—they’re aesthetic tours de force. The highlight is the eight-course tasting menu, each segment paired with just the right wine to bring out the dish's subtle flavors. Some variety of wild game—springbok, perhaps, or impala, warthog or wildebeest—is often on the menu. A pianist performs nightly in the softly lit, intimate dining room. Request a table facing the oversize sliding-glass and wooden doors for views of a splendid garden.
R44 (Strand Road)
Tel: 27 21 880 8167
Francophile Michael Broughton puts a Capetonian spin on French-Mediterranean cuisine at his restaurant on the grounds of the historic Kleine Zalze wine estate, which dates to 1695. Seasonal regional ingredients, including local organic produce, show up in dishes such as the slow-baked belly of pork with apple and the prawn risotto. In fine weather, ask to dine alfresco under large oak trees in a beautiful lavender-filled garden; on cooler days request a table indoors near the fire.
Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa
Knysna on the Garden Route
Tel: 27 44 302 3410
The restaurant is named after the beloved Labrador retriever belonging to Pezula Resort chairman Keith Stewart and his wife, Joyce, but the real star at this award-winning gourmet restaurant is executive chef Geoffrey Murray. The globe-trotting Murray folds the varied cooking styles of the places he's worked—Asia, the Mediterranean, the United States and elsewhere—into his fusion cuisine, but to create the freshest possible dishes, he uses only locally grown organic products, some from the on-site garden. Reserve a table for the Fridays-only Menu Gourmand, a special chef's tasting menu, with wines specially selected for each course. The seaside town of Knysna is known for its oysters, and the ones Zachary's serves don't disappoint. Other highlights include the snails, the pasta, and the prawns and perlemoen Milanese with saffron risotto, asparagus, grilled lemon and chives.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Tel: 27 21 410 7100
Honeymooners won't want to check out of this hotel set on its own private quay on the city’s bustling Victoria and Alfred Waterfront—and not only because the Cape Grace showers them with a gift every day of their stay. The rooms and suites here are beyond luxurious, and the hotel's online wedding registry lets your friends purchase gifts for you like massages, romantic dinners and unforgettable outings in and around Cape Town. The treatments are African-inspired at the spa, which sits on the top floor and has a breathtaking view of Table Mountain and the yacht marina. Whiskey lovers swoon at the hotel’s Basbule Whisky Bar & Wine Cellar, where the bartenders pour about 400 different whiskeys.
Tel: 27 11 809 4300
The upscale safari company CC Africa has seven reserves in South Africa, several of them providing a unique honeymoon experience. You can snuggle in luxury near Kruger National Park in one of the tented suites at Ngala Tented Camp or stay in a cottage at Ngala Safari Lodge, which has a colonial feel; also near the park is the Bongani Mountain Lodge, with 20 chalets and nine suites. Leadwood Lodge at Exeter Private Game Reserve, on the western part of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, has just four suites, all with private plunge pools. Near the Indian Ocean, the six elegant thatched suites at Phinda Vlei Lodge have private game-viewing decks and plunge pools as do the six romantic suites at Phinda Rock Lodge, which is set into a cliff face, making it seem like the suites are suspended over the deep valley below.
LE QUARTIER FRANÇAIS
Berg and Wilhelmina Streets
Tel: 27 21 876 2151
It's hard to imagine a more dreamy setting than the Susan Huxter has created at her charming retreat, starting with the striking garden filled with jasmine and bougainvillea. Fifteen luxurious bedrooms, each 430 square feet and with a wood-burning fireplace, overlook the pool. For more privacy, opt for one of the two "pool and house suites" (about 860 square feet), and you'll have a pool all to yourself, along with a wood-burning fireplace. For the ultimate in luxury and pampering, choose one of the "four quarters," four exclusive 1,076-square-foot suites that border a central courtyard with a private lounge and a solar-heated swimming pool. These suites have iPod docking stations, separate dressing rooms and butler service.
76 Orange St.
Tel: 27 21 483 1000
A landmark that dates to 1899, this luxurious hotel with 144 rooms and 57 suites sits on nine acres of lush gardens at the foot of Table Mountain. A pink colonial charmer, it draws boldfaced names, including Charlize Theron, from around the globe. Honeymooners are spoiled with a fruit basket upon arrival, long-stemmed red roses, sparkling wine and other treats throughout their stay. Other highlights include an afternoon tea considered one of the world’s best and the dazzling private dining experience to be had at the chef's table in the kitchen. You'll stay in shape and be pampered at the fitness center, pools and spa (scheduled to open in April 2008). If you get married here, you can turn the wedding planning details over to the discreet, professional staff and expect perfect results.
PEZULA RESORT HOTEL & SPA
Knysna on the Garden Route
Tel: 27 44 302 3333
The setting is positively regal at this luxurious resort, which recently unveiled its ultra-private honeymoon-suite castle on Noetzie Beach, where couples can cuddle in bed as they watch the sunrise. Other options include the tastefully decorated suites, including two presidential ones, housed in 20 villas. The to-die-for spa offers treatments for couples; with nine therapy rooms and a post-treatment room with waterbeds that massage you, any remaining anxiety from the whirlwind leading up to your big day will surely melt away. Befitting a place whose property owners include tennis champ Roger Federer, outdoor activities abound, among them golfing (on a championship course), hiking, canoeing and horseback and mountain-bike riding. But there's more: The croissants served at breakfast are buttery and flaky enough to please the pickiest Parisian.
SAXON BOUTIQUE HOTEL AND SPA
36 Saxon Rd.
Tel: 27 11 292 6000
Nestled in the exclusive Sandhurst suburb of Sandton and spread over six acres of landscaped gardens, the Saxon occupies the former private residence of one of South Africa's leading captains of industry. The atmosphere is elegant and intimate, with but 24 suites, including four presidential suites. One of the presidential suites is named for Nelson Mandela: The former South African president ensconced himself at this serene hideaway to edit his best-selling autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, after his release from prison. With a three-to-one staff-to-guest ratio, the refined hotel, which overflows with orchids, prides itself on the staff's attention to detail. All the suites come with butler service (at your request but at no extra expense).
SINGITA LODGES IN SOUTH AFRICA
Kruger National Park
Tel: 27 21 683 3424
Lebombo and Sweni, the two Singita lodges within Kruger National Park (near South Africa's border with Mozambique), are favorites with honeymooners. Lebombo's glass-walled suites were designed to mimic the perches of wild eagles—you'll truly see the world in a different way should you check into what has rightly been hailed as an architectural masterpiece. The style of both lodges is cutting edge-contemporary—bleached wood, earth tones and whites and plenty of glass—but the execution is so masterful that the sense of timeless, wide-open space is preserved. A gym and spa are plusses here. Also worth considering are Singita Boulders Lodge and Ebony Boulders Lodge, two nearby accommodations in the adjacent Sabi Sand, private game reserve.
TSWALU KALAHARI RESERVE
Northern Cape Province, 120 km from Kuruman
Tel: 27 11 274 2299
Guests at this game reserve rave about its serenity and seclusion. At 100,000 hectares, it's one of South Africa's largest private-conservation projects, but as a lodging it's downright exclusive. There are only eight stone-walled, thatch-roofed suites in Motse village, each an with outdoor shower large enough to throw a party in, a deep bathtub, mosquito netting circling the comfy bed and a furnished terrace where you can relax and watch thirsty wildlife meander up to water holes just steps away. Dining is outside in a boma (a thatched-roof open space). There are accommodations elsewhere on the property, but we recommend the Motse village suites. The resort arranges safaris on horseback and wonderful game viewing.
ULUSABA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
Tel: 877-577-8777, 27 11 325 4405
Ulusaba means "place of little fear" in the Shangaan language, and there's no reason at all to fear a stay at the private game reserve of Sir Richard Branson (yes, he of Virgin), considered one of South Africa's finest. Rooms at the Safari Lodge are tree-house style, linked to the main facilities by suspension bridges, and provide fascinating views of the animals as they stroll past on their way to the nearby water hole. The Rock Lodge perches high on the summit of a koppie, or rocky hill, providing guests with panoramic views of the bush. Each lodging has a fitness center and, better yet, an Aroma Boma Virgin Touch Salon, the perfect topper to an exhilarating day of wildlife viewing.
67 Jan Smuts Ave.
Tel: 27 11 481 6000, 800-237-1236
Tucked into a steep hillside is Johannesburg's most romantic locale for a honeymoon or a wedding, which the Westcliff banquet team can expertly arrange for you. Purple jacaranda trees create a picture-book setting in the spring and summer; vivid reds and oranges set the scene in autumn. Honeymooners enjoy hand-drawn bubble baths with scattered rose petals and scented candles, private alfresco dining and a welcome gift; couples who marry here receive an overnight stay in a plush suite and are invited to return for a complimentary overnight stay on their first anniversary. Spacious marble bathrooms are stocked with Molton Brown bath products. Don't miss aperitifs at the Polo Lounge or dinner at La Belle Terrasse and Loggia, with its spectacular backdrop of glittering lights.
BOULDERS AFRICAN PENGUIN COLONY
Tel: 27 21 786 2392
A stroll down the elevated boardwalk at Boulders Beach leads to a world-famous colony of African penguins, listed in the Red Data Book as a vulnerable species. In 1910 there were as many as 1.5 million penguins, but by the end of the 20th century only 10 percent had survived. Once called the Jackass Penguins because of their donkey-like braying call, these delightful black-and-white creatures, the only example of the species that breed in Africa, are now simply called African penguins because several species of South American penguins produce the same sound. The beach, whose name comes from the large granite boulders that create this sheltered cove, is a popular swimming destination because of its relatively warm waters.
Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism
Tel: 27 21 876 3603
Tel: 27 21 883 3584
Paarl Tourism Association
Tel: 27 21 872 0850
If time permits, spend a few nights in one of the intimate towns that make up the Winelands, a collection of rolling vineyards, towering mountains and historic wine estates about an hour outside Cape Town. Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl are the most popular. Experience a corner of France in Franschhooek, which pays homage to its 17th-century Huguenot origins. Nearly every restaurant, wine farm and corner cafe here has a French name. A good first stop is Boschendal Wine Estate, where in fine weather you can sit beneath the large umbrellas of Le Pique-Nique ("picnic" always sounds more elegant in French, n'est-ce pas?) and nibble on pâtés, cheeses, salads and superb baguettes. In Stellenbosch, a university town, visit Spier, which puts on quite a show with its wine center, restaurants, seasonal open-air theater, swimming pools, spa (for in-house guests only), children’s activities, craft exhibitions, wildlife encounters and horseback riding.
Kapama Private Game Reserve
Tel: 27 12 460 5605
Riding in a 4x4 on safari through the bush may be exhilarating, but this isn't the only way to view game. Safaris by elephant or on horseback and walking and tracking safaris are the latest rage, and Camp Jabulani specializes in the elephant-back safaris. For the thrill of a lifetime, mount one of the gigantic mammals and get ready to sway side to side on a 60- to 90-minute spin into the wild. Policies are in place to ensure that the elephants are nurtured and respected while still affording guests the life-changing experience of interacting with some of planet's largest and most memorable creatures. You can also book a stay at the Camp Jabulani.
Pearl Valley Golf Estates
No 1 Pearl Valley Golf Estate
Tel: 27 21 867 8000
Golf Digest named Pearl Valley the best new course of the year in 2005 (it opened in 2003). Surrounded by the Simonsberg and Drakenstein Mountains and with the Berg River water hazard running through it, this 18-hole, par-72 course—the only Jack Nicklaus signature course in the Western Cape—is a pleasure to play. With its rich green terrain and pearl-white bunkers, it's as beautiful as it is challenging: Watch out on the par-three 13th hole, where the waterside green tests golfers' strokes and nerves. If you love golf, this course in the Cape Winelands is worth the drive (46 miles from Cape Town's City Bowl).
ROBBEN ISLAND MUSEUM
Tel: 27 21 413 4220
It's only a short boat ride from the mainland to the island famous for its prison, which housed Nelson Mandela for 18 years. Former prisoners lead 45-minute tours (guests are on the island for two and a half hours) in which you can view the cell occupied by Mandela and the house where Robert Sobukwe, another great fighter against apartheid, was kept prisoner. Robben Island was a notorious hellhole, but in its new incarnation it has been transformed into a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over hatred and adversity. The prison was declared a national museum in 1996 and a World Heritage Site three years later. The popular tours, conducted a few times a day, weather permitting, fill up quickly, so it is wise to purchase tickets at least two weeks in advance.
Simon's Town Sea Kayak Tours
Tel: 27 82 501 8930
Regardless of your skill level, there's a kayak activity to suit you in the warm waters of False Bay. The most popular trip is to visit the penguins at Boulders Beach. No experience is necessary, and the trip is no more taxing than hiking up a hill. After visiting the penguins, you can stop on a lovely semiprivate beach for refreshments, swimming and snorkeling. (From August to October there's a bonus: a pretty good chance you'll see some whales.) The more adventurous can row out to Cape Point; real adrenaline junkies can get an unforgettable windy-day rush on a kayak surfing trip on the open sea. Double kayaks are used on the trips, which are led by knowledgeable and experienced guides.
SHARK CAGE DIVING
White Shark Diving Company
3 Van Dyk St.
Tel: 27 21 461 6583
Thrill seekers have made this excursion the latest rage on the Cape. Slip on a wetsuit, climb into a cage attached to a boat and immerse yourself below water to watch great white sharks swim right in front of you. As the operators will warn you, this is not an aquarium, meaning there are occasional days when the visibility is so low that it is impossible to see the torpedo-shaped creatures while underwater. But watching the large dorsal fin and part of the tail slice through the water from the deck before the shark attacks the bait provides an excellent, and less heart-stopping, view.
TABLE MOUNTAIN AERIAL CABLEWAY
Tel: 27 21 424 8181
Whether you choose to take the five-minute ride on the Cableway rotating gondola or the (depending on the route and your level of fitness) one- to four-hour hike, you're rewarded with outstanding views of Cape Town, Table Bay, Robben Island, the Cape Flats and the Cape Peninsula from atop Table Mountain. (On poor-visibility days you can't see all of these.) Pathways traverse the flat-topped mountain; you can walk up the mountain yourselves—the Platteklip Gorge route is recommended—and take a guided tour of the top. The lines to buy tickets can get quite long, so if your hotel sells tickets, purchase yours in advance so you don't have to wait. The Cableway operates weather permitting. There's a self-service restaurant at the peak that offers breakfast, lunch and light snacks.
WALKING WITH BABOONS
12 Glen Rd.
Tel: 27 21 782 2015
Support a good cause and spend a fascinating two or three hours with the Cape Peninsula's last remaining Chacma baboons on a guided walking tour through mountain fynbos (fine bush). You'll observe the animals—playing eating, fighting, making love—in what remains of their natural environment, which is threatened by urbanization. Be careful, though: Some baboons like to untie visitors' shoelaces. Jenni Trethowan, known locally as the Baboon Lady, founded her unique tour to create awareness of and appreciation for these primates, whose habits lead them into conflict with humankind when they venture into villages in search of food. She hopes that by showing what baboons' lives are really like, people will accept and tolerate the creatures, who face extinction in perhaps as soon as a decade.
Hermanus Whale Cruises
Tel: 27 28 313 2722
So many Southern Right whales flock to this seaside resort about 75 miles from Cape Town that there's even a whale crier to let people know exactly where they are. Not that these baleen whales, which have large plates in their mouths instead of teeth, are hard to miss, even while you're standing on the harbor. From June through December, leisurely and quite romantic whale-watching cruises take place, allowing you to get up close and personal with these migratory mammals. The whales, which send up a V-shaped spray when they breathe, are attracted to the shallow, sandy-bottomed and sheltered bays of Hermanus, because they're perfect for mating, calving, nursing their young and resting.
Shop 3A, Cape Quarter
72 Waterkant St.
Tel: 27 21 425 5123
This funky home-decor shop in the heart of Cape Town's historic De Waterkant district was one of the first promoters of trend-conscious African crafts. Known for its unique blend of art, craft and contemporary design—a bit urban, edgy and vibrant, with echoes of the traditional forms of Africa—the shop proclaims its goods "New African." You'll find everything from potato-print fabrics to darling African Christmas-tree ornaments to jewelry by local craftspeople. Be sure to check out the collection of art—fertility dolls, musical instruments and many other items—in the Tribal Collection. The cornerstone of Africa Nova's trading ethos is the support and nurturing of local artists, craftspeople and designers, helping them develop products that will succeed in the international marketplace.
AMATULI FINE ART
170 Corlett Dr.
Tel: 27 11 440 5065
Prepare to be overwhelmed by the thousands of beautiful African artifacts as you saunter from room to room. The gallery's art comes from throughout Africa—carved crocodiles, fish, giraffes and snakes from Swaziland; canoes from central Africa; drums from Tanzania; Ashanti stools from Ghana; bullhead masks from Cameroon; and goatskin scrolls from Ethiopia. You'll find wall hangings, grass baskets, benches, headrests, tall painted figures, horns, wooden antelope heads, bronze heads and other items. Some craftspeople on the continent produce products just for owner Mark Valentine, who has been in business for nearly two decades. He has a crew on hand to package customers' purchases, and he ships overseas.
Cape Quarter, Shop A2
Tel: 27 21 419 2468
Owner Daniel Zombek, a French-speaking Belgian, strives to introduce new brands and designers to South Africa at his boutique, which has clothes for women, men and children. He also sells fine shoes, accessories and art. Zombek carries labels from all over the world, including France, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Italy and the United States, but sometimes he carries only one or two per size, lessening the chance that you'll come across someone in Cape Town wearing the same outfit. Coming soon: new branches in Johannesburg and Newlands.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Shop No. 7217
Tel: 27 21 421 0184
Going to South Africa and not buying jewels is like going to Milan and not buying clothes. For superior jewelry head to the recently opened Christoff, at the new Platinum Mile retail development on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Just like the goods found at its parent company, Charles Greig, which has been in business for more than a century, the ones at Christoff are of the highest caliber, in both materials and design. The shop sells loose and mounted gemstones, diamonds, tanzanites and colored stones from Africa. Most of these stones have been mined, cut and polished in South Africa, and mountings in gold and platinum are handmade in its Johannesburg workshops.
Tel: 27 82 859 1250
You don't have to be intoxicated to pick up on the connection between lampshades and hats, and no one puts the two together more fabulously than Wilja Reitz. Her boutique specializes in the design and manufacture of couture lighting and chandeliers. Styles vary from rococo baroque to African contemporary to postmodern. Her work graces the homes of international celebrities and is featured at top hotels, guesthouses and clubs across South Africa. But she also whips up showstopping hats that are sure to turn heads. Her store is in Biscuit Mill, a mecca for design talent, where customers can interact with manufacturers, a rarity these days.
Gardens, Cape Town
Tel: 27 21 462 2220
Brides-to-be in search of a couture wedding dress flock to Elbert Gillis, who has been in the business since 1995. Half of her clients live outside South Africa and come either for a destination wedding or because of family connections. She's made several gowns by "remote," taking measurements, sharing photos and keeping brides-to-be updated via e-mail. She creates simple and classical designs that complement a bride's style, vision and body type. Patterns are individually drafted from scratch, and a mock-up is made to ensure a perfect fit. The designer has access to the best silks, organzas and other typical wedding fabrics and imports her own lace from France. Some ready-to-wear gowns are available that can be customized to suite a bride's requirements.
Shop No. 272
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Tel: 27 21 425 1810
Men who have come to Cape Town not realizing how sophisticated this place really is can rectify the problem at this one-stop shop on the Victoria Wharf. Fabiani sells everything from exquisitely cut suits in imported fabrics to shirts in a kaleidoscope of colors. The first store opened in Cape Town in 1978, and now there are several outposts throughout South Africa, all of them carrying the Fabiani label and a carefully selected mix of international brands, including Armani Collezioni, Etro and Prada. Complimentary Chivas Regal is poured for shoppers in this genteel operation known for smooth and efficient service.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Tel: 27 21 418 8535
Cutting-edge designer clothing, accessories and gifts can be found at the new Lulu TanTan Temple of Luxury. Owner-designer Inge Peacock modeled her Cape Town boutique, which opened in late 2007, after her location in nearby Cavendish, employing the same opulent Asian-salon-style interior design. The V&A location has gold walls and a red ceiling, and the huge mirrors are dramatically framed. Creations by established international talents such as the Indian designer Malini Ramani, Melinda Loi of Malaysia and Kristensen Du Nord of Denmark are available at the shop, which also carry the 2 Blonde Lizards line from the United States and exclusively stocks the well-known French line Dunia. As befits a Platinum Mile store doing business near Max Mara, Gucci, Burberry and Louis Vuitton, Lulu TanTan serves champagne to its customers, along with exceedingly refined service.
ORIGINAL T BAG DESIGNS
Unit 3 and 4
Kronendal Office Park
Tel: 27 21 790 0887
One needn't be a tea lover to enjoy this unique business that produces greeting cards, notebooks, trinket boxes and other products adorned with recycled tea bags collected locally and abroad. Jill Heyes, a schoolteacher who moved to South Africa from England in 1996, came up with the idea for this business after witnessing the overwhelming poverty and apparent hopelessness in Imizamo Yethu, an informal settlement in Hout Bay, and employed residents to refashion the tea bags into saleable products. On weekdays you can come out to the Hout Bay factory, watch production, meet craftspeople from Imizamo Yethu and enjoy a cup of tea. The company also operates a stall in the Blue Shed of the Victoria & Albert Waterfront that's open daily.
If you're new to South African wine and not sure what to buy, it's a good idea to head to a Winesense store. There are four in Cape Town and two in Johannesburg. Each store has state-of-the-art equipment that allows you to try before you buy some of the wines, whiskeys and premium spirits from South Africa and around the world. The stylish stores pour more than the average wine bar. Olive oil is also sold, and there are many fun events involving top chefs and hot new winemakers. Winesense stores ship overseas, so you don't have to worry about getting your purchases home.