Where to Stay
Where to Eat
What to Do
Stellenbosch Wine Country
The Stellenbosch wine country in South Africa is absolutely stunning and definitely worth a trip. Its cradled between gorgeous mountains and boasts some of the best wines in the world. I also know there's a train route that allows you to hop on and off at certain wineries, which sounds like a fun day for wine lovers. We took a private bus tour and here were my favorite stops:
Cape Point Tour
We did a bus tour to Cape Point from Cape Town. Including lunch, it took us over five hours. It's a beautiful drive along the west coast of Cape Town, with stops along viewpoints in the different bays. The tour takes you to Cape Point National Park, where we saw wild monkeys and ostriches. It stops at the Cape of Good Hope Old Lighthouse. The walk up to the lighthouse takes about twenty minutes and it's a pretty view from the top. From there, our tour took us to Cape Point, which is apparently the farthest southern point in Cape Town... not South Africa haha. From there, we visited Boulder Beach to see the African penguins. On our way back to Cape Town, we stopped at Kalk Bay to get lunch at Harbour House on the water. If you're lucky, the fishermen will be throwing away scraps and there will be seals playing.
Robben Island and Nelson Mandela
We took a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held a prisoner for 18 years of his 27-year prison sentence. Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid political leader, was South Africa's first black President and the first to be elected by a fully representative democratic election. The tour, including the ferry to and from the island, took over five hours. On the island, we were given a tour of the prison by a former prisoner and then a bus tour around the island, stopping at a viewpoint of Cape Town. The prison was the most interesting part of the tour, especially since the former prisoner could speak firsthand of the horrible conditions and he also knew Nelson Mandela personally. The former prisoner even lives on Robben Island in addition to some of the former prison guards, showing that they forgive each other for the atrocities that took place just a few years ago. The bus tour of the island was less exciting, but we learned some interesting stories about another famous political activist, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe. Sobukwe's ideas were so influential that the government put him into isolation on the island, fenced in a small home where his children were allowed to come visit every so often. Eventually, he was released to return home while on extreme house arrest. Sadly, the isolation took a huge toll on Sobukwe and his spirit was broken by the time he made it home.
The day after we took our tour of Robben Island, it was what was supposed to be Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday. South Africans and people around the globe recognize his birthday as Nelson Mandela day. For the 60 years Nelson spent making the world a better place, it is encouraged to spend 60 minutes on his birthday doing something positive for others.
Watch my video blog from our South African Safari:
Contrary to popular belief, living a vegan lifestyle is not difficult – especially when you truly believe in the causes you are fighting for. For me, it has always been about the animals. Of course, I also care greatly about the environment and my health, but the animals are what continue to drive me.
This summer, my family went on safari in South Africa. When my father first announced the trip, I was beyond excited. A safari is a once and a lifetime experience and, sadly, there is a very real chance that some of Africa’s wild animals will go extinct during our lifetime. To learn about the endangerment of Africa’s wild animals, please read my blog post about our safari experience. Yet, when he mentioned we were going to a private game reserve, I had this sudden feeling of guilt and sadness. Game reserve?! My heart sunk. The only association I had with the word “game” was game hunting, and obviously, I am not a fan of people killing endangered animals for their enjoyment. Thankfully in South Africa, "game" is just a term used when referring to wild animals.
Then, there was the question of animals in confinement. I have found that my favorite childhood places like the zoo and the aquarium have become difficult for me to enjoy and I do my best to not go to them anymore. I cannot handle watching beautiful, wild animals live in small enclosures for people’s enjoyment. One of the understated vegan “rules” – I don’t like the word rules because I think it deters people from making changes towards a vegan lifestyle and I think any strides towards veganism are a good thing – is to not support places that exploit animals. I could not help but think about how the safari would potentially be a glorified zoo.
Luckily, my father is an animal lover as well and he could not have chosen a more perfect private game reserve. Shamwari has over 60,000 acres of land in the eastern cape and is known as one of the most successful private conservation initiatives in South Africa. They have spent the last 25 years rehabilitating the lands that were once taken from the animals for human use and creating a harmonious relationship with the animals. When they first opened, the animals were completely unfamiliar with the land cruisers (the cars they use for game rides) and kept a huge distance. But over time, they learned that the land cruisers mean no harm. Nowadays, the rangers drive the land cruisers to a respectable distance from the animals, and it is up to the animals if they want to approach the vehicle. It is as if the land cruisers are aliens that drive around, sometimes stopping to just watch.
At Shamwari, they do not interfere with the animals and their natural habits. The only intervene when vulnerable or endangered animals are injured and in need of assistance. Only then, do they take them to their Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre to fix up the animal and release them back into the reserve. The rehabilitation center also cares for young and abandoned animals. In my eyes, responsible reserves like, Shamwari, and places like Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, are necessary to keep these beautiful wild animals alive. In this day and age, there is hardly any land left untouched by humans. Unless the land is protected, like national parks, the land is quickly bought and put to human use. Humans have taken up the land and habitats that once belonged to these wild animals. Now it is our responsibility to look out for their well-being and help them thrive.
Shamwari also has two big cat sanctuaries, called the Born Free Big Cat Rescue and Education Centres, for rescued lions and leopards that cannot be released back into the wild. Cats that were kept as pets or used in circuses with horrible conditions. Some other their teeth were even sawed down by their previous owners. The sanctuary gives acres to each of the cats and does their best to create a habitat that will let them live their final years happily in peace. Yes, it was extremely sad to visit the sanctuary, but it is nice to know that these big cats are in good hands.
Now, I can only speak for Shamwari when it comes to private game reserves. There are other private game reserves that are not doing the work that Shamwari is. There are some that do not have nearly enough land to support the number of animals they have. Others that sell their animals to private buyers to consume as meat. Some even feed the animals already butchered meat, instead of letting them hunt for their selves. It is extremely important to research private game reserves and learn as much as possible about them before booking a safari.
I can only relay my safari experience at Shamwari, which was beautiful, respectful, and a once in a lifetime. I believe it is so important for people to travel, see different parts of the world, and have experiences that open our eyes and minds. Shamwari was an experience I will never forget and will continue to share with others for the rest of my life. I saw wild animals I only dreamed of seeing, living and thriving in their natural habitats. I learned about their endangerment and the humbling work good humans are putting in to preserve these breathtaking animals.
From my perspective, humans and animals share the earth and can live harmoniously if we treat animals with respect. When it comes to vegan traveling, my key takeaway is to do your research and learn about responsible ecotourism. We vote with our dollars and if we make the right decisions, we can support organizations that are doing responsible work for the greater good of the earth and its beings.
Watch my video blog from our South African Safari:
When In Rome
Two of my most cherished hobbies go hand-in-hand. Writing is my favorite way to reflect after traveling to a new country. I have kept this blog ever since I studied in Rome to share my travels with families and friends. I hope you enjoy learning about my experiences and getting a sense for my writing skills. If you have any questions, please reach out!