If you’re in search of a destination that combines incredible wildlife, diverse landscapes, stunning coastlines, and vibrant culture, look no further than South Africa. With a wide range of destinations to visit – encompassing vast grasslands, sandy beaches, and iconic cities like Cape Town and Jo-Berg — the country offers plenty of adventures for every kind of traveler.
One avid explorer who fell in love with South Africa is Ali Alsulaiman. Born in Saudi Arabia, Alsulaiman started his career as a medical doctor in Europe, but he craved more adventure in his everyday life and career. His wanderlust eventually led him to London to pursue his passion for photography and travel.
“I love medicine and the rewarding feeling I have every time I help a patient. However, the practical part is sedentary and it doesn’t allow me to be creative,” he shares, “Travelling, on the other hand, filled my life with passion and drive.”
Now, the doctor-turned-content-creator enthusiastically explores beautiful places around the world while capturing his adventures along the way on camera. Out of the many places he’s ventured to, South Africa proved to be one of his all-time favorite destinations for its heaping of good food, people, adventure, and nature.
To help you make the most out of your next trip to this bucket list location, Alsulaiman is sharing his guide to South Africa below.
WHY SOUTH AFRICA?
South Africa simply has it all. Beautiful weather, numerous beaches, great food, breath-taking safari experiences, and friendly people! It’s hard not to fall in love with this country! Also, you can’t get bored there as there are many activities from hiking, surfing, horse riding on the coast to trekking in the bush! Therefore, it’s a must-visit country, especially for those who want to unwind, enjoy incredible views and escape the hectic lifestyle.
What’s one thing that every first-time visitor should see or do in South Africa?
Every visitor needs to feel the wild side of South Africa and spend a night in the bush. One of my favorite experiences was a sleep-out under the stars in a tree-house, right under the strikingly beautiful sheer cliffs of the Waterberg in Marataba. An elephant visited me in the middle of the night and two lions roaring just at the bottom of the tree woke me up at 2 am. These are unforgettable moments that everyone should have.
However, if you are in Capetown, then you should definitely meet the penguins at Boulders beach. The ancient granite boulders protect it from the wind and large waves, making it ideal for swimming. If you want to get up close and personal with the penguins, make your way to Foxy Beach. Just don’t get too close – those beaks are razor sharp
South African city with the best food scene?
I really like the food scene of Cape Town. There are lots of little cafes and bistros all over the place, many of them serving excellent fresh seafood — some situated right on the beach with a beautiful view. I would suggest trying the Cousins Trattoria, an excellent authentic Italian cuisine. My favorite meal was their signature dish, tagliolini tossed in a wheel of parmigiano.
There are also numerous excellent restaurants for those who enjoy haute cuisine and a classy dinner. My personal favorite in Cape Town is La Colombe, a Michelin Star restaurant. The tuna dish is legendary and the passion fruit curry is one of the most memorable dishes I’ve had on a tasting menu.
Best South African location for spending time in nature?
Bloubergstrand Beach has spectacular views of Table Mountain and the coastline. It’s the perfect spot to go for a stroll and to watch the sunset. It’s also an excellent location for surfers and kite surfers.
Best outdoor excursion or adventure activity to do in South Africa?
Personally, my favorite outdoor activity is horseback riding on Noordhoek Beach. A stretched white sandy beach as far as the eye can see. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and tranquil! Magnificent ride on the beach with well-controlled horses. It’s also perfect for a stroll.
Coolest hotel or place to stay?
It’s difficult to mention only one place as South Africa has so many places oozing beauty. If you’re in Cape Town, Villa Obsidian and Llandudno Rock Villa are by far my favorite two places to stay. Rented through CapeConcierge, Villa Obsidian is located in Clifton, my favorite area in Cape Town. The villa is just a few steps from the beach and has the most spectacular view of the twelve apostles.
As for Llandudno Rock Villa, it’s an architectural masterpiece nestled in the natural rock outcrop of the exquisite Llandudno shores. Sitting by the fire, watching the sunset was an absolute highlight of my last trip to Cape Town. With uninterrupted sea and mountain views along with the luxurious design, this villa offered me peace and harmony.
However, if you plan to experience the wildlife, my favorite two lodges are:
AndBeyond Phinda Rock Lodge. Set into a cliff face, with wraparound views of the Lebombo Mountains, this lodge is the ultimate safari destination. With only six intimate suites, each with a plunge pool and a viewing deck to observe rare wildlife. A true paradise, peaceful and relaxing. It’s the most romantic lodge I’ve ever stayed at.
South Africa Travel Guide
Marataba Mountain Lodge is in its exclusive location, set secluded within the Waterberg and surrounded by Marakele National Park. Just five private Eco Suites — open onto a setting renowned for its magnificent scenery and flourishing wildlife, including the critically endangered black rhino.
On the same private game reserve, Marataba Safari Lodge is a collection of very exclusive luxury tents. Where rich red mountain rock meets lush green plains. I remember stepping out of my tent in the morning and watching an elephant passing by very close and shortly after baboons. I felt so connected to nature. I also loved relaxing at the pool lounge area with a cool breeze and the gentle chirruping of the birds whilst antelopes were roaming around the pool.
Best time of year to visit?
If you’re visiting Cape Town, then I would suggest going from March to May or from September to November. These shoulder seasons boast enviable weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices. If you’re going on a safari, the dry season is from May to October. The grass is shorter and hence has better visibility for wildlife viewing. Nonetheless, I deliberately went there in late November (rainy season) and absolutely loved the green grass as shown in my photos.