South Africa: A brave new world

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In 1979 South Africa was on the verge of becoming a pariah in the western world. Its system of apartheid rubbed against the grain of most civilized people. Signs directing people…human beings…to restroom facilities for whites and others for non-whites; water fountains that could be used by some and not others ran contrary to an emerging sense of modern society.

To the credit of the majority of South Africans the changeover to majority rule was peaceful, unlike some of their neighbors to the north, such as Rhodesia morphing into Zimbabwe and the despotic rule of Robert Mugabe placed in power by the American administration of Jimmy Carter and Andrew Young.

Tourism in South Africa dipped seriously impacting negatively on the country’s income. Amazing attractions such as Massachusetts-sized Kruger National Park saw a precipitous drop in visitors. The overnight accommodations in a Fort Apache-like setting (to protect from roaming animals) remained empty.

In recent years South Africa has seen a rebirth in its popularity with visitors from around the world once again discovering it vastness, its richness of opportunity to see its amazing flora and fauna and to have a very romantic interlude.

Its resorts are once again regaining the respect previously enjoyed and such destinations as the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa have ratcheted up the list of places to share the romance of a honeymoon. Travel + Leisure magazine ranked it as the number one hotel spa in Africa and the Middle East (where emerging Arab fortunes have created some of the most elegant properties in the world) and the number two city hotel in Cape Town.

Situated near the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town is a modern city that stridently holds on to its past. People in Zulu costume are seen walking the streets alongside businessmen in suits.

The resort and spa is situated on a scenic route nestled between the majestic Twelve Apostles Mountains and an incandescent marine reserve. The resort has become, arguably, Africa’s most desirable wedding and honeymoon destination. Imagine a reception dinner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean after a ceremony under a gazebo in the colorful Fynbos Gardens.

Honeymooners can enjoy dual spa treatments, picnics for two and cocktails in the Sundowners Bar, mountain walks or the in-house cinema. Only a decade old it has achieved five-star status.

Situated above a marine reserve the resort offers boating and whale and dolphin sightings.

It is flanked by Table Mountain, an experience in itself. The ride to the top of the mountain by cable car is enough to get the juices flowing for even the most jaded. This is especially true if the cloud cover (called “The table cloth” by locals) is draped over the mountain top.  Adrenaline will flow copiously as the cable car disappears into the thick cloud cover and seems to emerge in a different world at the mountain top.

When the cloud moves off the view is absolutely spectacular looking across all of Cape Town and southward down the cost with little villages and fishing fleets in sight.

Each of the resorts 70 rooms and suites has an amazing view of the mountains and ocean. The resort is part of the Red Carnation family of four and five star family-run boutique hotels.

A not-to-be-missed side trip is to Cape Point, the most southern tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans kiss in a turbulent meshing of water. The ferocity with which the two great oceans meet has sunk many a ship and condemned untold sailors to the deep.

Climbing the cliffs at the Point is the experience of a lifetime. The area is populated by scores of wild baboons.  Signs, in Afrikaans and English, warn the visitor that Bubajanes est gefarlik…Baboons are dangerous.  They may look friendly and cuddly, but they bite.

Modern South Africa has much to offer and its old motto of “A world in one country” just scratches the surface.  From Kruger in the north through Giant’s Castle National Park and the wonders in between, South Africa is a world class destination.