We got Sofie Mahmood to share with us her favourite experiences of beautiful South Africa and where to go for the best hikes, safaris and local Malva pudding.
Sofie Mahmood’s Travel Diary: South Africa
South Africa, the home to magnificent safari animals, beautiful landscape and sunsets as well as and exotic people and food, intrigues many at the mere mention of it.
Sufineh Mahmood, or more fondly known to many in society as simply Sofie, and family are the lucky rare few who call it their second home, having bought a holiday home in the region following regular visits since 2013.
Here, she shares with us her favourite experiences of the beautiful African country and where to go for the best wines, safaris and local Malva pudding.
Since December 2013, I have visited South Africa six times as my husband is based in Cape Town for a project. I was fortunate to visit at various times of the year to experience the different offerings.
December is my favorite time, it being summer in South Africa where flocks of people head for the beach and you can feel the party vibes with nice beach clubs playing party music.
September and October is when one has high chance of seeing migrating whales. So really it depends on what one would like to do. The famous “Sardine Run” where millions of sardines travel up east coast can be enjoyed between the months of May and July. For hiking where one would be greatly rewarded with the beautiful vistas and variety of flora & fauna, the best time is spring/autumn to take advantage of the perfect temperature.
May to September is dry season and the recommended period to go for safari trips as one can find animals around the watering hole. There are some that can be visited in a day just to get the experience such as Aquila Safari. The big ones will require overnight or more. For the best safari experience, it is best to head to Kruger National Park or the private game reserves bordering Kruger. There are various smaller safaris as well accessible from the city and can be done in a day. Often the choice here will boiled down to availability than preferences – places do get booked up ahead of time.
The best time to visit the South African winelands is between November and May to enjoy alfresco dining although it is open throughout the year. There are various winelands located in Cape Town, the famous ones are Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Durbanville and Heldelberg. Our favorites are De Grendel and Groot Constantia. We also like Spice Route at Paarl.
The national park comprising of Table Mountain, Lion Head & Signal Hill, Cape of Good Hope & Cape Point, Boulders Penguin Colony and Silvermine all offer different experience rightfully claiming natural world heritage side – Natural New 7 Wonder of the World, a haven of magnificent mountains plunging into crystal seas leading to the far blue yonder. Take in the views and imagine Portugese explorers Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco De Gama first navigating the coasts, the start of the trading route for Europe with India and the Far East! The original lighthouse still stands at the summit of Cape Point. You can also enjoy the views from the Two Oceans restaurant at False Bay with most stunning ocean views of South Africa.
We decided to buy a holiday home in Hout Bay, Cape Town. Hout Bay is a growing and popular seaside resort town with its unique location at the start of the Atlantic Seaboard yet accessible from most Cape Town top attractions. We still feel part of a community, enjoy coastal living and the little gems of local enterprises from food, café to arts.
South Africa is also known as the “Rainbow Nation”, a perfect word to describe the people and culture. There are various groups Zulu, Ndebele, Khoisan, Muslim, Afrkaner. In recent times, there are also people from the African countries living in SA of which had caused some tensions in the country.
South Africans are very friendly and helpful. I have had strangers come up to me randomly just striking up conversation about the flowers I was buying, helping me with directions etc. In fact, I initially I had my guard up and was suspicious having lived in the hustle-bustle of KL where we oftentimes avoid eye contact and conversation in general.
The local food is called rainbow cuisines as well! From seafood, meat, game good and plants, SA cuisines has everything to offer everyone. Indigenous delicacies are such as biltong (dried, salted meat), bobotie (a much-improved version of Shepherd's pie) and boerewors (hand-made farm sausages, grilled on an open flame).
South Africans make the best BBQ or Braai and this is often accompanied with Potjie or Porjiekos “small pot food” cooked in a round, cast iron pot. Both braai and potjie are social activities one enjoys with guests over fireside chitchat accompanied with South African wines, of course! To polish it off, Malva pudding!
I am always amazed how outdoorsy South Africans are! People are always seen cycling, running and surfing. Popular pastimes are rugby, braai and also beachcombing. There is no shortage of pastime, one can even have a field day at the shooting range.
There are also farmers markets and flea markets. Organic produces and healthy foods can also be found almost everywhere. In short, the rainbow nation is also a healthy nation.
Nightlife is similar and very modern to what you find in KL. There are also outdoor concerts based on integration of African music into the mainstream, something called The Grand White Event which runs in the summer in major South African cities, also the South Africa Gay Pride events. I find their lifestyle and events much forward than what we find locally. Most importantly too, although there is a reliance on tourism, there is also a strong domestic support for these events.
South Africa is simply beautiful, breathtaking and yet welcoming. You’ll be surprised by how affordable it is, how beautiful it is, how creative the people are and how history still runs deep.
(Photos: Sofie Mahmood)