Why Settle for Wildlife?
These days, going on safari is about much more than wildlife; luxurious lodges across Africa have perfected the art of pampering, and top-quality food and wine come as standard. Nowhere is this truer than in South Africa – the foodie haven where a combination of exacting standards and quality produce result in some of the world’s best food and wine.
Of the safari lodges, gourmands should head for Jamala in the Madikwe Game Reserve, where multifarious birds and vervet monkeys herald the arrival of each new day and game drives can bring encounters with the Big Five. Recently voted the best lodge in Africa for its cuisine in the 2015 Safari Awards, Jamala is the baby of native chef Nico Verster, whose innovative creations are influenced by time spent in the UK, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Every night at Jamala is a fine dining feast – the ultimate privilege in the African wilderness, and you can also pick up a copy of Nico’s cookery book, Savannah to Sea, and recreate the magic back home.
South Africa is a particularly good choice for anyone looking to spend time in the city or exploring the world-famous wineries of the Cape Winelands District before or after safari.
Sophisticated Cape Town’s sweep of golden sand, multi-coloured houses and ever-present Table Mountain provide a beautiful backdrop for a foodie foray. There are numerous excellent restaurants; right now we love The Test Kitchen in the up-and-coming Woodstock area, which has a fabulous market and a new boutique hotel due to open in 2015. Chef patron Luke Dale-Roberts and his team prepare experimental but unfailingly delicious dishes using South Africa’s bounty and various influences; but be warned, it often books up months in advance.
While fine dining is one of Cape Town’s highlights, you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore the more rustic side of the city. One of our favourite experiences is the Cape Town Eats walking tour, during which your guide will introduce you to local favourites including rose-infused milkshakes, biltong, babotie, Cape Malay koesisters and African samp and beans. It’s also worth taking a cookery course with the Cape Malays, broadly defined as Cape Town’s Muslim contingent, many of whom are descended from Southeast Asian immigrants. Their cuisine is a delicious fusion, and part of the fabric of the city’s food scene.
Away from Cape Town, the scenic Winelands region is a great place to spend a few days. The restaurants are world-class, and famous vineyards open their doors and offer the opportunity to tour the estates and learn about production, or simply relax and sample the final product. Wine tastings are characteristically creative: at Clos Malverne wines are served with home-made ice cream; while Moreson pairs its wines with an array of melt-in-the-mouth charcuterie. Compliment a wine tour with pit-stops to sample olive oil, cheese and chocolate.
You can tour the vineyards by bike or spend a day visiting the wineries in Constantia from Cape Town, but staying in The Winelands provides more time for indulging in lengthy lunches and hopping between vineyards.
Our money is on Babylonstoren – a beautifully restored 18th Century werf (traditional Dutch farmhouse) – as the most charming place to stay. Quite apart from a tour of the winery, guests of all ages are welcome to pick fresh produce from the extensive vegetable garden, and the selections will be lovingly prepared and sent to your room with mouth-watering marinated meats and a barbecue for an informal lunch or dinner. Food features heavily – whether set menus at the excellent Babel restaurant, gourmet pizza night, or the weekly Italian tasting menu.
Albee Yeend is Red Savannah’s African safari expert and a Safari Awards judge. Her career in travel began accidentally after she fell in love with Africa on safari in Zambia. Since then she has travelled extensively in Africa, running luxury safari camps in Zambia and Botswana before returning to the UK.