In the last 12 months, British Sterling has been a bit of a curate’s egg; amazing in parts and shocking in others. If you look at a table of where the pound has won and lost in the last few months, there is one stand out nation that we should all be thinking about visiting if we want to make the most of our own currency. South Africa.
Not only do we get a big bang for our buck (this is the best exchange rate we have had for a number of years, increasing 20% in the last year), but, in my opinion, it is one of the most amazing and beautiful places I have ever visited. Yes, there may be a slight hangover from the apartheid years; an imbalance in the socio-economic landscape that, at times is noticeable – but things are getting better every day and the bad times are slowly being confined to the history books, thankfully.
If you can get over the devastating history of recent times, this is a country that is diverse, proud, beautiful on the eye and packed with things to do with great weather. Here I am going to list some of the places you can go and things you can do to maximise your trip and make the most of the Rand you have in your pocket.
The first benefit is the jet lag…or lack of it. South Africa is two hours ahead of the UK and while the flight may be 11 hours or so, you don’t need a week to get into the swing of things like you do when you travel to Australia or even LA for that matter. The flights are direct and if you are savvy and book far enough in advance you should get a good price. I should say that this is dependent on when you go though, as Christmas and New Year is far more expensive than any other time of the year. I have been in November/December and also in February. February is the stellar month for weather, but it’s quieter in November/December and therefore things tend to be more available and at a better price. It’s up to you.
When you arrive in Cape Town you should try and stay by the sea as the city centre or CBD isn’t that interesting. Camps Bay is in the centre and allows you access to everything you need; restaurants, beach, shops, bars etc. The one down-side is the sea water is freezing cold all year round as you are in the Atlantic side of the ocean split. Head up to Table Mountain where the view is amazing and then go to the Waterfront area for some shopping and to get a great view of Table Mountain. If you love sport then try and catch a game of cricket or rugby at Newlands – South African people love sport and they know how to watch it. You also need to go to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn which is an hour or so away by car.
After finding your feet in Camps Bay, where you will no doubt have used your strong pounds to eat the amazing food and drink the wonderful South African wine, you can head off to pastures new. I love the drive down towards Plettenberg Bay on the famous Garden Route. If you are a golfer like me, stop off in Hermanus to play the majestic Arabella golf course. Simply put, you won’t find many better in the world. Once you‘ve played the best golf of your life, get back in the car and enjoy the drive to Plett (as everyone calls it). The scenery is breath-taking and can be distracting it’s so wonderful, so concentrate as you go round the winding mountain roads!
You can stop again if you don’t want a long drive and a great place to rest up is Knysna. It’s the main town before you hit Plett and it has great hotels and apartments to rent if you want to stay for longer.
Plett is sleepy in November and December (pre Xmas) but comes alive just before and after New Year. It’s a real beach town with great restaurants and exceptional sea food. It’s a place to relax, read and enjoy your holiday. There are loads of extreme sports for the adrenaline junkie, golf for the golf bore and the magnificent Monkey World for the simian lover!
I’d probably drop the hire car off at George Airport (George is a place in between Cape Town and Plett and serves as the airport hub for that area) as driving all the way back isn’t as appealing as driving there and from George you can fly anywhere. Durban, Jo’berg, Sun City or just head back to Cape Town for more of what you started with. Try and find some time for a trip to some of the amazing vineyards of Stellenbosch or Constansia to finish things off in style with a lunch that, if you had it in the UK, would cost you a fortune.
Raise a glass to the pound Sterling and the Western Cape for me when you’re there!
Ed Fleming is specialist money saving writer for Savoo.co.uk.