Where to Eat
GINJA (Fusion) Cape Town's restaurant culture has exploded in recent years. Ginja is an atmospheric converted warehouse in the trendy Bo-Kaap district. It does the East-West fusion thing very well with tuna (Thai-style) and salmon (with gribiche—mustard and cucumber—sauce). There are also decidedly African offerings such as curried crocodile and springbok (a small antelope native to southern Africa). If it's booked up, a more casual restaurant from the same owners, called Shoga, is just upstairs.
121 Castle Street, Cape Town; 011-27/214-262-368. $$$
KNYSNA OYSTER COMPANY (Seafood) Overlooking the Knysna lagoon, the Oyster Company offers both traditional and novel ways of serving wild and locally cultivated oysters. The adventurous might try zwembezi: oysters deep-fried and served with spinach, tomato, corn and biltong (dried meat)—more unconventional you cannot get.
Long Street, Thesens Island, Knysna; 011-27/443-826-941. $$
LA PETITE FERME (French provincial) Drive less than fifteen minutes from the clubhouse at Pearl Valley and you'll be in Franschhoek, the "French corner" of the Cape and the self-proclaimed gourmet center of South Africa. There are some wonderful restaurants here, but La Petite Ferme, which opens only for lunch, is the star. Smoked trout is the house specialty.
Franschhoek Pass Road, Franschhoek; 011-27/218-763-016. $$
SEAFOOD AT THE MARINE (Seafood) The five-star Marine Hotel is perched on cliffs above the bay in Hermanus, the whale-watching capital of South Africa and a fifteen-minute drive from Arabella Golf Club. The open-kitchen design here was inspired by the seafood bar at Harrods in London. The "rich man's fish and chips" and the Walker Bay sole are both rather special.
Marine Drive, Hermanus, Western Cape; 011-27/283-131-000. $$
On Safari in Kruger National Park
It is 5:30 a.m. at Leopard Hills, a private game reserve in Kruger National Park. The sun isn't up yet. It's cold. I pull on a fleece climbing into the Land Rover for the morning drive. The mood is one of anticipation: What will we see today?Minutes after leaving the lodge, along the dirt track, there's a roadblock. Not traffic, not roadwork—elephants, scores of them, from huge, tail-flicking bulls to tiny calves scooting to keep up. Not that we need reminding, but this is their place; on safari, you're always a guest.
Many days begin like this at Leopard Hills. There's five-star luxury here: beautiful glass-fronted, air-conditioned suites appointed in style ready-made for a Ralph Lauren photo shoot, plus your own private plunge pool. The main mansion, with its gourmet dining room and attentive staff, is a paragon of colonial splendor. But at the end of each day, what you see in the wild is what captures your dreams.
As the bush warms up, out come giraffes, water buffalo, hundreds of monkeys and baboons, more birds than one can name or remember. Our lunch companions are rhino and zebra. During the afternoon game-drive, the ranger radios colleagues from other lodges. His language is a hodgepodge of verbal winks and nods, designed to keep us in the dark as to what's next. But gradually I pick up the code, and learn that six lions wandering the area are close by. Two lionesses also know the males are in town. An hour later, after quietly watching a skilled temptress at play, one of the males mates with her, almost in front of us. On the way back to the lodge for a tasty braai (barbecue), there's a surprise. A local leopard named Makwela is there, sitting regally in a tree, relaxed as a Hollywood star on camera. Settling in for the night, one thought overwhelms me: They will all be here tomorrow. The rhythm of a safari is mesmerizing. Each day is the same; each totally different. — J.C.
Leopard Hills, Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga; 011-27/137-376-626, leopardhills.com. Inclusive suite prices (per night): $589–$913.