One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
A visit to South Africa has always been incredibly high on my bucket list and one I always expected to take later in life. However, sometimes a Top 20 deal is just too hard to pass up, even for us Deal Experts. So when one came across my desk, after crunching the numbers and downing a glass of wine for liquid courage, I took the plunge into booking my dream vacation: 11 days in South Africa & Victoria Falls, including a safari. Now having returned, I can’t believe I had even considered putting off the trip.
Here are my top six reasons why NOT to wait to take your dream African vacation:
- The exchange rate: Even a hot deal to Africa can appear pricey at first glance, but realize that the vast majority of the trip cost is up front and not while on vacation! Once on you’re on the ground, it’s incredibly easy to stick to a budget with an exchange rate that’s highly favorable to the U.S. dollar. For example, a bottle of water at the airport: 50 cents; a cab ride across Cape Town: $6; a five-course lunch at a “Top 100” restaurant in the world: $50 per person. And not to forget, haggling is a part of life there, so there are great opportunities to strike a bargain at one of the numerous outdoor markets. In factoring in a trip to Europe and what you spend while you’re there, the final comparison to South Africa is remarkably close!
- The people: In all my world travels, I have never met a warmer and more welcoming people than the South Africans. The pride they have for their country and what it’s overcome is palpable at every turn and we learned more from the people than we could have at any museum. Whether at our hotels, on safari or even on the street, everyone was incredibly friendly. The level of service we received was unparalleled and many times it felt like people sincerely cared that we had a memorable visit.
- Any time of year is a great time of year: Typically you’ll hear winter in South Africa (summer in North America) is the ideal time to safari, while the brush is low and dry making it easiest to spot more elusive animals like the cats. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t experience safari at a different time of year -- it’s just a different experience! In going during the tail end of summer, the scenery I experienced was green and lush but I still saw all the Big Five animals and loved the fact that I could enjoy the beautiful summer weather in coastal Cape Town.
- Best of every world: Cape Town has something at its doorstep for everyone – top-rated beaches; adventure sports; world-class restaurants; wine country; cultural museums; a thriving waterfront. No matter what your taste, there’s something that will cater to your ideal vacation along with some stunning scenery.
- Safari, not just for animal lovers: by no means am I a self-proclaimed animal lover and, admittedly, I even feared…would I get bored on safari? I mean, how many animals can you look at before enough is enough? I couldn’t have been more wrong. A safari is a full-sensory experience that goes beyond staring at animals. Remember, you’re not at a zoo! You’re tracking wild animals, which comes with some intense, high drama and an adrenaline rushing moments just in and of itself.
But my No. 1 reason why not to wait for to take your dream South African vacation? It’s addictive. You’d be hard pressed not to fall in love with the beauty, culture and people of South Africa and want to come (or in my case move!) back. On the flight back home while lamenting the end of my journey, my saving grace was the realization that Africa is a huge continent and I’ve just dipped my toe in water. And having not put off taking this plunge, I now have more time ahead of me to explore the rest of it.