To all expats in South Africa: It’s 2017 and you have a brand-new year in front of you. How are you going to fill it?
If your experience living in South Africa has been like that of my family and so many others I have talked to over the years, your biggest fear isn’t of crime. Most likely you are vigilant and aware of danger spots, but otherwise manage quite well.
No – your biggest fear, I’d venture a guess, might well be that of being sent home before you’ve had a chance to explore more of the wonders of Africa. As expats, we know how quickly things can change when your whereabouts depend on the fickle corporate powers back home. You might be recalled to where you came from or be sent to another continent at a moment’s notice. And as expats, we also know that regret about opportunities missed is one of the burdens we often bear heavily.
So as you begin implementing your New Year’s Resolutions for 2017, why not look at your South Africa Bucket List and start making concrete plans?
Here are my recommendations:
- Go on a safari. I know, I know, this sounds lame, because of course you’ve already been on a safari. It’s everyone’s first order of business right after the boxes are unpacked and the domestic is hired. But from one who no longer lives in Africa, trust me that having a safari within easy reach is what you will miss most in your future life. If you need ideas, my safari suggestions for South Africa might help.
Savuti Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, Botswana 2012
- Explore Johannesburg and surroundings.There is a ton to do close to home that often is missed because we expats are so busy traveling. Ride in a hot air balloon over the Magaliesberg, tour Soweto, get kissed by elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary, see cheetahs up close at De Wildt, savor the view from Northcliff Hill, or walk the tightrope at JoziX. See my complete list of Johannesburg attractions here.
Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre at De Wildt near Johannesburg, South Africa 2010
- Leave your comfort zone. If you haven’t yet visited Alexandra, the most notorious but also most fascinating of South Africa’s townships, do it this year. Contact me and I’ll set you up with my friend Tedius Ncube as your personal guide who can show you the field where the dreams of Alexandra Baseball are born. Join the Joburg Photowalkers, or go an any other Joburg walking tour. If you haven’t yet, volunteer in a Diepsloot school through EduFun or any of the other volunteer opportunities listed here.
Street in Alexandra, South Africa 2010
- Visit the Drakensberg. It’s a spectacular mountain range, but with so many other spectacular sights on most expats’ lists, the hauntingly beautiful scenery of the Drakensberg is easily missed. Our son went on a 10-day wilderness hiking tour with his school during 9th grade, and I always regretted not doing something similar with friends. We only go to hike in the Drakensberg for half a day – from the hotel to a waterfall and back – and even so, walking along those scraggly ridges was an unforgettable experience.
Drakensberg near Champagne Sports Resort, South Africa 2012
- Visit Cape Town – again. Just like a safari, Cape Town with its breathtaking views, wide sandy beaches, and gourmet restaurants is the place you’ll longingly think back to one day. But unlike a safari, it’s very affordable. If you’ve already seen the main tourist attractions in Cape Town, here are some new ideas: Tour the former prison on Robben Island, sit on a bench in Hermanus watching whales right below you, go scuba diving in the tank of the Two Oceans Aquarium, or spend a day going wine tasting in Franschhoek – you may never want to leave.
Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, South Africa 2011
- Go hiking. There are many options for day hikes close to Joburg, like Groenkloof Nature Reserve, the Hennops Hiking Trail, or Cradle Nature Reserve. If you want to go bigger without lacking comfort, book the Wild Coast Meander like we did last August – the scenery is unforgettable. I’ve also heard great things about the Oystercatcher Trail. And for the ultimate African hiking trip (but where, I’m not going to lie, you will lack in comfort), climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I can recommend a little book called Kilimanjaro Diaries for further research.
Hennops River hiking trail near Johannesburg, South Africa 2012
- Make a point of having a sundowner every night. There are so many more destinations I wanted to put on this list. Stone Town on Zanzibar, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Isle aux Cerfs in Mauritius, the dunes of Sossusvlei and the Orange River in Namibia, Victoria Falls in either Zambia or Zimbabwe… But I’ve already gone on for too long. You know what I miss most of all when thinking back to our charmed life in South Africa? I miss impromptu get-togethers with friends watching African sunsets. It’s called a sundowner, and it’s one of Africa’s greatest inventions. Cheers!
Somewhere in the bush at sunset, Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa 2012
I hope I’ve given you some ideas for your 2017 calendar. If you’re newly embarking on your expat adventure, this should be a good starting point. And if this is the year you’ll have to leave Africa, I hope I’ve given you some tips so you can leave without regrets.
Finally, to make sure you truly don’t have any regrets, get the kind of health insurance that covers you and your family during all your travels. I recommend Cigna as a provider – they have services tailored for expats and coverage that includes emergency medical evacuation throughout Africa, giving you peace of mind throughout all your adventures. Click here to see the full range of Cigna Africa services.
This post was sponsored by Hollard Cigna Health. Opinions expressed are entirely my own.