In 2014, I partially visited South Africa while on transit to Mauritius. During that time, the closest I came to the country was to catch a glimpse of OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
But last week, I got the real opportunity and the privilege of travelling to South Africa proper to discover some tourist destinations in that country. It was a fun trip by kind courtesy South African Tourism (SAT).
If you follow this handle; @GhanaGist on Twitter and Instagram, I believe you would have experienced or been bombarded with news, photos and videos of the trip to South Africa named “West Africa Meets South Africa”.
Let me do a highlight of some of my exciting tourism experiences in South Africa and why South Africa is the final destination in Africa for tourism purposes.
This is the story of how I ended up in Jozi. Samantha from Global Media Alliance placed a call to ask if I was interested in travelling to South Africa, I gladly accepted the offer. Prior to that, I had turned down a similar invitation because of my impending trip to Dubai a month earlier. It was good I didn’t turn this one down.
The invite said that, I was being invited to attend the Joy of Jazz Festival 2015 in Johannesburg and also cover the prestigious 11th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Port Elizabeth.
Even though I’m not someone who would boldly say I’m a Jazz person, the opportunity to also make my 5th appearance at the AMAA which was celebrating its 11th edition and first time outside Nigeria, I thought that was welcoming news.
Seven Ghanaian delegates including yours truly left Ghana on a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg.
About six hours later, the team arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport the following morning looking tired and worn out but looking forward to having fun.
Upon our arrival in South Africa, we were met by the Nigerian delegation who had arrived hours before us. We were introduced to them by the leader, Mr Mohammed Tanko Kwajaffa who doubles as the West Africa Trade Relations Manager of South Africa Tourism.
Mr Tanko Kwajaffa is a free spirited person who immediately made us feel at home as we exchanged pleasantries with our West African family.
Something worth noting here! I have been on several trips outside Ghana, we didn’t have the opportunity to introduce ourselves or should I say, the leaders didn’t see the need for us to do that but not Tanko Kwajaffa. He made everyone introduce themselves, their place of work and other interesting details.
Amenities available and services rendered at 4-star The Maslow Hotel in Johannesburg and 5-star Boardwalk Hotel in Port Elizabeth made each of us forget about our respective countries for days.
Who wouldn’t be happy to dodge Dumsor: erratic power rationing to spend days away?
The Sandton Mall is a beautiful structure. The Nelson Mandela Square, a shopping centre in Sandton, Johannesburg named after former South Africa President and anti-apartheid activist qualifies the place as the number one tourist site in Johannesburg.
There, we came face-to-face with the gigantic six meter high statue of Mandela in the square. It is no mistake that, several scores of people frequently flock there to take photographs with Papa Mandela. We then explored the Sandton City Mall to shop.
The closest I have come to an elephant will be on television or the NPP logo but at the Elephant Sanctuary in Gauteng, visitors are taken on a journey into the world of the African elephant and are guided through an unforgettable experience with these magnificent creatures.
Visitors are able to touch, feed and get to know these animals. The Elephant Sanctuary is unique in that it offers visitors the incredible opportunity to walk hand-in-trunk with the elephants.
We came face to face, fed and watched the oldest Elephant in South Africa. The 46-year-old male Amarula is the oldest bull at the sanctuary in Hartebeespoort.
He spent most of his life in different zoos in South Africa and had very little direct contact with people before arriving at the sanctuary.
He moved from the Bloemfontein zoo to the sanctuary in 2008, and only arrived with one tusk. His other tusk was lost many years ago. Amarula loves all the attention he is receiving now.
The tour guide communicated with the Elephants to do basic things like eat, walk, move as well as make a loud sound to anyone who wanted a new ringtone.
I enjoyed and had fun watching people have fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the courage to feed, touch and take photographs with Amarula.
During the World Cup in South Africa, many celebrities visited the Lion Park. It was the turn of yours truly to visit. In a properly caged metal car, we made our way to the Park to see different kinds of animals; giraffes, zebras, wild dogs, different species of antelopes, meerkats cheetahs, and lions.
The Lions were relaxed to the extent that they did not give us any attention even though they had clearly seen an invasion. The tour guide indicated that, Lions are mostly inactive and relaxed during the day. It doesn’t also mean that, they will not welcome you well with open arms, should you decide to get out of the car.
As we moved from one restaurant to the other, one food joint to the other, one thing was obvious. Before every meal comes a starter unlike Ghana where most restaurants microwave the food when they are ordered, South Africa restaurants cook the food from the start, so the idea of the starter is to keep you less hungry as the chefs cook your food fresh.
Other places and activities included the Hot Air Balloon, a tour of the township of Johannesburg and Soweto, a visit to Nelson Mandela’s house where he lived before going to jail, lunch at the famous restaurant Sakhumzi on the Vilakazi street, Gold Reef City where we all went through the Towers of Terror with the slogan “Too late to cry for your Mama”, Whale Watching in Port Elizabeth and Safari.
A day before we back farewell to each other, I told the gathering that, I didn’t regret turning down the first invite for this one. I didn’t lie about it, the trip was amazing, I got to see and learn more about the South African culture the fun way.
Thank you Global Media Alliance for extending the invite to me and Mr. Mohammed Tanko Kwajaffa of South Africa Tourism West Africa Trade Manager. Lack of space would not let me tell you all but next week, I will tackle AMAA 2015.