Short Escapes From World Cup Fever

These short excursions in South Africa are ideal day trips when soccer devotees have a break between matches By: By Janeen Christoff
Dancers at Phezulu Safari Park // (c) 2010 Janeen Christoff
Dancers at Phezulu Safari Park // (c) 2010 Janeen Christoff

Today, South Africa rolls out the red carpet for the 2010 FIFA World Cup at Johannesburg’s brand-new Soccer City. If you have traveled to South Africa recently, you know that excitement in the country has reached a fever pitch, and that this moment is something that the country has been preparing for since winning the bid in 2004.

During my recent visit to South Africa, I toured new stadiums, spoke to FIFA officials and learned about the time and effort the country has put into making this, the first FIFA World Cup on African soil, one of the best ever. However, I was also able to travel to Durban, explore the Garden Route and Cape Town, as well as go on safari near Kruger National Park. What I learned was that, although the next 30 days will be devoted to soccer, clients don’t need to be fans of the game to enjoy what this nation has to offer.

If your clients are headed to South Africa for the tournament, here are a few ideas you can recommend in cities hosting matches that will give them a truly African experience without taking them too far away from the excitement.

In Durban, we visited the Phezulu Safari Park which is a little more than 20 miles from the city in Botha’s Hill. Here, clients can do a one-hour game drive offering the opportunity to see wildebeest, impala, zebra, bush buck, giraffe and more. I personally visited the crocodile and snake park on my visit and saw more than 100 crocodiles. I met Junior, a 104-year-old croc and cuddled with a 10-foot long Burmese python, Cleo. I also got to get up close and personal with a black mamba snake, one of the most deadly in the world. It was behind glass of course!

At Phezulu Village, we were invited to watch a Zulu dance show. At sunset, the dancers performed traditional dances and, afterward, we were taken into a beehive-shaped thatched hut where we were shown various artifacts and village rituals.

If clients are visiting Cape Town, they can escape the fray between matches with a visit to the wine region around Stellenbosch or hike up to Table Mountain.

I could have spent at least a day enjoying everything that the Waterford Estate winery and vineyard in Stellenbosch had to offer. Their wine drives, on which guests are taken around the estate to see the “big five” wines (or vines), give visitors a truly unique perspective on how South Africa’s wine region has evolved. And, of course, no game or wine drive is complete without sundowners in the “bush.”

Waterford Estate Stellenbosch // (c) 2010 Janeen Christoff

Wine and Chocolate Experience at the Waterford Estate in Stellenbosch //
© 2010 Janeen Christoff

While I loved the wine drive, the Waterford Estate also offers the Wine and Chocolate Experience, which is not to be missed. If you love wine, you’ll love it, if you love chocolate, you’ll love it. But, if you are like me and you love both, you will melt into your chair with delight. Guests sample three wines — the Kevin Arnold Shiraz, the Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon and the Heatherleigh Natural Sweet — then after a taste of each wine, they take a bite of chocolate and then sip the wine again. This idea gives guests a truly unique wine-tasting experience. Not only does the chocolate interact with the first sip of wine, but when you sip the wine after biting the chocolate, a completely new flavor awaits. It is one food experience that I will never forget, it was that good.

After all that wine, clients may need to burn off a few calories. This can be done with a hike up Table Mountain. It’s a short drive or cab ride from most Cape Town hotels to reach the cable car. Visitors can ride the cable car and hike down, vice versa or even hike both ways. At the top, there are a number of trails visitors can follow to see stunning views of the sea, of Cape Town and, maybe on a clear day, of Stellenbosch.

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