South Africa, whilst sky-high on my bucket list, also filled me with slight fear as a solo traveller.
Forget deadly lions and dangerous cities, I’m talking about its romantic reputation. Was it all just couple-filled hot air balloon rides and luxury lodges for two?
As a single 30-something, the thought of sharing my bucket list moments alongside smooching couples wasn’t exactly appealing. So I decided to check out a few group tour options. Immediately I was met with images of tented accommodation, mediocre food and average activities that didn’t particularly ignite my sense of adventure, nor satisfy the foodie within.
As doubts began to creep in about going to South Africa at all, I stumbled across Flash Pack’s Garden Route adventure. This ticked all the boxes, and then some more (adventure, wildlife, boutique accommodation, likeminded travellers in their 30’s and 40’s, great food and drink). I’M IN.
I’d never done the whole group travel thing before so I was slightly nervous but I try and live by the Susan Jefferson book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I wasn’t going to let these nerves, which I’m sure everyone feels to some extent, hold me back.
Fast forward to my post-adventure self (with major post-holiday blues) and I couldn’t have hoped for a more perfect mix of adventure and wildlife encounters. Instead of viewing penguins from afar, we were paddle boarding alongside them.
Instead of spotting seals from a boat, we swam with hundreds of them. Instead of walking down Table Mountain, we ABSEILED down. A surprising highlight for me was the surfing, which I’ve always been apprehensive about but I had so much fun during our lesson that I can’t wait to try again – I even managed to stand up (momentarily!).
The bungee jump was where me and Susan Jefferson hit a slight stumbling block, but watching three of our group make the leap whilst we ate breakfast was unbelievable (and much more relaxing!). This was all in addition to the excitement of tracking down animals on a safari, my main reason for coming to this wonderfully diverse country.
I loved the fact that amidst all the adventure we had plenty of time for chilling and sampling the local delicacies. Be it a relaxing treetop bath, an amazing vineyard picnic or many a fancy meal sampling ostrich, kudu, bobotie, kingklip, oysters and an extensive array of wines – it would be rude not to as they were so cheap! We also witnessed stunning sunsets over sundowner cocktails in Camps Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn and whilst on a safari… let’s just say #cloudporn got a lot of use on all our instagram accounts.
Our tour guide was exceptional and so knowledgeable on all things South Africa. He made all the drives interesting by imparting his wisdom on the local flora and fauna and showing us the endless natural beauty of the spectacular Garden Route. Highlights of these drives included lunch at Ronnie’s Sex Shop, breakfast at a vineyard playing Cards Against Humanity and singing along to Toto’s ‘Africa’ whilst driving through the desert, which felt quite surreal. Into the mix we experienced history and culture on our trip to Robben Island, with the privilege of being shown round by a former political prisoner.
Finally, I have to mention my fellow travel companions, who along with our guide, made the trip as memorable as it was and I couldn’t have hoped to share so many once in a lifetime experiences with a better group. We’re still in touch via whatsapp and I love looking back at all the cool photos that we’ve shared. I had reservations about sharing a room but I definitely wouldn’t think twice about doing this on future trips, special shout-out my amazing American roommate! Three of my fellow travellers were also from the UK so we’ve met up several times since our return, including a South African wine tasting event (seeing as we’re such experts now…).
Read more: Being single makes you a brilliant traveller
My initiation into group travel has definitely given me the bug. Any opportunity to overcome fears, experience once in a lifetime moments AND make friends for life should be grabbed with open arms. As for my next adventure? My recent evening at a Flash Pack Peruvian Supper Club definitely puts Peru as a strong contender for next year, watch this space…
Lucy Harris is a 30-something lover of good food, gin, travel; working her way through an ever increasing bucket list. Find her on Instagram @girlwiththegreensmoothie
South Africa calling? Check out our group adventure for 30 & 40-somethings
Images: Lucy Harris/Instagram/Flash Pack