Travel Journal: South Africa

Seen through the eyes of Jessica Boone

I went because: I traveled to South Africa as part of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s Cross-Cultural Mini-Sabbatical program. I was to study the trajectory of Nelson Mandela’s vision of democracy. Fellow Baton Rougean Errin Flynn joined me in visiting the cities of Cape Town and Nelspruit and in Kruger National Park. I was with a group from St. Joseph’s Academy who were participating in a technology mission trip.


Hotel Recommendation: Boutique Manola, located at the foot of Table Mountain, is—without a doubt—one of the most divine hotels in the Cape Town. There are four modern suites with an outstanding view of the city. The hospitality and guidance from the two owners is unmatched.

Where to eat: Il Leone Mastrantonio in Cape Town offers delicious Italian food with a private wine cellar and fresh seafood. I also enjoyed The Test Kitchen by Luke Dale Roberts, where we sat at the bar to watch the chefs at work. The Test Kitchen is a little farther out, but this innovative restaurant, located in what is called The Old Biscuit Mill, is well worth the long cab ride.

Favorite historic landmark: South Africa is filled with landmarks of historic and cultural value. In Cape Town, for example, it is a must to visit Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned. In Johannesburg, a visit to the Apartheid Museum along with a private tour of Soweto is important in order to comprehend the depth of the country’s struggle.

Worth the splurge: A private tour of the vineyards in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek was arranged by our hosts at Boutique Manolo. By hiring a private driver, we were able to visit lesser-known wineries and avoid tourist traps. Ernie Els Wines in Stellenbosch provided the most stunning scenery and excellence in wines.

A great experience off the beaten path: Kruger National Park. I suggest waking up before sunrise to make the drive through the countryside to the park. You will see a plethora of wildlife, including the Big Five Game Species. Also, venture a full day’s journey south of Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope, where you can visit Simon’s Town and Boulder Beach and the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.

I’d suggest this trip to others because: South Africa offers breathtaking views along with the opportunity to experience an unforgettable slice of history and reality that is being lived on the other side of the world.