Selecting a honeymoon destination can be problematic. Some want a beautiful beach. Some prefer sightseeing opportunities. Others desire romantic settings. Still others seek a place with cultural significance.
The remarkable Cape Town, South Africa, solves any problems. This stunning place provides all that and more. It is the honeymoon destination to end all honeymoon destinations.
I know. I just returned from mine there, and a week later I’m still beaming from the magnificence of the place The New York Times called in January the No. 1 place Americans should visit this year.
This city at the southern tip of Africa (where there are no reported cases of Ebola, by the way) has few weaknesses and more strengths for Black lovers seeking to start their marriage in a dynamic way than perhaps anywhere in the world. Yes, it’s that beautiful, that romantic, that culturally interesting, that much adventure, that much fun. And the Rand, their currency, is favorable to the U.S. dollar.
From an aesthetic perspective, Cape Town is unmatched. There are exquisite beaches, majestic mountains that look to be painted as the backdrop, (with billowing clouds hovering above), an ocean so blue that it’s mesmerizing, palm trees, vegetation not seen in most parts of the planet, rolling hills, beautiful homes on mountainsides overlooking the Atlantic.
Table Mountain rests at the core of the city, a unique, prodigious structure with a flat top that you can see from anywhere in Cape Town. The views are breathtaking on the ride to the apex of the mountain in the lift and from the top — a must-experience on your trip to this lively city.
The white sand beaches — and there are many — are clean and pristine. Camp Bay Beach is almost unreal, with stunning mountains surrounding it. You can watch the sunset from across the street at one of the many wonderful restaurants like Umi or Blues … beautiful and romantic.
Culturally, you cannot visit Cape Town and not take the 45-minute boat ride from the bustling waterfront that features dozens of restaurants, bars, shops and a Ferris wheel to Robben Island, where the late South African icon Nelson Mandela spent much of his 27 years in prison.
It is a sobering experience. Former prisoners are the tour guides, and each tells his unique story of the horrific conditions they endured and how they prepared for freedom and societal change even as there was little hope they’d be released. You learn about others who fought for the end of apartheid and how the racist government legally enslaved Black South Africans as recently as 1991. Heavy stuff.
What’s a visit to Africa without experiencing a safari? There are many to choose from near Cape Town, and we selected the Aquila Private Game Reserve about two hours from the city. What a delight.
It’s not as ferocious as Cougar National Park, but it’s beautiful and features the Big 5: rhinoceroses, buffaloes, elephants, leopards and lions. At Aquila, you receive breakfast before the excursion, champagne during it and lunch afterward. In between all that, you get up close and personal with dozens of animals, some unique to South Africa, like the springbok and wildebeest. You leave there feeling like you soaked up a piece of Africa.
About 90 minutes up the coast is Cape Point, near where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It’s as scenic a ride along the mountain cliffs as you can find. There are mind-blowing views into valleys and over the ocean, perspectives that highlight the brilliance and imagination of God.
Stop in Hout Bay for a short boat ride to see the seals, as we did. On the way back, stop to see the penguins at Boulders Penguin Colony. In between, experience visuals you just cannot imagine on the way to and at Cape Point, where wild baboons roam free as you take the walk about 200 yards up to the lighthouse.
Have lunch at Two Oceans Restaurant that hangs over a cliff and offers more majestic views that make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. But watch out for the birds that swoop in to swipe french fries (called “chips” over there) right off your plate.
The food of Cape Town is mouth-watering. Seafood is fresh and stunning, with Kingclip as its fish of the city. Delicious. And the wine? South Africa is quickly becoming one of the premier wine regions in the world, and a visit to one of the countless wineries is a must. Pinotage, a wine made primarily in South Africa, is divine, and we consumed it by the bottle, not the glass.
We took in the quaint Klein Roosboom, a lovely boutique vineyard with award-winning wines made with a personal touch. The Stellenbosch wine region in Cape Town is a winner, as is Constantia.
What made our honeymoon even more special is that we invited some of our closest friends to join us for the first portion of it, and so we traveled as a group of 19. It was the most bonding, hilarious, fun experience imaginable. And we were in the right place for such a group. We partied at Living Room, 25 minutes from the center of the city in Bellville, and received so much love from management and patrons alike. They were excited that a group of Black Americans was partying with them.
Some did not get the idea of taking friends along on a honeymoon. But my wife, Felita, and I viewed it as we would a destination wedding. Folks would travel to attend the wedding and be a part of the honeymoon, too. No difference in our “vacation-moon,” as we called it, and it was meaningful to share in the beauty, history and fun of Cape Town with people we love and admire. They departed after five action-packed, wonderful days and we spent a few more days alone for massages at the divine One and Only Resort and Spa, more shopping, relaxing, dinner and dancing and wine near the hotel and a visit to Camp Bay Beach. Just beautiful. And romantic.
The reality of Cape Town was not a buzz-kill, but it was revealing … and familiar. The story of Europeans killing and pillaging to take over coveted land always prompts a combination of rage and sadness, and Cape Town’s story is another in a long list of those tales. The Dutch came in hundreds of years ago, saw the magnificence of the land and wanted it. So, with cannons and guns, they rather easily overtook the South Africans, who were far less advanced in warfare. Worse, they robbed them of their native language and created something called Afrikkan.
More mind-blowing, after taking the land, the Dutch sent its men to Cape Town, where they impregnated the Black South African women, creating children and another race they called “Colored.” So, to this day, they have three racial classes of people in South Africa: Black, White and Colored. Seriously.
Apartheid ended in 1994, and while progress has been made, it has not been as rapid as many would like. Many Black South Africans have overcome the racist system and thrive. Many are relegated to the townships or ghettos, like Langa, where we visited and donated school supplies for the kids of the community, but still left feeling empty, as the conditions make the United States’ most poverty-stricken communities look glamorous.
South Africa in general and Cape Town in particular has some work to do on race relations, equal pay, education opportunities, government biases, segregated neighborhoods. And that makes it similar to America, doesn’t it?
Still, with all that, Cape Town bursts with flavor, fun, energy, romance, scenery, history … all the elements that make it a honeymoon destination that promises a beautiful start to marriage. Go.