Avid Cruiser Voyages: South Africa’s Eastern Coast

South Africa is a destination that inspires wonder and amazement. Warm temperatures, blue skies and diverse ports of call line the eastern coast of the country, which borders the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at its southernmost point. Indeed, you could easily spend most of your time at the beach, or wandering through the towns along the way. But to truly experience South Africa, you must head inland on one of the numerous safari game drives.

Few destinations offer the raw natural and physical beauty of South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Few destinations offer the raw natural and physical beauty of South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

While many cruise lines visit South Africa’s eastern coast on longer sailings (often on World Cruises), only MSC Cruises and ultra-luxury line Silversea make a point of offering regular sailings to the region, typically in the summer months of January and February (remember: South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere!)

Cape Town serves as a primary port of embarkation for cruises exploring South Africa’s eastern shores. Flanked by the imposing Table Mountain and nestled within view of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Cape Town is a vibrant, bright, bustling city notable for its postcard-perfect Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or V&A Waterfront for short.

Along the waterfront are numerous luxury hotels that cater to discerning travellers and cruise ship passengers that come through Cape Town, while a convenient (and affordable) hop-on-hop-off bus is available to take vacationers further afield, with tours running out to wine country, down to the Cape of Good Hope, or over to Table Mountain.

Silversea's luxurious Silver Wind docked along the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s luxurious Silver Wind docked along the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Another popular port of embarkation, at least as far as MSC is concerned, is Durban. The third largest city in South Africa, Durban retains the distinction of being South Africa’s largest port city. It also boasts an enormous Indian population, thanks to the mass emigration of citizens from India in the late 1800’s. As a result, Durban has an interesting mix of Indian, African, and British heritage.

But the real draw of South Africa is, without a doubt, the natural landscape, wilderness and wildlife that has lured people here for centuries. No visit is complete without a Game Drive to hunt for Big Five Game.

These animals — the lion, the leopard, the African elephant, the cape buffalo, and the rhino — are called the Big Five because they were historically the most feared by hunters. And you can see them on a variety of game drives, up close and personal.

We recommend doing as many game drives as you can tolerate and afford. No two reserves are alike, and each offers its own take on the African Safari theme, from some that put a bit of a Disneyland flair into it and others that let the wild beauty of Africa speak for itself.

Get up close and personal on an African Safari - by cruise ship! Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Get up close and personal on an African Safari — on a cruise in Africa. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Even the scenery, topography, vegetation and wildlife can vary dramatically between parks. Chances are good that you’ll see plenty of fun-loving dung beetles everywhere you go, yet only in the Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth can you see the rare flightless dung beetle.

Much has been written about South Africa’s crime, which include violent crimes such as muggings, carjackings, and even rape. Of course, these crimes are not exclusive to South Africa. Remain aware and leave your expensive belongings behind. As long as you stick to the tourist destinations and avoid wandering around the more remote townships holding a map and a $1,800 Canon, you should be fine.

South Africa is at a low risk for Malaria. You can get current health information by doing a simple Google search, and anti-Malarial medication can be picked up from your doctor should you be destined for a region with a high risk of Malaria (typically, the northernmost-region of the country bordering Mozambique.) Yellow fever is not an issue in Africa, though you will have to show proof of vaccination if you have been to an area at risk of yellow fever recently.

The risks are slight. What’s not is the beauty of South Africa, the genuine friendliness of its people and the awe-inspiring grandeur of its landscapes and wildlife that will leave you speechless.