Travel diary: South Africa

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By: Velvet and Vino

A trip filled with some of the most incredible memories, South Africa will always remain very dear to my heart. Having had the opportunity to visit South Africa twice in the last six years, our trip in 2012 was one of the most memorable experiences. We drove around the entire South Cape in our rental car and experienced everything from beaches, to shark cage diving, safaris, elephant sanctuaries to wine country and so much more. There were so many amazing highlights to draw from and also many life-shaping experiences in the three weeks we were there. I returned back home a changed girl, certainly something that I value and have so much appreciation for when it comes to travel. It's not just about the things you get to see when traveling, it's the people you have the opportunity to talk with along the way, hearing the stories and life's experiences from those who have been raised in very different circumstances from your own. This has made me appreciate my life, the blessings I've been given and also the trials I have encountered that have helped shape me into the person I've become today. This is what visiting South Africa has meant to me, and although I wish I could share it all here in this post, words just can't capture it all.

With so many things to share about South Africa, I thought I'd feature South Africa in a two part series through a photo diary. At the time when we visited South Africa, we were still shooting with a point-and-shoot camera and had very little photography experience, so please bear with us on the quality of our photos in these posts. None the less, I'm just thrilled to share our memories with you and hopefully inspire you to visit South Africa someday.

Today's South Africa post is simply highlighting some of my favorite memories of our travels there. In the coming weeks, I promise to do a second post sharing more details of our South Africa itinerary and recommendations along the way.

Every second I had in South Africa I would go to the shores to capture the beautiful sunset. It is the one place in the world where you can capture the best of sunsets. And guess what?! There is a whale that can be spotted in this shot, just to the left side above the rocks. It was October when we visited South Africa, which is whale season and one of the best sight-seeing experiences ever! I highly recommend October for visiting South Africa. The weather is very moderate and of course you get to see so much of ocean life.

There's so many incredible beaches in South Africa. Although the ocean is frigid cold temperatures, the sand is so fine and white, and the water is such a beautiful color.

Believe it or not, we did shark cage diving! This is one of our under-water camera shots! More to come on this in the next post!!!!! For now, imagine being just arm's length away from a great white shark under water!

The South African Safaris are absolutely everything! More in my next post on where to go for the best of safaris.

Unreal seeing these creatures in the wild. They are truly majestic.

The road journeying across the African Safari Game park!

The original post Wanderlust Wednesday: South Africa is on Velvet and Vino!

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Travel diary: South Africa

Off-Season Ski Resorts.

Ski resorts offer great summer fun at cheap prices in the warmer months. Most resorts offer mountain biking and hiking, and depending on the resort, opportunities for horseback riding, river rafting, kayaking, and rock climbing may also be available. To entice travelers, resorts often offer package deals and promotions. Aspen, Colorado, for example, turns its ski slopes into a hiking and horseback mecca while fishing and mountain climbing also become popular when the snow caps melt away. Keystone, Colorado, is another summer destination that offers more than 15 free summer activities from June to September.

Photo: Getty Images

Backpacking.

As summer vacations go, a backpacking trip is about as inexpensive as it gets. Carrying food and tent on your back allows access to some of the country's most amazing, unspoiled scenery. The magazine Backpacker offers loads of information for first-timers. To save money, borrow gear from a friend or rent it from an outfitter such as REI. While a backpacking trip may require a bit more preparation than a standard vacation, travelers willing to trade flight itineraries and hotel reservations for trails, campsites, and meal plans can get a true adventure in the bargain. Choose a destination within driving distance -- a national park for example -- to keep the trip costs even lower.

Photo: Getty Images

Houseboating.

Staying on a houseboat, like renting a vacation home, lets vacationers save money by sharing expenses with other families and cooking their own meals. On the water, there are no temptations to eat out or spend money on entertainment. Instead, the lake becomes your playground and the scenery your entertainment. Many large U.S. lakes are magnets for houseboaters, with established rentals and harbors. Houseboats run the gamut, from luxury 70-foot boats that sleep more than a dozen to smaller rigs that comfortably house a family of five. Sites such as Houseboating.org can aid your research.

Photo: Getty Images

Canoe Trips.

In states such as Minnesota, extended canoe trips are quite common. But you don't have to be from the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" to enjoy a summer vacation in the great outdoors. Other popular destinations include New York, Maine, and Vermont, which are connected by the the North Forest Canoe Trail. The best venues for canoe trips are rivers, large bodies of water, and areas where many lakes sit close together (because canoers have to carry, or "portage," their vessels from lake to lake). Like a backpacking trip, this involves time in the wilderness, traveling with your own food and shelter.

Photo: Getty Images

Forest Service Cabins.

If camping seems like roughing it a bit too much and renting a house is too expensive, consider renting a Forest Service cabin. Rustic but affordable, these cabins are situated throughout the U.S. National Forests. They're often located in the backcountry, and while a few are accessible by road, most are not. Visitors must backpack their way in with the food and clothing they need. Many cabins come with bunk beds and counter space for cooking; a few include wood stoves or propane heaters, rowboats (if lakeside), and incredible views. Visit Recreation.gov to research locations by state. It's worth noting that many state parks offer standard cabin rentals, as well.

Photo: Getty Images

Family Camps.

Summer camp is not just for kids. Consider a week-long adventure at a camp that caters to the whole family. Meals and lodging are included in the price, and you don't have to plan any activities -- or do any planning, really. In general, the lodging is rustic, with wall tents or bunkhouses, but that's part of the reason it's so affordable: This isn't a resort. The YMCA offers several family camps across the U.S., including Merrimack Valley Camp in Massachusetts and Medomak Family Camp in Rockland, Maine.

Photo: Getty Images

Sightseeing.

Sightseeing vacations are easy on the wallet because many of the activities are free. Washington, D.C., for example, offers a host of museums, monuments, and government history -- all for free. While lodging isn't cheap, there are ways to save money on transportation. Washington is easily walkable, and for destinations further afield, the regional mass transit system, the Metro, offers an unlimited day pass for $14.50. Boston is another city packed full of history and free entertainment. Take a walk on the Freedom Trail, which includes famous historical landmarks such as the sites of the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party. You can also score free tours of the U.S. Custom House and the USS Constitution, the world's oldest commissioned warship.

Photo: Getty Images

Road Trip.

With gas prices lower than they've been in years, driving to a favorite destination may be the cheapest way to get there. Whether it's camping at a state or national park or a weekend at a theme park, the adventure is only limited by imagination. Family road trips are a fairly inexpensive way to explore interesting places and historical sites, and remove some of the inconvenience (and expense) that comes with flying. They also permit more spontaneity, allowing the freedom to take a last-minute detour or visit destinations off the beaten path. If time is a factor, create a list of destinations within your own state you've long wanted to visit. Staying close to home can limit the distance and overall cost of the trip, but it doesn't have to limit the fun.

Photo: Getty Images

The Beach.

Beach hotels and resorts are at their most expensive (and popular) during the summer months, which could reduce the number of days you can afford to stay. A beach doesn't have to mean the ocean, though. Lakes offer just as much fun in the sun at a much lower cost -- minus the salt. Small apartments just steps from Lake Michigan or Lake Erie can be rented for as little as $100 a night. Consider renting a house or cabin with another family to make the lodging even more affordable. Lakeside cities such as Holland, Michigan, feature attractions like sand dunes and summertime art fairs.

Photo: Best View Stock

House Swap.

A twist on sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, home exchange clubs let adventure-seekers rent their homes to people visiting from the place where they hope to vacation. Just keep an eye on fees, which reach as high as $500. Love Home Swap membership ranges from $20 to $34 a month depending on the searching options you choose. IVHE.com starts at $13 a month. To increase the chances of finding someone to swap homes with, browse multiple club websites before joining one, or sign up for the free trials that many sites offer, to determine how many swaps are available in the city you want to visit. The more homes available to swap, the greater the chances of finding the right deal.

Photo: Getty Images

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