Seeing South Africa through the eyes of a first time visitor is always special. First Impressions last – these are the experiences that stay with tourists long after they have unpacked their bags, these are the stories they tell their friends, these are the reasons that they return to South Africa again (and again!). 

One recent visitor to South Africa’s shores is Katie Dundas, a travel blogger who is originally from just outside Washington DC, in the USA, but moved to Sydney, Australia six years ago – hence the name of her blog, The Accidental Australian! Her online space is where she shares lighthearted and informative information about expat issues and Australian travel, especially unique and unusual things to do. She started it as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends back home, but it has now grown into something more, which she never imagined was possible!

Read on below to find out more about Katie’s First Impressions of South Africa…

When did you first visit South Africa?

February 2018

What had you heard about the country before you boarded your flight?

I’d heard so many things, from the country’s history to the amazing wildlife, so I certainly had a lot of thoughts running through my head before I arrived.

What were you feelings about visiting South Africa before leaving home?

Definitely excitement. I was eager, curious, and a tiny bit nervous – it was my first time visiting the African continent, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.

What motivated your first visit to SA?

I have always wanted to visit Africa for the quintessential safari experience, and to see and learn more about the African wildlife. South Africa seemed like the most amazing place for wildlife. I had also seen and heard a lot about Cape Town, and the epic and rugged beauty of places like Table Mountain and Chapmans Peak Drive looked irresistible, especially from a photography perspective.

How did you feel coming in to land on South African soil?

I couldn’t wait to start exploring. I arrived into Cape Town in the evening, and barely slept that night as I was really excited to start seeing the city the next morning! My guesthouse had views of Table Mountain, and sitting outside, eating breakfast under such an iconic natural wonder was something I won’t forget.

Where did you explore first?

I spent my first day in Cape Town, and did some sightseeing via the Hop On, Hop Off bus – it was a great way to get around. I checked out Camps Bay, Table Mountain, the V&A Waterfront, and the Bo Kaap, and took in some of the sights and sounds of the city centre.

What were your first impressions – the smell, sound, sights that struck you?

I was really blown away by the natural beauty of Cape Town, probably followed by the architecture. It’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. Some of the coastlines reminded me of Australia, and it seems Australia and Cape Town have many similarities – a passion for the surf and beaches, are laid-back and welcoming, and have strong love of great coffee!

What was an experience you had on your first day

Taking the cable car up to Table Mountain. I had hoped to have time to hike, but decided to take the cable car as I was short on time. Soaring up and over the mountain, with a bird’s eye view of the city, really made me see how unique and breathtaking Cape Town is. Everything on Table Mountain was fascinating. I watched the curious dassies scurry around, admired Lion’s Head, and took in every look out and viewpoint over the city and coast.

What was your trip to South Africa like? 

I spent some time in Cape Town, then travelled the Garden Route as far as Port Elizabeth and Addo National Park, stopping at Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Tsitsikamma, and a slew of beautiful beaches and a private game lodge along the way. I then joined in on a group tour back in Cape Town that travelled along the western coast and up into Namibia.

What was your highlight?

So hard to decide! But I really loved exploring Cape Town, as well as Addo National Park. Seeing so many elephants at Addo, many with their young, was my first African safari experience, which I don’t think I’ll ever top! The experience of observing elephants in the wild, just being elephants, was something I will treasure.

A foodie highlight would have to be Muisbosskerm in Lambert’s Bay. This open-air seafood restaurant, right on the beach, served up some of the freshest and tastiest seafood, grilled right in front of you.

What were your first impressions of the people of the south?

South Africans were incredible – amazingly welcoming and friendly, and inquisitive. Everyone wanted to talk about where I was from, ask me how I was enjoying my trip, and to learn from one another. Everyone I met also loved to laugh and joke, so I felt right at home.

What were you feelings about South Africa after your visit?

I really loved South Africa, and am grateful I had the chance to spend a few weeks in such a special part of the world. After spending some time in the national parks and game lodges, I was both saddened and inspired learning about the country’s continuing poaching problem, although South Africa is working extremely hard to protect the wildlife. My visit motivated me to do more to support this vital cause.

Have you returned to visit South Africa – or do you plan to in the future?

I haven’t returned yet, but I definitely plan to. I’d like to spend some time in one place I didn’t have time to visit, Kruger National Park. I’d also love to see Durban and Johannesburg, as well as plan more time for hiking and the outdoors.  

Would you recommend South Africa to your friends and followers?

Yes, 100%. South Africa has something for everyone. Some of the world’s most incredible national parks, a rich and diverse culture and history, and natural beauty for days. I would encourage anyone looking for adventure, culture, or wildlife to put South Africa high on their list. I’d especially recommend anyone looking for a roadtrip to consider the Garden Route.