Members of the Pine Bluff National Bank's Crown Club and their guests recently spent 14 days in spectacular South Africa. A world of treasures of breathtaking mountain scenery, winding coastlines, remarkable cultural diversity and abundant wildlife in its natural habitat comprised this incredible experience.

Members of the Pine Bluff National Bank’s Crown Club and their guests recently spent 14 days in spectacular South Africa. A world of treasures of breathtaking mountain scenery, winding coastlines, remarkable cultural diversity and abundant wildlife in its natural habitat comprised this incredible experience.

Their journey began in Sandton, a city established in 1969. Famous for its rich veins of gold and other valuable minerals, it is now the bustling cosmopolitan center of greater Johannesburg. They gathered that evening with their fellow travelers for an exquisite welcome dinner.

The next morning the group had a guided tour of Soweto, which showcased luxurious mansions and informal settlements as they learned about the historic significance of the area. They experienced the regional lifestyle when they joined locals for lunch at a nearby Shebeen or house tavern. In the afternoon, they visited the Apartheid Museum for a look into the dynamic history of racial segregation in South Africa. The museum recounts the political upheavals beginning in the last century and moves on to the transition from a racist state into Africa’s beacon of hope as the century turned again.

On day three, they traveled the Panoramic Route through the magnificent Drakensburg Mountain Range en route to Kruger National Park, the largest game reserve in South Africa. As they passed through the Blyde River Canyon, the third largest in the world and known as one of Africa’s greatest natural wonders, they saw the triplet mountain formation of the Three Rondovals. The world travelers also stopped for a hike to view and photograph Bourke’s Luck Potholes, dramatic natural cylinders shaped by millions of years of natural erosion.

The travelers received 4 a.m. wake-up calls the following morning and left for an all-day, open air safari game drive in Kruger National Park. The park is home to 1982 plant species, 517 species of birds, 147 species of mammals and 120 species of reptiles. With their cameras ready for an unforgettable day of adventure and excitement, they began their search of the Big 5. They first spotted a graceful giraffe, then a herd of wildebeest, zebras and hyenas. The group’s excitement continued as they saw hundreds of graceful impalas, springboks, kudus, elands, zebras, giraffes, huge rhinos, stocky cape buffalos, warthogs, many, many herds of elephants and a cheetah.

The following morning after a delicious breakfast and a dip in the Indian Ocean (most of the travelers just dipped their toes in) they journeyed through the Tsitsikamma Forest. The forest, known for its gorges and steep cliffs, is home to hundreds of species of birdlife. Tsitsikamma means “place of many waters” and is considered by many the “Garden” of the Garden Route. They continued along the southern coast where jagged shorelines met quaint villages and arrived in the picturesque resort town of Knysna in the heart of the Garden Route. This legendary town is a popular holiday destination and also offers a shopper’s paradise. Later in the afternoon they experienced a touching visit to a pre-school where they learned about the efforts of The Knysna Education Trust. Their vision is to enable children from disadvantaged communities to obtain a sound integrated pre-school education.

The next morning, they visited Featherbed Nature Reserve. It began with a beautiful lagoon cruise out to the famous Knysna Heads which mark the entrance to the lagoon. Next, they boarded a 4x4 vehicle and traveled deep into the forest where they discovered the local flora and fauna during a leisurely-paced nature walk. Next, they enjoyed an African feast amongst the ancient milkwood trees – so called because of their white latex sap – before their return cruise.

The next day they traveled to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of South Africa. Nowhere else are ostriches found in such large numbers and nowhere else do they produce such fine quality feathers. They enjoyed a guided tour of one of the oldest working ostrich farms in the area. Everyone had an opportunity to have a photo while they sat on an ostrich and several in the group experienced a ride on one of the great birds. Then, they enjoyed an ostrich race before sitting down to ostrich steak for lunch in the restaurant on the farm. Next, they journeyed to their luxurious hotel, with picturesque views along the pass through un-spoilt areas of great natural beauty. Upon arrival they enjoyed a late afternoon wine tasting and then leisure time on their own to enjoy dinner and their grand facilities.

The next morning, they discovered the enchanting beauty of the famous Cape Winelands region with its colorful mountainous landscape and endless vineyards. They visited a local wine farm and learned the history of winemaking in the region and sampled a variety of blends. Then, they enjoyed a delicious lunch on the veranda at the winery’s own restaurant located among the vines. Later, they traveled to the famous, long awaited, beautiful harbourside city of Cape Town noted for its architecture which fuses the traditions of French, German and Dutch influences.

The following morning they enjoyed a thrilling ride on a cable car as it whisked them to an altitude of more than 3,000 feet, landing atop the aptly named and flat-topped Table Mountain. They returned to the city via Table Bay, passing through the Malay Quarter with its mosques and minarets and stopping at the Milnerton Lighthouse. The remainder of the day was at leisure for them to discover charming Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, known for its shopping, entertainment venues and endless dining possibilities.

The next day the group explored the beautiful coastal scenery and charming towns that populate the Cape Peninsula as they traveled to the Cape of Good Hope and then on to the southernmost point of the African Continent, Cape Point. Situated at the junction of two of earth’s most contrasting water masses – the cold, Benguela current on the West Coast and the warm Agulhas current on the East Coast, the Cape Point is popularly perceived as the meeting point of the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. The cliffs at the southern point consist of three clearly defined promontories – Cape of Good Hope, Cape Maclear and Cape Point. Along the way, nestled in a sheltered cove between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, they stopped at Boulders, world famous for its colony of African Penguins and magnificent wind sheltered, safe beaches.

On their return to Cape Town, they visited the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, a living display of the floral riches of southern Africa and home to over 5,000 species of plants native to South Africa. The travelers enjoyed photographing all the beautiful plants and a mother owl and her two babies. Later that evening, the travelers were greeted with champagne sprinkled with gold leaf as they enjoyed an after-hours guided tour of the fascinating Gold of Africa Museum, home to 50 billion dollars in gold treasures.

The next morning the travelers left the warm hospitality and exotic beauty of South Africa with more adventures than they ever thought possible and began their journey home. Members enjoying this trip of a lifetime were Annette and Mike Kline, Inez Green, Elois Knox, Marie McGriff, Eva Miller, Willie and James Reed, Betty and Carter Taylor, Mona and Jay Naidu, Martha Taylor, Pat Bethea and John Whitwell. Cindy Whitwell, Crown Club director, was the escort for the trip.