South Africa and Botswana Short List:

By Melissa Rubel Jacobson Posted October 01, 2007

I just got back from a 17-day trip to South Africa and Botswana that was the journey of a lifetime. Here are some highlights:

In Cape Town: Baia, a restaurant on the wharf, where I had unbelievable, simply prepared seafood, including a local specialty, kingklip (a firm white fish) and a huge platter of lightly grilled langoustines that comes with dipping sauces. Cape Town locals say this is one of their most expensive restaurants, but compared to NYC prices I actually found it to be a bargain! The Showroom, my other top pick, is actually located in a car showroom with a Lamborghini for sale on the menu. It's sophisticated dining but very fun, allowing you to pair your meal with any number of delicious sauces. I paired duck with harissa, which they made with a mortar and pestle right at the table, and I matched the Fish Bowl, a huge bowl filled with your choice of mixed seafood in a light Asian broth, with the scrumptious Champagne Veloute sauce-a to-die-for combination.

In Franschhoek, South Africa: Reuben's, for lamb curry on a very cold and rainy day in the winelands.

My top two favorite safari camps (I went to four) were Tintswalo Safari Lodge, in the Manyeleti Game Reserve in South Africa, and Vumbura Plains, in the northern part of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. They were both cozy and elegant and blended beautifully into their natural surroundings (think lots of glass and wood). The staff at each place was extremely friendly and accommodating. I think the highlight was at Vumbura, though. My room was made of screens (no shutters or coverings), so I could fall asleep and wake up to all the sounds of the bush and the noise from the hippo who lived right outside my room!

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