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Ivan Spiers' Beloved South Africa

Wildebeest with raspberry at Aubergine

Ivan Spiers may live in Laguna Beach, but he’s a global kind of guy, hopping all over the world with little notice. Spiers, who owns restaurants-with-a-view Mozambique and Skyloft in Laguna Beach, spent his youth in Durban, South Africa’s third-largest city. “I love Africa and its people. It has a different pace than the United States, very laid back. It’s also very scenic, with mountains, beaches and beautiful wildlife.” As told to Rosemary McClure

Time is Right
You’ll be able to avoid the rainy season and find cooler weather if you visit in the fall or spring.

Why South Africa?
South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with tropical weather, picturesque scenery, amazing wildlife and wonderful ocean activities. Choose from the deserted Kalahari, iconic Cape Point, the wildlife-filled savannah of Kruger National Park or KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which has five ecosystems, attracting both zebras and dolphins. And South Africa also has nightlife and great food. It has something for everyone.

Buy In
Almost every town in South Africa has craft markets, with the larger city flea markets selling unique and often handmade clothing, crafts, jewelry, ornaments, collectibles and deli foods at cut-rate prices. Mozambique visitors will find that the Municipal Market in Maputo is a good place to find African curios, beadwork and art. Expect to bargain to get the best price.

After Dark
Cape Town has several neighborhoods with lots of clubs and pubs in one area so you can go from place to place. The most famous of these is Long Street, the Cape Town equivalent of London’s Soho and New Orleans’ French Quarter. By day, the area is a jumble of coffee houses, bookstores and exotic restaurants, but by late afternoon the Purple Turtle bar starts to fill up, and as the night wears on the other clubs come into their own.

Must Do
The wildlife is amazing; visiting the game parks should be on everyone’s bucket list. In addition to the parks in South Africa, head north to Mozambique and Quirimbas National Park, a large protected wildlife area on the coast of Mozambique that has all types of wildlife including elephants, lions, leopards, sea turtles and fish. It also has a diverse landscape with mountains, forests and beaches. Another must-see in South Africa is Table Mountain in Cape Town. You can take a cableway to the top of the mountain, which is a plateau and offers panoramic views of Cape Town.

Secret Tip
If you want to see whales, visit Tofo, which is in the southern most part of Mozambique. It’s a small sleepy town, but it’s known as the whale capital of Africa.

Best Bite
There are many amazing multicultural restaurants in Cape Town and in Umhlanga Rocks, a resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The French Mauritian cuisine here is amazing. In addition, you’ll find many other food influences and regional styles of cooking from all over the world. One of my favorite East-meets-West restaurants in Cape Town is Aubergine, which is upscale and has an incredible patio for al fresco dining. If you are looking for something more casual, Blues Restaurant and Bar, serving contemporary Mediterranean cuisine in Cape Town, has some of the freshest seafood and best ocean views around.

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