Just Back From... an 8th Trip to South Africa

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Fred Cosentino and his wife, Margaret Fauchier, returned to explore Cape Town's gardens, see wildlife up close, and soak up Zulu culture in Durban.

Great local meal...Theo's in Cape Town. We ate there twice with friends. We all loved the baked pumpkin with spices and the tender-aged beef. The fresh seafood portions were huge; my favorites were the kilo of prawns and the calamari. The cost of dinner for two, with wine and dessert, was about $50.

Our favorite part... The game drives at Mabula Private Game Reserve. We saw tons of African wildlife going about their daily routines from our private house and on twice-daily game drives in Land Rovers. The guides were knowledgeable and informed us about the life cycles of the animals and plants we encountered. [PHOTO]

Wish we'd known that... The second bedroom at The Peninsula Hotel in Cape Town was really a child's bedroom. It was very small with no storage space. It had one wall that ended two feet below the ceiling. This type of unit is often described as a two-bedroom in South Africa, but it's not suitable for two adult couples.

What we should have packed... An empty duffel bag for all the crafts and souvenirs we purchased!

Worth every penny... The De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre. It rescues and breeds cheetahs and prepares many for release into the wild. We got to pet an adult "ambassador" cheetah. [PHOTO] The center also houses a pack of African wild dogs, an African wildcat, and various rescued vultures unable to fly. I'll never forget watching the dogs eat and listening to their strange "barks." [PHOTO]

Total rip-off...Mama Africa Restaurant and Bar, a tourist trap in Cape Town. The food was only OK, and there was a steel drum band that was so loud we couldn't even hear ourselves talk (and what does that have to do with Africa, anyway?).

Fun surprise... The golf cart tour of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which abuts Table Mountain. We were able to see lots of the unique South African flora in an hour without wearing ourselves out. Our guide took us around to all the special plants and discussed the history of the garden and seasonal changes in the flora. [PHOTO]

Moment when things got tense... When monkeys used their hands to pull open the sliding doors to our unit at Mabula Game Reserve while we were sitting inside a few feet from the doors. I yelled, "Get out of here!" and they promptly left. The maid solemnly shook her head and muttered, "Naughty monkeys!" [PHOTO]

Overrated... Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. It's a very nice upscale shopping center, but no different than one in any other major city. It is a good place to shop for groceries and wine.

We're still laughing about... Talking with the vendors along the road to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. They used considerable charm and flattery, addressing us as "Milady" and "Captain," and earn their living selling handmade items such as beaded and wire sculptures. Our favorites were the ones of a baboon with the pink bottom eating a yellow banana and of Table Mountain with a movable cable car.

Hotel we liked... The Hilton Durban. We had a large room with a panoramic view of the city and nearby convention center. Each day, we were offered complimentary unlimited bottled water, an excellent American breakfast, high tea in the afternoon, and wine and hot tapas in the evenings. We found the Zulu staff delightful and charming. They taught us some Zulu phrases and tried unsuccessfully to teach us the clicks made in pronouncing some words.

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