Armchair travel: Chris Marshall's stunning South Africa

Last March, Chris Marshall and his wife Kathie embarked on a three-and-a-half week trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. He shares some of his photos with us for CBC P.E.I.'s ongoing armchair travel series.

'Being able to see and take photos of animals in the wild remains foremost in my mind'

Zebras roam free in Pilanesburg National Park near Sun City, South Africa. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)

Chris Marshall is an avid traveller and photographer from Cornwall, P.E.I., who agreed to share his recent trip to South Africa as part of CBC P.E.I.'s ongoing armchair travel series.

Last March, Marshall, 67, and his wife Kathie embarked on a three-and-a-half week trip to Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, where his son and daughter-in-law teach at an international school.

"I wasn't sure what to expect of South Africa and knew what South Africa has gone through in the past," Marshall said.

'I wasn't intimidated'

His son lives in a gated community with 24/7 security, which is common in Johannesburg and some other places, he said.

"I wasn't intimidated by this and didn't encounter any problems. Common sense needs to prevail though," Marshall said. 

'Here is the poor part of Soweto — I took the photo from the bus as it is not suggested to walk on foot in some areas,' says Chris Marhall, noting Soweto is the biggest township in South Africa. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
This dancer was one of about eight putting on a street performance for tourists. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
These coloured houses are in Bo-Kaap, a former township on the slopes of Signal Hill, above the city centre of Cape Town, says Chris Marshall. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)

The Marshalls took a memorable bus tour to the township of Soweto, the site of massive anti-apartheid uprisings led by thousands of black students in 1976, many of whom were gunned down by police. 

Marshall noted many in some parts of Soweto live in extreme poverty, while other parts are very well-off.

"The poor black townships where homes — using the term loosely — are almost on top of each other on a dirt base, roofs being held down with bricks and many without electricity," were eye-opening, he said.  

Up close with 'the big 5'

A highlight for Marshall was visiting the national safari park at Pilanesburg, where animals including elephants, lions, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo — the "big 5" — roam free.

An elephant in Pilanesburg National Park, a 600-kilometre square game reserve near Sun City, South Africa. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
A pride of lions relaxes in Pilanesburg game reserve. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
60,000 tourists come to see the colony of penguins each year in Boulders Beach, South Africa. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
A closer view of the penguins at Boulders Beach. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)

"Being an avid photographer, being able to see and take photos of animals in the wild, remains foremost in my mind," he said.

The family then flew to Cape Town and "had a fantastic time, said Marshall, taking in the beautiful beaches, including Boulders Beach — home to a large colony of African penguins.

"Cape Town and Stellenbosch competed with the safari park for my favourite part of the trip," he said. 

Don't look down! Chris Marshall on top of Table Mountain, which overlooks Cape Town, South Africa. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
This is a view outside the centre of Cape Town, with houses built overlooking the ocean. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)

He and his son climbed Table Mountain, in another well-known national park, ovelooking Cape Town. 

The family then drove about 50 kilometres to one of the many South African wine regions — Stellenbosch is home to about 200 wine and grape producers, Marshall said, and "the scenery was great."

'Would definitely recommend'

He and his wife undertook the whole trip for about $7,000, Marshall said, adding staying with family kept costs down.

"I would definitely recommend going to South Africa but would recommend Cape Town and area over Johannesburg," advised the former Coast Guard employee, prep cook and freelance journalist.

Marshall has also travelled recently to Thailand, Indonesia and Bali, and has made several trips to Spain where last year he hiked the Camino trail. He and his wife plan a trip to Italy this summer. 

Hout Bay, one of the beautiful bays near Cape Town, South Africa. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
'The scenery was great,' in the Stellenbosch wine region, home to about 200 of South Africa's vinyards, says Chris Marshall, 'all open to the public for wine tasting and/or tours.' (Submitted by Chris Marshall)
'There have been hijackings where local thugs quickly block the highway and rob people or possibly worse,' explains Chris Marshall of the reason for this sign along the highway near Johannesburg. (Submitted by Chris Marshall)


Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a bachelor of journalism (honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email