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My South Africa Travel Bucket List

With less than a month to go until my trip to South Africa, I'm counting down to lift off with a list of my top 10 must-do adventures!

1. Get up close and personal in Shark Alley. The ultimate adrenaline rush: cage diving with Great White sharks. And there's no better place in the world to get up close and personal with these terrifying creatures than Shark Alley in Gansbaai!

2. Walk in the footsteps of a revolutionary. Robben Island really needs no introduction. As home to one of the world's most famous prisoners, this World Heritage Site was the place where Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars.

3. Saddle up in the Cape Winelands. South Africa boasts 18 official wine routes and 2 brandy routes – 99% of them in the Western Cape. I can't imagine a better way to experience this spectacular setting than from atop a horse and riding away into the sunset (with a glass of Pinotage in hand, of course).

4. Spot the Big (and Little) Five during a safari. Now, I know that the mark of a successful safari is not necessarily defined by spotting the Big Five. But let's face it – being able to see them all would be pretty awesome! Topping my list: elephants.

5. Dance with the devil. Just looking at a photo of Devil's Peak in Capetown makes my hair stand on end. At 3,281 feet high, the peak is exposed to a great deal of wind and dust, making it quite dangerous. The only known safe ascent is considered to be from the Saddle, between the peak and Table Mountain.

6. Take a dip. I've been in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Now, it's time for a dunk in the Indian.

7. Step back in time along the trails of Cape Point. Considered among the most dangerous coastlines in the world, the Cape of Good Hope possesses evidence of numerous shipwrecks, some of which may still be seen today around Cape Point.

8. Immerse myself in the Zulu culture. Every year, only a few people are invited to stay and experience life in a Zulu village. These incredibly fascinating peoples hold their traditions and culture in such high esteem that they are known as the "people of the heavens." Today there are just over 9 million Zulu people in the world and their language is the most widely spoken in South Africa.

9. Eat like a local. Trying the foods of any place I travel to is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to get to know the culture. Among South Africa's most notable dishes is: morogo (wild spinach), chakalaka (a spicy relish of grated carrots, green peppers, sliced onion, vinegar and chili), amadumbe (similar to a potato) and the boerewors roll (a variety of spicy sausage): enough said.

10. Whale watch. From July through November, South Africa's coastline is awash with migrating whales in the self-proclaimed whale-watching capital of the world, Hermanus. I've even read that you can see the whales from land!

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Hillary grew up in a small town in eastern Connecticut, but has spent the past several years exploring the world with her notebook and pen. A former award-winning reporter, she has worked as a social media analyst, communications manager in the hospitality industry and is co-founder of Pyxis Foundation, a non-profit organization aimed at encouraging leadership in students in third world countries. And she’s tweeted her journey every step of the way. Follow her on twitter @hillfed or on Instagram @hfederico.

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