There are not many places in the world where you can have breakfast by the beach, a picnic lunch with elephants and lions, and then dinner in a French provincial-style winery.
But it’s possible in South Africa, a destination that takes ‘variety’ to a new level. The wildlife is epic, the landscape is cinematic and the dynamic culture reflects the wide-ranging heritages of its people.
Cape Town - with a reputation as one the most beautiful cities in the world, the ‘Mother City’ is nestled among mountains, beaches, harbours and gardens.
Johannesburg - or ‘Jozi’ or ‘Joburg’, is the entertainment capital of the country and has everything from British pubs to glitzy cocktail bars.
Durban - famous for its Golden Mile beachfront promenade, this coastal playground boasts beachside restaurants, great surfing and legendary curries.
Pretoria - the political hub of South Africa has numerous monuments and museums, as well a great arts scene and sporting culture.
If you only have time to visit one of South Africa’s many national parks, make sure it’s Kruger National Park. Justifiably praised as one of the world’s greatest national parks, Kruger has an astonishing breadth and depth of iconic African wildlife. Large populations of safari animals roam across almost 20,000 square kilometres of protected land, including lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos and zebras. Guided tours and wildlife activities are available —but if you’d like to explore the park on your own, you can take a drive along Kruger’s vast road network.
Travellers will experience a huge range of landscapes, wildlife and outdoor activities as they make their way between Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay. The coastline has amazing beaches flanked by trees and cliffs, while inland there are deep blue lagoons and lakes. Ancient forests offer hiking and birdwatching, and can be explored on a river by kayak or through the treetops on a canopy walk.
The Cango Caves are the oldest tourist attraction in South Africa. Regarded as one of Africa’s best cave systems, the underground passages stretch out for four kilometres. The Precambrian limestone has formed amazing ‘dripstone’ caverns, some with cathedral-like ceilings and towering rock formations. The standard tour is an easy guided walk through the larger chambers. For the more adventurous, the spelunking tour will have you squeezing through tight passages as small as 26 centimetres wide.
The rugged and remote shoreline of the Wild Coast offers deserted beaches, dolphins, numerous shipwrecks and cosy lodges. Hikers who walk the steep green hills will come across clusters of traditional mud huts where the Xhosa people live. The Wild Coast is also a golfer’s paradise where a leisurely round can be played on courses that have waterfalls, craggy cliffs and the Indian Ocean as a backdrop.
South Africa’s most famous landmark is also an outdoor adventure centre. Situated in a national park, the area is alive with remarkable plants and wildlife. There are plenty of hiking trails, as well as access points for climbers and a 100 metre abseil. But if that sounds like too much effort, the Aerial Cableway will take you straight to the summit. There’s a restaurant and shops, as well as panoramic views of Cape Town and the bay.
Thousands of visitos flock to the ‘winelands’ each week — an experience that appeals to anybody who enjoys lush scenery, fantastic food, history and culture. South Africa has some of the world’s oldest commercial wineries. There are currently 17 official wine routes, with the majority close to Cape Town.
Each route is a defined wine-growing region complete with clusters of vineyards and family wineries. Popular routes include Stellenbosch, home to over 200 grape producers, and the Franschhoek Valley, which has a strong French influence.
Braaivleis - barbecue food, where all kinds of meat are roasted over an open wood or charcoal fire at social gatherings.
Masonja - fried Mopane worms, often served with tomato salsa.
Biltong and Droëwors - strips of seasoned meat or sausage are dried and cured. Aside from the usual beef and lamb, you can also try ostrich and warthog.
Bunny Chows - a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with lamb or beef curry.
Bobotie - meatloaf seasoned with curry and spices, topped with a savoury custard.
South Africa is known globally as an adventurer’s paradise. Among the list of activities you’d expect, there’s a few with a local twist:
Bloukrans Bridge bungee - The world’s highest commercial bungee is 216 metres tall. Thrill seekers leap off the bridge and into the Bloukrans River below.
Shark diving - Imagine being mere inches away from one of earth’s fiercest predators — the Great White Shark. Fortunately, divers are in a cage attached to a boat but the experience is no less exhilarating.
Ride an ostrich - A number of ostrich farms allow tourists to climb aboard these giant birds and take them out for a spin. There’s a strict weight limit though — it varies between farms but it’s usually 75 kilograms or lower.
The infamous Robben Island, situated 7 kilometres off the coast of Cape Town, was used for over 300 years to isolate political prisoners. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, the island is now a tourist attraction and museum. One of its most famous prisoners was Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa who previously spent 18 years in captivity on Robben Island. His cell is preserved exactly as it was when he was an inmate, and it is one of the most moving stops of the tour. The tours are all guided by former prisoners, who colour their commentaries with unique insights and personal stories.
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