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SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. It has 11 official languages, and its colourful population draws their heritage from African, Asian and European cultures. Whether browsing the Indian markets in Durban, enjoying a shisa nyama (barbecue) in Soweto, or tasting celebrated local varieties at a winery in Stellenbosch, visitors will encounter a warm welcome.

The true lure of South Africa also lies in its untamed wilderness. Home to the Big Five of African wildlife (lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino), along with thousands of other species of plants and animals, big game safaris in nature reserves like Kruger Park and Hluhluwe National Park remain among the most popular activities in South Africa. The landscape encompasses a range of climates and terrains, including deserts, mountains, plateaus, grasslands, bush, wetlands, and subtropical forests.

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VISA REQUIREMENTS

Passports should be valid for at least 30 days beyond the period of intended stay

At least one blank page in your passport for endorsements

A valid visa, if required

Return ticket is required, as is evidence of sufficient funds

Yellow fever certificates if your journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

South Africa is a large and diverse country with a climate that varies from region to region. Generally, South Africa’s summer lasts from about December to March before winter takes over from June to August. Cape Town and the Western Cape experience winter rainfall and a largely dry, hot summer. Most of the rest of the country, including the Kruger Park area, have summer thundershowers and dry winter. The Garden Route and Eastern Cape can experience rain at any time of year

Sports-related tours – Summer sports are being played from September to mid-March followed by winter sports from March until Augustus. Certain province’s sports seasons end earlier than others.

AREAS TO VISIT AND THEIR MAIN ATTRACTIONS

With more landscapes and terrain than just about another country on Earth, South Africa takes the lead when it comes to diversity.  As any country should that boasts hippo sightings on the Limpopo River and penguin sightings on the Cape.  An epic country at the tip of an epic continent, wildlife is likely your first draw.  But don’t forget about the entertainment, nightlife, dining, and coasts.  There are several incredible national parks and equally incredible national dishes (on a completely different scale!).  South Africa struggled for decades under apartheid, and the evidence of this can still be felt in places.  But the education and welcome you’ll receive will give you hope for the country’s future. Be sure to plan for a long trip, or at the least plan to return again and again, because you’ll need a lifetime to experience and appreciate this magnificent country. Let’s explore the best places to visit in South Africa!

BLOEMFONTEIN

The capital of Free State and one of South Africa’s three national capitals, Bloemfontein is sometimes called “the city of the roses” thanks to the rose festival held here each year.  But it’s more than just beautiful to look at; the city has a plethora of cultural, historical, and natural attractions. For a start, try the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, the National Museum, the Free State National Botanical Garden, Vodacom Parkland the Anglo Boer War Museum.  For round two, try the digital planetarium, the music scene at die Mystic Boer, and then go fishing at Maselspoort. The lists are endless so plan to stay at least a couple days.

CAPE TOWN

The Mother City is a microcosm for the country’s diversity.  All major religions peacefully coexist here and provide wonderful religious and cultural influences – despite South Africa’s difficult history

TABLE MOUNTAIN

This landmark is found within the Table Mountain National Park and earns its name from its flat-topped shape.

One can reach the top either by foot or by taking a cable car.

ROBBEN ISLAND

This island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a symbol of hope and triumph after years of oppression. It’s on this Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years in a tiny cell. Robben Island is a constant reminder of the country’s horrors of apartheid.

BO KAAP

This multicultural area was formerly known as Malay Quarter and is well known for its brightly coloured houses which are an architectural delight. This residential area dates back to the 18th Century and is characterized by vibrant one and two-story houses and romantic cobbled streets

V&A WATERFRONT

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is located on the Atlantic shore in South Africa’s oldest harbour. Thanks to its strategic positioning, which offers magnificent views of the ocean and the mountain peaks, about 100,000 people visit the place daily during peak season.

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

The Cape of Good Hope extends south from Cape Town and is an area of profound natural beauty. Its highlight is the Cape Point – a narrow strip of land that juts into the ocean waters. The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is home to many wild animals, such as antelopes, baboons, and ostriches.

HERMANUS

In winter, Hermanus is a hotbed of activity. Hermanus comes to life between the months of June and October, which is whale season.

STELLENBOSCH

Welcome to the ostrich capital of the world.  Oudtshoorn is located between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains and is ideal for outdoor and nature lovers.  You have to travel through Klein Karoo to get there; a beautiful semi-desert area. The mountain range has been declared a Cape Floral World Heritage Site and you’ll see some stunning vistas as you explore the area.   Nearby are the Cango Caves and the historical village of De Rust. If you’re in the mood for a road trip, consider crossing the Swartberg Pass or driving down the 25km Meiringspoort. If you’re there around Easter time, don’t miss the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees – the largest language arts festival in the country.

DURBAN 

Durban is one of South Africa’s most popular holiday destinations because of its year round near perfect weather. Experience Durban’s rich multi-cultural heritage in the Zulu and Indian markets and culturally significant attractions, walk the beautifully manicured parks along the water, and taste delicious Indian-influenced cuisine. A good starting point for a walking tour of Durban is the “Golden Mile.” This bustling beachfront promenade is lined with high-rise hotels, entertainment complexes, shops, and restaurants. Other highlights along this coastal stretch include uShaka Marine World; Moses Mabhida Stadium; and Mini Town, a pint-sized replica of Durban, complete with a miniature rail network, airport, and harbour scene. Inland from the popular resort area of Umhlanga Rocks lies the Valley of 1,000 Hills, a beautiful region of gently rounded hills sprinkled with scenic viewpoints, Zulu homesteads, and gorges. The hills rise up along the banks of the Umgeni River as it flows into the Indian Ocean from the distant Drakensberg mountains. Umhlanga Rocks (pronounced Umshlanga), 16 kilometres north of Durban, is a popular, upscale resort town. Long golden beaches, interrupted by rocky coast, stretch for 200 kilometres north of Durban to the beautiful Isimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, containing eight interlinking ecosystems; three major lake systems; and Africa’s largest estuarine system, Lake St. Lucia.

GAUTENG

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg, affectionately called Jo’burg, Jozi, and E’Goli, the “city of gold,” is the financial and industrial metropolis of South Africa, built on a rich history of gold mining. The city is rapidly evolving from an edgy safari stopover to a vibrant hub for arts and culture. Cutting-edge contemporary galleries and the new Maboneng Precinct, with its funky restaurants, cafes, and art studios, now rank among the city’s top tourist attractions along with the poignant Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill. explore the UNESCO-listed Cradle of Humankind, one of the richest paleoanthropological sites in the world.

SOWETO

Some say the real South Africa can be found in townships like Soweto. Famous for the part it played in the apartheid struggle, you can discover many historically significant sites here.  There are official township tours and these are a great way to explore. The tours include places like Walter Sisulu Square where South Africa’s Freedom Charter was signed in 1955, or the Hector Pieterson Memorial, where the 1976 uprising began.  There’s also Vilakazi Street, once home to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. For some fun, take a look at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.  It’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest hospital in the world.

PRETORIA

“Jacaranda City” is swimming in a sea of purple Jacaranda trees.  A similar city to Johannesburg, but much more laid back, Pretoria has great museums, historical buildings, and natural attractions for your enjoyment.  Once the heart of apartheid South Africa a new energy is infusing the city and foreign embassies, businesses, and tourism reach Pretoria. Visit to the Voortrekker Monument, Union Buildings and Loftus Verselfd.

PORT ELIZABETH

Most South African cities seem to have a nickname, and Port Elizabeth’s is the “Friendly City.” At the end of the Garden Route, it lies along Algoa Bay at the western end of the Sunshine Coast.  You’ll find blue-flag beaches, water sports, and a surprising amount of history here.  Port Elizabeth, along with the satellite towns of Despatch and Uitenhage, are collectively known as Nelson Mandela Bay.  Head to the suburban centres for some up-market shopping, bars, and restaurants.

GARDEN ROUTE

KNYSNA

Part of the famous Garden Route, Knysna is famous for the oyster festival and incredible views that stretch from Leisure Isle all the way to the Knysna Heads.  The Heads are a difficult passage in the water – many vessels have been shipwrecked here. Check out the Featherbed Nature Reserve as well as the incredible Knysna Elephant Park and Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary.

OUDSTHOORN 

Welcome to the ostrich capital of the world.  Oudtshoorn is located between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains and is ideal for outdoor and nature lovers.  You have to travel through Klein Karoo to get there; a beautiful semi-desert area. The mountain range has been declared a Cape Floral World Heritage Site and you’ll see some stunning vistas as you explore the area.   Nearby are the Cango Caves and the historical village of De Rust. If you’re in the mood for a road trip, consider crossing the Swartberg Pass or driving down the 25km Meiringspoort. If you’re there around Easter time, don’t miss the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees – the largest language arts festival in the country.

MPUMALANGA

Though it’s a very small province, Mpumalanga is truly exciting.  Mountain vistas, cooler climates, and green valleys make the region a magnet for outdoor lovers.  Abseil down waterfalls, river raft, canoe, inner tube, trek, mountain bike, or throw yourself off a cliff! The main attraction here is definitely Blyde River Canyon, which has been carving its way through the Drakensberg Escarpment for centuries; truly one of South Africa’s iconic sites.  Right next door is Kruger National Park The density of diversity and volume of animals within Kruger National Park makes it one of the world’s greatest parks.  You’ll find all the iconic safari species here – leopards, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, buffalo, giraffes, elephants, and zebra.  Plus about 140 other mammals and 500 varieties of birds.  Covering almost 20,000 square miles, this is a powerfully beautiful place.  Granite hills cover the south; the Lebombo Mountains border the savannah in the east, while the tropical forests can be found in the north.

KIMBERLEY

Another historic city is Kimberley, also known as “the city that sparkles.” Located in the heart of the Diamond Fields region, it’s the home of De Beers and has a rich mining past.  The city has capitalized on its history and there are many areas where you feel like you’re in the Old West.  Have a drink in an old timey saloon, enjoy a ghost tour to learn about the miners of the past, or take a look at the world’s largest hand dug hole. There’s a lot of history to discover here so be sure to put some of their many museums on your list.

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