Spotlight on South Africa
South Africa is a travel destination celebrated for its diversity in landscape, wildlife and culture. It has something to offer everyone. Dramatic mountain scenery; poignant historic sites; fine food and wine; stunning beaches and bush land; atmospheric battlefields; vibrant cities; game-rich national parks and reserves; and a wealth of attractions provide great photographic opportunities wherever you go, and everywhere you look! Some of the best safari quests in the whole of Africa can be found within South Africa’s game parks and nature reserves, with Kruger National Park being its most famous. Here, within South Africa’s last great wilderness, the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) can be spotted on the Savannah. Also, the KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park is so diverse it has five distinct ecosystems attracting both zebras and dolphins, and offering a feast of wildlife viewing.
Johannesburg, the ‘City of Gold’, is South Africa’s biggest city and quite likely a stopover point, or launching pad, for African adventurers. It is home to a unique mix of African culture laced with European influence, reflected in its galleries, street style, restaurants and markets. Constitution Hill and the Apartheid Museum provide insight into South Africa’s past, while the Rosebank Mall propositions visitors with the best of Johannesburg’s modern-day retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops. Its popular Sunday Flea Market overflows with African art and culture, carvings, textiles, ceramics, clothing, beadwork, jewellery, spices, and local food – and the vendors are ready to haggle!
The chic and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Nestled in the shadow of Table Mountain and surrounded by stunning (but icy-cold) beaches, it exudes a relaxed and cosmopolitan atmosphere, supported by chic boutique city hotels, historical buildings; interesting museums, shopping malls, restaurants, jazz cafés, theatres and nightclubs.
Zululand is one of South Africa’s most vibrant corners and is an important part of the country’s colonial history. Battle sites where the Zulus famously defeated the British army during the Boar War are visited by locals and visitors alike, fascinated by the events that helped define modern day South Africa.
The Garden Route is South Africa’s most famous stretch of lush coastline, with the region’s best beaches, mountains and forests neatly packaged together. Every outdoor activity imaginable is on offer here, from beach walks to nature hikes, canoeing to bungy jumping, mountain biking, horse riding, kayaking, golf, steam train rides on the Outenique Choo Choo, and glider flights. Wildlife aficionados walk windy cliff paths high above rocky shorelines to spot whales, seals and great-white sharks. Hermanus and Walker Bay are perhaps the best places in the world to spot southern right whales from the shore as they wallow in the shallows from June to December.
The Western Cape wine region is a paradise for connoisseurs of food and wine. Jagged mountain ranges provide a dramatic backdrop for the lush green valleys of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, colloquially known as ‘The Winelands’. Boasting award winning restaurants and vineyards, South Africa’s gourmet capital is famous for producing exquisite red and white wine varieties, chocolate, cheese, and even rainbow trout. Massive oak trees and old Dutch, Georgian and Victorian-era architecture enchant visitors as they amble through this part of the country in search of the best local ‘drop’.
South Africa’s back roads and big skies beckon further, and promise a smorgasbord of gems for all to experience: the Drakensberg Mountains’ magnificent peaks and plunging valleys; the ravines of Tsitsikamma National Park; Blyde River Canyon, the world’s largest green canyon; the Wild Coast’s crashing waves and hidden waterfalls; the deserted Kalahari; hippos in the Limpopo River; penguins waddling on Cape Point; the springtime explosion of wildflowers at Namaqualand; the colourful Xhosa villages, and township of Bo-Kaap. And, along the way, to complete one’s experience, a traveller must take the time sample an African homebrew in a township shebeen (an unlicensed bar); dine on world-famous rock lobster in Capetown and a braai (barbecue) in the wilderness under South Africa’s thick blanket of stars.
When to go
CAPE TOWN & GARDEN ROUTE: Avoid the gales from September to November. The best time to go is during the summer months of November to February, with long days of sunshine and little rain. February through to Easter has fine weather. Winters, from May through to September are cool and traditionally wetter. Avoid the crowded Christmas high season.
KRUGER: Game-viewing is best in the dry season (from May to September), when animals can be seen coming to drink at waterholes. Expect cool mornings and warm days. Summers are hot with short, spectacular storms.
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