A Travel Guide to South Africa
Over the past couple of years a number of people close to me have been drawn to South Africa. Each time one returns they seem to have left their heart behind.
“I can’t say enough good things about Cape Town…I want to move there for like 6 months at some point.” My sister tells me. A close friend adored it so much she moved there for a year to study, and my uncle, an airline pilot, claims it is still a favourite of his after many years travelling.
The country is unique in terms of diversity and offerings for travelers. From the burning sands of the Kalahari, to the verdant vineyards of the wine region, right down to the sparkling coast where you can surf and swim with the wildlife, the diversity is breathtaking. It is hard to choose just a few select experiences to fit into a single trip…but here goes: our South Africa highlights:
We can’t write about South Africa without mentioning safari. Home to the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino), South Africa offers the ultimate safari experience. In the Bushveld you are also likely to spot many of the further 137 mammal and over 500 bird species. in addition to the classic safari experience (see inspiration here!), you can take part in something far more unusual: the White Lion Conservation Project in Timbavati allows you to help conserve rare and beautiful white lions. Until 2009, it was believed these creatures could not survive in the wild. For this reason, most reside in Zoos. Since long before the species became threatened, local people believed white lions to be divine due to their rarity and beauty. Another alternative safari is the Settler in the Saddle tour. This tour is not for the fainthearted, though all intermediate to experienced mountain bikers are welcome. Cycle through the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, cross the Outeniqua Mountains and reach the Indian Ocean, taking dips in mountain rivers and pools along the way.
If you are looking for something a little more relaxing, head to the Boland (meaning upland) and the lush greenery of the vineyards there. The towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl make up the core of the winelands and the first two especially pride themselves on their excellent cuisine and innovative chefs. Franschoek offers a wine tram (heaven? maybe). This hop-on-hop-off ride lets you explore the stunning scenery of the valley with numerous vineyards and world-class cuisine on the way. In contrast, you can also skydive in tandem (no experience required!) in this region. South Africa is full of surprises!
Cape Town and the coast
There is enough in Cape Town to fill a holiday in itself. Set on the coast, with Table Mountain as its backdrop, this city is breath-taking. Whether climbing, or taking the aerial cable-way to the top of Table Mountain, you will be rewarded with unforgettable views. This trip is something of a rite of passage for visitors and locals alike. Head out of the city in the opposite direction, and you will find Robben Island. This former prison where Nelson Mandela was held is a World Heritage Site, and a must see for those interested in the history and culture of the area. Likewise, the District Six museum is a must see. It celebrates the once lively multiracial area that was destroyed during apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s.
Don’t think that just because you are in the city you will be deprived of wildlife…
Within the city itself, you will find the stunning Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. These are said to be some of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the World, in part due to the unique flora found growing there. They are home to around 9000 of Southern Africa’s plant species. Within them, you will find a special fragrance garden and Braille trail to tempt all of the senses.
An unmissable wildlife experience can be found in Kleinbaai, a little to the south of Cape Town. Here you have the opportunity to face your fears and dive with Great White Sharks! (In a specially designed cage). Help conservation work on this misunderstood species and pick up seamanship skills at the same time.
Too much choice? Possibly. If you’re keen to be moving, a tour might be the best way to see as much as you can in a limited time. Click here to find out more about our Kruger to Victoria Falls two-week tour. Explore the links in the text above to find out more about any of the projects mentioned, or search our full list here!