South Africa has been billed as 'a world in one country', andoffers visitors myriad delights, from its spectacular landscapesand wildlife, to the cosmopolitan vibe of its cities and thefascinating history of its people.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, South Africa wasregarded by much of the world as a pariah state where the rulingwhite minority passed a range of draconian laws to subdue the blackmajority. All this changed in 1994 with the release from prison ofworld-renowned freedom fighter and icon of the oppressed, NelsonMandela. A new age of democracy was ushered in, and South Africawas revealed to the world in her true colours: a rainbow nationwith a kaleidoscope of cultures and a host of attractions toenthral and entrance visitors.
More than a two decades later, tourists are flocking to sunnySouth Africa in droves, particularly to the Western Cape with itsmagnificent scenery, beautiful beaches, majestic mountains andverdant winelands. Johannesburg remains the commercial capital ofthe nation, and is also the gateway to the Kruger National Park andother major game reserves.
Comprising the southern tip of Africa and surrounded on threesides by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, South Africa offers ataste of the African experience while at the same time offering allthe pleasures of a first-world holiday experience, with luxuryhotels, wonderful food and pristine beaches. Travellers can havebreakfast in a New York-style deli, lunch in an African shebeen,cocktails on a sunset cruise, and dinner in a world-classrestaurant.
It is not just the dramatic landscapes and natural beauty thatmake South Africa magical. Historically, too, there is plenty todiscover, from the old African kingdoms, to the pioneering spiritof the Dutch Voortrekkers and the settlement of the Eastern Capefrontier by the British colonialists, and of course the more recenthistory of the apartheid state and the liberation struggle.
With its winter sun, an easy overnight flight and little timedifference, South Africa is particularly popular with Europeanvisitors, but it welcomes all travellers with open arms and trulyhas a whole world to offer them.
South Africa is a sightseer's paradise, with plenty to see anddo no matter the traveller's interests, time frame, age, orinclination.
There is natural splendour in abundance, including the beautifulbeaches and iconic Table Mountain of Cape Town, the magnificentDrakensberg Mountains, the Blyde River Canyon, the stunning sceneryof the coastal Garden Route, the pristine coastline of theTranskei, and the sweeping vistas of the Highveld. Of course, theanimals of South Africa, especially the Big Five, are a big drawfor tourists and game safaris are a very popular diversion. TheKruger National Park is the country's most famous wildlife reserveand a must for many visitors.
South Africa has a complicated and dramatic history and thelegacy of the pioneer wars, slavery, colonialism, the Boer War andApartheid is still strongly felt. There is no shortage ofinteresting historical sightseeing, with sites like Robben Island -where Mandela was imprisoned - and the battlefields of the Boer Warattracting many visitors. The country has many quaint historicaltowns, like Franschoek in the Cape Winelands, and Grahamstown inthe 'frontier country' of the Eastern Cape. South Africa also hasits share of museums and galleries, and the Apartheid Museum inJohannesburg is particularly noteworthy.
The country is easy to get around with competitive low-costcarriers, long distance buses, good value car hire and the bestroads in Africa. Road tripping is a wonderful way to experience thehugely diverse landscapes and cultures of this vast country.
South Africa is one of the few global destinations that canoffer the complete holiday experience, with a huge variety ofworld-class attractions and compelling experiences, and incrediblevalue for money to boot.
For fun encounters with one of South Africa's oddest and mostunique animals, the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch is a great bet. Theranch is a good family attraction, but having kids along is notnecessary to enjoy the experience. Although it is possible toexplore the ranch independently, most people choose to join one ofthe organised tours, which are conducted in English, Afrikaans,German, and French. Tours in other languages may be possible iforganised in advance. Tours take about 40 minutes and include themuseum, the leather factory, and encounters with the variousostriches and other animals on the farm. The highlight for manyvisitors is the chance to sit astride an ostrich for a photoopportunity with the iconic Table Mountain in the distance. Thosewanting to feed the ostriches will be able to buy feed at theranch. The restaurant serves up a variety of snacks and meals in alovely Cape Dutch garden setting, while the shop sells all sorts ofostrich products. A playground and sand pit provide extraentertainment for kids. Children will also love the scratch patch,where they can select a variety of sparkly gemstones.
Cape Town's most popular tourist attraction is also its mostfamous physical feature. The flat-topped mountain stands as asentinel over the city, and has been proclaimed a nature reserve,thereby protecting its diverse floral species. Some are unique toits slopes. The views of the city and coastline from the top of themountain are quite spectacular in all directions. A Swiss-builtrotating cable car carries visitors smoothly up the mountain andback. The mountaintop is equipped with a restaurant and small giftshop, as well as numerous pathways and vantage points. It ispossible to climb the mountain via different routes, butinexperienced hikers should take care because Cape Town is prone tosudden weather changes. The walk up can take a few hours, dependingon the route and level of fitness. Route maps can be bought at thecable-car station. It is always best to check the website or callthe weatherline to see if the cable car is in operation. Hikersshould travel in groups, as there have been reports of robberies onthe trails.
Tickets for the cable car can be booked online via the officialwebsite. They are marginally cheaper online and allow travellers toskip the sometimes long queues at the ticket kiosk. Ascending TableMountain is an absolute must for visitors to Cape Town.
South Africa's oldest surviving colonial building, the Castle ofGood Hope was completed in 1679. It replaced an earlier mud andtimber fort built by the first Dutch Governor, Jan van Riebeeck.Situated adjacent to a parking lot and bus station in BuitenkantStreet, its walls mark the original boundary of the seashore wherethe waves washed up against the fortifications. Its outside aspectis somewhat foreboding, but inside are some interesting featuresand collections that have been restored, offering a good insightinto the early days of the Cape, when the castle was the centre ofsocial and economic life. The complex is a pentagonal fortificationwith a moat and five bastions, each named for one of the titles ofthe Prince of Orange. The entrance is a good example of17th-century Dutch Classicism, and a bell, cast in 1679 by ClaudeFremy in Amsterdam, still hangs from the original wood beams in thetower above the entrance.
The castle contains a Military Museum depicting the conflictsthat arose during the Cape's early settlement, and also houses theWilliam Fehr Collection of decorative arts, including paintings,furniture, and porcelain. Of interest are the dungeons, which bearcarvings in the walls by prisoners incarcerated centuries ago. Thecastle was built for defence, not beauty, and it is a fortress nota palace. Those interested in the history of the Cape will find avisit fascinating.
The imposing South African Museum is dedicated to naturalhistory and the human sciences, and contains a huge variety offascinating exhibits. Among other things, visitors will encounterentire chunks of caves bearing rock art, and traditional arts andcrafts from several African tribes. Astoundingly, the museum housesmore than one and a half million specimens of scientificimportance, including fossils that are almost 700 million yearsold. The vastness of the collection means that for every object ondisplay, thousands more are kept in storage. The natural historyexhibits are full of mounted mammals, dioramas of prehistoricreptiles, and a collection of whale skeletons, with haunting whalesong echoing in the background. Established in 1825, the SouthAfrican Museum is still very old-fashioned in some ways.Nevertheless, it is well worth a visit for its impressivecollection. Alongside the museum is the Planetarium, which has achanging programme of thematic shows involving the southernconstellations. Booking ahead is necessary for Planetariumshows.
These two attractions are based in the lovely Company Gardens ofCape Town, which are also worth exploring.
Situated near the main train station in the Central BusinessDistrict, Greenmarket Square is the perfect spot to observe SouthAfrica's diverse population in all its hues and voices. Once thescene of slave markets, it now accommodates one of the city's mostvibrant flea markets, where clothing, jewellery, trinkets, andsouvenirs are on sale most days. Tourists and business people rubshoulders in the many sidewalk cafés that surround the busy cobbledsquare. Visitors should be prepared to haggle for the best pricesat the market, and should be aware that touts are prevalent. Raindoesn't generally deter vendors, with most covering their stallswith tarpaulins in bad weather. Stalls generally start clearing upfor the day in the late afternoon, though seldom before 3pm. Themarket does not operate on Sundays. There are many other greatattractions in the area, including several art galleries andmuseums. For instance, the Old Town House lies on the west side ofGreenmarket Square. Dating from the mid -18th century, it is awonderful example of Cape Dutch architecture and houses theMichaelis collection of Dutch and Flemish landscape paintings.
Founded in 1901 and situated on Wale Street, Cape Town'sVictorian Gothic style Anglican Cathedral is historicallysignificant for hosting the enthronement of South Africa's firstblack archbishop, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. TheCathedral is unique in that it became a political powerhouse in thestruggle against Apartheid. Known as 'the people's cathedral', itbegan openly welcoming people of all races in the 1950s. This was abrave stand in the racially segregated society of the time. Insubsequent years, the cathedral became the venue for many protestgatherings and vigils and, on occasion, the building was surroundedby police, water cannons, and barbed wire. Victims of forcedremovals were even accommodated in the cathedral at times. As faras architectural merit goes, the cathedral does feature some fineGabriel Loire windows, including a magnificent Rose Window abovethe south transept. It is an imposing church, well integrated intothe community and well cared for, and the profoundly inspirationallegacy of Desmond Tutu is palpable.
The magnificent Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens lie justsouth of the city centre and cover a huge expanse of the ruggedsouthwestern slopes of the Table Mountain Range. Kirstenbosch wasbequeathed to the nation by mining magnate Cecil Rhodes in 1895,and today contains a nursery, a research unit, a botanical libraryand more than 22,000 plants. Numerous paths meander through thegardens, including a Braille route for the blind. Nature loversshould note that the walks are full of lush shrubs and fynbos, theCape's indigenous floral heritage. The gardens are indeed a naturalwonderland, where visitors will find lots of space for picnics.Several incredible hikes can be started from the gardens, includingthe formidable Skeleton Gorge, and Nursery Ravine, which windsteeply up the mountain and generally take between four and sixhours. If these difficult hikes sound a little frightening, somefar gentler and shorter trails wind through the gardens. Visitorswill find a tea room, two restaurants, and a coffee bar onsite.
In summertime, the delightful setting becomes the venue forSunday evening open-air concerts, when picnickers relax on thelawns, sipping wine, and enjoying the sunset entertainment. Thereare also outdoor movie screenings in summer.
Cape Town has some truly gorgeous beaches, but the mostglamorous are on the Atlantic Ocean, where the water isunbelievably cold. Even the locals tend to keep their swims short.The most popular choices include Camps Bay Beach. Locals andtourists pack its long, wide stretch of silver sand and enjoy thetrendy bars and restaurants nearby. Another favourite is Clifton,where four beaches are situated beneath the exclusive houses andapartments set into the cliff. The beaches are named First, Second,Third and Fourth Beach. First Beach is the largest and most popularamong families, while Second Beach is preferred by the hip crowd.Third and Fourth Beach are usually frequented by locals. The smallsuburb of Llandudno lies 15 minutes south of Camps Bay, and is hometo one of the most scenic beaches in South Africa. It's popular forsundowners on the rocks or long days in the sun.
Despite its popularity, Llandudno is seldom too crowded. This ispartly because there are no bars or restaurants there. The nearestis in Hout Bay, which is another 10 minutes south. Hout Bay's longbeach is popular with families and walkers but is not as stunningas its neighbours. False Bay is also blessed with lovely beachesand these tend to be more family-friendly and less trendy. The mostpopular beach for beginner surfers in Cape Town is Muizenberg,which has plenty of surf schools. The Muizenberg and Fish Hoekbeaches of False Bay are also wonderful for swimming, as the waterin False Bay is much warmer than on the Atlantic side. For longwalks and horse riding, the lovely Noordhoek beach is ideal.
To see Cape Town's penguin colony, tourists should visit thepicturesque Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where the loveable birdssuntan and swim. Sharks are a problem in Cape Town, particularly inFalse Bay, and many beaches have shark spotters on duty. Visitorsshould pay close attention to the flags on the beach, as theysignal whether it is safe to swim. A siren will go off to warnswimmers in the water if a shark is spotted nearby.
Robben Island is seven miles (11km) from Cape Town, and iseasily seen from the shore. For nearly 400 years, this tiny rockyisland was utilised as a place of banishment, exile, isolation, andimprisonment for numerous categories of people ostracised bysociety, ranging from political protesters to lepers. During theyears of Apartheid, Robben Island became synonymous withinstitutional brutality as numerous freedom fighters, including theisland's most famous resident, Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned herefor more than a quarter of a century. Robben Island is now amuseum, symbolising the liberation and triumph of the human spirit.Regular island tours are conducted and last for around three and ahalf hours. The tours are guided by former prisoners and include avisit to the maximum-security prison on the island, where anestimated 3,000 freedom fighters were incarcerated between 1962 and1991. The island is also interesting in other ways. For instance,it is a magnet for shipwrecks, with at least 68 recorded casesacross its rocky coastline.
The boat trip across the bay can be really fun in itself, andsome wonderful views of the city and Table Mountain are gained fromthe ferry ride and the island itself.
Until the 1960s, District Six was a vibrant district of CapeTown located close to the city centre and the harbour. Thecommunity was originally established as a mix of freed slaves,merchants, artisans and immigrants, and developed a uniquemultiracial character. In 1966, the government declared DistrictSix a 'whites only' area under the Group Areas Act and over 60,000residents were forcibly moved to the outlying Cape Flats, a barrenarea several kilometres away, while most of their homes wereflattened by bulldozers. Communities and families were uprooted andtorn apart, and this moving museum serves to safeguard the memoriesand the spirit that was District Six. The venue was originallyestablished as a place where ex-residents could meet and supportone another, but is now a fascinating little museum. It houses animpressive collection of old materials, including photographs andrelics such as street signs, many of which were donated by formerresidents.
The museum also offers a guided tour of the area led by anex-resident. It is a poignant way to learn about District Six as itused to be. These tours must be booked in advance via the officialwebsite listed below. It is also possible to wander into the museumoff the street and take a self-guided tour.
Chapman's Peak Drive is one of the most spectacular coastalroads in South Africa and the world. It links the seaside communityof Hout Bay to the Noordhoek Valley along the Atlantic Coast, andoffers breath-taking views from along the narrow, winding roadblasted into the cliffs. Started in 1915, the six-mile (9km) routetook about seven years to complete and was built as a shorter,alternative route between Cape Town central and the SouthPeninsula. Many visitors use this scenic route to reach Cape PointNature Reserve, situated at the tip of the Peninsula. But for manyCapetonians, it simply comprises a breathtakingly beautiful commuteto work. There are a number of gorgeous picnic sites and viewpointsalong the route and it is very popular with cyclists. Chapman'sPeak Drive is also the ideal vantage point for whale watching, thepeak whale season being mid-August to mid-November. Hiking upChapman's Peak and through Silvermine Nature Reserve and the CapePeninsula National Park offers spectacular views over the SouthPeninsula.
With sheer cliffs below, soaring mountains above, and the oceanstretching to the horizon, this dramatic stretch of road is amust-see for tourists in Cape Town.
This working harbour, historical site, and shopping developmenthas become one of Cape Town's most visited tourist attractions. TheWaterfront offers everything from shopping malls and craftsmarkets, to live music and a variety of festivals throughout theyear. It's also home to more than 70 eateries, ranging from pubsand fast food outlets to five star restaurants. Those who fall inlove with the Waterfront will be glad to know that there areseveral luxury hotels in the area. What's more, travellers canstroll down to the harbour to gaze upon the numerous boats andships upon the waves. Those who want to experience the thrill ofsailing out of the harbour into the open ocean can choose from avariety of boat trips and harbour cruises. Helicopter chartersleave from the waterfront as well. These include sunset boozecruises, whale-watching trips, and even a pirate galley that throwsthemed outings. The Two Oceans Aquarium is an impressive andcelebrated institution and houses an impressive array of life fromthe oceans surrounding the Cape Coast.
The aquarium is a must for those travelling in Cape Town withkids, but adults will also find themselves entertained. The V &A Waterfront is situated in a beautiful and central location, allthe while under the watchful guard of the iconic TableMountain.
Simonstown is South Africa's principal naval base and lies about25 miles (40km) from the city centre. The quaint suburb was builtaround a naval dockyard, and visitors will enjoy its well-preservedVictorian buildings, museums, sidewalk cafés, and local heroes. Onesuch hero was a dog called 'Just Nuisance', who joined the Britishnavy, becoming their mascot, when Simonstown was a British base. Astatue of the beloved Great Dane can still be seen on thebeachfront. A short distance from the town is Boulders Beach,famous for its protected colony of African Penguins. People watchthe animals while on the beach as well as from viewing platforms.The penguins are remarkably tame, meaning visitors can get veryclose to take photographs, even though they shouldn't try to touchthe animals. The loveable birds continue to swim and frolic beneaththe waves, totally unperturbed. The beach is truly beautiful atBoulders, with turquoise water and, as the name suggests,picturesque rock formations. It's worth a visit in any season justto see the penguins, and kids will love it.
Port Elizabeth's most popular attraction consists of a complexon the beachfront that includes the Oceanarium, a museum, and asnake park. The Bayworld Oceanarium features an aquarium tank wherevisitors can watch a vast array of marine life through glassportholes as they glide by. This includes sharks, turtles, andrays. The penguins and seals are particularly entertaining whilethe snake park contains an impressive variety of indigenousreptiles in natural-looking enclosures. The PE Museum focuses oncultural and natural history with a wide variety of exhibits, frommodels of sailing ships and period costumes to giant replicas ofdinosaurs that roamed the area in prehistoric times. It is thethird-oldest museum in the country. Port Elizabeth has a lovelybeachfront area, which is the main draw for visitors. But the cityis generally just a stop-over point for tourists on their way toone of the nearby game reserves. If tourists are travelling throughPort Elizabeth with kids and have a bit of time to spare, visitingBayworld is a great option.
Port Elizabeth's architectural heritage can be traced by takinga walk around the city's central Market Square, which featuresseveral historic buildings. The centrepiece of the square is theaesthetically pleasing City Hall, dating from 1858 and topped withan attractive clock tower. Also in the square is a replica of theDiaz Cross that commemorates the first European to set foot inAlgoa Bay in 1488, when Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diazstopped over on his way east. Alongside the city hall is thePrester John Memorial, which is dedicated to the Portugueseexplorers who landed in South Africa. On the northwest flank of thesquare is the city's public library. Built in 1835, it wasoriginally used as a courthouse. The beautiful building is regardedas an excellent example of Victorian Gothic architecture and isinteresting in that its façade was manufactured in England andshipped to Port Elizabeth to be recreated piece by piece. In frontof the library stands a marble statue of Queen Victoria, which wasunveiled in 1903.
Slightly downhill from the square, at the entrance to theharbour, stands the Campanile, containing one of the biggestcarillons of bells (23) in the country. Visitors can climb 204steps to enjoy the view from the top of this monument, whichcommemorates the landing of the 1820 settlers.
St George's Park has been a recreational centre for the city ofPort Elizabeth for more than 150 years, boasting well-landscapedgardens covering 73 hectares. On site is the world famous PortElizabeth Cricket Club, the second oldest cricket club in SouthAfrica and the scene of many an exciting test match series, and theoldest bowling green in the country, established in 1884. Thehistoric sporting venue was also the site of South Africa's firstrugby test match. The love of cricket was brought to Port Elizabethby British settlers and local myths tell of one of the settlerswading through the waters of Algoa Bay towards his new homelandwith his cricket bat held safely above his head to keep it dry. Thepark also features the 1882 Edwardian Pearson Conservatory: anational monument filled with orchids, water lilies, and otherexotic plants. Apart from being good for strolls and picnics, tosay nothing of sporting events, the park hosts a vibrant arts andcrafts fair every second Sunday of the month.
The other major park in Port Elizabeth is Settler's Park. It'sset in the Baakens River valley, which boasts indigenous flora andfauna and offers a delightful stroll along the riverbank.
This historic square in the middle of Durban is the spot wherethe city originated as a tiny settlement of itinerant traders andhunters in the early 19th century. It is named for Henry FrancisFlynn, one of the prominent inhabitants of the time. Around thesquare are some interesting sights, particularly the 1910 City Hallon the south side, which is an exact replica of the City Hall ofBelfast, Ireland. On the first floor of the City Hall is theNatural Science Museum, which has an interesting insect section andan array of stuffed animals that delight children despite beingsomewhat old-fashioned. On the second floor is the renowned DurbanArt Gallery. Parents may want to explore the art gallery as theirkids enjoy the Natural History Museum. Various musical, song, anddance performances are held on the City Hall steps every Wednesday,at about 1pm. Alongside the City Hall is Durban's local historymuseum, which is housed in the Old Court House: the first publicbuilding ever erected in Durban (1866).
The Square is easily accessible by bus or taxi, and is a greatplace to take photos. Visitor should be careful with expensivecameras, though, and should watch their belongings, as the citycentre is rife with pickpockets.
uShaka Marine World is the largest marine theme park in Africa.The park is tastefully themed with African imagery and has fivezones offering entertainment, dining, shops, water slides, andaccess to uShaka Beach. Wet 'n Wild contains a number of waterthrills, ranging from heart-stopping, adrenalin-pumping rides tolazy activities for the less adventurous. There is an aquarium withthousands of fish, reptiles, and aquatic mammals on display; adolphinarium that performs regular musical shows; a penguinrookery; and underwater activities like snorkelling and the 'sharkwalk'. The Village Walk features the Dangerous Creatures exhibit,which includes spiders, snakes, frogs, scorpions, and otherpoisonous creatures. Rayz Kids World gives children a place to burnoff energy with massive jungle gyms and climbing structures, whileMoyo Restaurant is a wonderful option for adults. uShaka is inSouth Beach, so visitors can walk there along the beach, or take abus or taxi. The area can be dangerous, but once inside, the parksecurity is good and it's perfectly safe. Lockers can be rented tokeep belongings safe.
The KwaMuhle Museum focuses on the history of race laws inKwaZulu-Natal, showing the experiences of local people throughmultimedia presentations. It is housed in a building that was oncethe Department of Native Affairs, from which the infamous laboursystem was administrated. KwaMuhle means 'place of the good one' inhonour of a white man who ran the department, but did his best tofight the system from within. This museum provides a fascinatingand very personal look at the diverse and difficult culturalhistory of the region. But it is ultimately an old-fashioned museumwhich doesn't have much to offer small kids or those who demand astate-of-the-art interactive museum experience. The content isfascinating, and deeply moving, but the exhibitions are simple anddesigned for those genuinely interested in the history and willingto read the text.
Guides are available but the museum is well laid-out forindependent exploration. The KwaMuhle is near the centre of Durban,close to several bus and taxi routes, and is a worthwhile stop onthe city's tourist circuit.
Construction of the Juma Masjid Mosque began in 1881, withrenovations continuing until 1943. It is KwaZulu-Natal's firstmosque, as well as one of the oldest and largest mosques in theSouthern Hemisphere. Travellers will note that its golden-domedminarets dominate the central Indian district of downtown Durban,and that its muezzin can be heard from many parts of the city as itcalls the faithful to prayer. Its architecture is a mix of classicMughal Indian and colonial South African features, and there isspace inside for up to 5,000 worshippers. Visitors are welcome onweekdays and Saturdays but the mosque is closed on Sundays. Thebuilding's flat roof is used as a prayer site during festivals butdoubles as a playground for girls from the neighbouring schoolduring the day. A bustling neighbourhood surrounds the mosque.Travellers should stop at one of the area's takeaway curryrestaurants, where they should try 'bunny chow'. The dish featuresa hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry, and it is widelyassociated with Durban.
The busy and exotic Victoria Street Market is another worthwhilediversion, as are the many small shops that sell fabric, saris,jewellery and more. The area is easily accessible by bus or taxi,but visitors should be wary of pickpockets and travel ingroups.
Established in 1849, Durban's Botanical Gardens are the oldestsurviving botanic garden on the African continent, and the city'soldest natural attraction. Located on Sydenham Hill Road (west ofthe Greyville Race Track), the gardens provide a relaxing spot tostroll among huge indigenous and exotic trees, and a stunningorchid house display. The gardens are also abuzz with birdlife andboast a lovely charity tea garden. Visitors can go for a picnicunder the trees or by the pond, but should leave the sportsequipment behind as frisbee and ball games are not allowed. Thegardens are a popular spot for wedding photos on Saturdays, andonce a month they host a Sunday afternoon concert that attractsthousands of Durbanites. Areas within the extensive grounds includea lake and reservoir, the Herb Garden, Palm Walk, Fern Dell,Amphitheatre, Japanese Garden, and much more. There are plenty ofgrassy areas for picnics and benches for taking a rest. The gardensare in a nice area of Durban to walk about in and are several busroutes go past. There is no entrance fee, but if visitors drivethey are expected to tip the car guard about ZAR 5 for watchingtheir vehicle.
The BAT Centre is a haven for artists and musicians. Located onthe Victoria Embankment beside the Durban harbour, its name is anacronym for Bartle Arts Trust, the organisation that helped foundthe centre. BATs features a studio where traditional artists canwork; a hall that hosts concerts, conventions and festivals;exhibition galleries; a music store and drum shop where handcraftedwooden drums are made; and a restaurant serving authentic Africandishes from all over the continent. There are stunning views of theharbour from the restaurant deck, which hosts live jazz music onSundays. Nearby is the Maritime Museum, which details the historyof the harbour and houses a restored tugboat and other interestingexhibits. The area is well worth a visit for tourists and ispopular with locals too. The BAT Centre is close to bus and taxiroutes, and the area should be safe to stroll around during theday. Travellers visiting at night should take a taxi or drive.
Travellers should check what exhibitions and live shows are onbefore visiting the BAT Centre, as things can be rathersporadic.
This huge entertainment complex is essentially a theme park fullof thrill rides, but was designed to recreate VictorianJohannesburg during the gold-rush era. Situated five miles (8km)south of the city centre via the M1 motorway, the park was builtaround the No.14 Crown mineshaft that began operations in 1887 andclosed in 1971. During its production years, 1,400 tons of goldcame out of the shaft. Visitors can now descend into the old mineshaft to experience life at the rock face, and watch gold beingpoured and minted. Gold Reef City also houses a number of museums,and offers performances by traditional gumboot dancers and thelike. Youngsters particularly enjoy rides like the Anaconda rollercoaster and Thunder Mountain River Rapids. The range of ridesensures that there is plenty for all age groups and a good mixtureof the mellow and adrenalin-pumping. There are also plenty ofrestaurants, bars, a massive casino, and a Victorian hotel forthose wanting to stay the night.
Gold Reef City is a must for families spending a bit of time inJohannesburg and is also located conveniently close to theApartheid Museum, creating the ultimate touristic marriage ofhard-hitting history and theme-park fun.
Located in the city centre, this complex of buildings has beenupgraded and restored as part of the city fathers' urban renewalpolicy and includes several attractions. For instance, the MarketTheatre and Museum Africa are housed in a Victorian building inBree Street - originally Johannesburg's fresh produce market. TheMuseum of Africa is particularly worth a visit, as its exhibitstell the city's story from its beginnings to the present day. Thedisplay includes an interesting section about the Treason Trial ofthe 1950s, in which Nelson Mandela and other activists were accusedof plotting against the state. The same building houses aphotography museum and the Museum of South African Rock Art. At itseastern end is the Market Theatre, famed for being the venue formany protest theatre productions in the apartheid era. Also in thearea is the South African Breweries Centre, which offers a tourdetailing brewing history through some reconstructed gold-rush pubsand shebeens (township bars). Along Jeppe Street is the OrientalPlaza, the commercial centre for the Indian community.
Newtown is also renowned for its nightlife, with wonderfulrestaurants, jazz establishments, and clubs that stay open untilthe early hours.
The Johannesburg Zoo is a favourite place for locals to take astroll. Its numerous enclosures house more than 320 species ofanimal, including polar bears that can be viewed underwater intheir pool. Of course, the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion,leopard, and buffalo) are all in residence, while other highlightsinclude lemurs, gorillas, caracals, Siberian tigers, hippos,orangutans, brown bears, and cheetahs. The zoo's various monkeysare also very entertaining. Visitors will appreciate the largecollection of birdlife, and parents will enjoy treating their kidsto the farmyard section's activities. A tractor tram does circuitsof the zoo for those who don't fancy walking. Travellers shouldcheck the official website below for details on feeding times. Thepenguins and seals are particularly active during feeds. The zoo isdedicated to conservation and rehabilitation and conducts somebreeding programmes. It also hosts some interesting exhibits andevents. The Museum of Military History on the zoo's eastern edgehas some interesting exhibits like tanks, fighter aircraft, andsubmarines. Visitors will find many restaurants and food stalls forrefreshments.
Situated in the Bojanala region of the North West Province, the'Las Vegas of South Africa' is one of the largest entertainmentcentres for adults in the world. Visitors can look forward tocasinos, golf courses, live shows, and the architectural wonder ofthe Lost City. The vast resort complex is one of South Africa's topattractions for gambling, entertainment, and opulence. Guests willfind a luxurious palace at its centre, where frescoes, palm fronds,mosaics and elephant tusks complement the resort's life-sized modelanimals. Lakes, forests, and a tropical beach surround the LostCity. Along with a variety of water sports, guests can enjoy TheValley of the Waves, which is the most advanced waterpark in thecountry. Among other things, it has a wave machine capable ofgenerating seven-foot (2m) waves. The waterpark's numerous slidesand wonderful Lazy River are fabulous fun for the whole family.Buying a day pass for the Lost City waterpark allows visitors toexplore the extensive grounds and access the casino.
There are a number of Sun International hotels on the propertyand the resort complex also borders on the Pilanesberg NationalPark. Home to the Big Five, it is a popular game-viewingdestination.
Covering 393 acres (159 hectares) on the banks of the CrocodileRiver at Nelspruit, the Lowveld National Botanical Garden has thelargest collection of cycads in the world and the biggestassortment of indigenous trees in South Africa. The garden has 600plant and 245 bird species occurring naturally within its borders,but about 2,000 more plant species have been added to thiscollection. The gardens are traversed by two big rivers, theCrocodile and the Nels, which converge in the garden and form somespectacular waterfalls, which can be viewed from observationplatforms. Highlights of the gardens include the aerial boardwalkand suspension bridge through the African Rain Forest section, anda lovely two-hour walking trail that meanders along the CrocodileRiver banks and passes three waterfalls. There is a restaurant, atea garden, and a concert stage in the grounds. Approximately 70percent of the gardens are accessible to wheelchairs.
Spending a few hours strolling and picnicking in the gardens isa great way to enjoy the natural bounty of the region, but visitorsshould note that ball games and pets are not allowed.
Had it not been for its picturesque setting, Pilgrim's Restwould probably be a ghost town. It is, however, a popular touristdestination, existing today for little other purpose than toentertain and inform visitors about its colourful heyday. It allbegan in 1873, when a Scottish miner, Alex 'Wheelbarrow' Patterson,discovered gold at Pilgrim's Creek. Before long, fortune seekershad flocked to the little valley, and the town of Pilgrim's Restwas born. Mining continued for decades, but started to dry up inthe 1940s, the final mine closing in 1972. The entire town has nowbeen declared a national monument and many of its corrugated ironbuildings have been restored. These now exist as living museums,and some as souvenir shops. All development is carefully monitoredto ensure the place remains authentic and loses none of its charm.There is an Information Centre on the Main Road where visitors canlearn the history of the town before exploring it.
Pilgrim's Rest is part of the scenic Panorama Route, north ofNelspruit. Walking into the town is like stepping back in time andit has been used for a number of film shoots in South Africa.Additionally, there are some great pubs and restaurants if visitorsfeel peckish.
The spectacular vista of the Blyde River Canyon is part of thescenically breath-taking Panorama Route, where sheer cliffs dropinto a bush-covered valley. It's worth covering the route as aself-drive trip from Nelspruit, or on a bus tour. Other sights onthe route include a trio of green-clad peaks set in the canyoncalled the Three Rondavels, and the Bourke's Luck Potholes. Thelatter are huge holes in the mountainside formed by grinding sand.The Blyde River Canyon is the biggest green canyon in the world,and the third largest canyon on earth. Only the USA's Grand Canyonand the Fish River Canyon in Namibia are bigger. The river itselfoffers some challenging white-water rafting, and one of the bestways to experience the canyon is to paddle the river. A five-dayhiking trail winds along the canyon, through the Blyde River CanyonNature Reserve. It is one of the most rewarding walking trails inthe country, if not the world. Visitors can also enjoy shorterwalking trails, game safaris, horse-riding trails, mountain-bikingtrips, and abseiling.
All of these activities are offered by the nature reserve.Lastly, it's worth mentioning that there is a variety ofaccommodation in the reserve.
Tsitsikamma is a word of the indigenous Khoi-San people meaning'place of many waters'. It accurately describes the beautiful50-mile (80km) stretch of coastline that makes up the TsitsikammaNational Park. The park is Africa's oldest and largest marinereserve, and contains many attractions, including a giant Outeniquayellowwood tree that is hundreds of years old. The region iscriss-crossed by hiking trails, including the world-renowned OtterTrail (a five-day hike), which starts at Storm's River and runsalong 25 miles (41km) of spectacular coastline to Nature's Valley.A number of private operators offer numerous adventure activitiesin the area, such as black-water rafting and abseiling, mountainbike tours and fishing trips. A particularly exciting diversion isto undertake a canopy tour of the forest, gliding across thetreetops on steel cables strung between platforms. The most popularbases for exploring the area are Wilderness, Knysna, and theaforementioned Nature's Valley. All are charming coastal towns thatoffer comfortable campsites and luxury lodges. Tsitsikamma NationalPark serves as the highlight of South Africa's famous GardenRoute.
The Bo-Kaap (old Malay Quarter) was declared an exclusiveresidential area for the Muslim Cape Malays under the apartheidera's Group Areas Act of 1950, forcing people of other religionsand ethnicity to leave. The term 'Cape Malay' was originally usedto describe the slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia, and variousAfrican countries who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by theDutch during the 16th and 17th centuries (rather than just todescribe Malaysian slaves). Today, the area is still closelyassociated with the Muslim community and has a distinct and vibrantcharacter. The houses have been restored and colourfully painted.The steep cobbled streets, mosques, minarets, and blend of CapeDutch and Edwardian architecture also contribute to making it oneof the city's most interesting cultural and historical areas. TheBo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street documents the history of the CapeMalays and is worth a visit for those wanting a more in-depthunderstanding of the area.
There are also some fun and interesting walking tours available.The Bo-Kaap is a great favourite with photographers and its charmensures that it is the frequent subject of Cape Town postcards.
Spier is one of South Africa's most famous and most popular wineestates. Internationally renowned as cultural resort, it offersluxurious accommodation, conference facilities, shopping, finedining, and a variety of recreational activities, including golf,horse riding, picnics, and a cheetah park. Travellers can visitEagle Encounters, where they can get up close to some amazing birdsof prey. An outdoor amphitheatre traditionally presents a varietyof music, theatre, and dance during the Spier Summer Arts Season,seeking to promote, showcase and develop emerging South Africantalent. Situated in the heart of the Stellenbosch winelands region,Spier also boasts world-class wines in what is the oldest workingcellar in South Africa. If that is not enough, Spier claims to haveone of the most extensive collections of contemporary art in thecountry as well. Together with its other facilities, this is one ofthe most unique developments in the wine world.
Spier makes a great base for those wanting to explore theregion, with a number of other wonderful wine estates nearby. It isalso extremely pleasant to just visit for some wine tasting or apicnic in the lovely grounds.
The historic Huguenot Monument was erected in 1945 and is amajor tourist attraction in the Franschhoek Valley. It commemoratesand honours the French Huguenots who arrived in South Africa in1688 after fleeing brutal persecution in their home country. Thenearby museum documents the history of the settlers, from theirflight from France to their arrival and successful establishment ofthe Franschhoek wine region in the Cape of Good Hope. The littlemuseum contains a variety of Bibles, documents, furniture,utensils, and artefacts, providing insight into the life of theHuguenots in the Cape. The memorial is graceful and the calm of theplace is moving, considering the violent history of the fleeingHuguenots. The three high arches symbolise the Holy Trinity. Thesun rising above them represents righteousness, and the crossrepresents the Huguenot's Christian faith. The central femalefigure personifies religious freedom, with a Bible in one hand anda broken chain in the other. For any visitor interested in thehistory of French settlement in South Africa, or in the history ofthe beautiful Franschoek Valley in general, a visit here will berewarding.
The Afrikaans Language Museum pays tribute to a unique languagethat is little more than 300 years old. Created from the meltingpot of languages in the Cape, Afrikaans developed from the need ofDutch settlers, French Huguenots, slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia,Madagascar, and West Africa, and the local Khoi people tocommunicate. The struggle to gain recognition of Afrikaans as anofficial language was carried out from Paarl, and the museumcommemorates the people that played an important role in theprocess. The institution also explores the language in itsdiversity. Conspicuously absent from the material is the integralrole Afrikaans played as the language of the apartheid oppressors.The Language Monument on Paarl Mountain was erected in 1975 tohonour the Afrikaans language and is the only language monument inthe world. The contribution to Afrikaans from the Western world, aswell as from Africa, are represented by the three linked columnsand three rounded shapes respectively, while the 187 foot (57m)pillar symbolises the growth of the language. There are beautifulviews from Paarl Mountain, where the monument is situated.
Following a long period of conflict and mistrust, including thetreacherous murder of Piet Retief and his companions at the handsof the Zulu chief Dingaan, the Voortrekkers, led by AndriesPretorius, prepared for battle against the Zulu kingdom on thebanks of the Ncome River on 16 December 1838. The 460 Voortrekkersformed an impenetrable laager, a defensive camp encircled withtheir ox-wagons, and fought the 15,000-strong impi attack until theZulus finally retreated, leaving thousands dead and the river redwith blood. The violent encounter became known as the Battle ofBlood River. About 3,000 Zulu warriors are thought to have died inthe battle but the Voortrekkers sustained only injuries. The BloodRiver/Ncome Heritage Site commemorates this significant battle withmonuments and museums to both the Voortrekkers and the Zulus onboth sides of the river. This gives the visitor a more completeperspective of events. On the east side is the Ncome Monument andMuseum Complex, dedicated to the fallen Zulu warriors, while theBlood River Monument and Museum is located on the west bank andfeatures a life-size replica of the Boer wagon laager. The NcomeMuseum building was designed in the shape of buffalo horns,recalling the battle formation in which the Zulu army attacked. Itis definitely advisable to visit both museums.
The battle at Isandlwana Hill on 22 January 1879 stunned theBritish Empire in what was to be the worst defeat in their imperialhistory. The news that an entire battalion of British troops hadbeen wiped out by a 'native' army was unbelievable. Led by KingCetshwayo, the Zulu Kingdom had refused to submit to British ruleand had been gaining strength. Consequently, it was perceived as athreat to British colonists. British troops were ordered to invadeZululand, but grossly underestimated the Zulu warriors. Thesurprise attack on the Isandlwana Hill British camp left hundredsdead. Isandlwana was the first major encounter of the Anglo-ZuluWar. A force of about 20,000 Zulu warriors attacked a portion ofthe main British column, consisting of about 2,000 soldiers.British fatalities numbered about 1,300 and the Zulus sustainedalmost as many fatalities, but their far greater numbers gave thema decisive victory. The far superior weapons technology of theBritish should have enabled them to withstand the attack but theywere very poorly deployed.
Today, the battlefield is dotted with memorials, and mounds ofwhite stones that mark the British mass graves. The beauty of theplace belies the horror it once witnessed.
Fought on the same day as the nearby battle at Isandlwana Hill,the Battle of Rorke's Drift is remembered as one of the most famoussieges of the Anglo-Zulu War. Survivors from Isandlwana fled to theSwedish mission station that was used as a British field hospitaland storehouse, and sounded the alarm. Inside, the 139 men, many ofthem ill or wounded, barricaded themselves in and prepared for theonslaught of 4,000 Zulu warriors. The Battle Museum dramaticallytells the tale of the 'Heroic Hundred' who desperately defended thestation for 12 hours, until the Zulus finally retreated with aheavy loss of life. Seventeen British soldiers and about 500 Zuluattackers were killed in the siege. Eleven Victoria Crosses wereawarded to the defenders, not the most ever given at any battle inBritish history, as is often claimed, but a prestigious honournonetheless, and the most ever awarded to one regiment in a singleaction.
It is generally thought that although the courage of thedefenders warranted recognition, the awards were also made todistract public opinion from the disastrous British defeat atIsandlwana. Interestingly, just before the Zulus arrived, a numberof defenders fled Rorke's Drift and those remaining were so angryat the desertion that they shot after their own men, killing acorporal.
During the South African War, Ladysmith was besieged for 118days between 2 November 1899 and 28 February 1900. Thousands died,either during battle or from disease and the lack of food andwater. 21,000 Boers advanced into Natal from all sides when war wasdeclared between the Boer republics and Britain. After two notablebattles, the Boer forces surrounded the garrison town of Ladysmith,where the British commander and his core force were deployed. Thesiege was eventually broken by the British when a relief forceentered Ladysmith - a force which included a young Churchill. Butas with many battles in the war, it was a more a voluntarydispersal than a defeat, with the Boers choosing to fight anotherday rather than face British reinforcements. One touching storyfrom this tragic and protracted siege is the tale of how the Boerssent a single unexploded shell into Ladysmith on Christmas day. Itcontained a Christmas pudding and a note wishing the British troopscompliments of the season.
The museum is considered one of the best Anglo-Boer War museumsin the country. Its collection of artefacts, documents, firearms,and uniforms, as well as its series of excellent photographs tell avivid story of battles between the Boer and British forces.
The N2 highway that connects Cape Town International Airport tothe city is lined with townships, which consist of a mixture ofshacks and solid buildings. During the days of apartheid, people ofcolour were not allowed to live in the white suburbs and wererelocated to areas away from the city. These tours allow visitorsto experience how the majority of Capetonians still live. Guides,often residents, take visitors around to meet the people, seecommunity projects, have a drink in a shebeen (township pub) andshop for local crafts. Each township has its own colourfulcharacter, and despite their difficult living conditions, residentsare generally friendly and hospitable. Townships were once no-goareas for many people but, today, visits are becoming popular amongtourists to Cape Town. Visitors are advised not to visit thetownships alone as crime is still rife and some areas are bestavoided completely. There are many tour companies that offerwonderful trips, including transport to and from the townshipareas.
There is the possibility that these tours can becomeunpleasantly voyeuristic in the wrong hands. Tourists shouldremember that they are exploring real communities where people liveand should treat the locals with respect.
At the heart of the wine industry is the pretty town ofStellenbosch. Along with being the second oldest town in SouthAfrica, it is regarded as the country's wine capital, with over 110cellars in the area. The Stellenbosch vineyards were established bythe Dutch governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. He arrived in1679 and noted that the combination of rich soil and ideal climatewere perfect for viticulture. In 1971 the first wine route in SouthAfrica was opened, and today the Stellenbosch wine route is perhapsthe best known and finest that the country has to offer. Itproduces award-winning wines from estates such as Morgenhof,Kanonkop, Warwick, and Zewenwacht. Spier Estate is renowned as aunique cultural resort that is famous for its Summer Arts Festival,and boasts the oldest working wine cellar in the country.Stellenbosch is also steeped in South African history and Afrikaansculture and was settled by the Dutch East India Company to producefood for passing ships.
Old oak trees line the streets where Cape Dutch architecture,museums, and national art collections are a reminder of the town'sheritage. The town also boasts the world's only Afrikaansuniversity. The premier educational institute has produced manygreat sporting heroes, including many Springbok rugby players.
Constantia is the origin of wine production in South Africa, andone of Cape Town's most exclusive suburbs. The Constantia wineroute is the oldest yet smallest wine route in the Cape, consistingof just five wine farms that concentrate on producing a few winesof international quality and repute. The historic Cape Dutchhomestead at Groot Constantia is one of the oldest wine estates inSouth Africa, home to the first governor of the Cape, Simon van derStel, and the valley's most famous wine farm. The house itself isfurnished with items from the period, while an adjacent wine museumexhibits drinking and storage vessels in glass, silver, copper, andstoneware dating from 500 BC to the 19th century. There are somegreat restaurants at Groot Constantia as well as tasting rooms.Visitors are welcome to wander around the beautiful estate. Theother four wine estates that are generally known to constitute theConstantia wine route are Klein Constantia, Steenberg,Buitenverwachting and Constantia Uitsig, all of which includehighly acclaimed restaurants.
Those who want to extend their route further can also exploreBeau Constantia, Constantia Glen, Eagles' Nest and Silvermist WineEstate. Meandering from one estate to another in Constantia is aglorious way to spend a day, complete with history, natural beauty,great food, and, of course, superb wine.
Fleeing religious persecution in France in the 1700s, more than200 French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and were settled in thevalley that soon became known as Franschhoek (French Corner), whichis today situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands region. Manyof the settlers were experienced wine producers and they soonrecognised the potential of the region for wine and fruitproduction, establishing wine estates throughout the spectacularFranschhoek Valley in surroundings of magnificent scenery andtowering mountains. Today the town is famous not only for itssplendid wines and beautiful vistas, but also as the gourmetcapital of South Africa, boasting the highest number ofaward-winning eateries in the country. Restaurants such as LeQuartier Français, La Petite Ferme, Haute Cabriere, and Boschendalare among those that are internationally acclaimed. The Huguenotsalso left behind a rich legacy of arts, architecture, andhospitality, which are still visible today. Franschhoek hosts anumber of wonderful festivals, including a book fair, a bigcelebration for Bastille Day, and champagne and wine tastingfestivals.
Paarl is built in the picturesque Berg River Valley, which liesat the foot of the second-largest granite outcrop in the world. Itis the biggest town in the Cape Winelands and the third oldestEuropean settlement in South Africa. Paarl features some of themost superb examples of Cape Dutch, Victorian, Edwardian, and ArtDeco architecture in the country. Its rich history includesDrakenstein Prison, where Nelson Mandela spent his last years incaptivity. The Language Monument overlooks the town from the slopesof the Paarl Mountain, and symbolises the birth of the Afrikaanslanguage. Along with its historical background, Paarl is also knownfor its award-winning wines, particularly its reds, which can besampled along one of the world's first 'Red Routes'. Paarl's wineroute includes more than 40 cellars, among them Nederburg and KWV.Many of them also make a variety of delicious cheeses. PaarlMountain, or Paarl Rock, looms above the town and is sometimescompared to Ayers Rock in Australia, although geologically they arevery different. The rock is popular with climbers, but the routesare difficult and should not be attempted by the inexperienced.There are also many hikes and scenic drives in the verdant naturalsurroundings.
Mossel Bay is the largest city on the Garden Route and issituated roughly half way between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Itis renowned as the Adventure Capital of the Garden Route and enjoysan ideal climate, with an average of 320 days of sunshine per yearand a moderate winter. Mossel Bay was discovered by BartholomewDias in 1488. He was the first European to land in South Africa. Hewas rounding the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, when astrong wind blew him off course, into the protected bay of StBlaize, now called Mossel Bay. Here he found fresh water and set upa stop-over point for trade ships that were sailing to the East.Many explorers and traders placed important letters in an old shoeunder a huge Milkwood tree which is now more than 500 years old.Today, letters are still posted from the Old Post Office Tree.
Adventure junkies come to Mossel Bay for a range of activitiesin the immediate vicinity: shark cage diving; sand boarding thelongest sand dune in South Africa; feeding, riding, and picnickingwith elephants; safaris with the Big Five; exploring the predatorpark where visitors can view white lions and tigers; tandemskydiving; dolphin and whale-watching boat trips; scuba diving;abseiling; helicopter flights, and more.
Other more sedate attractions include the largest shell museumin South Africa; an indigenous botanical garden with a brailletrail fragranced for the sight impaired; a life-sized replica ofBartholomew Dias' caravel style ship; St Blaize Lighthouse andcave; and several world-class golf courses.
Mossel Bay is also well known for its wide selection ofrestaurants and excellent seafood. Many different types ofaccommodation are on offer, from budget backpackers to five starhotels. There are eight sandy white beaches to relax on and enjoythe sunshine.
Set on the Touws River estuary, the beautiful town of Wildernessis fast developing into a plethora of luxury holiday homes. TheWilderness National Park surrounds the destination and temptspaddlers with about nine miles (15km) of inland waterways. Parkwardens offer some wonderful canoe trips and hiking trails, andnumerous accommodation facilities are available. If relaxation isthe priority, visitors will find an idyllic coastline, where lovelyrock pools are exposed at low tide and long swathes of sand invitesun-bathing. Swimmers should note that while the sea is pleasantlywarm in summer, the coastline can receive some dangerous currents.Fortunately, lifeguards are almost always present on the main beachin season. Wilderness is a favourite stop on the Garden Route andis close to a number of other popular coastal towns and villages,such as Knysna and Nature's Valley. The city of George is alsonearby if travellers wish to visit malls or go to the cinema.
The Cape sits at the meeting place of the Atlantic and IndianOceans, and over 3,000 sea animals from both oceans are showcasedin the aquarium. They highlight the diversity of marine life foundin the waters around Cape Town. The Two Oceans Aquarium is one ofthe city's top attractions and visitors of all ages will beinterested in the variety of exhibits. They include the PredatorExhibit, which features large sharks and rays, and the mesmerisingKelp Forest Exhibit. Animals such as seals, penguins and turtles,and thousands of different fish are on display too. It is alsopossible embark on dives in specific tanks. Advanced booking isrequired, divers must present dive qualifications, and theprivilege does carry an additional charge. The Shoreline Cafe atthe Aquarium boasts lovely views of Table Mountain and the harbour,and has a children's play area, making it an ideal place to haverefreshments. However, visitors are spoilt for choice because theaquarium is located at the famous V & A Waterfront, which iscrammed full of great restaurants.
It is special to be able to stroll along the harbour aftervisiting the aquarium, and boat trips out into the open ocean canbe arranged from there.
A historical beach-side suburb on the False Bay coast,Muizenberg is popular with families for its long beach, warm water(by Cape Town standards), beautiful views, and activities such asmini-golf and waterslides. The beach is famous for its row ofcolourful changing houses and is a photo favourite from themountain road far above. Muizenberg beach has also long been thebest place in Cape Town for beginner surfers to learn and enjoy thewaves. Its break is far less daunting and competitive than CapeTown's other surf spots. Several popular surf schools have beenestablished at Surfers Corner in Muizenberg, accompanied by a fewfun cafés and restaurants. False Bay is also known for its GreatWhite Shark population, but a shark watch service is in operationto give warning to bathers and surfers. Visitors should take noteof the flag and siren system which is clearly explained onsignposts.
A scenic walkway below the railway line links Muizenberg to thenext seaside village of St James and its lovely tidal pool. Thedelightful fishing village of Kalk Bay is a few minutes' driveaway, with its protected harbour and its main street lined withfascinating antique and art shops, as well as coffee shops,eateries and bars.
SABMiller started in South Africa and has expanded to become oneof the world's largest and most popular brewers of beer. The Worldof Beer offers a fun, short tour, which summarises the history ofthe company, beer in general, and details the brewing process. Thetour begins with a televised talk from Charles Glass, the brewmaster of the famous Castle Lager and the man responsible forlaying the foundations of South African Breweries (SAB). The touralso covers ancient beer brewing in Mesopotamia and how it spreadthrough Europe and Africa. Visitors get to learn about and sampletraditional South African sorghum beer, and explore the evolutionof brewing in South African culture. They will then visit the greenhouses where the raw ingredients are grown. The price includes onebeer during the tour, a souvenir glass, two drink vouchersredeemable in the Tap Room, and bar snacks after the tour. Onlythose over 18 (the legal drinking age in South Africa) will beallowed to partake in the beer drinking.
However, all ages are welcome on tours and the visit shouldprove interesting even for non-beer drinkers. Visitors are welcometo stay in the pub and have a few drinks for as long as they desireafter their tour.
Johannesburg is one of the most densely treed cities in theworld and has a number of pleasant parks and gardens. Among them,the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is undoubtedly thecity's most superb green lung. Located in the west of Johannesburg,this urban oasis covers 741 acres (300ha), and offers lush gardensand scenic hiking trails. The botanical garden was founded in 1982,with the area used consistently for hiking and outdoor excursionssince the 1800s. Locals consistently rate it the best place toexplore nature in Gauteng. The gardens are a terrific place forbirdwatchers and garden-enthusiasts interested in seeing a varietyof fauna and flora. There are over 200 bird species as well as over600 plant species in the gardens. The landscapes are a mixture ofgrassland and savanna, with some rocky outcrops and lots of littlestreams and kloofs. Parts of the garden are beautifully landscapedbut swathes have been left as unspoilt wilderness.
After a walk or hike, it is common practice to enjoy a picnic onthe lawns at the foot of the breath-taking Witpoortjiewaterfall.
Melville is an old suburb known for its quirky, artisticatmosphere, eclectic little shops, pavement cafés, fun bars,restaurants, and clubs. This trendy suburb is a hive of activity onany given night of the week. It is the place to go out and carousein Johannesburg for visitors who prefer a bohemian vibe to thepreppy, upmarket nightlife that generally characterises the city.Seventh Street is the central zone from which all the characteremanates and is a great place to start. Its collection of book andantique shops, cafés, and other interesting storefronts are wellworth exploring. Partygoers barhop into the small hours, buttourists should refrain from walking around too much at night, andbe aware of pickpockets.
Situated near Gold Reef City, the Apartheid Museum chroniclesSouth Africa's tragic and shameful history of black oppression. Ondisplay are relics of the apartheid system, an abhorrent regimewhich denied non-whites basic freedoms and an equal life in thecountry. Visitors often describe the experience of the ApartheidMuseum as harrowing. At the same time, the story of the struggleover adversity is inspirational and serves as an integral andimportant part of the new South African narrative and itsreflections on history. To give some idea of the everyday realitiesof racial classification, visitors arbitrarily are classified aseither 'white' or 'non-white' upon arrival and can only enterthrough their designated entrance. Due to graphic content, themuseum does not allow children under the age of 11. Probably SouthAfrica's most impressive and hard-hitting museum, a visit to theApartheid Museum is a must for visitors to Johannesburg interestedin the country's history. The museum often ranks as the number onetourist attraction in the city. Allow at least three hours if youwant to explore thoroughly.
A guided tour of the National Heritage Site of Constitution Hilltakes visitors on a journey through South Africa's turbulent past,but also illustrates its incredible transition into democracy.There a number of tours of Constitutional Hill. Tourists can visitthe Number Four prison, a dark and terrible place where MahatmaGhandi, Robert Sobukwe, and Nelson Mandela were all incarcerated,along with many other victims of the racial hierarchy. The Old Fortis also open to the public. Built in 1893, it was a prison forwhite men (including British prisoners of war) during the SouthAfrican War, and one of Johannesburg's oldest buildings. Visitorsmay also be interested in the Women's Prison, a pretty Victorianbuilding where political activists like Winnie Madikizela-Mandelaand Albertina Sisulu endured terrible suffering, and infamousmurderess Daisy de Melker was incarcerated. Lastly, tourists mightwant to visit the Constitutional Court. It is the institutionresponsible for ensuring that the human rights horrors that oncecharacterised Constitution Hill will never occur again. Tours mustbe booked in advance via the official website listed below. Tourstake about an hour and a half and are very informative. TheConstitutional Court is open to the public. Exploring ConstitutionHill provides an interesting overview of the prison system duringapartheid and it is one of Johannesburg's most fascinatinghistorical attractions.
Hector Pieterson became the iconic image of the 1976 SowetoUprising in Apartheid South Africa, when a news photograph of thedying Hector being carried by a fellow student was published acrossthe globe. He was just 12 years old when the police opened fire onschool children who had gathered to protest the imposition ofAfrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools. Theprotest was intended to be peaceful but became a violentconfrontation when police demanded that the students disperse;students threw stones and police fired bullets. News of thebloodshed ignited uprisings across the country in which 550 peoplewere killed. Hector was one of the first to die on that tragic day.The museum fuses memorabilia with modern technology and culturalhistory and is located two blocks away from where Hector waskilled. Hector's sister, Antoinette, who is seen in the famousphotograph holding her hands out in panic, worked for many years asa tour guide at the museum. The 16th of June is a public holidaynamed National Youth Day in South Africa. It honours the youth whobravely stood up to the apartheid regime, and young people ingeneral.
Cape Town's most famous theme park, Ratanga Junction, is a mustfor all those up for a thrilling day out in the sun. Its rides andactivities will keep even the most active of children occupied. Thepark features gift shops and a food hall for weary riders, or thosejust looking to rest their legs for a while. There are regularshows at the food court stage to entertain youngsters, includingmagicians, animal shows, and dancers. The Cobra is by far the mostpopular ride. The snake-like roller coaster flips occupants round360 degrees in an array of dips, corkscrews and hard turns. Otherfavourites include Monkey Falls: a water-log ride that seespassengers drop down big waterfalls, and several smaller rollercoasters. There are plenty of mellow rides designed for smallchildren who aren't ready for the adrenalin-pumping stuff, butadults will be thrilled with the quality of rides they canenjoy.
Almost all of the rides are included in the entry cost money,with the exception of things like the Slingshot, which carryindividual charges. Parents who are not interested in participatingcan get a non-rider ticket which costs substantially less.
There are plenty of snack kiosks dotted around the grounds. Thequeues can get frustratingly long so it is best to go on week daysif possible. Visitors should note that Ratanga Junction only opensseasonally. They should check whether the theme park is open on theofficial website before visiting to avoid disappointment.
With a population of more than 3,000 birds and over 400different species, the World of Birds is the largest bird park inAfrica. Its one-hundred-plus walk-through aviaries allow visitorsto encounter the birds in their natural environment. The park hasother animals as well. Its mammals include foxes, monkeys,meerkats, racoons, guinea pigs, marmosets, mongooses andporcupines. Monkeys are one of the highlights. Visitors will findmore than 30 of them in a large walk-through enclosure, where theycan interact with the animals at certain times of day. There arealso some reptiles such skinks, iguanas, terrapins and tortoises.World of Birds has a children's play area and a tearoom for parentsto stop and take a break.
Designed by renowned South African architect, Sir Herbert Baker,the Union Buildings are located on Meintjieskop hill: a sentineloverlooking the city of Pretoria. They are the official seat of thecountry's government and houses the offices of the South AfricanPresident and other government officials. The Union Buildings are aSouth African Monument and have seen such icons as former SouthAfrican president, Nelson Mandela, inaugurated. The mainsemi-circular building is considered an architectural masterpieceand is an easily recognisable South African landmark. It is worthseeing and photographing for tourists in the area. With spectacularterraced gardens full of indigenous flora, the Union Buildings arenot only historically important, but also rather beautiful. Thespacious gardens are a popular venue for picnics and wedding photosand visitors are welcome every day.
However, the buildings themselves are never open to the public.There are various monuments to see in the gardens, including theSouth African Police Memorial and a monument to General LouisBotha, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.
Commonly known as the Pretoria Zoo, the National ZoologicalGardens of South Africa is often described as one of the leadingzoos in the world. It is the largest zoo in South Africa and theonly one with national status. Tickets include a visit to the zoo,an aquarium, and a reptile park. The Pretoria Zoo cares for morethan 200 mammal species, more than 200 bird species, around 190fish species, and more than 90 reptile species. The zoo is knownfor its large enclosures and animals which include cheetahs,chimps, lemurs, leopards, rhinos, hippos, elephants, red pandas,koala bears, lions, and tigers. Golf carts and children's pushcartsare available for rent and there is even a Zoo Choo-Choo TractorTrain for the kids to enjoy. The cable car, which runs up a hilland offers great views over the city, is one of the highlights.Visitors will also find a restaurant, a cafeteria with a widevariety of take-away options, a few snack kiosks, and numerouspretty picnic sites where they can relax in the shade. Some picnicsites even have barbeque facilities.
There are a variety of tour options at the zoo and those whowant to take something away with them can try the curio shop forsouvenirs.
A shrine for many of Pretoria's rugby fanatics, the LoftusVersfeld Stadium seats over 50,000 people and was one of thestadiums that hosted matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The landon which the stadium was built was first used for sporting eventsin 1903 and is named after Robert Owen Loftus Versfeld, who isattributed with establishing organised sport in Pretoria. LoftusVersfeld stadium is home to the Blue Bulls: the local rugby team.Passionately supported by Pretorians, the team has been verysuccessful locally and internationally. The stadium has hostednumerous big sporting events, such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup andthe 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. Enthusiastic sports fans maywant to add the stadium to their sightseeing itinerary, and rugbysupporters travelling to Pretoria should try and take in a game atthis famous South African venue. Those who are indifferent to rugbyand sport in general may want to check for other events showing atthis superb venue during their stay.
The former residence of Boer leader and President of theRepublic of South Africa, Paul Kruger, is now the Kruger HouseMuseum. Built in 1884, the house was the last one in whichPresident Kruger would live before leaving South Africa to go intoexile in Europe. Exhibitions in the museum detail Kruger's leadingrole in the South African War, formerly known as the Anglo-BoerWar, against Britain. It also provides information regarding hispresidency at a formative and tumultuous period in South Africanhistory, and his exile to Europe. Adjacent to Kruger House is theformer Bantu Commissioner's Office. Erected in 1932, it was alsoused as the Native Pass Office. Kruger's government used the samesite as police headquarters. The house contains some originalfurnishings from Kruger's residency and some other items from thathistorical period. Present too are many gifts that were presentedto Kruger, such as the lion statues on the veranda, as well asother memorabilia. The museum mainly aims to recreate the livingconditions of the time, but also gives some insight into the lifeof this South African character.
Although the museum may not be entertaining for all tourists,those interested in the historical period should find itworthwhile.
Featuring indigenous plants and flowers from all over SouthAfrica, the Pretoria National Botanical Garden bridges the gapbetween scientific research and recreational garden pleasures. Thegarden is home to over 198 bird species, a few reptiles and evensmall mammals like the adorable duiker. A high quartzite outcropdivides the grounds into two sections: a colder, south-facingsection, and a warmer, north-facing section, presenting slightlydifferent natural moods. A paved nature trail provides access tothe ridge, which boasts a wonderful diversity of indigenous floraand fauna. More than half of the total area is dedicated tolandscaped garden, using almost exclusively South Africanvegetation, including 50 percent of the country's tree species. Thegarden includes several distinct biomes, with savanna and forestsections. A great place for a relaxing walk or picnic, the gardensalso feature Mokha Restaurant, which overlooks a small wetland. Nopets are allowed in the garden, except guide dogs. Picnics areencouraged, though no fires or braais (barbeques) are permittedanywhere in the grounds. Neither bicycles nor skateboards areallowed.
President Brand Street has been declared a national conservationarea, and is home to a number of monuments and buildings ofhistorical value. Nobody visiting Bloemfontein should pass up theopportunity to stroll down one of the city's most stately andhistorically important streets, encountering striking examples of19th and 20th-century buildings along the way. The South AfricanCourt of Appeal and the Supreme Court of South Africa are locatedon this street, as is the National Afrikaans Literature Museum.Travellers can view the original transcript of South Africa'sformer national anthem, Die Stem, at the Literature Museum.Travellers will find the equally interesting National Music Museumon President Brand Street too. Bloemfontein's City Hall is anotherof the street's important addresses. Completed in 1936, itscornerstone was laid by Prince George, Duke of Kent. The OldPresidency was built in 1861, on the spot that was once the BritishMajor Henry Warden's farmhouse. The sandstone buildings give thearea a distinct character and aesthetic, creating some greatphotographic opportunities.
From its distinguished setting in a Cape Dutch mansion, theOliewenhuis Art Gallery is a must-see Bloemfontein attraction thatfeatures an expansive display of South African art. Designed in1935 and completed in 1941, the Neo-Dutch mansion was built as theresidence of the Governor General of the Union of South Africa, andonce hosted King George VI and his family on their visit toBloemfontein. The residence was opened as the city's art museum in1989, after long-term petitioning by Bloemfontein's artisticcommunity. Contemporary paintings and sculptures are exhibitedhere, as well as acclaimed masterpieces from days gone by. One ofthe most exciting and unique aspects of the museum is theremarkable exhibition space in the old underground reservoir. Thegallery also has a café and outdoor sculpture park for visitors toenjoy. Kids will love the colourful Africa Carousel. It was createdby multiple artists crafting each individual creature to integrateEuropean and African mythology. Located on Grant's Hill andsurrounded by miles of unspoilt nature, visitors can also enjoyexploring the walking trails that wind around the museum.
Opened by the Prince of Wales in 1925, King's Park boasts over4,000 beautiful rose bushes. In fact, Bloemfontein literally means'flower fountain' and is often referred to locally as the 'city ofroses'. It is the city's largest and loveliest green space and anice spot to unwind and escape from the hustle and bustle of thecity. A colourful and fragrant park set on a lake and with grassyareas where children can expend some energy, the park is a goodattraction for those travelling with kids. King's Park is also hometo the Bloemfontein Zoo, established in 1906. There is a populararts and crafts market at King's Park on the first Saturday of eachmonth, where food stalls compete with paintings and sculptures aswell as other crafts like jewellery and some wonderful bargains canbe found. The market is open from about 7am to 1pm. Those lookingfor other outdoor areas in Bloemfontein should head to Naval Hill,which provides striking views over the city and borders theFranklin Game Reserve.
For something fun and educational, parents should take theirkids to the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. Located just nine miles(15km) north of Durban, it offers visitors the chance to learnabout the marine life found off the coast of Durban's Golden Mile.The Sharks Board maintains the coastlines shark safety gear. Italso does research into sharks and runs a public educationprogramme. There are almost daily presentations and sharkdissections at the complex. Kids will love visiting the displayhall to view the variety of lifelike replicas of sharks, fish andrays, including that of a 1966-pound (892kg) great white shark. Thedissections can be disturbing for sensitive kids but they arefascinating and very educational. Indeed, some odd things have beendiscovered in the bellies of sharks. Visitors can join boat tripsto view shark nets being serviced. On these trips, kids can see andlearn about the dolphins, seabirds, and fish life that abound offDurban's coast. Boat trips must be booked in advance. The SharksBoard is near Gateway Mall and the Umhlanga Rocks city centre.
Located on Durban's beachfront, this knee-high miniature replicaof Durban makes a great outing for families and kids of all ages.It features moving models of planes and trains, a circus completewith animals, a movable bridge which makes way for passing ships,several of Durban's landmark buildings, and a tug boat that makesits way around its very own miniature dock. All models andbuildings have been created on a 1:24 scale. Mini Town wasestablished more than 30 years ago and, although it is verywell-maintained, it has retained a charming, old-fashioned appeal.There is a small restaurant kiosk where snacks and refreshments canbe purchased. Mini Town is owned by the Quadriplegic Association ofKwaZulu-Natal and is used as a method of raising funds for theirorganisation while providing employment for some of their members.It is therefore a worthwhile tourist attraction to support. It islocated on a main bus line, and is within easy walking distance ofSuncoast Casino and many popular beachfront hotels.
The Moses Mabhida Stadium was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cupand is one of South Africa's most picturesque stadiums. With itsiconic 'arch of triumph', the waves of the Indian Ocean crashing inthe background, and an amazing view of Durban's Beachfront, thestadium is an epic place to take in a sports game. However, it alsooffers some other attractions that will delight tourists.Adventurers will be able to enjoy the rush of the Big Swing, theworld's only stadium swing and the largest swing of its kind in theworld. After an adrenalin-pumping jump from the stadium's arch, 348feet (106m) above the pitch, people will swing out over the pitchand 80,000 seats below. Think of it as an upright bungi jump. TheSky Car is perhaps the stadium's most notable attraction. Itferries up to 20 people to the stadium arch's highest point, fromwhere they can enjoy incredible panoramic views of the city, whilethe Skywalk takes visitors up 550 steps of the arch and back downagain.
There are also a bunch of shops and restaurants at the stadiumand tours are available for those who want to explore. The variousattractions at the stadium all have different costs and timetables.Check the official website listed below for details.
Tucked away near an industrial section of Durban North and theUmgeni River, the Umgeni River Bird Park houses an ever-growingbird population. Over 200 species of birds live as residents alongthe shady winding paths. The park is situated in a lush tropicalgarden in what used to be an old quarry site. It was opened in 1984after extensive landscaping. The park's free-flight bird show,which runs from Tuesday to Sunday at 11am and 2pm, has beenentertaining families and school groups for over a decade. Itfeaturing vultures, owls, cranes, and other impressive fowl. Thefree-flight shows are also available on Mondays during SouthAfrican school holidays. The birds included in the show changefrequently and a visit to the park is hardly complete withoutseeing this performance. There is an undercover cafe in the heartof the park that offers refreshments and light meals. The park isaccessible by bus, but the route is not in constant use.
Located just 75 miles (120km) from Cape Town, Langebaanlanguished for years in relative obscurity, remaining an excellentretirement destination and a popular place for local fishingenthusiasts to spend the weekend. However, in recent years,picturesque Langebaan has been getting the attention it deservesand has become a frequented West Coast tourist destination. Itoffers an incredible range of fun water sports and adventureactivities, as well as top-class beach resort accommodation and awinning selection of restaurants and shops. The water in theLangebaan Lagoon is warm enough to swim in all year round. The mostpopular water-sport activities in Langebaan include sailing,kayaking, kitesurfing, waterskiing, and fishing, while the town'supmarket resorts also offer quintessential vacation amenities likegolf courses, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Animal loversshould note that Langebaan is the ornithological capital of SouthAfrica, boasting over 300 species of birds. Most of them can beviewed in the nearby West Coast National Park.
Exploring the national park is a must when in Langebaan, as thisis the best place to experience the beautiful area's unspoilt andunusual landscapes.
Saldanha is a small, attractive town situated on the northernshore of Saldanha Bay. The deep natural harbour sustains the area'seconomy and provides countless water sport and fishingopportunities to visitors. Saldanha Bay's fishing industry isunderpinned by the export of delicacies such as crayfish, mussels,and oysters. This fine selection of seafood naturally characterisesthe town's gastronomy. Visitors can look forward to a range of funactivities, including kite-surfing, waterskiing and deep-seadiving. The area is also immensely popular with game-fishingdevotees, who man their rods and try to entice yellowtail, tuna,and snoek from the ocean depths. Accommodation in Saldanha isplentiful, catering to luxury resort clientele as well asbackpackers. In season (June to November), Saldanha is one of SouthAfrica's better whale-watching destinations, as schools of humpbackand southern right whales gather off the Atlantic coast to calve.Like most of the West Coast, Saldanha is not a glitzy traveldestination but is charming in its own right.
Located just 70 miles (110km) north of Cape Town, the West CoastNational Park showcases the very best of the region's naturalbeauty. The attraction stretches from the quaint seaside town ofYzerfontein to the turquoise-blue Langebaan Lagoon, and stands outamong South Africa's celebrated national parks. It is most famousfor its bird life, with thousands gracing the rocks on its goldenbeaches, and thousands more filling the park's salt marshes withtheir varied songs and warbles. However, the West Coast NationalPark is also home to some interesting wildlife, including eland,red hartebeest, and caracal. The Postberg section is an excellentplace to view Namaqualand Daisies when the countryside becomescarpeted in bright wildflowers during August and September. Whethergazing at pretty flamingos or diving osprey, a visit to the WestCoast National Park is a must for nature-lovers. It offers aconvenient and thorough introduction to the West Coast's naturaltreasures, along with some stunningly beautiful and unspoiltbeaches.
Paternoster is a quaint fishing village outside Cape Town. Itsname comes from the prayers of shipwrecked Portuguese sailors whofell afoul of its rugged coastline. These days, many consider itthe ideal West Coast beach-holiday destination. The first thingvisitors will notice are the rows and rows of white-washedfisherman houses: a lovely, and incredibly photogenic,architectural quirk that will linger long in the memory. A holidayin Paternoster is probably best taken at a snail's pace. That is,visitors will enjoy taking long walks on the fine sandy beaches andobserving the region's bird life. For active types, hiking trails,mountain biking, sea kayaking, diving, and spear-fishing excursionsare available. The West Coast gets extremely hot but the freezingsea water will certainly cool visitors down. Finally, one ofPaternoster's most abiding attractions is the quality andavailability of fresh fish and seafood, especially crayfish.
Yzerfontein is about an hour outside Cape Town, and is the idealgetaway for those seeking a serene beach holiday. Along with itssunshine and mild winters, the tranquil seaside village is muchloved for its Sixteen Mile Beach, which connects it to the Postbergconservancy area in the West Coast National Park. Travellers whoventure to the park in August and September will see Namaqualand'swildflowers bloom in fabulous explosions of colour. Yzerfonteinvisitors can also enjoy fishing, hiking, skiing, mountain bikingand whale watching. Only the brave are likely to swim in theregion's very cold sea.
Darling is a fast growing tourist destination in South Africa.From the second visitors pull into this dusty station town, they'llunderstand exactly why. Located in a valley of golden hills in theSwartland region of South Africa's West Coast, Darling is athoroughly charming spot with a local brewery and opportunities togo olive and wine tasting. Although Darling offers high-qualitydining options, the town's main claim to fame is its most famousresident, satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys. He is perhaps better known byhis alter-ego: Evita Bezuidenhout. Pieter-Dirk Uys has investedlots of time and energy in Darling, creating not only a popularcabaret venue (Evita se Perron), but also founding the DarlingTrust: an organisation that promotes social upliftment through thearts. Visitors shouldn't miss the small museum and craft market,which, in addition to housing several hilarious satiricalpaintings, also displays some priceless correspondence betweenEvita and notable figures from South Africa's history, includingNelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk, and PW Botha.
Agriculturally prosperous and blessed with plenty of sun,Darling is a must-see destination. It is a magical place wherehorse-carriages still canter past quaint Victorian cottages and themost stressful decision of the day is which restaurant or wine farmto try next. Darling is also home to an annual Wildflower Show(August to September), where the famous Namaqualand Daisies can beviewed in all their glory.
When the film version of JM Coetzee's celebrated novel Disgracewas made, the film-makers controversially opted to ditch the book'soriginal Eastern Cape setting in favour of various locations in andaround the Cederberg: a mountainous conservancy area about 190miles (300km) north of Cape Town. Their reasoning for this wassimply that the Cederberg is one of the most beautiful, unspoiledareas of South Africa and that foreign audiences deserved to seethis often-overlooked natural wonderland in all its glory. No doubtaided by this exposure, the Cederberg has quickly grown into one ofthe leading ecotourism destinations in Southern Africa. It is thepremium destination for those outdoor adventurers looking to get togrips with South Africa's unique and varied landscape. Althoughthere are plenty of lovely towns in the greater region, includingCeres and Clanwilliam, the real draw card is staying within theCederberg Wilderness Area, a massive conservancy administered byCape Nature.
Their main campsite, Algeria, is a great place to stay, althoughthere are plenty of privately-owned alternatives, such as Sanddrif,Driehoek, and Krom River, to choose from as well. Great activitiesin the Cederberg include hiking and rock climbing, and walkingtours of caves where San rock art can be seen. The best time tovisit the Cederberg is between November and April, when days arewarm and there is not much rain around.
One of the most beautiful nooks of a decidedly beautifulcountry, Nature's Valley is an enchanting and relativelyundiscovered holiday resort on the Garden Route. Located about 18miles (29km) from Plettenberg Bay and surrounded by the TsitsikammaNational Forest, Nature's Valley is a gorgeously lush area of tallbearded trees, monkey ropes, and rich bird life. It also happens tosport one of the prettiest coastlines in the country. Featuringgreat weather all year round and a decided lack of non-essentialinfrastructure, Nature's Valley is the perfect place to go fortourists looking to relax and rejuvenate in peace and quiet. Thereare plenty of scenic walks and hiking trails for adventureenthusiasts. In fact, Nature's Valley marks the end of the OtterTrail, one of South Africa's most famous hikes. Canoeing down theriver and swimming in the sheltered lagoon are also fun excursions.Accommodation in Nature's Valley comes in all shapes and sizes:from luxury villas which can be rented on a monthly basis, to theexcellent Wild Spirit Lodge and Backpacker Hostel, which offersaffordable lodging in a funky and eco-friendly environment.
Soweto's history goes back to 1903, when Kliptown wasestablished as the first black settlement on the outskirts ofJohannesburg. An abbreviation for South-Western Township, Sowetohas had a turbulent history and was at the centre of the Apartheidstruggle in South Africa. The ANC and other organisations adoptedthe Freedom Charter in Kliptown in 1955, and the Soweto Uprising of1976 was one of the pivotal events in the struggle. Soweto is hometo several famous landmarks, including Chris Hani BaragwanathHospital in Diepkloof, Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, ReginaMundi Catholic Church in Rockville, and the Freedom Towers. InOrlando, tourists can visit Vilikazi Street, which is the onlystreet in the world to have been the home of two Nobel Peace Prizewinners (Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu). On thestreet, Mandela House has been restored to the state it was in whenthe former president lived there.
A number of historic museums are also popular attractions inSoweto, including the Hector Pieterson Museum, the KliptownOpen-Air Museum, and the Apartheid Museum. The Orlando CoolingTowers are a fun, popular attraction. Part of a decommissionedcoal-fired power station, the towers have been brightly painted andoffer rap jumping opportunities.
Tours of Soweto are a must for any first-time visitor toJohannesburg and South Africa, and a number of tour operators offertrips into Soweto. The most popular are the historical tours,stopping at museums and famous sites, and the nightlife tours,which include stops at local shebeens (township bars).
Soweto is also home to some excellent restaurants, ranging fromfive-star establishments to holes-in-the-wall, which serve localAfrican cuisine. Although many tourists have concerns about whetherit's safe to visit Soweto, most visits are completely trouble-freewhen organised by a reputable tour operator.
Durban's most popular attraction is the length of beachstretching across one end of the city centre. Known as the GoldenMile, the beach starts in the north at Blue Lagoon and eventuallystops at uShaka Marine World in South Beach. There are variouspicnic and fishing hotspots, as well as the Suncoast Casino andMini Town on North Beach. Along the way, they will travel past theskatepark, surfing museum, and restaurants in the Bay of Plenty.Dotted with elaborate kiddie pools and set against a backdrop ofhigh-rise hotels and holiday flats, the Golden Mile is indeed theepicentre of Durban tourism. A wide, flat promenade runs nearly theentire way, dotted here and there with joggers, rickshaws androllerbladers. The sandy beach is flat, and its gloriously warmwaters are good both for surfing and swimming. The amphitheatrenear North Beach hosts a large flea market on Sundays, offeringeverything from beaded jewellery and wood carvings to saris andDVDs.
During the day, the Golden Mile is a paradise for holidaymakersand beachgoers. However, it is not considered safe to walk on thepromenade after dark. Visitors should keep watch of theirbelongings at all times and beware of pickpockets.
Coffee Bay is a small inlet in the heart of the Wild Coast.Situated near Mthatha and with only a post office, a grocery storeand a few B&Bs and backpackers to its name, the destinationlargely appeals to students and the young at heart. Its nightlifeconsists of drumming circles and the occasional trance party.Coffee Bay has some of the best surfing in South Africa, though,along with swimming, spear fishing and scuba diving. Nature loverswho explore its unspoiled coastline may see whales, dolphins andthe occasional Cape Clawless Otter. The area is a paradise forgolfers, hikers and anyone interested in horseback riding, too.Travellers who enjoy peaceful strolls along beaches with onlywildflowers and natural forests for company will also appreciatethe Wild Coast. All visitors should definitely stop at the iconicHole in the Wall: a site where the sea has carved a giant tunnelthrough a rock. Seafood fans can buy fresh catches from localfisherman.
The beautiful Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve is a great placeto stay in the Transkei. Encompassing five distinct biomes and atidal estuary along the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast, the private,luxury reserve provides access to diverse coastal landscapes andsome magnificent beaches. The reserve is home to the big five(lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo) and numerous otheranimals. However, the main attraction from a wildlife point of viewis the presence of some extremely rare white lions. Inkwenkwezi isa Xhosa word meaning 'under the stars' and the reserve pridesitself on good service and attention to detail as well as naturalbeauty. Visitors can interact with elephants at the ElephantSanctuary, take guided game drives, hikes and quad bike tours, andenjoy canoeing and mountain biking activities. The reserve's SunsetLapa is a dreamy spot to sip on cocktails while admiring thestunning view, and the Emthombeni Restaurant serves a variety ofSouth African cuisine. The accommodation is of a high standard andthe venue is extremely popular for weddings. Inkwenkwezi is a shortdrive northeast of the East London airport, making it an easilyaccessible destination in a region notorious for bad roads.
Port St Johns is a good travel base in the Transkei region andis the central tourism hub on the Wild Coast. The destination haslovely beaches, great surfing opportunities, fantastic fishing(deep sea and shore angling), and some fun and atmosphericbackpackers lodges for budget travellers. A town of about 7,000people, Port St Johns is situated at the mouth of the UmzimvubuRiver. The estuary is one of the main reasons why this stretch ofcoast is so picturesque. Sadly, it's also a contributing factor tothe frequency of shark attacks on the town's beaches, makingswimming and surfing a bit nerve-racking despite the idyllicconditions. The Umzimvubu River flows through an impressivesandstone gorge named the Gates of St John and visitors should makethe effort to drive up to Mount Thesiger. Located just above thetown, it offers stunning views of the estuary. Some of thebackpackers and lodges offer the ride up for sundowners free ofcharge.
Dense, jungle-like vegetation dotted with scenic walking trailssurround the town, which is endearingly laid back and sleepy.Visitors will find a Xhosa flavour and some basic shops andbohemian-style restaurants.
Afrikaans Phrase Book
|dankie||thank you||dun key|
|asseblief||please||ah suh bleef|
|my naam is||my name is||may nahm is|
|waar is||where is||vaar is|
|praat jy engels||do you speak english||praht yay eng uhls|
|ek verstaan nie||I don�t understand||ek ver stahn nee|
|ek makeer 'n dokter||I need a doctor||ek muk ear uh dork tor|
South Africa is a large country and has diverse climacticregions, so travellers should check the climate for the regionthey'll be visiting. In general the weather is sunny and hot in thesummer months (November to February), and fairly mild during winter(June to August). The weather in autumn (March to May) and spring(September to October) is less predictable and more changeable.
The Cape has a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters, andhot, dry, sunny summers. The average temperatures in Cape Town inthe summer range between 61°F (16°C) and 79°F (26°C), and in winteraverage between 47°F (8°C) and 64°F (18°C). Some snow does fall onthe mountain ranges during the winter.
Gauteng and the northern regions have a subtropical highlandclimate with plenty of sunshine during hot summers, whenthunderstorms regularly occur in the late afternoon and evening.Winters are dry and sunny with cold nights. Temperaturesoccasionally drop below freezing at night in the north. The averagetemperatures in Johannesburg (Gauteng) in the summer range between58°F (15°C) and 78°F (25°C), and in winter range between 39°F (4°C)and 80°F (16°C).
The best time to visit South Africa differs hugely depending onregion and desired activities but summer is the peak tourist seasonfor coastal regions. Spring and autumn tend to be mild and pleasantseasons for travel.
Located in wine country and against the backdrop of theConstantiaberg Mountain, Constantia Uitsig has been a huge successstory since day one. The menu is Italian-French, though ChefClayton Bell continues to create food with broader influences thanhis original Provencale-Tuscan mix. Bookings are essential.
Miller's Thumb is Jane and Solly Solomon's refreshingly casualseafood establishment. Set in uptown Cape Town, it's ever-changingchalkboard menu offers customers a good chance of discoveringsomething new, though it tends to include familiar options as well.Cajun and Creole dishes are the order of the day, as is Yaki Soba,an award-winning Japanese dish with cashes, chickens and prawns.Thankfully, it's a staple. There's generally a pasta dish or two,complemented by an array of interesting sauces and a selection ofgood wines.
Situated just behind Camps Bay's main strip, the Codfatheroffers a unique presentation of fine fish. There is no menu at thislow-key restaurant. Patrons make their choice after a personaldiscourse with their waiter on the daily specials. It is thenweighed, prepared to the highest standard, and served to theirtable. Staff are all first class and provide a service of thehighest order. There is also a sushi bar. The restaurant is opendaily for lunch and dinner.
Beluga is a stylish and sophisticated eatery located in theFoundry, a 100-year-old redbrick building that once housed one ofthe city's oldest metal works. It now has a modern interior designas well as an office centre, integrating into what has become CapeTown's film and modelling district. The restaurant offers the bestof a wide range of cuisines. However, there are plenty of robustflavours, interesting ingredients, and generous portions. Thecocktail bar serves great drinks, perfectly complemented by itsfamous sushi menu. Tables spill out onto an enclosed courtyard,serving light meals and coffees from early until late.
This restaurant takes up five floors, decorated with acombination of modern African designs. Traditionally attired staffserve locally inspired dishes, and live African music enhances thewonderful atmosphere even more. The varied menu has dishes fromaround the continent, such as fragrant North African stews, EastAfrican fish curries, and huge Mozambique prawns. The unusualAfrican desserts, like sweet potato and chocolate pudding, are notto be missed. Booking is essential; the restaurant opens daily forlunch and dinner.
Wombles Steakhouse serves steak to suit all tastes andappetites, complementing their cuts with fresh vegetables and achoice of potato dishes. Reminiscent of its 1980s predecessor inHarare, Zimbabwe, it is furnished with ornate, high-backed chairsand luxurious sofas set within a candle-lit décor. The efficientstaff are incredibly attentive, working to make the patron's diningexperience a memorable one. The establishment is open Monday toFriday for lunch and dinner, with dinner also served on Saturdays.Reservations are recommended.
Royale is the gourmet burger joint of choice in Cape Town. It'snot uncommon to see scruffy-jeaned skaters at one table and trendyexecutives at another. Patrons can choose beef, chicken, ostrich orveggie patties, and can chop and change toppings. Regarding sides,they can go for regular fries, sweet potato fries, potato wedges ordelicious salads.
Aside from offerings like 'The Miss Piggy' and 'The Fat Bastard'(double everything), the restaurant serves a variety of pizzas andmilkshakes. Royale also boasts an upstairs bar and live-musiclounge known as the Waiting Room, and a third floor reserved forprivate functions and sundowners.
Regarded as one of Cape Town's most stylish dinner-dance venues,Pigalle is a vast, split-level restaurant divided into intimatedining areas, each boasting a view of the dance floor and band. Thelavish furnishings, elegant tables, and background music create theperfect atmosphere in which to enjoy sumptuous offerings from theset menus, or from the à la carte menu. Black mussels provide adelicious start to the dining experience. From there, patrons couldmove on to the ostrich fillet with mushroom and peppercorn sauce,the fillet medallions, or the Pigalle Platter (prawns andlangoustines in lemon butter). Couples could round off their mealsby sharing the crème brûlée or baked cheesecake. The restaurant isopen Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.
Something of a Cape Town institution, Café Mozart has beenattracting locals and foreigners for over thirty years. Servingsome of the best coffee in town, Café Mozart is a great breakfaststop, with tables spilling out onto a shaded pedestrianisedwalkway, where buskers amuse passers-by with some lively tunes.With superb fruit juices, a mouth-watering selection of sandwichesmade on freshly baked bread, and an attractive daily menu createdat the whim of chef and proprietor Tom Kelley, there is somethingfor everyone. Tea lovers should sample the restaurant's variety ofloose-leaf teas, all of which are served in elegant silver teapotsand quirky crockery. Café Mozart is open Monday to Saturday forbreakfast and lunch.
Found in one of Johannesburg's most affluent suburbs, Browns ofRivonia offers a truly upmarket, fine-dining experience. Thisestablishment is set amongst vineyards in an old farmhouse, addingto its charm and intimate atmosphere. Outside seating is availableon the veranda for those balmy summer evenings, and a neat diningarea occupies the interior. The food is of the highest quality,especially the roast duck with a Drambuie and orange glaze. Therestaurant offers a separate menu for functions and for Sundaylunches. Browns of Rivonia is closed for lunch on Saturdays andreservations are recommended.
With its prime location near the Cape Town Stadium, Tobago'srestaurant in the Radisson Blu Hotel is a celebrated venue forvisitors to enjoy a long luxurious lunch or dinner. Diners areoffered a wonderful selection of meals from the restaurant'sworld-class menu, made from locally sourced, fresh ingredients.They can also choose from a buffet, which is best enjoyed in thestylish dining area or outside on the beautiful waterfront terrace.Tobago's is a good option for those seeking fine dining before orafter a sport event or concert at the Cape Town Stadium.
Myoga is a trendy and upmarket Cape Town establishment thatserves the finest in contemporary fusion cuisine. With a friendlyand laidback atmosphere, its speciality dishes include thecaramelised pear and walnut gorgonzola. Another favourite is theseared ostrich with mango and fynbos honey, a unique dish whichcannot be found anywhere else in the world. The kitchen itself isset in the middle of the restaurant, allowing patrons to see thestaff's craft. Myoga is open Monday to Saturday for lunch anddinner. Reservations are essential.
South Africa's currency is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into100 cents. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change, andthe larger hotels. ATMs are widely available and majorinternational credit cards are widely accepted. Visitors should bevigilant when drawing cash from ATMs, as con artists are known tooperate there. All commercial banks will exchange foreigncurrency.
South Africa has 11 official languages, includingAfrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu, and Sotho. English is widelyspoken.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round,three-pin plugs and round, two-pin plugs arestandard.
United States nationals need a passport valid for at least 30days beyond intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of upto 90 days, with extensions possible.
British nationals need a passport valid for 30 days beyond thedate of intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to90 days if passport is endorsed British Citizen or British OverseasTerritories Citizen. Those whose passports state British National(Overseas) may stay up to 30 days without a visa.
Canadian nationals need a passport valid for 30 days beyond thedate of intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to90 days.
Australian nationals need a passport valid for 30 days beyondthe date of intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of upto 90 days.
Irish nationals require a passport valid for 30 days beyondintended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of up to 90days.
United States nationals need a passport valid for at least 30days beyond intended travel, but no visa is needed for stays of upto 90 days, with extensions possible.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for 30 daysbeyond intended travel. A visa is not required for stays of up to90 days.
Passports should be valid for at least 30 days beyond the periodof intended stay. An onward or return ticket is required, as isevidence of sufficient funds. Note that visitors to South Africamust have at least one blank (unstamped) visa page in theirpassport, each time entry is sought; this page is in addition tothe endorsement/amendment pages at the back of the passport.However, nationals of countries that require a visa beforetravelling to South Africa, must have two blank pages in theirpassport - one for issuing a visa prior to departure and one forstamping at the port of entry when entering South Africa.
Immigration officials often apply different rules to thosestated by travel agents and official sources. The South AfricanImmigration Authorities do not accept loose leaf temporary traveldocuments. Note that South Africa's immigration laws have changeddramatically over the last two years, and there may be someconfusion as to the correct procedure.
Health regulations in South Africa require that travellers fromareas infected by yellow fever must carry a vaccinationcertificate; otherwise no vaccinations are required. There is amalaria risk in the low-lying areas of the Northern Province andMpumalanga (including the Kruger National Park), as well asnortheastern KwaZulu-Natal, and precautions are advised whentravelling to these areas, especially between October and May.Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B andtyphoid. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.Tap water is generally safe in urban areas but sterilisation isadvisable elsewhere, as there are periodic outbreaks of cholera inthe poor communities of rural South Africa, particularly innorthern KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces.
Medical facilities in South Africa are good in urban areas, butmedical insurance is strongly advised as private hospitals expectcash up front and public hospitals are best avoided. Medication isreadily available in urban areas, but those travelling outside ofmajor cities for an extended period should bring a basic supply kitfor emergency self-treatment.
Tips of at least 10 percent are expected for good service if aservice charge is not included in the bill. Tipping for servicesrendered is widely anticipated by porters, taxi drivers and petrolattendants. Golf caddies should be tipped accordingly. 'Car guards'operate in the city centres and tourist spots and will offer tolook after parked car; they are usually immigrants fromneighbouring countries looking for work and will expect anythingfrom R8 upwards on the driver's return, depending on how long thedriver will have been away.
Safety is an issue and visitors to South Africa should be awareof the country's high crime rate. Violent crime tends to beconcentrated in pockets throughout the country and travellersshould do some research to find out which areas to avoid. Forinstance, Berea and Hillbrow in Johannesburg are high-risk areas,and township areas in general are dangerous for foreigners.
There is a risk of petty, opportunistic crime in all urban areasand armed robberies are fairly common in Johannesburg. Travellersshould always be aware of these risks and exercise the necessaryprecautions. Carjackings and smash-and-grab robberies are common inmajor cities, and doors should be locked when driving and bags andvaluables should be kept out of sight. Travellers should not walkalone at night in any area, and should be vigilant when using ATMs.They should not display signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money,expensive jewellery, cameras) on the streets. Credit card fraud ison the increase and travellers should be vigilant and never allowtheir card out of their sight.
It is worthwhile noting that the South African authorities dogive high priority to the protection of tourists. Although crimerates are high in South Africa, popular tourist sites and the mainhotel areas tend to be safe and most visits are trouble-free.
South African culture and etiquette in urban areas is veryWestern. While standards of dress vary, beachwear should generallynot to be worn off the beach, and nude sunbathing is onlypermissible in a few designated areas. Homosexuality is legal andaccepted in urban areas without much fuss, but it is frowned on bysome conservative South Africans and can be a problem in townshipareas. Although locals may complain loudly about the country andgovernment, they will take offense if a foreigner is critical.Racism is a sensitive issue; however, interracial relationships arenow common and widely accepted. South African racial terminologydiffers from what is acceptable in North America: the terms 'black'and 'white' are appropriate for those of African and Caucasiandescent, respectively. 'Coloured' refers not to black Africans, butthose of mixed African and European descent and is not consideredan offensive term. South Africans are friendly and hospitable, andwill often go out of their way to assist tourists who needhelp.
Business practices in South Africa are influenced by SouthAfrica's range of ethnicities, languages and even geographicalareas, but in general follow common patterns. When doing businessin South Africa it is important to be culturally sensitive and asunderstanding of colleagues' historical context as possible. MostSouth Africans prefer to do business with contacts they've metbefore, but they are also warm and open to newcomers. Working tobuild and maintain business relationships is vitally important inthe South African business environment. South Africans are renownedfor their friendliness which generally supersedes businessformality.
Most large corporations, as well as the banking and financialsector, still adopt relatively formal business practices, whereasother companies and work environments enjoy more relaxed andpersonable atmospheres. Clear management hierarchies and respectfor senior executives and colleagues are of paramount importance.However, business exchanges and decision-making processes oftentake on an egalitarian aspect. As with most countries, punctualityis highly regarded. However, government officials are notorious fortheir tardiness when it comes to keeping time. Dress codes tend tobe conservative, but not overly formal. Suits are the exceptionmore than the rule, but dressing stylishly will always count inyour favour. It is best to dress formally for initial meetings.
South Africans value hard work and respect those who succeed.However, they are mindful of other aspects of life such as healthyliving, family and nurturing relationships - all of which add up toa well-balanced life. Generally South Africans are regarded asrelaxed and informal with regards to introductions and the handlingof business cards. Shaking hands is common for both men and women.The giving of gifts is uncommon and unnecessary. The officiallanguage of business in South Africa is English. Business hourstend to start at 8:30am or 9am and the day comes to a close at 5pm,or later in the major urban centres. Working over weekends tends tobe quite rare in South Africa.
The international access code for South Africa is +27. Mobilephone networks are available across the country, and there areroaming agreements with most international mobile operators. Mobileservice providers offer very cheap 'pay-as-you-go' SIM cards, whichare a good option for visitors staying for some time. Wifi iseasily available, especially in the larger cities.
Travellers to South Africa do not have to pay duty on 200cigarettes, 20 cigars and 250g of tobacco; 2 litres wine and 1litre spirits; perfume up to 50ml and 250ml eau de toilette; andother goods to the value of R5,000. All other goods brought in fromabroad by South African residents must be declared on arrival.These will be subject to import duties. For goods to bere-imported, travellers must complete a DA65 or NEP-form that isissued on departure. Prohibited items include meat and dairyproducts, all medication except for personal consumption, flickknives, ammunition, explosives and pornography containing minorsand bestiality.
South African Tourism, Johannesburg: +27 11 895 3000 orwww.southafrica.net
South African Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 2324400.
South African High Commission, London, United Kingdom: +44 207451 7299.
South African High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 7440330.
South African Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 661 5553.
United States Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 431 4000.
British High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 421 7500.
Canadian High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 422 3000.
Irish Embassy, Pretoria: +27 12 452 1000.
New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria: +27 12 435 9000.
The Kruger National Park is South Africa's oldest, largest andbest-known wildlife conservation area, home to a huge variety ofwildlife and most famous for its 'Big Five' viewing opportunities.Visitors have an excellent chance of seeing lion, elephant,leopard, buffalo and rhino among the enormous variety of wildlife,including over 140 species of mammals, 500 species of birds,reptiles and amphibians. Situated on South Africa's northeasternborder, Kruger is a primary destination for international tourists,and is visited by more than half a million local and internationalvisitors every year who are attracted by the different safarioptions as well as the park's excellent range of visitor facilitiesand choice of accommodation, from luxurious game lodges to cottagesand camping. Because of the park's popularity, it is advisable tobook far ahead for both day visits and extended stays. Bookings canbe made through the park's website.
Kruger is a year-round destination, but the game viewing is atits best in the winter months, between June and August. The park ismore lush and the landscapes more beautiful in summer but it getsvery hot and the animals are more difficult to spot. The KrugerPark is generally very safe and tourists should be in no danger ifthey abide by the rules and treat the animals with respect; theseare, after all, wild animals in their natural environment and someof them can be dangerous if they feel threatened.
Most Cape Town visitors are keen to make the short, 40 mile(65km) daytrip from the city centre to the Cape of Good Hope NatureReserve. The land at first appears bleak, but visitors will soondiscover a region rich in floral diversity. They will also standatop the towering promontory at the most southerly point of theCape Peninsula. Those who wish to venture to the most southerlypoint of Africa will have to journey further to Cape Agulhas.Visitors can reach the viewpoint and lighthouse via a funicular,and watch thundering waves crash at the base of the cliffs below.Bird lovers and botany enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the reserveitself. There are a number of beautiful walking trails, includingthe shipwreck trail, which takes visitors to a few of the 26recorded shipwrecks around Cape Point. There are also some greatbeaches and dive sites. The restaurant at Cape Point has a terraceoffering spectacular views.
Addo Elephant Park is the most popular game reserve in the PortElizabeth area, and is a 45-minute drive from the city. The park issituated in the ruggedly beautiful Eastern Cape region, and offersan authentic safari experience. Addo was founded in 1931 to savethe area's remaining 11 indigenous elephants, and has been aremarkable success since then. It is now the third largest gamereserve in South Africa, and one of the most popular with touristsand locals. The elephants are drawn to watering holes at certaintimes and sightings are virtually guaranteed all year round. Thereare other animals in the park too, including lion, leopard, blackrhino, buffalo, zebra, warthog, hyena, and several types of buck.Guided game drives are available or visitors can do a self-drivetour using the map issued at the entrance. The roads are in goodcondition.
A variety of accommodation is available and there is arestaurant and picnic site. Horse riding and walking safaris arealso available. Addo is a great destination year-round but the bestmonths for game viewing are April and May, when it is dry andwarm.
The multi-award winning private game reserve of Shamwari liesless than an hour's drive from Port Elizabeth. It is responsiblefor re-introducing numerous species into the Eastern Cape plains,including all of the Big Five (lion, elephant, rhino, leopard, andbuffalo). The reserve offers phenomenal luxury accommodation, butalso hosts visitors on day trips from the city. Day tours include avisit to an art and culture village to sample Xhosa culture andtraditionally brewed beer, and a trip to one of the Born Freecentres for abused animals. There are two Born Free Big CatSanctuaries in Shamwari, where visitors can learn about howwildlife is abused in captivity and can see some of the rescuedanimals. The Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre opened in 2012, andis available to educate guests about the terrible epidemic of rhinopoaching in South Africa. At the Shamwari Wildlife RehabilitationCentre, guests can usually meet whatever animals are currentlybeing cared for.
Those lucky enough to stay in one of the luxury game lodges canenjoy game drives, game walks, spa treatments and gorgeousrestaurants. Groups of between six and 10 people will be assigned apersonal game ranger by the lodges and daily programmes will bedesigned to suit guests.
The historic settler town of Grahamstown lies 78 miles (125km)northeast of Port Elizabeth. Many visitors become acquainted withits 1820 Settlers' National Monument. Sitting atop Gunfire Hill,the arts and theatre complex is home to the town's internationallyrecognised Arts Festival. Grahamstown was founded in 1812 as agarrison to drive the Xhosa people eastwards across the Fish Riverfrontier, giving rise to a century of frontier war. The town hasretained an English colonial flavour, and is home to the renownedRhodes University and some top private boarding schools. Visitorswill find several museums, including the JLB Smith Institute ofIchthyology, where two stuffed specimens of the coelacanth are ondisplay. The town also boasts the only Victorian camera obscura inthe southern hemisphere. Grahamstown is a quaint and picturesquetown with a rich history and a famously active student population,making it a wonderful travel base in the ruggedly beautiful'frontier country' of the Eastern Cape.
The Arts Festival is the highlight of Grahamstown annualcalendar, when the little town comes alive with the best theatre,music, and dance that South Africa has to offer. Sprawling craftmarkets take over the streets and fields as well.
Known colloquially as J-Bay, the surfing paradise of Jeffrey'sBay is a short drive west of Port Elizabeth. This determinedlylaid-back seaside town is most famous for Supertubes, one of thebest right-hand point breaks in the world. Many consider it SouthAfrica's perfect wave. The town lives and breathes surfing and hasseveral glorious surf spots that are gentler and more accommodatingthan the celebrated Supertubes. The waters of J-Bay are alsofrequented by dolphins, seals, and whales, and surfers are oftenlucky enough to mingle with these sea creatures. J-Bay has manysurf stores, including factory outlets selling cheap, brandedclothes, and surf gear. The long stretches of picturesque sandybeach surrounding the town and are renowned for their shells andbright orange aloes. Rivers and nature reserves border the town onboth sides. The region has a wide range of accommodation, includingluxury game farms just out of town and cheap backpackers for budgettravellers. The town itself is not particularly attractive but thenatural setting more than compensates.
Although J-Bay is a famously friendly place, surfers should notethat localism can be a problem in the water. Visitors should befriendly and respectful with local surfers, and should abide byproper surfing etiquette.
Zululand is the ancestral home of the Zulu people. It is thesite of many bloody battles between the British, the Zulus and theAfrikaners during the 19th century, and is best explored as aself-drive adventure. That said, many tours are available fromDurban. Almost every town in this part of northern KwaZulu-Natalhas a story to tell or an event to commemorate. Tourism officesthroughout the region provide maps and guides to help visitors makethe most of the culture, history, scenery and wildlife. Thelandscape varies from plains and rolling hills, to river valleysand lush forests, and it once encompassed the legendary ShakeZulu's kingdom. He clashed with the British and Afrikaners in manyepic battles. Eshowe is the Zulu nation's centre. King Shake wasborn close to the small town, and it was the site of a 10-weeksiege during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. Ladysmith and Dundee areother notable towns. The historic battles of Rourke's Drift, BloodRiver and Isandlwana took place near them.
Some of the battlefields include museums or memorials, whileothers are just open landscapes where visitors can stroll withguide books and engage their own imaginations.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is the largest and most exciting in astring of game parks and nature reserves in KwaZulu-Natal's farnorth. Many still know it by its former name, St Lucia WetlandPark. Dominated by the fascinating St Lucia estuary and lakesystem, the park includes eight distinct ecosystems, which varyfrom dry thorn scrub to tropical forest. Some of the world'shighest dunes border them. The park also encloses three major lakesystems, beautiful beaches, tropical reefs, Africa's largestestuarine system, and most of South Africa's remaining swampforests. Big-Five game viewing is on offer too. Visitors shouldnote that this is the only place in the world where they will seehippos, crocodiles and sharks co-habiting the same lagoon. Thereare comfortable rest camps and some very picturesque campsites inthe park. The Wetland Park was declared South Africa's first UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in recognition of its natural beauty, unusualecosystems, and the 700-year-old fishing traditions of localinhabitants.
As Nelson Mandela said, it must be the only place on earth wherethe oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world's biggestterrestrial mammal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with theworld's oldest existing fish (the coelacanth) and the world'sbiggest marine mammal (the whale).
The popular Midlands Meander arts and crafts route winds throughthe Midlands, along the R103 road. It takes in a plethora ofparticipating attractions dotted across the countryside, rangingfrom herb farms to antique shops. The Meander covers about 50 miles(80km) between the towns of Pietermaritzburg and Mooi River, andshowcases the lovely Midlands landscapes as much as anything else.A really fun and artistic way to explore this beautiful region, theMidlands Meander is a must for those who enjoy quaint tea housesand creativity. The Meander includes adventure activities, historiclandmarks, restaurants and eateries, conference and weddingfacilities and the shops and studios of something like 150 talentedlocal artists and craftsmen. For those less crafty and more active,horse riding, hiking, tubing, cycling, swimming, quad biking, andfishing can be enjoyed along the route. Northwest of Durban in theMidlands of KwaZulu-Natal is the Midmar Public Resort NatureReserve, which offers accommodation, picnic sites and recreationalopportunities around the huge Midmar Dam.
This impressive body of water is one of the well-known landmarksalong the Midlands Meander, and attracts huge crowds once a yearfor the Midmar Mile. The event is one of the world's largest openwater swims, and sees Midmar is overrun with swimmers. The race'sfestive atmosphere is also worth experiencing.
The jagged peaks of the Drakensberg (Dragon Mountains) towerover KwaZulu Natal's eastern border, providing a paradise foroutdoor enthusiasts. The Drakensberg is the highest mountain rangein southern Africa and abounds with hiking trails, climbing routes,4x4 trails, pony treks and adventure pursuits, all accessible fromnumerous resorts in the lower reaches. Some of the more popularresorts are Champagne Castle, Cathkin Peak, and Cathedral Peak,while Giant's Castle and its game reserve are famed for the morethan 500 rock paintings left behind by the San people on cavewalls. Eagles soar around the peaks in the Royal Natal NationalPark in the north, where the dramatic scenery includes theAmphitheatre, a five-mile long (8km) curved basalt wall. The regionis largely untamed and criss-crossed by lengths of rugged dirtroads. The only road that breaches the mountain range and crossesthe border to Lesotho is the hair-raising Sani Pass, which istopped by the highest pub in Africa.
Adventure activities available in this stunningly beautiful areainclude sheer rock or ice-climbing, abseiling, and white -waterrafting. It is also possible to take helicopter rides to see thedramatic scenery from above.
The area known as Springbok Flats is part of the Great RiftValley and lies on the national road north from Johannesburg.Bela-Bela town is located on the area's edge. Still commonly knownas Warmbaths (the name officially changed in 2002), it is famousfor its hot mineral springs. The springs yield about 20,000 litresof water every hour, all of which is enriched with sodium chloride,calcium carbonate, and other minerals. The town is a popular spaand holiday resort. The main resort, Warmbaths, has a large indoorpool with underwater jets, outdoor hot and cold swimming pools,jacuzzis, a wave pool, and several water slides. The resort alsoincludes facilities for waterskiing, go-karting, quad biking, pedalboating, miniature golf, archery, tennis, squash, and volleyball,as well as several shops and restaurants. Accommodation is variedbut the resort is open to day visitors as well, who can enteranytime between 7am and 5pm daily.
The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site andcontains a complex of dolomitic limestone caves, including thewell-known Sterkfontein Caves, where the fossil Australopithecusafricanus (nicknamed Mrs. Ples) was found in 1947 by Dr RobertBroom and John Robinson. 'Mrs Ples' is estimated to be between 2.6and 2.8 million years old and ranks high on the long list ofaustralopithecine discoveries for which Sterkfontein is now famous.At present, only the Sterkfontein Caves and the Wonder Cave areopen to the public. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is a stirring,world-class exhibition space, focusing on the development of humansand our ancestors and evolution over the past few million years.The museum has fun interactive exhibits which the whole family willenjoy. Visitors should note that the best option for fullyappreciating the visit is buying the combination ticket for thecaves and the museum. However, this ticket is only available before1pm as the tour takes some time.
There are a number of restaurants at the centre, both upmarketand casual, and some picturesque picnic sites for those who preferto bring their own food. There is a range of accommodation at thecentre for those who want to spend a night or two.
Seal Island visitors can glimpse of these wonderful animals atplay and at rest. Although several tiny islands off the coast areunofficially part of Seal Island, the most well-known is DuikerIsland. Located a small distance out from Hout Bay, boats regularlyleave the docks and take passengers outside the harbour and intothe ocean. From here, they can enjoy sweeping views of Hout Bay,Noordhoek, Kommetjie, and the famous Chapman's Peak. The boat stopsjust below the Hout Bay Sentinal, where hundreds of Cape fur sealsbask on the small island in the sun. The sight is magical, if a bitpungent. Many of the boat tours use glass-bottomed vessels thatallow sightings of the seals zipping about beneath the water. Thecharming naval harbour of Simon's Town has a colony too, with toursalso leaving its shores. The great white sharks that frequent theFalse Bay region often lurk hungrily around the islands. Sightingsof these awesome apex predators are possible, albeit rare. Thereare excursions that specialise in spotting the act of breaching,whereby the sharks propel themselves out of the water on catchingtheir prey.
Located just a 45-minute drive inland from Durban, Tala PrivateGame Reserve is a relaxed wildlife sanctuary where visitors canview zebra, hippo, rhino, giraffe, kudu, antelope, and otherwildlife. The park is home to more than 350 bird species and is adelight for bird-watchers. Surrounded on all sides by farmland,visitors won't find predators like lions or cheetahs in Tala, butthe reserve is a great day trip for those who prefer not to head tothe bigger parks like Umfolozi or Kruger. Game drives and bushwalks are available with experienced guides and should be booked inadvance. The restaurant is excellent, offering buffet-style mealswith African flair, and the various luxury accommodations areperfect for romantic getaways. It's also a popular venue forweddings and conferences. Tala allows self-drive safaris, whichdon't have to be booked in advance. Visitors can also opt to betaken on a two-hour trip with a knowledgeable guide, either by 4x4,on horseback, or on foot.
The open grassland and wetland of the park are ideal for gameviewing and good for photography. Tala is a year-round traveldestination, but winter is generally the best season for gameviewing as the animals are easier to spot when the landscape isless lush.
Locals and international tourists alike travel south of CapeTown to Hermanus. The charming seaside town is about a two-hourdrive outside the Mother City, and is known for its whale watching,as Southern Right Whales migrate through the area to nearby WalkerBay. Visitors are almost guaranteed a sighting of these gentlegiants from the steep cliffs of Hermanus between September andOctober, and the Two Oceans Whale Festival draws big crowds overthis period. There are also opportunities to view other wildlife,including dolphins, seals, penguins, and Great White Sharks. Thetown itself offers many other activities. These include browsingshops and restaurants in the quaint downtown area to venturingfurther afield to wine farms and beaches and neighbouring townslike Stanford, Gansbaai, and Caledon. Active pursuits includehorseback riding, quad biking, hiking, sandboarding, mountainbiking, kayaking, and zip lining. Strolling along the cliff walk inHermanus is a must for visitors, even if there are no whales in thebay. Book fanatics should seek out the wonderful second-hand bookstore in Hermanus called Hemingways.
Tourists looking to take an adventure to a legitimately weirdand wonderful South African town should head to the interior of theEastern Cape and check out Nieu-Bethesda. Located about 32 miles(50km) from Graaff Reinet in the Karoo Heartland, Nieu-Bethesda isa tiny, sleepy place that seems to exist in blissful ignorance ofmodern life. Devoid of banks, paved roads, and even streetlights,Nieu-Bethesda nonetheless still boasts several excellent andone-of-a-kind tourist attractions. The pick of these is the OwlHouse: a bizarre and unsettling sculpture garden created byreclusive artist Helen Martins. She was a frustrated visionary whosuffered under the apartheid system and who took her own life in1976. The Owl House is cluttered with cement and wire sculptures ofa religious nature, painstakingly decorated with crushed glass, andgives a fascinating insight into a tortured and singular artisticpersonality. Other sights in Nieu-Bethesda include a greatarchaeological museum and tour, where visitors are shown fossilsthat date back 160 million years. Present too is the Kompasberg,the Eastern Cape's highest peak and a wonderful place to hike onagathosma-scented slopes.
Finally, all visitors to Nieu-Bethesda are strongly encouragedto have lunch at the Two Goats Deli, a family-run establishmentthat specialises in home-made goat's cheese and home-brewedbeer.
Richards Bay is one of South Africa's biggest ports. Situated onthe 12 square mile (30 sq km) lagoon of the Mhlatuze River, itbegan as a makeshift harbour during the South African War of 1879and is named after its founder, Sir Frederick Richards. Thespecialised ships that call are a must-see for maritime buffs. Thetown is a bustling business centre that features every modernfacility and offers plenty of recreational facilities for visitors.Tourism in Richards Bay is thriving and it's fast becoming apopular north coast holiday destination. Visitors will findspectacular scenery, pristine golden beaches and the warm waters ofthe Indian Ocean. Tourists can also enjoy plenty of adventurousactivities such as fishing, kite-surfing, yachting, and kayaking.Humpback dolphins and whales are frequent visitors to the watersaround Richards Bay and can be viewed from a specially erectedviewing point at Alkantstrand Beach. While the town itself isfairly sleepy, Richards Bay is an entry point to the beautiful anddiverse Zululand. Additionally, a multitude of game reserves arewithin an hour or two's drive of the town. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Parkis always a big hit with nature lovers, as it features the Big Five(elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhinos) as well ascheetahs, wild dogs, and nyala.
Lake Mzingazi is Richards Bay's primary water supply, and apopular tourist attraction. Visitors can view crocodiles and hipposas well as over 350 species of birds.
The surrounds of Richard's Bay have vast expanses of untouchedand unspoilt indigenous vegetation, as well as natural lakes andmarshes. This makes it one of the most picturesque touristdestinations in the country.