Its geographical and cultural diversity makes South Africa one of the most fascinating places on earth. Abundant wildlife viewing possibilities exist in the dozens of national and private game reserves, with an astounding potential for outdoor sports and activities. Its coasts are rife with underwater wonders as diverse as the provinces they border. South Africa is dotted with bustling modern cities and transversed by an efficient road system—however, it still reflects the legacies of its ancestral cultures.
September – April is considered the summer period in South Africa, May – August, the winter period. Although the climate varies from region to region in South Africa, it is generally mild and sunny throughout the year. Summer temperatures average between 15-30ºC (60-96ºF) at midday. The southern Gauteng region has hot summers with occasional thundershowers and frosty winters, while the eastern part of this region (known as the Lowveld) enjoys mild winters. The Cape interior and the Free State have similar weather conditions to the southern Gauteng region. The Western Cape region has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters.
Kruger National Park
South Africa’s largest (7,525 square miles) and most famous wild-animal reserve was established in 1889 to protect South Africa’s wildlife and is today a world leader in environmental management. The park contains mores species of wildlife than any other game reserve in Africa. It has large herds of elephant, buffalo, kudu, zebra, impala, both black and white rhino, giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog and 468 species of birds. The park is open to all vehicles and the main roads between rest camps have a hard macadam surface. Visitors are required to stay in their vehicles except at designated rest stops or viewing areas. Driving off the roads is not allowed.
Along the Wild Coast in South Africa is the small community of Coffee Bay. In this small town you can only find some huts, a trading store, a camping site and a hotel, but there is a stunning coast and untouched beaches between the hills and the sea that compensate for the lack of facilities. Coffee Bay takes its name from a cargo ship that shipwrecked ashore the Bay in the 19th century and spilled coffee beans on the shore.
This Bay offers challenging walks through coastal bush and hills. One of the major attractions is the `hole in the wall’ and its amazing rock formation.
Coffee Bay is accessible by tarred road and is the perfect place for those tourists who are looking for a relaxed atmosphere, with activities like walking, swimming; shell collecting, fishing, surfing and hiking.
Addo Elephant Park
Addo Elephant National Park is an elephant park situated close to Port Elizabeth . It was founded in 1931, in order to provide a sanctuary for the eleven remaining elephants in the area. The park proved very successful and currently 450 elephants, 400 Cape Buffalo , some 48 endangered Black Rhino as well as various antelope species habitat this park. Lion and spotted hyena has also been re-introduced to the park recently. A unique species that is only found in this area is the flightless dung beetle.
The park has been extended from the Sunday River mouth to Alexandria including also a marine reserve. This expansion means that the park contains five of South Africa’s seven major vegetation zones but also that it is probably the only park in the world to house the Big 7 -elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, whale and great white shark – in their natural habitat.
The Tsitsikamma National Park is a coastal reserve on the Garden Route and is well known for its indigenous forests, the Otter Trail and scenic coastline. Tsitsikamma means place of abundant water. A few of the attractions are Nature’s Valley, Storm’s River Mouth and the Bloukrans Bridge, the world’s highest Bungee jump .
At Storms river one finds various amenities such as a restaurant, shop, chalets, camp site and caravan park, information centre, lookout platform and various trails. While at storms river, walk over the hanging bridge for a thrilling experience.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route is a scenic stretch of coast, which stretches from Mossel Bay to the Storms River. The Garden Route includes towns such as Mossel Bay, George, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley.
The Route passses between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains and the Indian Ocean. The Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma indigenous forests offer hiking trails and eco-tourism activities. Some 300 species of birdlife are found in different habitats ranging from fynbos to forest to wetlands.
The Garden Route coast is home to soft coral reefs, dolphins, whales, seals and various other marine lives. The most popular town that offers unique opportunities for whale watching is Hermanus. Whales can be viewed from a walkway on the cliffs where the whales swim just a few meters away from the shore and are very easy to spot.
The Garden Route is best viewed by self driving, but it is also possible to take Africa’s last remaining passenger steam train, the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe.
De Hoop Nature Reserve
De Hoop Nature Reserve is a nature reserve in the Western Cape Province and lies three hours from Cape Town near Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa. De Hoop is one of the largest Nature Reserves managed by Cape Nat5ure.
The reserve lies on the southern Cape coast, and is renowned for its floral fynbos diversity, abundant bird life, natural beauty and wild antelope. It also offers spectacular whale-watching.
For a memorable experience, explore the pristine coastline, white sand dunes, limestone hills, and the Potberg Mountains. Along several walkways it is very common to meet some very cute dazzies and baboons.
Cape point covers the southernmost area of the Cape Peninsula, stretching from Cape Point and the the Cape of Good Hope in the south, as far north as Scarborough on the Atlantic coast and Simon`s Town on the False Bay coast.
Cape Point is very scenic and is formed by a rocky peninsula with stretches of small sandy beaches. At the southern end of the peninsula are Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope and on the northern end is the famous Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town.
A must do activity is swimming with the great white shark in False bay next to seal island. There are various companies that offer this excursion and most of them guarantee great white sightings with breaching, early in the morning while the sharks are feeding.
While visiting Simon’s town area, do not miss boulders beach, home to a good number of cute jackass penguins.
Cape Town and Wine Land
Cape Town is the second major city in South Africa and is the provincial capital of the Western Cape. This city is famous for its harbour as well as its perfect setting in the Cape Floral Kingdom, including famous landmarks like Table Mountain and Cape Point. Cape Town is the most popular South African destinations for Tourism. It also offers various historical, ethnical and cultural attractions. On a visit to Cape Town one must visit the Green market for some good bargains of curios.
The Panorama Route is one of the most beautiful destinations in South Africa which leads through rugged mountain ranges. Here, the inland plateau declines steeply and opens up amazing views of the plains of the Lowveld and is best viewed in the dry winter months.
The most spectacular stretch is the Blyde River Canyon with a loop road a few kilometres north leading to “God’s Window”, which offers a wonderful view of the Lowveld. The Canyon starts at “Bourke’s Luck Potholes” and ends at the “Three Rondavels”. From certain lookouts one has a view of the 33 km long gorge. Bourke’s Potholes are round shaped rock formations, shaped millions of years ago by erosion.
The Drakensberg is the highest mountain range in Southern Africa, in Zulu referred as uKhahlamba.
The mountain range’s most notable peaks include Champagne Castle, Giant’s Castle and Ben Macdhui and all of these peaks Border the country of Lesotho. Drakensberg Mountains are home to the world’s second-highest waterfall, the Tugela Falls with a drop of 947 meters.
Many of the caves found in the Drakensburg Mountains have Bushmen Rock Paintings. Here one can find the largest collection of such paint work in the world. Around 20,000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 500 different caves. The oldest painting on a rock shelter wall in the Drakensberg dates back about 2400 years and paint chips at least a thousand years older have also been found.
Private Game Reserves
South Africa has a number of private game reserves, many of which are situated on the western border of Kruger National Park. There are no fences between them and the park and animals roam unrestricted.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swazi, Tsongo, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. The English-speaking visitor will have no problem while travelling through the country. Below are a few words and phrases that have been translated into three of the country¹s official languages they should be helpful in most regions:
Here are a few common Afrikaans greetings:
Yes / Ja
No / Nee
Thank you / Dankie
You’re welcome / Dis ‘n plesier
Please / Asseblief
Excuse me / Verskoon my
Hello / Hallo
Goodbye / Totsiens
Good morning / Goeiemôre
Good afternoon / Goeiemiddag
Good evening / Goeienaand
Good night / Goeienag
The unit of currency is the Rand, which is divided into 100 cents. Notes are in R200, R100, R50, R20 and R10. Coins are in denominations of R5, R2, R1 and 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c.
Where to Stay
Most common accommodations are bed and breakfast, self catering, hotels and lodges. Depending on your budget one can choose to stay at a luxury Game Lodge, found in various Protected Parks, when taking a safari tour which includes all meals, game viewing on foot and game drives.
These Lodges are more expensive but fully worth it. Bed and Breakfast are also highly recommended as they offer excellent treatment and rooms are clean. South Africans cook amazing food, especially meat and game dishes. Overall all, South Africans in the Hospitality Section offer an excellent service.