With its world-class wildlife watching, cosmopolitan cities, stunning natural panoramas and vibrant cultures, it’s no wonder that South Africa is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world.
Within the space of a day, you can journey from vineyard clad hillsides in the Western Cape to the vast open spaces of the Kalahari; from waterfront chic in Cape Town to isolated Zulu villages; from elephant spotting in Kruger National Park to the sublime seascapes of the coast.
Whether you’re on a luxury holiday or budget backpacking, South Africa bursts with places to go and things to do. But there are some things you simply can’t miss out on that you may never do anywhere else.
Experience the bushveld and romance of ”real” Africa in the extraordinary Kruger National Park. Take a cable car to the top of Table Mountain for a breathtaking view of Cape Town, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Ride an African elephant on safari or go to Oudtshoorn and ride the ungainly but strangely attractive Ostrich. The chance of riding or even touching either of these creatures is rare, so savour the experience.
A tour of Robben Island, the former penal colony where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life is a unique and emotional must do in Cape Town, especially if your guide is a former prisoner!
Take the nature route. Trek the Wild Coast, one of the most gorgeous coastlines on earth. Or take a ride on the luxurious Blue Train and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Lover of the wild? Get eye to eye with passing giraffes from a tree house. Swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach or cage-dive with great white sharks in Shark Alley in Gansbaai. Canoe or raft down the Orange River for that exhilarating adrenaline rush!
For the cosmopolitan traveler, the extravagant Sun City entertainment complex is known the world over as a tourist hotspot and makes for a fabulous family holiday choice. And no visit to the Western Cape is complete without a few days in South Africa’s paradise, the beautiful Garden Route region. Hire a car and drive!
Night bird? South Africa’s nightlife rivals the best in the world. Come sunset, head for the hundreds of bars, clubs and casinos in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
South African cuisine is the ultimate in gourmet cookery. Take your pick from the tempting array of restaurants at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Complex around the scenic Cape Town Harbour.
Seafood is abundant as are pickles and curries. The local specialty, rock lobster, is served simply with lemon butter in a souffle, or as a salad. Try crayfish, salt cod, pickled fish, little hamburgers called Frikkadels or Bredie, stew with mutton and vegetables. Hoender Pastei is a chicken-pot pie layered with hard-boiled eggs and ham. Bobotie is made of meat, fruits and nuts, topped with custard.
To drink, try the native beer called mechow. If you prefer wine, the Cape vineyards produce a variety of internationally acclaimed wines, from Muscadel to Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The fashionable Nelson Mandela Square in the heart of Sandton, with its sidewalk cafes, fine dining and scores of exclusive shops is one of the most popular hangouts in South Africa. Traditional souvenirs include animal skins, elaborate Zulu beadwork and other handicrafts, as well as garments, pouches, belts and pipes. The Pan African Market is an excellent place for Africana crafts of all kinds.
Roadside stalls also sell local art – soapstone and wooden sculptures and colourful fabric paintings. Remember to check the quality carefully though – and haggle!
For the discerning buyer, there are unusual, handmade kitchen utensils and home accessories from Carrol Boyes, or skincare and beauty products made from South Africa”s world renowned Rooibos Tea. Pick up a few bottles of fine South African wine or Amarula, the country’s best-loved liqueur.
Of course, you can’t leave without the ubiquitous wooden giraffe. The pain of lugging it around airports and trying to stash it in aeroplanes will be worth it for the large as life conversation piece it will become in your lounge back home.