South Africa is the engine and most visited country in Africa
South Africa is an extraordinarily beautiful country that inspires, rejuvenates and pulsates with a mix of cultures and nationalities. Where else in the world do you find a country called the rainbow nation with 11 official languages? South Africa really lives up to its reputation, a world in a country!
South Africa has always been known as “the jewel of Africa”. On a continent known for its lush wildlife and its extraordinary landscape, this is not an easy title to keep. However, it is the fact that South Africa offers so much that makes it so popular. The country has a world-class infrastructure with modern highways, trains, buses and domestic flights to get around easily.
South Africa is also known to have over 3,500 kilometers of the coast of paradise, over 20 national parks and a number of world heritage sites. All this, a wonderful climate and lots of activities to keep the most difficult to please smiling all day, from scuba diving to monuments and cultural trails, to golf, great food, and wine, it’s easy to see why this country has become so popular.
There is so much to see in this great country, like the west coast, with pristine beaches and epic mountain ranges, this is a great destination to experience charming fishing villages and the best South African seafood. There is always an abundant nature here, with the spring on the west coast exploding with glorious flower carpets covering the ground, a favorite for hiking, as well as bird watching and whale watching
South Africa has the largest number of European, Indian and African communities in Africa. Tourists from all over the world travel thousands of miles to enjoy their holidays in South Africa.
What to do in South Africa on your vacation
Discover the history of Johannesburg at Constitution Hill
Few places bring out South Africa’s turbulent past as eloquently as Constitution Hill. This living museum, which was once a prison, follows the country’s long journey towards democracy. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Fatima Meer and tens of thousands of South African ordinaries were all confined here at some point during the volatile history of the country, making it a must to visit.
Excursion through breathtaking South African landscapes
The natural scenery of South Africa is without a doubt one of the most beautiful in the world and the best way to experience it is on foot. There are many long-distance hiking trails to explore, some of which take you along the breathtaking coastline, while others introduce you to the hidden secrets of the country’s interiors. Among the most famous routes are the Fanie Botha trail in Mpumalanga and the border with Africa, which crosses the mountains of the Western Cape.
If you are looking for a less structured hiking experience, head to the Wild Coast or the Drakensberg Mountains. In both places, the abundance of short and long routes allows you to explore as much or as little as you wish. The Wild Coast (also known as Transkei) offers a glimpse of the rugged beauty of the Eastern Cape and the culture of the Xhosa people. The Drakensberg is home to South Africa’s highest mountain range.
Go swimming with sharks
If you prefer to be underwater rather than over it, consider enrolling for a meeting with the greatest apex predator in the world: the great white shark. These magnificent animals are attracted by the waters of the Cape from an abundance of their favorite prey: the Cape seals. Several companies from Gansbaai, Mossel Bay and Simonstown offer cage diving tours, allowing you to see sharks in their natural environment without compromising your safety.
If you prefer to eliminate steel bars, head further north to Aliwal Shoal, a protected marine area south of Durban. Here, you can dive with different species of sharks without the protection of a cage. In summer (November to April), bait diving allows you to get closer and get closer with tiger sharks, while bull sharks and oceanic black tip sharks are common throughout the year. During winter (June to September), sand tiger sharks gather on the reef to mate.
Kruger National Park
The largest game reserve in South Africa. Nearly 2 million hectares of land that extend 352 kilometers (20,000 square kilometers) from north to south along the border with Mozambique are dedicated to an almost indescribable wildlife experience. Certainly it ranks among the best in Africa and is the flagship of the country’s national parks – rated as the best safari experience.
Stretched out in the heart of the Lowveld, it is a wildlife sanctuary like no other, its atmosphere so unique that it allows those who enter its vastness to immerse themselves in the unpredictability and endless wilderness that is the true quality of Africa.
This is the land of the baobabs, of the trees of fever, of the spines of the pome, of the marula and mopane trees under which the Big Five are hidden, the Little Five (weaver of buffaloes, elephant shrew, leopard tortoise, anthill and scarab rhinoceros), the Big Six birding (hornbill land, otaria kori, Lappish-faced vulture, martial eagle, plush fishing owl and saddle stork) and more species of mammals than any other African hunting reserve.
Kruger’s popularity means that it is also often crowded. For a safari destination more out of the ordinary, consider Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a veritable desert located on the border with Botswana and known for its black lion population. If you like the idea of a car safari, check out Mkhuze Game Reserve (located north of Durban in Zululand) or Addo Elephant
National Park (located near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape).
See the complete Safari tour introduction, more than 5 countries including South Africa and Kruger National Park.
Discover world-class surfing
The coast of South Africa extends over 1,600 miles, from the icy Atlantic to the balsamic Indian Ocean. Both coasts have their fair share of surf spots, but the most famous are all in the Cape Town area or further north along the east coast. If you’re headed to Mother City, check out Muizenberg for the beginner waves or Big Bay near Blouberg Beach. For professionals, the most famous wave here is Dungeons, a right beast known to reach up to 60 feet.
The surfing capital of South Africa, however, is Jeffreys Bay, located 50 miles south of Port Elizabeth. This laid-back city welcomes the likes of Kelly Slater and Jordy Smith for the annual J-Bay Open, centered on the legendary right-hand Supertubes. Further north, Durban is another landmark for beginners and professionals. For the biggest thrills, take a look at the waves of North Beach, Bay of Plenty and New Pier.
Explore the Blyde River Canyon nature reserve
The Blyde River Canyon Reserve is the third largest canyon in the world and one of the most visited attractions in South Africa. The reserve includes hiking trails, a resort and spectacular vantage points of natural wonders such as the Bourke fortune holes, the Three Rondavels, Pinnacle Rock and the window of God.
Visit the largest hand-dug hole in the world
The Big Hole, also known as Kimberley Mine, is an open well that is said to be the deepest hole dug by hand. Mining activities ceased here as far back as 1914, but still deserve a visit for the excellent exhibition center, the diamond vault and the underground experience.
Discover the past on Robben Island
In Cape Town, you can take a ride to Robben Island, the political prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. You can also visit District 6, where non-whites were forcibly evicted after the passage of the Racist Group Areas Act in 1950.
Climbing Table Mountain
Table Mountain is the most important landmark in Cape Town. A huge flat sandstone block that rises to 3500 feet in the air. Table Mountain is a national park and a wonderful place to go hiking with over 350 top trails.
Many people get on the cable car, but hiking is much more rewarding. The weather changes constantly, so sometimes the tours are difficult. You can go out with clear skies and fantastic panoramas or maybe climb the infamous “tablecloth”, a blanket of clouds that often covers the mountain.
Isimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso Wetland Park is located on the northeast edge of KwaZulu-Natal in the sublimely beautiful region known as the Coast of the Elephants.The incredibly beautiful series of beaches, coral reefs, lakes, marshes, wetlands, forests, coastal forests and grasslands that extend to the Bay of Kosi, practically on the border with Mozambique, in Cape St Lucia, in the south, collectively form the first of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa.
There is a great variety of bird and animal life ranging from whales, dolphins, sea turtles and incredible water birds – such as storks, pelicans, terns and herons; well over 500 species of South African birds including the Madagascar fish eagle, the Nile crocodile, the largest population of South African hippos, elephants, black and white rhinos, giraffe, buffalo and a wide range of antelopes that include waterbuck, impala and kudu.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park includes Lake St Lucia, the marine reserves of St Lucia and Maputaland, the coastal forest reserve, the nature reserve of Kosi bay and the Mkuze game reserve – no less than 328,000 hectares of pristine natural ecosystems and third largest protected land mass in the country.
This 2.5 sq km wine and fruit farm is located on the northern slope of Mount Simonsberg between Klapmuts and Paarl. The highlight is a garden of 800 square meters, designed in a formal way; inspired by the Garden of the Company of Cape Town, it is an incredible feat, with edible and medicinal plants, lotus ponds and trellised quince, chicken coops and a prickly pear cactus maze. Book a seat on one of the garden tours (10am).
Better yet, check out one of the super chic (single / double) rooms, carved out of the old workers’ cottages, so that once the visitors have left the day you can enjoy the gardens – not to mention the spa and pool in one of the old tanks on the farm.
Boulders Penguin Colony
This picturesque area, with huge boulders that divide small sandy coves, is home to a colony of about 3000 delicious African penguins. A walkway runs from the Boulders Visitor Center to the end of the Foxy Beach protected area – part of the Table Mountain National Park – to Boulders Beach, where you can go down on the sand and socialize with the swaying penguins.
However, do not be tempted to pet them: they have sharp beaks that can cause serious injuries.
Most of the colony, which grew from just two nesting pairs in 1982, seems to prefer going out at Foxy Beach, where, as nonchalant, struggling supermodels, they cheerfully ignore the armies of tourists pointing at the camera moving away on the viewing platforms. (The beach itself is forbidden to visitors.)
Waterbirds, which are an endangered species, were previously called jackass penguins because of their donkey-like noise – you will have the chance to hear it if you show up during the main breeding season, which culminates from March to May.
Where stay in South Africa on your vacation
If you love the coast of South Africa
The Abalone House & Spa in Bek Bay, in the coastal village of Paternoster, offers all the luxury you associate with its five-star rating. It also offers stunning sea views, a fantastic restaurant and a rooftop hot tub, perfect for sunsets overlooking the sea.
Also in Paternoster, the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel is a simple but well-designed property with only 14 suites, some of which open directly onto the beach. The food is good and since it is the only hotel for adults, you can expect it to be quiet.
Essenwood House in Durban is excellent value for money, welcoming and comfortable. It is a short drive from the city of Durban and a great base from which to organize a safari.
The Twelve Apostles Hotel is located “around the corner” from Cape Town, Camps Bay, with views of two oceans and Table Mountain. A classic, comfortable hotel with 70 rooms, this is a great location to enjoy the best of Cape Town and the coast.
For rural retreat
Babylonstoren is a Dutch Cape farmhouse restored in the rural hamlet of Simondium. It has 12 elegant rooms with original farm features such as fireplaces and stone walls. They have an organic garden where they grow many ingredients for the restaurant.
The Grand Dedale is a beautifully restored manor converted into a seven-room country-style boutique hotel on a 380-hectare property. Chic and luxurious accommodations are just the beginning of the offer here, you can also enjoy four-course dinners of game and seafood – or even catch your fish.
The Robertson Small Hotel, in an area outside the box, is a five-star hotel with Victorian design and ten elegant bright rooms, a beautiful pool and an extensive wine list.
Akademie Street is a collection of boutique-style suites and cottages in the charming Franschhoek. Elegant and comfortable, with wonderful views and a wide choice of pools and hot tubs, this is a great resort to stay surrounded by wine and walks.
Inside the Elandskloof Nature Reserve, the Bartholomeus Klip Farmhouse is an elegant, spacious Victorian guesthouse with rooms, suites and a self-catering house. There is a swimming pool and six thousand acres of private reserve to explore. In addition to participating in game drives, guests can go hiking, cycling, paddling, kayaking, fishing or windsurfing.
Close to the Garden Route, the Hlangana Lodge in Oudtshoorn is an exotic yet cozy guesthouse with lovely gardens and 18 bedrooms. Besides the Garden Route, you are also close to the Cango Caves.
Hawksmoor House is a charming retreat outside Stellenbosch overlooking Table Mountain to the south. Traditional architecture, antique furniture and a large swimming pool make this an ideal place for relaxation. Very suitable for families.
The Arabella Hotel & Spa in Hermanus is a county estate on the coast known for its award-winning golf course and spa. There are 145 rooms, with rates starting at around £ 120 a night, and the decor is modern with African accents. The hotel has both indoor and outdoor pools and there is a fine restaurant.
Cantine-Hohenort is an old manor elegantly converted into a winery at the base of Table Mountain. The elegant rooms are white on white with touches of bold fabric, absolutely chic!
Spectacular views, award-winning gardens, spa services and a large wine cellar in addition to the two award-winning restaurants will make it difficult to leave.
The Majecka House in Stellenbosch is a modern hotel with fun decorations and avant-garde bathrooms, murals and funky wallpapers. There are only 23 rooms, four outdoor pools, plus a spa and hammam. The restaurant is excellent
La Residence, Franschhoek is a visual feast, with impressive antiques, exotic paintings and sumptuous decorations. Each of the 16 suites is decorated like a palace of the Maharaja – or Versailles and there is an indulgent-looking dining room and an award-winning spa.
Still in the Franschhoek valley, the Leeu Estates are located in the middle of a beautiful, working vineyard. The hotel has been converted from an elegant 19th century manor and the decor is both colonial and African, both restaurants and wines are fine.
The Rickety Bridge Manor House, in the Rickety Bridge Wine Estate, is an intimate three-bedroom manor house in the leafy Franschhoek valley. The decor is charming and welcoming and the price is reasonable.
Located between the Franschhoek Valley and the Stony Brook, Holden Manz is a spacious five-room country house with a fantastic kitchen and a wellness center that really takes you away from it all.
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