Introduction to South Africa
introduction and general information
Located at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa is one of the most diverse and geographically varied countries on the African continent, covering a vast 1,22 million km². The country's mild climate allows visitors to enjoy its natural attractions all year around, while an excellent selection of accommodation establishments provides everything from boutique hotels to exclusive luxury lodges. To the west lies Cape Town with an eclectic urban vibe and popular attractions such as Table Mountain, Cape Peninsula and the scenic Cape Winelands. The Garden Route runs from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, renowned for its breathtaking scenery, charming towns and fascinating stops along the way. The north of the country is dominated by cosmopolitan Johannesburg, while South Africa's popular wildlife destinations such as the Kruger National Park and private game reserves are located in the north-eastern part of the country. The pristine and tropical east coast is centred around Durban and trendy Umhlanga, and serves as the gateway to Hluhluwe and Zululand to the north, and the lush KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and the dramatic Drakensberg Mountains to the west.
One of South Africa's advantages is that it easily allows one to move from fast-paced city surrounds to wild game reserves, valleys of vineyards and stunning coastlines, and many first-time travellers opt for a safari and seascape mix. Due to the size and diversity of South Africa, a stay of at least two weeks is suggested to fully experience all the highlights, with an approximate two- to three-day stopover at each of your chosen destinations. Self-driving in South Africa is easy, as most of the country's main roads are well marked and in good condition, and we can assist you with a customised itinerary based on your interests. If you prefer to travel with a knowledgeable guide, our privately guided tours or scheduled departure tours take in all the major highlights with different categories of accommodation available.
our top 5
Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula
The magical Mother City is undoubtedly South Africa's top attraction. Cape Town holds a trove of treasures for travellers from around the world that range from city sights and mountain views, to wild peninsulas and picturesque wine estates. The charm of Cape Town has much to do with its multi-ethnic character and historical wealth where old blends easily with new and a cosmopolitan vibe reverberates around quaint, cobblestone streets. Its natural beauty is all-encompassing with two oceans flanking its shores and Table Mountain standing sentinel over the city, where beach sand glitters alongside crashing waves, and hip suburbs come alive at night. The Cape Peninsula holds its own special atmosphere with rocky outcrops offering stunning views, and fishing villages veiled in salty mist at sunset. Whale watching, penguin visits, wine tasting, township tours and a huge plethora of outdoor activities are all within easy reach while exploring the magic of one of the most popular cities in the world.
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Kruger Park and the Private game reserves
A Kruger Park safari is at the top of the list for most visitors to South Africa. The Kruger National Park is one of the most popular game viewing destinations in Africa, showcasing almost every animal known to the continent. The immense landscape of the park, covering nearly 19 000 square kilometres, is divided into sections, each with its own unique vegetation types that in turn support varying mammals and other wildlife. This means that game viewing can differ from day to day depending on which area of the park you choose to explore. The surrounding private reserves that border the Kruger National Park are unfenced, allowing a free flow of animals over thousands of acres of land which can be explored on a guided 4x4 game drive. Immerse yourself in wildlife and the unique beauty of the African bushland while on safari, or try something unique and get a birds' eye view of the African bush on an early morning hot air balloon ride.
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Beginning in Cape Town, the Garden Route is one of the most scenic stretches of roads in South Africa, undulating through pastoral wine-making valleys and mountain passes, before evening out through fields of farm lands where wheat ears blow in the breeze and maize crops glisten in the sun. The route passes through Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world and also the location of the famous Cango Caves, a top tourist destination in South Africa. The road then winds its way towards the coastline, where must-stop seaside towns include historic Mossel Bay, where Bartolomeu Diaz once docked his ship, and the vibrant holiday meccas of Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. Last but not least is the eco-adventure hotspot of Tsitsikamma for bungee jumping thrills, canopy tours through towering forests and kayaking along the awe-inspiring Storms River gorge.
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Unspoilt beaches, protected game reserves and pulsating culture make Zululand one of the most beautiful places to visit in South Africa. Here sugar cane fields and timber plantations, rural communities and Nguni cattle dot the hills while the pristine coastline harbours protected sanctuaries such as the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, the charming town of St Lucia, and the white sandy beaches of Sodwana and Cape Vidal. Zululand's flagship attraction is the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, the oldest game reserve on the continent, renowned for Big Five game viewing and one of the best places in South Africa to see endangered black and white rhino. Game drives, cultural tours and Zulu dancing shows all add to the enjoyment of this special region where the UNESCO World Heritage site of iSimangaliso is considered the richest mammal conservation area in South Africa and an ecological paradise.
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Behind its glittering city façade, Johannesburg holds a haunting history that traces South Africa's journey through the harrowing years of apartheid. City landmarks such as Constitution Hill, built on the site of an old prison complex, and the Apartheid Museum offer real insight into what it was like living in a racially segregated society. Other attractions such as the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, Mandela Family Museum, and Liliesleaf Farm where freedom fighters such as Nelson Mandela were arrested and later sentenced to life imprisonment, introduce visitors to the personalities of the revolutionaries who helped shape South Africa's democracy. Discover more about Mandela and other important political figures as you tour through the past of a once racially divided nation and the eventual birth of democracy. Don't miss the Museum Africa, an intriguing ethnological museum situated in the Newtown cultural precinct in Johannesburg that stands as an animated memorial to key phases in the city's past.
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