An incredibly varied climate home to some of the planet’s most amazing wildlife awaits you in South Africa – affectionately referred to by its inhabitants as “a world in one country”. It’s hard to argue with that description since the landscape ranges from rocky canyons and scorched savannah to lagoons and lush forests, stretched over a country five times the size of Britain.
With a multi-ethnic society and eleven official languages, South Africa is as multicultural as they come, offering a rich pool of rituals and traditions to uncover no matter where you find yourself. For anyone who wants to get close to the natural world at its very best, a is an unforgettable treat – each of the distinct climates within South Africa has its own abundance of wildlife that thrives in those natural conditions.
If history is more of your thing then there’s plenty to discover here, from the origins of the Dutch East India Company to the Apartheid Museum that charts the birth of contemporary South Africa.
Nestled in the shadows of the colossal Table Mountain, Cape Town is easily one of South Africa’s most beautiful and sophisticated contemporary cities. Affectionately called the ‘Mother City’ by the South African people, this energetic metropolis is a real multi-cultural melting pot which brings people from all walks of life together to create a truly charming atmosphere. Here you’ll find some of the prime examples of South African cuisine, along with superb beaches and stunning architecture like that at the V&A Waterfront for you to explore as you lose yourself in this fantastic city. If you’re interested in getting outdoors to see a more natural side to the Southern Cape then popping over to the Kirstenbosch Gardens is the perfect place to discover some of the gorgeous flora South Africa has to offer.
South Africa’s golden cultural capital, bold and brash Johannesburg is filled with skyscrapers of concrete and glass separated by canyon-like streets and new developments. It’s moniker of ‘City of Gold’ comes from its original establishment as a gold mining town, but has since taken on the more common names of ‘Jo’burg’ and ‘Jozi’ with the locals. This is a city striving towards the brighter future in South Africa, and heavily contrasts with townships on its outskirts which remain more pared back and community driven. There are a number of historical sites which link back to the modern history of South Africa, such as the Gold Reef Complex, where you can find the Apartheid Museum and more details about Johannesburg’s mining history, and Mandela House where Nelson Mandela once lived before being imprisoned due to his activist work against apartheid.
This gorgeous harbour town sits on the Garden Route, also known as the Southern Cape, between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and sports stunning ocean views out over the shimmering sands of Santos Beach. Mossel Bay’s name is supposedly derived from the world-class mussels which can be found just beyond the Bay which were noted by Dutch navigator Paulus van Caerden. Stopping off here is an essential part of any journey around South Africa, sampling the delicious seafood and taking in the views from the panoramic point up by the Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse.
Few things in South Africa can match the excitement of a game drive through Kruger National Park, where the sights of roaming rhinos, towering giraffes and lions lounging in the sun will live with you forever. Covering an area of almost 19,500 square kilometres, there’s myriad different flora and fauna to uncover as you drive from point to iconic point around the park which the experienced game rangers will be able to point out to you. Get there early enough and you can hear the awe-inspiring ‘dawn chorus’, which echoes across the plains is an early morning experience unlike any other, bringing together birdsong with the calls of all manner of different African animals to welcome you into the park.
Rising high over Cape Town, overlooking the coast on the south-western edge of South Africa, Table Mountain is about as iconic as it gets within South Africa. The flat-topped mountain is impossible to miss and represents a cultural landmark to the people of Cape Town who consider ascending Table Mountain a right of passage for anyone who live here. With two other peaks flanking it, the singular form of Lion’s Head to the west and the jutting Devil’s Peak to the east, the mountainous backdrop of Cape Town is an impressive sight that can be seen from practically anywhere within the city. Getting up close with Table Mountain can be done via cable car, carrying you up to the summit for stunning panoramic views.
The Cape Peninsula is where you’ll find one of the most diverse nature reserves in South Africa – the Cape of Good Hope. Here you’ll find around 250 different species of birds, including a colony of African penguins who sun themselves on one of the many pristine beaches on the Cape, and the biggest living bird species – the ostrich. Many amazing mammal species also call the Cape of Good Hope home, like antelopes, lynx and the Chacma baboon, providing no shortage of wonderous animals to spot along your travels across the Cape Peninsula. It’s not just animals you’ll find here but also a diverse abundance of fauna, a rich treasure trove of around 1000 species of indigenous plants, many of which are found nowhere else on earth.
South Africa has a number of meat dishes, like droëwors (dried sausages), boerewors (farmer sausage) and biltong (dried and cured meat), which are thought to be originally inspired by French and Dutch foods brought by settlers which then had a distinctly South African flair thrown in, elevating the flavours to the level of national favourites.
Spiced foods are firm favourites within South Africa, with filling dishes like bobotie and accompaniments such as chakalaka using an abundance of spices similar to those found in traditional curries, giving them a fiery kick. Malva pudding is another dish brought over by the Dutch which garnered a lot of attention, using a sweet apricot jam within a stodgy sponge pudding with lashings of custard. The wines from Cape Winelands also warrant sampling if you’re interested in sparkling wines or red wines, with the Methode Cap Classique and distinctive Pinotage respectively.
Sheila & Stuart Walker
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