CAPE TOWN (Western Cape)
Being one of the oldest cities in South Africa, as well as one of the most beautiful in the world, Cape Town (CPT/CT a.k.a. “Kaapstad” in Afrikaans language, or “the Cape” and South Africa’s “Mother City”) located on the southwest coast, is tucked into a broad bay, surrounded by white-sand beaches and home to several impressive mountainous backdrops.
It is the country’s legislative capital and you can learn more about the city, even on foot (weather-permitting preferably), to get further insight and experience through visiting historical buildings and cultural icons such as the renaissance-style City Hall, Houses of Parliament, Bo-Kaap Museum, South African Jewish Museum, Gold of Africa Museum, St George’s Cathedral, the Slave Lodge in Adderley Street and many Art Galleries.
The city is also famously known for Table Mountain which has recently been named one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature, its winelands, and monuments.
Taking a ride to the top of Table Mountain in the modern cable car allows for a breath-taking bird’s eye view of the city, beaches as well as geographic lay of the land.
Or a visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, part of the Cape Floral kingdom which is one of South Africa’s eight World Heritage sites, finds a 36 hectare garden featuring 7000 indigenous plants!
Wine tours most often include tastings (or not -for those who so choose) as well as the opportunity to purchase world famous wines at the very farms that produced them, together with many excellent restaurants, in regions such as Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, where the famous Cape Dutch architecture still prominent on many working farms and houses, dates back or is reminiscent of the late 1600s and early 1700s in the style & age wherein many were mostly built.
Another “must-do” is the famous Peninsula Route exploring the length of Table Mountain National Park through to Cape Point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, via Simonstown, the Navy’s main port and quaint fishing village and Boulder’s Beach, home to a land-based breeding colony of the rare African Penguin.
The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in the Cape Town Harbour is also a very popular destination, with its mega shopping complex, restaurants, coffee shops, cinemas and Two Oceans Aquarium. A short boat ride of approximately 30 minutes(one-way) to Robben Island, also finds the former prison-site where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held during the bygone apartheid era.
Clifton and Camps Bay are the most trendy and popular among sun & sea bathers, while Llandudno and Muizenberg are frequented by surfers, for their waves.
Do note, for those who have not experienced it, the weather may sometimes change quite suddenly with a rainy day turning into a fresh sunny one within a few hours, and also vice versa.
THE GARDEN ROUTE (Western Cape)
The Garden Route aptly for it’s greenery and Tsitsikamma Forest, located all along the southern coast of South Africa, is a natural paradise and must-see when visiting the Western Cape.
Ideally, to behold this beautiful extended region, a few days should be spent on the Route, which in near-on tracing the coastline, passes through or close to the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley -every one of them having holding their own unique charm and attractions, including the Outeniqua Choo-Choo (a steam train with comfortable passenger carriages) which regularly chugs between George and Knysna offering many spectacular views.
A spectacular (though unfortunately seasonal) sight, are the dolphins (sometimes numbering as many as 4000) and the Southern Right Whales who visit the shores of the Paradise Coast in Hermanus.
A visit to Monkeyland, the world’s first free roaming multi-species primate sanctuary, a modern sanctuary where multiple species of primate ranging from the Gibbons of Asia to the Lemurs of Madagascar roam freely, lays tribute to the rehabilitation efforts carried out on the many predominantly previously caged by other organizations or individuals.
And right next door to Monkeyland is the Birds of Eden, the world’s largest free-flight bird sanctuary located under a two hectare dome, home to a very unique amphitheatre which can accommodate over 200 people for their demonstrative & informative functions relating to the various and very varied species of birds.
A little further inland is Oudtshoorn (pronounced “Oats – horn”), the largest town in the Klein Karoo (meaning “Little” Karoo), which offers all the amenities of a regional capital -with all the charm of a small rural town and its home to the world’s largest ostrich population, whereat many a working ostrich farm will take visitors on guided tours to see large flocks of ostriches at different stages of development in the surrounding fields and close-encounters with these feathery non-fliers!
And not too far from Oudtshoorn, at the head of the scenic Cango Valley, lies the spectacular underground wonder of the Klein Karoo, namely the Cango Caves. This 20-million-year-old system of interconnected caverns & chasms, including a series of hidden chambers, is situated in a limestone ridge which runs parallel to the well known Swartberg Mountains. Guided tours amaze even the most aweless traveller with its vast natural earth-made halls and the finest towering dripstone formations and caverns alike.
Knysna, which is arguably the most popular and picturesque town along the Route is filled craft shops, flea markets, restaurants and cafes. This town is located on the shores of the shimmering Knysna Lagoon which is home to over 200 species of fish, including the rare Knysna Seahorse and is well known for its annual Oyster Festival.
The Featherbed Nature Reserve also offers an abundance of rich fauna and flora to explore, not forgetting the Knysna Elephant Park, wherea a memorable close-encounter with the elephants can most certainly be had.
And for those more inclined to admire the scenery, another breathtaking experience will be a cruise under the southern skies, overlooking the famously known Knysna Heads, which as the cliffs at the entrance of the Knysna Lagoon, are where the fresh water meets with the surge of the Indian Ocean.
JOHANNESBURG & PRETORIA (Gauteng)
Johannesburg (aka “Jo-burg”), famously known as the City of Gold or “Egoli” to some, due to its former status as many a gold-mining prospector’s dream, is still a sprawling, bustling & fascinating city with so much to offer and as such indeed remains South Africa’s commercial hub.
Apart from its beautiful climate, endless-energetic & multi-cultural vibe, there are also many wonderful restaurants, relaxed cafes, huge shopping malls such as Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square, Rosebank Mall and Soweto’s Maponya Mall, large and busy townships, interesting museums, including the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Petersen Museum and Constitution Hill ,stunning galleries, exciting nightclubs & casinos, and much, much more!
Yet, amongst all the modern, contemporary or classic built-environment, there are still over six million trees – a veritable man-made forest spread out.
And not to be missed is Gold Reef City .This is a theme park and casino located on the very site of an authentic 19th century gold mine, which now depicts Jo-burg historically during the gold-rush era.
Or maybe take an organized tour of SOWETO (- an abbreviated form of the words “South Western Townships”), one of the 33 townships originally established as temporary dormitories for predominantly African workers, which is not only famous as having been a key pivotal site & cradle for many of South Africa’s Oppression Liberators and their struggles that prevailed in yesteryear, but also because of the unique cultural experiences it still has to offer to this very day and for many to come.
Then, further out of the City, is the Cradle of Humankind, the archaeological site of some of the world’s oldest hominid remains, together with the renowned Sterkfontein Caves, as well as the charming country village of Magaliesburg are a few other must-visit sites none-too-far.
Or going yet further northwards, from Pretoria(the capital of South Africa), extending into the Dinokeng tourism region, lies the quaint diamond mining town of Cullinan, also with its own rich history, which will intrigue many a curious visitor.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK (Mpumalanga)
Mpumalanga (meaning “the place where the sun rises”) may be among South Africa’s smaller provinces, yet what it lacks in size, it more than makes up in spectacular biodiversity – even though at two million hectares, its approximately the size of Wales!
Not only is it home to the world’s most famous game park-Kruger National Park, it is also dotted with numerous other private game reserves each teeming with flora and fauna, as well as pristine forests, twisting mountain passes, steep valleys, rivers, canyons (including the world’s third-deepest), caves also the world’s oldest cave system, the 3000-million-year-old Sudwala Caves and countless varieties of wildlife, in this rich & raw African-edenic landscape, under the wide tranquil sky.
The Kruger National Park originally founded by the government in 1962, is one of the world’s largest wildlife reserves boasting an impressive and unsurpassed array of indigenous species.
The Park stretches 350 km from the south, along the Mozambican border, before meeting the Zimbabwean border in the north. Most of the park is situated in the “Lowveld” (- which by definition refers to broad valleys below 1 000m above sea level) and this is what many people consider to be the real, magnificent Africa (and African “bushveld”) with the Big Five and all the other inhabitants of the bush.
And, contrary to expectations, the northern part, which is truly wild, has less animals than the south.
Note: If you are planning to travel to the Kruger National Park or Lowveld please be aware that this is a malaria region. Consult your doctor or travel clinic for advice and refer to our website on malaria.
SUN CITY (North West Province)
Far enough from the nearest South African major cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria to qualify as a real getaway, but close enough to make transport to and from their city-centres effortless, the enthralling and iconic Sun City complex (also known as the “Las Vegas of South Africa”) is the ultimate all-in-one entertainment destination.
And in the valley below Sun City is the Palace at the Lost City hotel, a fantasy world conjured out of the myths and legends of Africa – all located in a lush and tropical awe-inspiring setting.
Activities run the gamut from adventure sports, safari options, world-famous golf courses, shows galore and also a wide variety of rides and games, both indoor & out, to keep even the children, & child-at-heart, busy too -This is not just a hotel or an entertainment complex or even a theme park, it’s an entire experience, being more a mini-city than a park, and first time visitors will find it pleasantly bewildering.
Known as the garden province and home to the Zulu nation, KwaZulu-Natal is an enticing, spectacular and fascinating multi-cultural showpiece destination flanked by warm Indian Ocean and soaring peaks.
In this region lies the ?coastal iSimangaliso (Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park World Heritage Site.Landmarks like the mountainous ‘Barrier of Spears’ uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site have been declared by UNESCO as world heritage sites. These sites are adorned with Stone Age cave paintings and timeless Indian culture in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi.
KwaZulu-Natal is a magnet for thrill-seekers in the great outdoors – from wave riders to hang-gliders, and golfers to mountain bikers. KwaZulu-Natal South Coast: nature’s annual extravaganza – the unforgettable cast-of-millions Sardine Run.
KwaZulu-Natal North Coast offers a year-round frolicking dolphins plus majestic seasonal whale migrations. The Elephant Coast boasts of the Big Five nature reserves of international repute amid Zulu customs in KwaZulu-Natal Zululand unbroken from antiquity. The Midlands has history-filled towns leading to adventure sports and game viewing, along with outlets for unique arts and crafts. The very famous Battlefields of yesteryear where Zulu, Boer and British now make pilgrimages of reconciliation lie in this region.
KwaZulu-Natal borders three other provinces and the countries of Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Its capital is Pietermaritzburg, and its largest city is Durban.
Durban is a sophisticated cosmopolitan city of over three million people – a city where east meets west – a city beneath which beats the pulse of Africa – city known as the home of Africa’s best managed, busiest port.
Durban is an exciting city in which to play, shop, to experience the nightlife and to relax. It’s a city in which business and debate issues, which have far-reaching effects, not only on Africa but way beyond its borders, are discussed.
The world-class International Convention Centre Durban has hosted an historic line-up of events including conferences of a global scale.
A must visit is the uShaka Marine World, Wilson’s Wharf on the Victoria Embankment and the nearby BAT centre. Indulge in fine and traditional dining, entertainment and shopping in scenic surroundings. Shop till you drop in modern shopping malls. Grey Street and the Warwick Triangle boast vibrant local’s shops and markets. Beachfront stalls sell traditional arts and crafts. Enjoy the excellent entertainment on offer at the city’s theatres and clubs or take a township tour.
If it’s peace and sheer beauty you are after, make for Durban’s nature sanctuaries or parks. The Botanical Gardens are of particular interest – ask about their ‘Music by the Lake’ evenings – wonderful music played by KZN’s Philharmonic Orchestra in wonder surrounds.
Sail, swim, run, and play tennis or alternatively stroll along or relax on the sun-drenched beaches watching the world go by. Durban the Playground of the Zulu Kingdom.