From the origins of humanity to ancient African kingdoms and the more recent history of apartheid and to South Africa’s emergence as a non-racial democracy, there’s no shortage of visitor experiences.
South Africa is home to the Big Five – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino – and a host of other animal, bird and plant species. To see the Big Five, your best bet is to head for the Kruger National Park and its environs in Mpumalanga or Limpopo, where many five-star lodges are located.
You could also opt for the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West, Marekele National Park in Limpopo, or head for any of the private lodges or parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which is famous for its rhino population.
Another iconic wildlife experience is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape. It’s a photographer’s paradise and home to the Kalahari black-maned lion.
Arm yourself with binoculars, a good field guide, a dedicated bird field guide, and take to the bush. Your encounter with wildlife big and small will count as among the most thrilling and memorable experiences of your life.
Soak up the sun
If you take yourself off to the Eastern Cape’s aptly named Wild Coast, or northern Zululand’s remote coast, you could well find yourself all alone with just surf, sand and sea to keep you company.
There are Blue Flag beaches, family-friendly beaches, beaches with African penguins, and beaches where you can watch whales breach and blow. And, of course, beaches where you can dive, snorkel, waterski, kayak, canoe or indulge in almost any water-based activity.
Cape Town, iconic Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Cape Winelands are a must on any itinerary, and many visitors start their South African trip at the southernmost tip of the country for this reason.
The Cape Winelands offer unexpectedly lush scenery, the opportunity to sample excellent wines and superior dining in well-regarded restaurants, many of which are on wine farms. Don’t miss a visit to the university town of Stellenbosch and nearby Franschhoek. Hikers will also want to lace up their boots and get out into the spectacular mountains of this region.
History and culture
Follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest freedom icons in modern history, such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Mahatma Gandhi, among many others. There are numerous museums and sites of interest located around Johannesburg and in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
While you’re about it, spend time in Soweto or a city township; visit a Zulu cultural village; admire the intricate beadwork, metal neck rings and unique geometric mural art of the Ndebele people; enjoy the hospitality of a South African farm.
South African rock art is among the best in the world and easily accessible, especially in the Drakensberg.
Don’t miss the fascinating battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, where Brit battled Zulu and Boer battled Brit. Other parts of the country to have an interesting battle history include the Eastern Cape, site of the Frontier Wars (also known as the Wars of Dispossession), and the Northern Cape, where parts of the South African War (also known as Boer War) played out.
This route takes visitors east along the coast from Cape Town, past spectacular coastal scenery and through indigenous forests surrounding the beautiful town of Knysna. End your Garden Route trip with a visit to the Addo Elephant National Park near Port
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(Courtesy of South Africa Tourism)