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South Africa

South Africa

South Africa is a great destination for those looking for a wildlife experience, but not interested in a trip based solely around a safari. Visitors commonly combine a minimum 3-night stay in the Kruger, considered by many to be the country's premier safari destination, with time in the  popular Cape Town, Cape Winelands and Garden Route areas. South Africa has a well-developed tourism infrastructure unlike any of its safari counterparts in Africa, allowing travellers to see and do more during their stay. Located at the southern tip of the continent, South Africa has 2,798 kilometers (,739 mi) of spectacular coastline that stretches along the South Atlantic and Indian oceans. South Africa is a multi-ethnic society made up of a wide variety of cultures, religions and 11 official languages including two of European origin: English and Afrikaans. The latter originated from Dutch and serves as the first language of most white and colored South Africans, though English is commonly used in public and commercial life. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa's unique multicultural character has become integral to its national identity, as signified by the Rainbow Nation concept.

Location: Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa

Border countries (6): East (Mozambique and Swaziland), North (Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe) and within (Lesotho)

Area: 1,219,090 sq km (470,693 sq mi)  includes Marion Island and Prince Edward Island

Comparative: Slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Population: 54,300,704 Million (ranked 26th in the world)

Religions: Protestant 36.6%, Catholic 7.1%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1%

Languages: 11 official languages including: IsiZulu (official) 22.7%, IsiXhosa (official) 16%, Afrikaans (official) 13.5%, English (official) 9.6%, Sepedi (official) 9.1%, Setswana (official) 8%, Sesotho (official) 7.6%, Xitsonga (official) 4.5%, siSwati (official) 2.5%, Tshivenda (official) 2.4%, isiNdebele (official) 2.1%, sign language 0.5%, other 1.6%

UNESCO World Heritage Sites (8): Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa (1999), Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (2003), Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (2007), Robben Island (1999), Cape Floral Region Protected Areas (2004), iSimangaliso Wetland Park (1999), Vredefort Dome (2005) and Maloti-Drakensberg Park (2000)

 

Popular Destinations of South Africa

Johannesburg

JohannesburgJohannesburg is the intriguing, dynamic heart of South Africa. Johannesburg, or Joburg as some prefer to call it, is the second largest city in South Africa with more than 3 million people calling this place home. The city has a remarkable cultural and political history, with the discovery of gold playing a big part in it. The number one attraction in the city to see is the world famous Apartheid museum, where you will learn about the history of South Africa and the struggle of its people during the apartheid era. Another popular place to visit is the Mandela House Museum and the home of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.If you want to see the real South Africa and try to understand it Johannesburg has to be on your itinerary.

 

Cape Town

Cape TownCape Town is the largest city in South Africa and lies on a small peninsula at the southern tip of Africa which juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Enriched by Dutch, British and Cape Malay influences, the cosmopolitan atmosphere is a unique blend of cultures. Lying at the foot of its most famous landmark, Table Mountain looms over the city center and its well-preserved 19th-century Victorian architecture. The city is a shopper's and foodie haven, from the many open-air markets with an ethnic African flavor, to the sophisticated and very popular V & A Waterfront and it's designer boutiques, specialty shops and more than 80 ethnically diverse food outlets including the very popular — V & A Market on the Wharf. Also located at the waterfront is the ferry to the fascinating and inspirational, Robben Island. If you're fond of 'sun and sand' than a trip to Cape Town’s Camps Bay and Clifton is for you. Both boast soft white sand, palm trees and many restaurants, cafes and fashionable bars — just remember that the Atlantic Ocean is quite chilly so you might want to pass on the swimming. Cape Town's hop-on and hop-off bus is both convenient and inexpensive so trips to nearby attractions including Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Hout Bay and Cape Town's local wine area of Constancia is in a day-trips reach. Cape Town is not only the most popular South African destination, but is often regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities.

 

Cape Winelands

Cape WinelandsIn the past decade South Africa has emerged as a world-class wine producer and boasts some of the best wine in the world. The Cape Winelands area is made up of 18 official wine routes. The vineyards are mostly situated in the Western Cape with the most popular wine routes being Constantia Valley, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Constantia Valley is the closest to Cape Town at only 20 km (11 mi) away and is home to some of the country's oldest wineries dating back to 1685. Paarl is best known for the quality of its Shiraz and is home to a couple of Craft breweries, olives and olive oil producers. Stellenbosch is home to over 140 wineries and was the country's first region to establish a formal wine route in 1971. And then there is Franschhoek, a charming French heritage town that not only produces excellent wines but also is renowned for its outstanding cuisine. Many of the historic wine estates date back centuries and are characterized by classic Cape Dutch architecture and spectacular mountain vistas. There is a distinct European influence in the region thanks to the arrival of French Huguenot, Dutch and German settlers during the 18th century. Whether only looking for an afternoon outing or an extended stay, the Cape Wineland area is a magnificent place to enjoy South African wines and cuisine.

 

Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point & Cape of Good HopeThe Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland that marks the most southwesterly point of Africa. Flying Dutchman funicular up to the old lighthouse, 238 m (781 ft) above the crashing ocean waves. From there, a path leads down to the new lighthouse at Dias Point, with spectacular panorama views of the stunning landscape. A trip to the Cape isn't complete without making a stop at the famous African penguin colony at Boulder's Bay, located in the seaside community of Simon’s Town. A good way to see the 3,000+ African penguins is from the wooden boardwalk at Foxy Beach, or you can even go for a swim close to them in the sea and enjoy their private sandy beach.

 

Garden Route

Garden RouteThe Garden Route is one of the most beautiful stretch of coastline in South Africa, if not the world. Though many visitors stay on the fast and busy N2, the beauty of traveling the route is to drive via the scenic Du Toit’s Kloof Pass and Route 62, South Africa’s answer to the famous Route 66 in the United Staes. Many of the highlights in visitors' journals are the hidden gems that can be found driving through farming and historic towns on the 62.  Ancient woodcutter clans, fishermen, artists, businessmen and top chefs have all found their niches along the Garden Route in the Western Cape. Oudtshoorn (the ostrich capital of the world) also calls the Garden Route home and, for those who are interested in history, both early inhabitants and elephants have been crossing the Outeniqua Mountains, from Oudtshoorn to the coast, for many centuries. Another place well worth an overnight is the small town of Storm’s River, located in the heart of the Titsikamma National Park. Tsitsikamma is a khoi word meaning "place of abundant or sparkling water". The park covers a 68km x 5.5 km (42 x 3.5 mi) long swath of coastline that is bordered on the north by the imposing Tsitsikamma Mountains and in the south by the Indian Ocean. The area is covered in large tracts of primeval forest, rugged mountain scenery and deep river gorges that make their way down to the sea. The highlight of the area is the long suspension bridge across the mouth of the Storms River – well worth the effort.

 

Kruger National Park

Kruger National ParkAt approximately the size of Israel, Kruger National Park is the largest wildlife enclave in South Africa at 19,485 sq km's (7,523 sq mi) and became the country's first national park in 1926. It is managed by the South African government and is world renowned for its excellent game viewing including great opportunities for close encounters with the Big Five: elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard and especially the much sought after rhino. 'Kruger' as it is referred to by South Africans, offers a wide range of accommodations of different sizes and degrees of luxury. An estimated 1.4 million visitors annually visit the park, many opting for the self-drive safari experience because of the extensive network of tarred and gravel roads that cover the park. Only closed vehicles are allowed inside the park, off-roading is strictly prohibited and night game drives can only be conducted by park rangers in large park vehicles. Most visitors stay in the south and central regions where game viewing is traditionally better. Mountains, bush plains and tropical forests are all part of the landscape.

 

Greater Kruger National Park

Greater Kruger National ParkThe Greater Kruger National Park refers to the over twenty private reserves that lie along the western border of Kruger National Park, which adds 1,800 sq km's (695 sq mi) to the overall greater park area. Much of the fences on the eastern border between the private reserves and Kruger National Park have been removed, allowing the wildlife to roam freely.  Fences do exist between the individual private reserves themselves and their western borders. Unlike in Kruger, off-roading is allowed in the private reserves as well as open vehicles and walking safaris. One of the most famous reserves is Sabi Sands, which shares a 50km unfenced border with Kruger National Park. Sabi Sands is not only renowned for its leopard sightings, but is considered to offer some of the best wildlife viewing in all of South Africa. It also offers a superior experience that includes luxury accommodation, great service, excellent food and a great opportunity to witness the ultimate 'Big Five' of Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino, Lion and Leopard.

South Africa Travel Options

South Africa Safari | South Africa Safari Tours | Women Only South Africa Safari Tours | Couples Only South Africa Safari Tours
Custom South Africa Safari | Cruising | Rail Journeys

 

Sources: CIA 2017, UNESCO 2017