The Rainbow Nation that is South Africa is one of the gigantic continents most popular and accessible destinations. It has a Western flavoured culture and English is the first official language (there are no fewer than eleven other official languages in the rainbow nation by the way!), so is a very appealing destination for first-time travellers to Africa.
As well as been inviting and friendly, the country is also absolutely stunning with an abundance of beautiful nature, a wonderful array of wildlife and of course, loads of stuff to do!
Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
Cape Town is one the worlds great cities and is the jewel in South Africa’s crown. It is also one of the very few cities in the world that has a stunning, tabletop mountain right in the middle of it! The sunsets as seen from Table are particularly intense.
Aside from the breathtaking natural beauty, there is also hip and happening coffee and craft ale scene. The marina around the V & A Waterfront is a very popular draw for tourists, especially those backpacking Cape Town.
Cape Town has a major international airport and takes flights from all over the world. It is probably that your South African adventure may begin or end here. It is well worth spending a few nights to hang around and enjoy this cool, and beautiful cit.
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is another one of the big draws of South African tourism. Situated in the North-Eastern reach of the country, Kruger is one of the biggest game and wildlife reserves in South Africa. This is the definitive place to do a Safari on account of the high density of the Big 5. Come here to see Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos and Buffalo’s.
Safari Packages can be expensive but it really will prove to be the experience of a lifetime.
Robben Island and Mandela Museum
South Africa’s late former President and Nobel Laureate, Nelson Mandela, is now revered as one the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. But his long walk to freedom as a very long walk indeed and he was incarcerated for 20 years in Robben Island Prison. You can now visit the prison and see the cell that once houses the political Titan.
The Mandela Museum is also worth a look where you can learn all about life under the controversial apartheid system which racially segregated the nation for so long. Apartheid is definitely the darkest era of South Africa’s history. Massive inroads have been made into healing the nation but no visit to South Africa is complete without dedicating some time to exploring the troubled past.
Johannesburg (Joburg to locals) is kind of like Cape Town’s edgier little brother. Joburg does have a bad rep for high crime rates and it is true that travellers to the city should exercise a degree of caution. That said, the city still has a lot going for it and does offer another take on modern South African city life.
This is where the Mandela Museum is situated (both and her Reverend Desmond Tutu hail from the city) as well as the Apartheid Museum. Then there is Lion Park as well as the chance to check out Crocodiles!
Situated near to Cape Town, Boulders Beach is sheltered granite beach. It has become popular amongst tourists on account of the colony of African penguins which settled there in 1982. The Penguins are, however, best viewed from nearby Foxy Beach.
The Garden Route is a 300 kilometer stretch along the South-Eastern coast of South Africa stretching up from Mossel Bay.
It is now considered to be one of the new worlds great wine regions and its products are exported across the world. You can pop here for tasting sessions, to tour vineyards and even have a go a making wine for yourself.
The Shiraz’s and Cabernet Sauvignon’s are particularly exquisite and are amongst the best of South African wine.
Inhabitants of The Rainbow nation are truly colourful people and boy, do they love to celebrate. There are a plethora of different festival and cultural-a-happenings in South Africa to suit all tastes and budgets.
The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival is the biggest Afrikaans Festival featuring music, dance and theatre. Cape Town Hosts an International Jazz Festival and then there is Africaburn – the nations tiny answer to Burning Man, and a must-do on any South Africa backpacking itinerary!
Rugby is massive in South Africa. The Springboks are one of the great teams in the world and winning the tournaments world cup trophy in 1995 proved to be a decisive moment in the nations, post Apartheid history.
The South Africa national rugby team play at a number of grounds around the country. You should definitely check to see if there is a fixture on during your visit. Even if you are not a fan of Rugby, the atmosphere will be electric.
UK and some other Passport holders will not need a Visa for visiting South Africa and can enter for 9o days.
Traditionally, if you needed a Visa, then it is important to arrange it well in advance as Biometric data will be needed. However, the New South Africa e-Visa promises to make these requirements obsolete.
Flights & Connections
Despite been sat at the far Southernmost tip of Africa, the country is well served by affordable airlines. Many do connect in Addis Ababa or Nairobi but there are also direct connections available from major European cities. You can easily pick up a return to South Africa fro London for £500 and even as little as £400 if you can be flexible with your dates.
Check out this post about finding cheap flights!
South Africa is not an especially dangerous country but there are some travel safety tips you should heed.
Firstly, as with the entirety of Africa, crime is a reality. You should take care on public transport and in crowded places as pickpockets may be operating. Also, some areas should be avoided at all times and others after darkness. Some of the Shanty Towns around Johannesburg are particularly troubled.
When out in the countryside of bush, Wild Animals can also be a real danger. There are reports of locals being chased by Rhino’s and occasionally attached by lions! (My friend has a huge dent in his car from where a Rhino rammed it!)