When you try to imagine a South Africa vacation, the wild images of roaring lions and other predators on a humid, adrenaline-rushing African safari probably come to mind first. If the African safari trip is not right for you, consider painting a new mental picture that goes far beyond the wide-open fields of the well-known gaming reserves.
South Africa travel means something different for everyone.
Your own South Africa travel adventure could veer off in any set of directions that you choose, whether you’re a foodie or spa dweller, novice or master trekker. Perhaps you feel more like yourself as you observe new cultures and surroundings from a distance, or when you take part in the experience up close. The changing landscapes beneath your feet will take you by surprise. Your time could be spent walking on golden sandy beaches; watching the vast desert turn into the richest floral kingdom in early spring, or skiing the continent’s only snow slopes all in one South African vacation.
Untamed South Africa at Its Best
Ease your way into South Africa through Limpopo, the northernmost province containing ancient lands and prehistoric relics from the Stone and Iron Ages. Drive through the dense rainforests of the Magoebaskloof Mountains, where you’ll take in the sounds of mountain streams and roaring waterfalls. Retreat to the Soutpansberg Mountains, or “Mountain of Salt,” which is brimming with yellowwood trees, giant cabbage trees, ancient tree ferns, and 500 plant species. Hikers and bird watchers are drawn to the many unspoiled plateaus, ravines, valleys, and gorges of Blouberg Mountain and Nature Reserve.
Johannesburg, known to the world for its rich mineral veins of gold, also contains an abundance of “green” — the densely populated, verdant forest concealing the burgeoning capital city. You can find a taste of the African safari at the province’s top-rated gaming reserve, Pilanesberg National Park. Encounter a variety of wildlife along this rocky, volcanic terrain through a walking, self-drive, or balloon safari. However, if a safari makes you skittish, the Johannesburg Zoo offers an alternative way to get up close with more than 3,000 species of animals. In Lesedi, delight your taste buds in an array of traditional cuisine and experience the area’s extraordinary melting pot of cultures.
An Unexpected Exotic Beach Paradise
Any South Africa travel excursion in KwaZulu-Natal isn’t complete without seeing Cape Vidal, a firm favorite for many beachgoers and fishing enthusiasts. Head out to sea and spend the afternoon deep sea fishing or humpback whale watching. At Kosi Bay, you’ll be able to retreat even further into tranquility. Here, you can stay in a guesthouse right on the water and become a part of the locals’ slow-paced life on the sea. There are a number of activities to enjoy such as hiking, bird watching, turtle tours, and whale watching.
Experience the traditions of the Zulu culture — have a beer at the nearest “shebeen” or find the cure for any ailment at a witchdoctor’s hut. Sip South African tea and eat “vetkoek” (sweet, deep-fried bread) at a bed and breakfast inn made of tin walls and plastic roofing.
Set off south to the stunning seaboard of the Dolphin Coast. Blessed with copious beaches, green bush, and wondrous wildlife, the coastline also contains a richness of culture with its indigenous Zulu community and historic European, Indian and French-Mauritian influences. Thompson’s Bay is one of the best-kept local secrets, where you’ll find Charlie’s Pool, an Olympic-sized tidal pool built by one of the early settlers. For a little bit of luxury and style, go to Ballito, the pearl of the Dolphin Coast that is home to several modern shops and chic restaurants.
A Kaleidoscope of Sceneries
You won’t regret seeing the beautiful blooms of spring and autumn at South Africa’s ninth national botanical garden in Nieuwoudtville, which opened up to the public in early 2008. The Northern Cape also contains wide-ranging blankets of the desert in the Kalahari and Namaqualand, stretching all the way east to the Mpumalanga province. Although it’s mostly dry with waves of red sand dunes, the Kalahari is birding heaven of different colored birds, owls, hawks, and falcons. You also won’t want to miss South Africa’s most vibrant and beautiful floral displays in the Namaqualand. With grand views of bright oranges and yellows spread over the desert once every year, this place will steal your breath away.
At Tsitsikamma, plunge into the comforting ocean waters and follow a unique underwater trail to a coral reef filled with fish of all sizes and personalities. Next, make your ascent up the famous Table Mountain by cable car. Find sweeping views of the mountain and the silent city resting 3,300 feet below before spending the next several hours hiking the large network of trails. In the nearby Cape Floral Region, witness the richest floral display on the coast and travel around the spectacular valleys, bays, and beaches next to the Atlantic. You won’t go far before reaching the Wine Region of South Africa, which offers the ever-changing colors of the mountains, scenic passes, and rivers. This route includes the finest vineyards, where you’ll be able to enjoy your choice of guided wine tours in South Africa.
Are you ready to take on the “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” and discover the world’s greatest lifetime destinations? With surprises around every corner, a South Africa travel experience has everything to match any traveler’s pace — from relaxation to “Grade A” action!