As modern technology and conveniences connect more and more people throughout the world, more and more travel opportunities present themselves. The spread of information results in people who otherwise may not have heard of a certain far-flung locale packing up and heading off on an exciting vacation to someplace new. Places such as South Africa.
For years, many from the U.S. didn’t know much about this gem of the African continent. But over the last few years more and more people have been visiting South Africa in order to discover its myriad sights and vibrant culture. Yes, there is a lot to do in South Africa and most people visiting for the first time likely have precious little time in which to do it.
With that in mind, here are some of the top sights and activities on offer in South Africa.
Kruger National Park
One of South Africa’s biggest draws is its wildlife, and as such, the country has set aside much of its nature for protection. One of the best places for visitors to experience this nature is in Kruger, a state-owned sanctuary. Being one of the cheapest wildlife parks means Kruger receives its fair share of human foot traffic, but there are a number of accommodations to choose from that range from budget camps to private, luxurious “tree-house” lodgings.
Those who opt for one of Kruger’s safari packages will be able to get up close and personal with animals ranging from lions and leopards to elephants and giraffes.
Not all of South Africa’s majestic animals are found on land; many come from the ocean that surrounds this country on three sides. Just a short drive from Cape Town lies the coastal town of Hermanus, which is one of the best places in the country to spot migrating whales. In fact, the town itself has its own “whale watcher” who sounds a horn every time a group of whales has been spotted.
Dating back centuries, this iconic mountain has been the first sight seen by weary sailors approaching southern Africa. The landmark itself is two miles wide and 3500 feet high. Those who trek to the very top are met with stunning 360-degree views of Cape Town, Robben Island and Table Bay. Those who want to forgo the hours-long hike to the top of Table Mountain can opt for the relative comfort and quick trip provided by revolving cable car.
True wine aficionados have known about South Africa’s wine-producing prowess for some time. In fact, the industry dates back more than 350 years, when the first settlers from Europe arrived in Cape Town. And while South Africa grows many imported grape varietals, they also have developed their own signature wines. “Pinotage,” for instance, is South Africa’s own mix of cinsaut and pinot noir.
There are vineyards in most regions of the country, including Paarl, Worcester and Robertson. Most of these vineyards also offer daily tours and tastings.
This small island has earned a reputation as South Africa’s Alcatraz, as it was once home to a fully operational prison. Those visitors with an eye for politics and history would do well to visit Robben Island and tour the facilities, as this is the very place Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for decades. Also, the stunning view of Table Mountain from the island alone is worth the price of admission.
South Africa is a large country full of beautiful landscapes teeming with wildlife. Indeed, this list is just a drop in the bucket, and those travelers looking for adventure will find more than their fair share in this rich and vibrant country.
Louise Trainor is a travel writer based in South Africa. She particularly enjoys sharing her insights with those new to the region. Click here for some suggestions of where to stay during your visit to Johannesburg.