The dust has settled. The South African landscape has emerged with a whole new social climate. Ten years of democracy and a new constitution have shown the rest of the world that South Africa is now ready to welcome all who wish to discover this fascinating nation. The doors are wide open. Visitors the world over are flocking to South Africa to explore the diversity of culture and wildlife; the beaches and mountains; the prehistoric digs and the big city lights. All of which is set against the magnificent backdrop that only South Africa can provide.
South Africa is not hard to find-it's located in the southern portion of the African continent. With nine (newly formed) provinces contained within the 1.2 million square kilometres (470 sq. miles), South Africa's land mass is predominantly made up of a vast plateau. This plateau can be divided into three distinct regions: The High Veld is the largest region and is characterised by gently undulating terrain generally higher than 1,525 meters (5,003 feet) above sea level. The Bushveld or Transvaal Basin is a region that is broken into basins by rock ridges, and that slopes downward from east to west toward the Limpopo River. The Bushveld averages 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) in height. The western section of the plateau is known as the Middle Veld. It also slopes downward in a westerly direction with an average elevation of about 915 meters (about 3,002 feet). Within these regions, dramatic scenes ranging from the Kalahari Desert to the Drakensberg Escarpment, unfold to display a rich and varied landscape.
A definite must for all who visit Cape Town, Table Mountain presents awesome panoramas from a unique perspective. Aside from the breathtaking views, the thrill of riding the cable car to the top will provide another dimension to the vivid and lasting memories of South Africa that each and every visitor takes home.
Just a stone's from the coast is the infamous Robben Island where Nelson Mandela and other political activists were imprisoned during the Apartheid era. It is reached from Cape Town via a short ferry ride. Former inmates will open a window to the past as they guide you on an insightful and personal tour of the prison grounds. This legendary island is now a World Heritage site as well as nature conservation area.
Between Cape Town and the Tsitiskamma Forest is a 600-kilometre stretch of coastal road meandering through small towns, vineyards, farms, and seaside communities. It is a genuine treat to poke along in a leisurely fashion, enjoying the scenery and sumptuous cuisine. Not to mention the great South African hospitality should you decide to lodge at a guesthouse along the way.
South Africa's wrap-around coast encompasses over 3,000 kilometres of fabulous beaches stretching from the KwaZulu-Natal to the Wild Coast and from the Eastern Cape to the West Coast. Scattered along the way are fishing villages, golf courses, and luxury accommodations as well as budget guesthouses. To be sure, there are a host of aquatic excursions and diversions to be enjoyed as well.
Each spring (August to September), a floral fantasy comes into bloom in the Northern Cape area. Nurtured by winter rains, the Namaqualand daisies burst forth with a great splash of vivid colour during this brief period. Revel in the floral extravaganza while you have the chance because as summer takes hold, the land reverts to desert for the majority of another year.
Uncover the fascinating history of the 19th century gold rush in the northern reaches of the country. Scrapping, backstabbing, and bickering over goldmines was one of the contributing factors leading to the Anglo-Boer War. The gold mining industry is still a pillar of the South African economy. It also lays claim to the deepest underground mines in the world.
The Cradle of Humankind west of Johannesburg has been declared a World Heritage Site. The renowned Sterkfontein Caves, where in 1936 anthropologist Dr Robert Broom discovered the skull of Mrs. Ples, a three-million year-old hominid, counts among its numerous sites. It was thought at the time, to be the closest evidence yet to the 'missing link'.
If you're hoping to spot a wild leopard, lion, rhino, or elephant, you will want to place Kruger Park at the top of your sightseeing list. This is perhaps South Africa's greatest national park and enjoys a reputation for attracting large numbers of visitors each year intent on savouring the wilderness experience. Guided walks and convoys are available as is the possibility of a self-drive tour.
Unforgettable mountain vistas await all those who venture to the majestic Drakensberg Mountains. The "Dragon Mountains" range over a thousand kilometres along the great escarpment of the southeast coastal area. Here is where Champagne Castle, whose peak rises 3,375 meters (11,073 feet), the highest elevation in the country, can be found. Game sanctuaries, Bushman rock art sites, challenging peaks and cascading waterfalls are but some of the features of the Drakensberg Mountains. It's a fantastic place for nature photography, hiking, or even relaxing amid the great outdoors.
The largest of South Africa's 'townships' and home to a couple of million people, Soweto is a vibrant city with a number of notable historical sights. Townships were designated residential areas segregating whites, blacks, mixed race 'coloureds', and Asians during the Apartheid years. Soweto is an unforgettable experience for most visitors. Dwellings range from large, modern homes to makeshift shanties. The homes of Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu stand as reminders of the epic struggle for freedom. Stop in at a traditional 'shebeen' or drinking hall, where you can savour local beer, food, and hospitality.
Gauteng has been South Africa's foremost industrial region ever since the great gold rush of 1886 spawning one of the world's great cities, Johannesburg. Jo'burg, Jozi, Egoli-call it what you will-it's hopping and bopping to a cultural beat with an energetic rhythm. Everyone is on the move, taking care of business, working out and partying or soaking up the atmosphere. Even the older part of the city is developing an interesting character thanks to inner city renewal projects. There are exciting nightlife venues in the centre of Johannesburg, offering restaurants, theatres, museums, craft markets and more. The northern suburbs exude a sense of opulence and prosperity. Numerous shopping malls carry a vast array of quality consumer goods, including luxury items. Hundreds of restaurants and coffee shops offer a wide range of tantalising cuisine.
Pretoria is a lovely, quiet city known for all the purple-blossomed trees, which line its thoroughfares. Many heritage buildings and fascinating museums testify to a long and fascinating history. The Transvaal Museum has terrific natural history displays and is the home of Mrs Ples, the australopithecine fossil found at Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humankind. The nearby Cultural History Museum and the Smuts Museum are also worth visiting. For wildlife or geology buffs, the Premier Game Reserve, is right next door to the Cullinan Diamond Mine, where the largest diamond in the world was found.
Durban is South Africa's third largest city and Africa's busiest port. The appeal of Durban can be found in its wonderful climate, holiday attractions, subtropical landscapes, and laid-back beach culture. This pretty city has something for everyone looking to discover an eclectic cultural fusion. You will find it in the live music venues; all along the Golden Mile on the city waterfront; displayed in the Victorian, Edwardian and art deco buildings; savoured in the fabulous Oriental and African cuisine; built into the state-of-the art shopping malls, craft markets, and casinos.
Cape Town has become a popular destination for today's world travellers. Spectacular scenic drives offering stunning coastal views are all part of the Cape's fantastic assortment of irresistible attractions. Dominated by Table Mountain, this cosmopolitan city has a host of diversions to occupy your time. Whether it's the culture, the wine, or the scenery, Cape Town is sure to please all who visit.
This is the largest city in the Eastern Cape, and probably one of South Africa's best-kept secrets. It has beautiful beaches, architecture that reflects a colonial past, and many cultural activities highlighting the lives of the people of this friendly city. Port Elizabeth is a great base for day trips to Addo Elephant National Park, Shamwari, the Baviaanskloof, Port Alfred, Jeffrey's Bay, or Grahamstown. Within city limits, visitors can take advantage of lovely walks, fantastic mountain bike trails, good surfing and sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing, and even great diving. There are a number of excellent golf courses, most notably Humewood, which is the only true links course in South Africa.