A world in one country.
More than 100,000 years in the making South Africa – at the southern tip of the Dark Continent – is a land of contrasts and contradictions. Pairing remarkable natural beauty with sprawling urban jungles; inland safari adventures with a burgeoning gourmet and wine scene; a melting pot of African, European and Cape Malay culture and a tumultuous history, it’s no wonder this southern belle has become the number one must-do destination in mainland Africa.
Unusually, the country boasts three capitals, Cape Town (the Mother City and seat of Parliament); Pretoria (the Jacaranda City and seat of the President and Cabinet); and Bloemfontein (the City of Roses and home of the Supreme Court of Appeal). Other urban capitals of note: Johannesburg (the City of Gold) and Durban (the Miami of Africa) together with Stellenbosch (the Town of Oaks); Polokwane (the City of Stars) and Port Elizabeth (the Windy City) allow a glimpse of history and southern hospitality. All provide excellent launch pads for wilderness adventures with Africa’s Big Five – lions, buffalo, leopards, rhinoceros and elephants.
It’s dubbed the Adventure Capital of the World, but don’t be intimidated, South Africa is super accessible for modern explorers of all temperaments. Well maintained national highways and well-thought out tourist trails like Route 62 – the world’s longest wine route – open up South Africa’s farmlands, plethora of national parks, gourmet pockets, world-class wineries and luxury game lodges for easy exploration. Boasting coastlines on both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the country’s aquatic attractions – big surf, great white shark dives, whale watching, white water rafting and SCUBA diving draw their fair share of attention all year round.
Johannesburg, the unashamed capital of the Gauteng Province, made its name as a 19thCentury gold town. Soweto, a sprawling township on the outskirts of the city, was once home to African leaders Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu and museums pay homage to their contribution to modern society. Kruger National Park, God’s Window (at Mpumalanga) and Sterkfontein’s limestone caves - the Cradle of Humankind for the Evolutionists amongst us - are all within easy reach.
To the extreme south, Cape Town injects more than a touch of old world European charm into its spectacular surrounds on the shores of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Its many tourist attractions – a cable car to the summit of Table Mountain, the stone monolith that dominated the Mother City; surf beaches; an incredible assortment of animals on land and sea; new age wines and a bustling nightlife rich with a cultural diversity in cuisine and entertainment – take full advantage of the region’s natural beauty. It’s laid back, it’s sporty and it’s worth taking time out to fully enjoy all the area has to offer.
Beyond South Africa’s city precincts, classic African scenery and unique World Heritage-listed Cape Floral Kingdom (with the highest known concentration of plant species in the world) await. Golden savannah, coral reefs, desert plains, gnarly surf breaks, dramatic mountain ranges, indigenous forests, game reserves, subterranean cave systems and more than 2800km of rugged coastline broken by long stretches of sand (for all those sun worshipers out there) provide all the finishing touches for the penultimate African adventure.