Discover the Rainbow Nation: A Comprehensive Guide to Traveling in South Africa
December 5, 2023
Where is South Africa located?
South Africa’s varied cultures have earned it the moniker “rainbow nation.” With a coastline spanning more than 2,850 kilometers, it is located in the southernmost point of Africa (1,770 miles). South Africa is bordered by a number of nations, each of which adds to the country’s intricate cultural fabric. It forms the northern boundary with Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Stretching along the eastern border, it meets Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Mozambique in the northeast. Landlocked Lesotho is situated inside South Africa’s boundaries, primarily to the east, and is encompassed by it totally. The geographical proximity of such varied neighbors contributes to the diversity and depth of cultural influences that are apparent in South Africa. South Africa is proud of its varied terrain, which includes enormous savannas, breathtaking mountain ranges, and coastlines. This vibrant nation is renowned for its rich cultural fascinating history, and a display of natural wonders that make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure and diversity.
Why Choosing South Africa as a Travel Destination?
South Africa is a particularly desirable travel location for a variety of reasons. From taking in the fascinating wildlife safaris in Kruger National Park to taking in Cape Town’s energetic city life. Not only is South Africa a country blessed with breathtaking scenery, but it also has a rich historical legacy, as evidenced by the likes of Nelson Mandela, a globally renowned individual. The friendliness and generosity of its citizens add even more charm to this fascinating country. South Africa is a charming and culturally absorbing tourism destination because of its rich cultural heritage and variety.
The Language Spoken in South Africa
South Africa’s varied culture and ethnic groups contribute to the country’s multilingualism. Although there are eleven recognized languages, English is the language of education and communication. As a result, travelers who can communicate in English easily find their way about South Africa’s tourist destinations, lodging options, and public transit. Despite this, it is still helpful to know some of the most basic terminology in the language of the host. For instance, in Cape Town you might bump into someone speaking Afrikaans and if they say “Goeie more” meaning “good morning,” say, “Dankie” which means “thank you,” and “Ja/Nee” indicates “yes” or “no”. While “Yebo/Cha” indicates “Yes” or “No” in Zulu, “Sawubona” means “hello.”
How safe is South Africa for Travel?
South Africa is to me as a frequent traveler the most dangerous country I have visited. I always felt like I have to watch my back. It can always come to crimes such as armed robbery, carjacking, mugging and smash-and-grab attacks on vehicles, is common. There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central commercial districts of major cities as it host people from different countries who some come to do business as others come to sight see places. However, South Africa has made significant strides in improving safety for tourists, especially in popular destinations. Especially if you travel the Garden Route it has one of the safer villages and towns to visit. But in the bigger cities you really have to take care where you are and what streets you walk. Don’t walk after sunset and Stick to well-traveled areas, follow local advice, and take standard safety precautions to ensure a secure and enjoyable trip.
How is the food in South Africa?
Food is generally part of the to-do-list for most of the travelers as it adds to the memories to carry home, and South African cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors influenced by various cultures. You will find dishes influenced by the indigenous population, along with Dutch, French, Indians and Malaysia. You might want to try a “braai” (barbecue) for a taste of the local grilling culture, or else taste the the famous “bobotie” (a spiced, baked minced meat dish), and treat your taste buds to the sweetness of “koeksisters” (a traditional syrup-coated doughnut). What about beef biltong (air-dried meat). You can as well try Boerewors, a traditional South African sausage made from beef, mixed with either pork or lamb and a mixture of spieces. Boerewors are traditionally served in a coiled shape. If you ever set your foot in South Africa do not leave until you enjoy one or two more of their local food.
What is the Best Time to Travel to South Africa?
Well, that really depends on your purpose for visiting South Africa. One of the remarkable aspects of South Africa is its status as a year-round destination, offering pleasant weather throughout the year. It’s essential to consider a few factors when planning your visit.
The peak tourist season spans from November to March, characterized by bustling beaches and increased tourist activity. For those interested in swimming with penguins in Simon’s Town or indulging in surfing adventures, the ideal time is between March and May.
Winter, on the other hand, brings unique advantages, particularly for those interested in wildlife cruises and safaris. This season offers distinct advantages for observing wildlife due to better visibility through sparser vegetation, making it an optimal time for safaris. The rainy season varies across the country, with some regions experiencing it from November to February. It’s advisable to check specific regions’ weather patterns and plan accordingly to avoid any inconvenience due to heavy rainfall.
9 Best Things to Do in South Africa
What can I do while in South Africa? You might ask, well, South Africa does not have a routine of boring activities that you end up getting used to them because there are loads of exciting activities to enjoy. You can explore Kruger National Park, marvel at Table Mountain in Cape Town, and discover history at Robben Island. Check out these nine amazing things you can do while in South Africa:
Safari in Kruger National Park
Is located in northeastern South Africa, it is one of the largest Africa;s game reserves, covering an area of 19,485 km2. The attraction of this wildlife haven extends beyond its borders, attracting travelers seeking an immersive safari experience. To get to Kruger National Park you can consider
flying from Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) or Hoedspruit Eastgate Airport (HDS). Domestic flights from major cities make it a convenient option.
Alternatively, you can travel by road from cities across South Africa which unveils picturesque landscapes en route to various park entrance gates..
As for accommodation, Kruger National Park caters to diverse preferences, offering everything from luxurious safari lodges to budget-friendly rest camps. Dive into the heart of the wilderness with a stay at a safari lodge, where prices range from $300 to $1000 per night for varying levels of luxury. Budget-conscious travelers can opt for rest camps scattered throughout the park, starting from $100 per night. Park entrance fees vary for international and South African visitors, and detailed fee structures can be found on the official Kruger National Park Website.
Lodge prices encompass a spectrum based on location, amenities, and safari experiences. To add on, comprehensive safari packages, often including guided game drives and meals, are available at varying prices. Booking accommodations and safaris in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons, to secure availability and potentially benefit from early booking discounts.
Table Mountain, Cape Town
With its recognizable Table Mountain, Cape Town shines as a guide for tourists looking for a harmonious fusion of natural and urban beauty. In addition to providing amazing views, this stately mountain with a level summit, which serves as the city’s emblem, offers a plethora of exciting sports. You can walk up and also down. Specially the way down is hard for your knees and therefore I recomment taking the cable car down. If you decide to take a cable car ride to Table Mountain both ways you end up paying around 20 USD (420 Rand). You can not only view the current prices here, but also book them directly online. A breathtaking view of the city and the Atlantic Ocean can be had from the Table Mountain. It is a thing you should not miss at all. Although Cape Town offers a variety of lodging options, for convenient access, think about booking a room close to Table Mountain.
A UNESCO World Heritage site is a short ferry ride from Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Robben Island holds immense historical significance, making it a crucial destination to visit in South Africa. This served as a place of imprisonment for several anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela. A tour of Robben Island provides an insight into South Africa’s struggle for freedom and democracy. Visitors get to witness the maximum-security prison where Mandela and others were incarcerated, listen to guided tours led by former political prisoners, and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s complex history. The ferry journey which is pegged around 600 Rand (around 32 USD) depending on the ferry does not only provides stunning views of the city and Table Mountain but also sets the tone for the historical exploration. Robben Island itself doesn’t offer accommodations; Cape Town’s Waterfront area provides a range of options. It’s advisable to book tickets a few days in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
The Drakensberg Mountains, also known as the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, are a breathtaking natural wonder located in South Africa. This mountain range stretches along the eastern border of the country, forming a natural boundary between South Africa and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Here you can go on breathtaking self-organized hikes lasting from a few hours to days.
The Drakensberg Mountains are accessible by car from major cities like Durban and Johannesburg. There are a range of accommodation to choose from including mountain lodges and charming guesthouses. Options vary from luxury retreats to more budget-friendly stays, allowing you to tailor your experience to your preferences and budget. Accommodation prices in the Drakensberg region vary based on the level of luxury and amenities. You should also consider any fees for guided hikes or activities offered by the lodges.
Blyde River Canyon
Blyde River Canyon, located in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, is a stunning natural wonder known for its breathtaking scenery and diverse landscapes. Carved by the Blyde River, the canyon features towering cliffs of red sandstone that contrast beautifully with the lush greenery of the lowveld below.
Visitors to Blyde River Canyon can enjoy a range of activities and experiences:
Scenic Drives: Take in panoramic views of the canyon and its iconic features, such as the “Three Rondavels” and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, by driving along the scenic routes that wind through the area.
Hiking: Explore the canyon’s beauty up close by embarking on various hiking trails that cater to different skill levels, offering opportunities to discover its flora, fauna, and geological wonders.
Boat Tours: Enjoy a tranquil boat tour on the Blyde River, offering a unique perspective of the canyon’s majestic landscapes, as well as opportunities for birdwatching and learning about the local ecosystem.
Viewpoints: Visit viewpoints like God’s Window and the Pinnacle Rock to capture breathtaking vistas and capture the perfect photographs.
Nature and Wildlife: Discover the abundant plant and animal life in the area, from a variety of bird species to antelope and even elusive leopards.
Blyde River Canyon is a haven for nature enthusiasts, hikers, photographers, and anyone seeking a blend of outdoor adventure and awe-inspiring natural beauty in the heart of South Africa.
V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront is a popular tourist destination located in Cape Town, South Africa. It is a bustling harbor area that has been transformed into a vibrant mixed-use development, offering a wide range of attractions, shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural experiences. You can visit it all year around. During the summer months for outdoor activities and festivals or in winter for cozy indoor experiences including live music some of the best restaurants and the shopping mall.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route stretches along the southern coast of South Africa, starting in Mossel Bay and ending in Storms River. It is advisable to organize the Garden Route by car yourself. This allows you to stop at numerous towns and viewpoints and enjoy the beautiful nature without any time pressure. You should plan at least 5 days for the route. However, I would rather recommend 10-14 days. Popular stops include Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, and Wilderness. Consider activities like wildlife safaris, hiking, boat tours, and canopy tours, The Garden Route is a year-round destination, but the summer months (December to February) offer the best weather for outdoor activities.
Cradle of Humankind
The Cradle of Humankind is one of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa. Here the landscape is dotted with subterranean limestone caves that have turned up a rich fossil record for human evolutionary studies. These findings have led to the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, theorising that most human ancestors originated from one general spot… Africa. The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site lies about 50km north-west of Johannesburg, an area of rolling grassland, rocky outcrops and river courses typical of this land before it was overtaken by urban sprawl. It’s here where you get to see history in the flesh, or should we say bone. Tens of thousands of visitors from across the world come here to see first-hand the fossil record that lies in the network of limestone caves beneath the surface. Explore the Sterkfontein Caves, Swartkrans and Kromdraai, among other fossil sites, and discover the story of what the world was like when our human ancestors were evolving some 2 to 3 million years ago. the Cradle of Humankind is easily accessible by car. Guided tours are available for a more informative experience. Accommodations in nearby towns like Magaliesburg and Muldersdrift offer a serene escape. Choose from luxury lodges or charming bed and breakfasts.
Stellenbosch Wine Route
Stellenbosch is located east of Cape Town. Visiting the Stellenbosch Wine Route is a delightful experience because it offers a unique glimpse into South Africa’s rich winemaking heritage. The region boasts attractive vineyards set against stunning landscapes, where you can taste superb wines and indulge in delectable food pairings. Exploring this route allows you to immerse yourself in the charming town of Stellenbosch, learn about winemaking traditions, and enjoy guided tours through renowned vineyards. It’s a wonderful opportunity to savor delicious wines and embrace the beauty of South Africa’s winemaking culture. Stellenbosch is easily accessible by car. Also, guided wine tours are available for a hassle-free experience from Cape Town. For accommodation, you can stay in Stellenbosch itself or in nearby towns like Franschhoek. Accommodation prices range from budget-friendly to luxurious.
Explore the historic town of Stellenbosch, indulge in wine and food pairings, and visit renowned vineyards like Rust en Vrede and Delaire Graff Estate.