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South Africa

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Table of contents

Things to do and See in South Africa

 

Cape Town


Cape Town was originally founded in 1652 as a supply outpost for the Dutch East India Shipping Company, which it flourished due to its location on the coast. It wasn’t till the British took control of it in the late 18th century that the city started to grow. The British encouraged migration to the city and soon Cape Town was the place to be. Cape Town is the most open-minded and relaxed city in the country. The fact that it has beautiful white sandy beaches and Table Mountain dominating the backdrop of the city might have something to do with that. .

Today, Cape Town is one of the safest cities in the country, but the crime rate is still very high, so please be vigilant when visiting the city. If you do come to the Cape Town you will find arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You have the beautiful Table Mountain in the background and amazing beaches all around the city. There are many things to do and see and below is a list of a few of them. We recommend you buy an attraction pass if you are in the city for a few days, as it will give you entry into tons of tourist attractions. For more information go to www.thecapetownpass.co.za

The Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre is located on the corner of Burg Street and Castle Street. For more information go to www.cape-town.org or www.tourismcapetown.com


Table Mountain

This mountain is over 1000m high and dominates Cape Town, as wherever you go you will see this massive rock. This is the cities major landmark and its biggest attraction as well. In 1929, a cable car was introduced to bring visitors to the summit, to offer them views of the city and its beautiful white sandy beaches. Today, the cable car is now a state of the art gondola, which only takes you a few minutes to get to the top. Once you are on the top there are restaurants and bars. For more information and admission prices go to www.tablemountain.co.za or www.tablemountain.net

 

Wine Tasting

The wine producing region around Stellenbosch, is South Africa’s second oldest town and one of the most important for producing wine. It also boasts as having the longest wine route in the world. The vines were planted in 1679 by the Dutch and today with a student population of over 10,000 it’s not just a great place to go for tasting of wine, but also it has a great nightlife.

The Constantia Wine Route is located approximately 20km from Cape Town and it has over 400 wine producers in its region. The top producers here are Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg Vineyards. There are many other great places of interest around these areas and it’s a definite must for any wine lover.

 

 

Hermanus

Hermanus is only a short drive from Cape Town and it’s an excellent location for wine tasting or you can go cage diving along side great white sharks. Also, whether you come in winter or spring, you will have a chance to see whales and dolphins swimming along the coast. If you love seafood then you will also like this place, as there are loads of restaurants that have fresh seafood on the menu.

 

 

Township Tour

The township tours are an excellent way to see how the country’s black and mixed-race race live in the areas of Kayalitsha, Langa and Gugulethu. We strongly recommend one of the tours, as it’s a good eye opener, but be vigilant as the crime level is very high in these areas.

 

 

Robben Island

Robben Island is a World Heritage Site and is located 10km from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and its where thousands of political prisoners were held during the apartheid years of the country. It’s most famous prisoner was Nelson Mandela, where he was incarcerated at the prison for 18 of his 27 year sentence. Since 1996, there has been a National Museum and cultural centre on Robben Island, where visitors can see, among other things, the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Some of the tour guides are former political prisoners, able to provide a personal testimony of the terrible conditions suffered by the inmates.
If you would like to do a tour is leaves from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront Clock Tower Precinct and it’s a great opportunity to see how the prisoners lived when they were here. For more information and admission prices go to www.robben-island.org.za

 

 

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve

This reserve is located 40km from the city centre and it’s a must see for any visitor to the city. This is a popular day trip for many people, as it has great walking trails and beaches. Part of the Cape Peninsula National Park is Cape Point, which is over 20,000 acres and is where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Many people come here to take pictures of its sea cliffs, which are the highest in South Africa and reach heights of over 250m. The Cape is also home to loads of wildlife, including penguins, zebras and baboons. If you like your adrenalin sports then this is an excellent place to go surfing or go abseiling. For more information and admission prices go to www.cpnp.co.za or www.capepoint.co.za

 

 

Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope is one of the oldest European structures in Southern Africa, as it was built in the late 17th century. It’s still used as a military base today, but visitors can still have a look for a small admission fee.

 

 

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

This area around the harbour has loads of restaurants, bars and loads of shops. The city renovated all the Victorian warehouses and today, its one of the most visited areas in the city, as many of the tourists wanting to go and see Robben Island, depart from the waterfront. You will also find the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre and Two Oceans Aquarium, which is one of the best in the country. For more information go to www.aquarium.co.za  or www.waterfront.co.za
 
 

 

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Theses gardens were created by Cecil Rhodes in 1895, but were given back to the country on his death in 1902. They cover an area of over 1000 acres and it has over 10,000 plant species, which makes it one of the biggest botanical gardens in the world. For more information and admission prices go to www.nbi.co.za or www.kirstenbosch.co.za 

 

 

Cape Town’s Beaches

Arguably one of the biggest tourist attractions to this city is its beaches, as the beaches along the Atlantic seaboard are usually filled with people sunbathing on its white sandy beaches. In the backdrop you will have the stunning Twelve Apostles mountain range. This is where most of the rich live and its trendy, yuppie area of the city, but still worth checking out.

 

Clifton
The suburb of Clifton is the most popular, as it has four linked beaches, which are extremely popular. The two most popular of the four beaches is Fourth Beach and First Beach, as both are two beaches people go to be seen and are popular with younger people.

 

Camps Bay
This beach isn’t as popular as Clifton, but it’s a place more people go for the scenery, as the Twelve Apostles of Table Mountain tumble into the sea. There are many bars and restaurants serving great seafood.

 

Hout Bay
This is a popular area, but mainly for families, as it has the hugely popular Mariner’s Wharf complex, which has loads of bars and restaurants serving great seafood. There are also many scenic places around this area, which are popular with photographers. For more information go to www.marinerswharf.com

 

False Bay
This area isn’t as popular as the Atlantic side, but False Bay is an excellent place to view humpback and bryde whales, which are usually spotted between October and November. Also, for all those beach enthusiasts the water on this side tends to be a bit warmer as well. Another place you should check out is Boulders, which has loads of beautiful coves and you will also have a chance to see penguins, which are frequent around this area. For more information and admission prices go to www.cpnp.co.za 

 

 

 

 

Johannesburg


Johannesburg’s main reason for existence is for the gold that was discovered near it in 1886. In Zulu, Johannesburg is called E’goli (place of gold), but unfortunately for the locals the gold dried up ages ago. Today, Johannesburg is the world’s largest inland city as the nearest beach is over 500km away and it has one of the highest crime rates as well. The worst areas of the city are in the city centre and around the Hillbrow and Berea areas, which are considered to be a no go zone for tourists. If you are planning on coming to South Africa go to Cape Town, as there are more things to do and the crime isn’t as high. If you do come to Johannesburg you should visit the township of Soweto and maybe try your luck at Sun City, which is South Africa’s Vegas. The best and safest way to see the city is by getting a hop-on hop-off bus, which can be purchased in 1, 2 or 3-day passes.  If you are going to Kruger National Park, this is the best city to depart from. Below is a list of a few of the things to do and see in the city. For more information go to www.gauteng.net or www.joburgtourism.com


Soweto

This massive black ‘township’ is home to over 3 million people and the poorest area of the city. Unfortunately, this area has a lack of facilities like running water and electricity and all you will see is rows of council houses, which are in a dire state of repair. Most white South Africans have never been inside the township and it’s the white tourists, which are the only white people having a chance to see the horrible conditions in this area. This area is where Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu grew up and today Nelson Mandela’s home is a small museum in the township.

In 1976, the government tried to make Afrikaans the language in schools, but this led to riots and school students being killed, which led to more violence. The area was at war with the white government and tens of thousands died in the years leading up to the general elections in 1994. The main tourist attractions in the township are Freedom Square, where thousands protested and Hector Peterson memorial, which is dedicated to the first child to die in the 1976 uprisings.

Soweto has a very high crime rate and it’s not advisable to go through it on your own, as it might lead to disaster. There are many tours available that will take you through the township and the recommended ones are Max Maximum Tours, Neng Kapa Neng, or the Shebeen Crawl, or the Heritage Route Tour. The Shebeen Crawl shows you some of the history, but it’s more geared towards the entertainment side of the township, as it will take you to some bars and restaurants as well. The other three tours are excellent and focus on the historical side of the township. For more information on Soweto go to www.sowetosa.co.za

 

Sun City

This is huge area is South Africa’s version of Las Vegas, as thousands of people come here to try there luck on the slots, or poker tables. Sun City also has excellent golf courses, swimming pools, restaurants and top end hotels. There is an admission fee to get in, but they do give you US$3.50 worth of chips, which you can use towards gambling or having a meal. Many of the big concerts and events are held here, as it has the proper security and facility to hold such events.

 

Ellis Park

This is the biggest rugby park in South Africa and where all the top international games are held. South Africans take rugby very serious and if there is a game on when you are in the city, it’s highly recommend you go to Ellis Park to check it out.

 

Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City is located underneath one of the largest rollercoaster’s in the Southern Hemisphere and a casino, which keeps people entertained for hours. Gold Reef City was originally an old gold mine named Number 14 Shaft, but today is a maze of tunnels for people to have a look in. There are museums that show the history of the mine and the people who died trying to get the gold. For more information and admission prices go to www.goldreefcity.co.za

 

Apartheid Museum

This museum is located next to Gold Reef City and it gives you some history into how the country was under apartheid. When you enter there is a turnstile for white customers and one for black. The museum opened in 2001 and was naturally officially opened by Nelson Mandela himself. It talks about the history of apartheid in the country and it’s definitely worth a visit. For more information go
to www.apartheidmuseum.org


Johannesburg Zoo

This is one of the best Zoo’s in Southern Africa, as they have over 2,000 different types of animals at the zoo, which also includes the ‘big five’. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially if you have kids with you. For more information go to www.jhbzoo.org.za 


Constitution Hill Museum


This is one of the newest attractions in the city and it opened its doors in 2004. It’s on the site of a notorious old prison complex commonly referred to as Number Four. The prison was only closed in 1983 and during the height of apartheid some 2,000-3,000 black prisoners a day passed through the complex. Famous inmates include Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. Today the prison is another excellent interactive museum and parts of the buildings have been pulled down to make way for South Africa's new Constitutional Court, which is also at the site. For more information go to www.constitutionhill.org.za 

 

Pretoria

Pretoria was named after Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius, who was a Boer. It has a population of over 1.5 million people and is located only 50km from Johannesburg. Even though the cities are so close to one another, they are so different in so many ways. This is the countries capital and a more relaxed place than that of Johannesburg. The centre of the city is Church Square, which has loads of 19th-century beautiful buildings, which are worth checking out.

The Union Buildings, overlooking the suburb of Arcadia, are one of the pinnacles of British Imperial architecture, designed by Sir Herbert Baker. They are still the administrative seat of the national government and are famous as the site of Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inauguration as President.

The Voortrekker Monument is a granite tower built to commemorate the Boer victory over the Zulus at Blood River. It’s definitely worth checking out, if you are in the city.

 

 

 


Durban


Durban is the countries third largest city and is better known as a holiday destination for many South Africans, as its warm year-round. Durban’s biggest attraction is its beaches, which attract surfers from all over the world. The most popular beach is Golden Mile, which is over 6km on length. There are many other great beaches along Durban’s coast and the city has put up a shark net around all of its main beaches to keep the sharks away from the public beaches.

During the late 19th century, Durban became an important shipping port and the British brought in Indians to help drive the economy. Because of these events, Durban today is home to the largest concentration of Indian-descended people with over 700,000 people living in or around the city. The Indian Quarter in Durban is fantastic place to visit, as it has a spice market worth checking out. Below there is a list of a few other things to do and see in Durban. For more information go to www.durban.kzn.org.za


Victoria Indian Street Market


Located in the Indian District of the city, you will find the Victoria Indian Street Market, which has loads of vendors selling fresh produce and spices. It’s a popular area with locals and tourists.

 


Anglo-Boer War Museum


The Boers claimed control of Durban in 1837 and in 1842 the British sent on troops to try and take over Durban, but were defeated at the Battle of Congella. The British soon regrouped and sent in another force and this time defeated the Boers. In the years after that defeat the British destroyed Boer farms and if they didn’t kill the Boers they sent them to concentration camps. In all they say over 20,000 people perished and today this museum gives you some insight into what happened during those times. There is a small admission price, but it is definitely worth a visit.

 

Sodwana Bay

Sodwana bay is located a days drive north of Durban and is home to some of the best diving in the world. The area has one of the world’s highest concentrations of tropical fish and the coral is one of the best in South Africa. The best dive spots are Cape Vidal, Two-Mile Reef and the famous ‘aquarium’, as it has some amazing fish here. There are loads of dive companies you can choice from its defiantly worth coming to, if you are a diver.

 

 

Seaworld Aquarium

This aquarium has sea life from both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans that border the country. It’s also the largest dolphinarium in Africa. For more information go to www.seaworld.org.za

 

 

 

South African National Parks

 

Kruger National Park

This national park covers an area of over two million hectares and is home to the ‘Big Five’, which include elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo. Kruger is also home to over 500 species of birds, 140 species of mammals and many other reptiles. It was created in 1898 to protect the flora and fauna of the South African Lowveld, the park is named after its original proponent, President Paul Kruger. Today, it’s the largest game reserve in South Africa and it has game parks and accommodation located throughout the park. It is arguably the biggest tourist attraction in the country and a must for any traveller to the country. For more information and admission prices go to www.parks-sa.co.za or www.sanparks.org

 

 

The Garden Route

This is one of the most beautiful areas of the country, as there are so many things to do and see. It has loads of forests and it’s lined with beaches and lagoons, which go on for a far as the eye can see. It’s the most tourist area in the country, as accommodation almost doubles from January through to May.

Mossel Bay is a small town, with a beautiful bay and was one of the first visited harbours visited by Europeans and it was the Portuguese who step onto its shores in 1488. Mossel Bay is alright, but if you are looking for accommodation go to Knysna, which is cheaper and they have the beautiful lagoon to relax in. One of the most popular areas along the coast is Plettenberg Bay, which has beautiful beaches and has a fantastic resort.

 

 

Addo Elephant National Park

This national park is located 70km north of Port Elizabeth and it marks the beginning of the famous Garden Route. The park is a success story in conservation with its ecosystem sanctuary to Cape buffalo, black rhino, a variety of antelope species and over 400 elephants, which the park started out as an elephant sanctuary. Today, the park is now home to the Big Five, which include lions, elephants (as mentioned already), buffaloes, leopards and rhinos. This is defiantly a park you don’t want to miss as besides the animals it has absolutely gorgeous scenery.

 

 

Tsitsikamma National Park

This park is where steep forests meet the Indian Ocean. The mountain ranges and coast line are breathtaking and have an abundance of marine and bird life. If you are brave you can jump of the highest bungee jump in the world at 216m. The near by town of Knysna is an excellent place to relax and sit around its beautiful lagoons and beaches.

 

 

Hluhluwe-Umfolozi National Park

The two reserves Hluhluwe and Umfolozi were proclaimed in 1897, and today are one of the best in the country. The two aren’t joined, but they have a corridor, which allows animals to move between both parks. The parks have an array of animals and tours can be organized to see them out in the wild. The most precious animal in the park is the white rhino, which they have a controlled breeding programme that restocks the rest of Africa.

 

 

Augrabies National Park

This national park is known for its picturesque waterfall, which is over 50m in height. One of the parks real attractions are that is has desert on one side and riverine environments on the other side. There are excellent facilties available for those wanting to stay a few nights. For more information and admission charges go to www.parks-sa.co.za

 

 

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

In 1999, South Africa’s Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park and Botswana’s Mabuasehube-Gemsbok National Park merged and are now collectively known as Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It’s one of Africa’s largest protected areas, as the park is in a triangular pattern and it crosses three countries, which are South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. There is no fence separating it, so if you have a vehicle you can drive across the border. It’s a beautiful park and a great idea between bordering countries and shows how close they are politically to one another.

 

 

 

 

The Rest of South Africa


Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is known locally as ‘PE’ and thinks of itself as the ‘Friendly City’. The city has a population of over 1 million and it has a fantastic view of Algoa Bay. It has beautiful beaches and some interesting historical buildings to look at. Unfortunately, its recent history isn’t the best, as it was here where Steve Biko, the Black Consciousness Movement leader was held and tortured for 26 days.

 

Jeffrey’s Bay

Jeffrey’s Bay is a world renowned surfer’s beach and it’s located a few kilometres from Port Elizabeth. Every year Jeffrey’s Bay plays host to an annual surfing competition, which brings in the best surfers from around the globe.

 

Fort Hare University

This university is located in the town of Alice, which isn’t to far from Port Elizabeth. It opened in 1916 and is known for being the first black university.

 

Drakensberg Mountains
 
The Drakensberg is South Africa’s largest mountain range and the official southern end of the Great Rift Valley, which slices north across Africa for 6000km. Its name, which means ‘Dragon Mountains’ in Afrikaans, stems from the jagged backbone of saw-toothed peaks. The mountains are capped with snow in winter and the countries only ski resort is Tiffendel. In summer it’s a popular place of tourists and locals to go camping and hiking.

 

St Lucia Wetlands

This is listed as a UNESCO world heritage area and it is one of the world’s top ecotourism destinations that are over 70km in length. It has the largest freshwater lake in Southern Africa and it’s a popular place for fishermen, campers and bird enthusiasts. The area also has great facilities and accommodation.


Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve


Blyde River Canyon has some of South Africa’s most breathtaking scenery and is the third largest gorge in the world, after the Grand Canyon (USA) and Fish River Canyon (Namibia). It’s also the world’s largest green canyon. The park is home to a wide variety of animals and the Blyde Dam, provides a natural habitat for hippos and crocodiles. It’s a popular place for locals and tourist for hiking or camping. Most of the tour operators in the country go to this park, as it’s a highlight for many. There is an admission price to get into the reserve, but it’s worth the price.

 

 

 
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