South Africa is one of our planet’s most strikingly beautiful countries and holds a special place in my heart. I was remarkably fortunate to grow up in Cape Town and even after living abroad for most of my adult life, I still feel an intimate bond with the place and its people and always eager to share my personal knowledge and love of this destination.
There are many reasons why you should put South Africa on your bucket list
Cape Town, one of the world’s most beautiful cities
World-class gourmet dining and marvelous vineyards
300 km stretch of pristine coastline along the spectacular Garden Route – a nature lover’s paradise
Some of Africa’s best luxury resorts
Big Five safari in the Kruger Park National Park
Majestic Drakensberg Mountains
For sheer dramatic beauty Mpumalanga’s Blyde River Canyon (now known as Motlatse Canyon, although road signs have yet to change) wins hands down (choose Graskop, Sabie or Hazyview as your base for easy access). Visit it as part of the Panorama Route and you’ll see as many as six falls and viewpoints all within a one-day round trip. Make sure to include the ‘Pinnacle’ (a quartzite column rising from within a wooded canyon). The amphitheatre of the Drakensberg – a monolithic wall of mountain that forms one of the most extraordinary cliff faces on earth; a flat wall-like plateau that extends for 5 km and looms over the Drakensberg National Park – is one of the country’s most recognisable features (other than Table Mountain) and a major South African highlight. This is Africa’s highest mountain range south of Kilimanjaro.
You can’t come to South Africa and ignore Kruger. One of the world’s best wildlife-watching destinations and a South Africa travel highlights the Kruger National Park is not only so huge that it exceeds Israel in size, it’s also the flagship of the country’s national parks and regarded as the topmost safari experience. Covering 20 000 square kilometres it rests up against the border with Mozambique in the north of South Africa. Expect to see elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, rhino, buffalo, giraffe, hippo, zebra, at least another 130 mammals and a host of birds.
Every trip to South Africa should begin or end in Cape Town – it is the sparking jewel in the impressive crown. Cape Town can really take your breath away. The horizon is dominated by the iconic Table Mountain, rising up in the background and in the foreground, the waterfront, adjoined by white sandy beaches and picturesque suburbs.
Cape Town is steeped in history and full of beautiful landmark buildings from its colonial past, lush botanical gardens, colorful markets and wonderful art collections. Just a stone throw from the city itself are many attractions than can be visited as a day trip, including the not to be missed, Cape Peninsula and the Cape Winelands. For a longer diversion, take off on a road trip along The Garden Route.
In less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town you can find yourself set against a backdrop of orchards, vineyards and mountain peaks, in the Cape Winelands, that include the popular wine-making towns of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl - These three lie within easy reach of each other and can be combined in one visit. The small, quaint town of Franschhoek is arguably the prettiest of the Cape Winelands, skirted by many elegant wine estates, tasting rooms, chef restaurants and world class spas. The main street of the town is lined with local art galleries, quaint boutiques and excellent restaurants - a top choice for a relaxing, luxurious food and wine getaway.
Closer to Cape Town, in the suburb of Constantia, the original birthplace of South Africa’s wine-making, you can visit some of the country’s oldest and most beautiful estates which lie conveniently close to other places of interest such as the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
For those who have more time, we recommend the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the whale-watching town of Hermanus or the wine estates of the immeasurably scenic Route 62. Although not as well-known as Franschhoek and Constantia, these alternative wine routes are equally pleasing to both eye and palate, and can easily be combined with road trip to the Whale Coast or the beach-lined Garden Route.
The Garden Route
Is a 300 km stretch of pristine coastline - a route for the ultimate road trip, that takes you along lush indigenous forests, serene lagoons and lakes, wild landscapes and sandy bays, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches, green valley’s, quaint towns and exotic birdlife. This scenic passage includes the sea side towns of Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenburg Bay, George as well as many nature reserves – the finest of which are the Tsitsikamma Forest and Wilderness.
Luxury Safari Stays
A must-for for anybody with a taste for bush luxury is a stay at one of the small and exclusive camps or lodges set in private reserves or concessions such as the Kruger concessions, Sabi Sand, Madikwe, Phinda and the vicinity of Addo Elephant National Park. Typically these lodges combine chic Africa-themed accommodation with world-class cuisine, fine wines, attentive staff and most importantly, thrilling game drives led by expert guides in open-sided 4x4s.
Imagine what life was like in South Africa millions of years ago. Now you can when you visit the Cradle of Mankind in Gauteng, just northwest of Johannesburg. This World Heritage Site is a treasure trove of fossilised history, and home to the remains of our ancestors – the Hominids. Go back in time and discover an ancient world of dinosaur fossils, hominid skeletons and evidence of their existence at the Maropeng Centre and the Sterkfontein Caves.