South Africa travel guide
February 14, 2019
by Seldean Smith
Situated at the southern tip of the majestic African continent, South Africa is more than just a meeting point for two oceans. It is where travellers from across the world come to lose their hearts as they explore the diversity found in the mix and match of cultures that perfectly boil together under the heat of the African Sun. With more than 11 official languages and an abundance of stunning natural attractions, South Africa is a destination unlike anything else. In some areas of the world, it is still believed that local tribesmen live among wild lions, and although that isn’t entirely the case, it is one of the best destinations in the world for an epic African safari! Whether you plan on visiting South Africa to experience the hustle and bustle of Pretoria or you want a more relaxed experience, there are unlimited possibilities when it comes to things to do in South Africa.
You might be wondering what makes South Africa so unique. Perhaps it is because it boasts the world’s biggest meteor scar, the Vredefort Dome, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It might also be because SA is where the world’s largest diamond was found. Or is it because South Africa is where you can find the world’s oldest modern human remains? The truth is that it’s a blend of all of these factors, and that is why the Rainbow Nation is unique in every sense of the word.
What are some of the best sites to see in South Africa?
Table Mountain, Cape Town
Table Mountain is one of the oldest mountains in the world, which is why it is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and has its own floral kingdom, one of the six major plant kingdoms on earth. If you’re not keen on taking the daring ride up to the top with the cableway, you can always pick up some curios from the stalls at the foot of the majestic mountain.
Pretoria, the Jacaranda City
A visit to the metropolitan city of Pretoria is a must if you plan on travelling to South Africa in the summer months. Locals and visitors are left breathless every year as the city’s streets undergo a transformation into the most beautiful shades of purple, all thanks to the Jacaranda trees that line the roads. Pretoria is a warming city that seems to never sleep. It’s one of the best destinations for foodie travellers since it features an abundance of local food and craft markets.
Kruger National Park
If you’re here to experience the wilder side of SA, the Kruger is an unmissable checkpoint on your travel itinerary. Spreading across 2 of South Africa’s provinces, the Kruger National Park is one of the world’s largest game reserves. With plenty of fresh air, African traditions, and a plethora of wildlife on offer, this is where tourists and locals alike come to be at one with nature.
The Big Hole
Back in 1870, when the world was ranting and raving for diamonds, miners started digging and excavating this site, by hand! Today, it’s one of the world’s largest manmade excavation sites and even has its own diamond museum. Kimberley’s Big Hole is where you’ll find beautiful natural scenery, an abundance of local vendors and stalls selling beautiful curios, and of course, a look into South Africa’s glory days.
Addo Elephant National Park
Not only does the Addo Elephant National Park have the Big 5, but they’re also proud to house the BIG 7! Here guests have an opportunity to see elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, leopards, great white sharks and southern right whales, all in one location! The park is situated on a 164,000ha resort and is one of the best destinations in South Africa to view elephants in their natural environment.
Situated on South Africa’s southern coast, the Drakensberg Meander is a nature lover’s paradise, not to mention a must-see if you’re somewhat of an adrenalin junkie! If submerging yourself in the breathtaking natural surroundings isn’t enough, you can always opt in for exploring the area via horseback, hiking routes, zip-lining, or mountain biking. Since the World Heritage Site is absolutely massive, it boasts a variety of resorts that cater to just about every budget.
Exploring a meteor scar might not be up everyone’s alley, but if you love adventure and all things rugged, this is a site you cannot afford to miss. The Vredefort Dome is 2 billion years old and spans across 300km of craters, making it ideal for abseiling, white water rafting and rock climbing. The sandstone cliffs at Vredefort and the open plains make this an SA destination where you can lose your heart to the beauty of Mother Nature in all her might.
What are some of the best things to do in South Africa?
Enjoy the waves
South Africa is home to some stunning beaches. The country also has some of the most epic surf waves out there. It’s definitely a must-do while you’re there.
Ride an ostrich (or at least try)
In the Karoo, you can ride ostriches and feed them. If you’ve ever wanted to know what life on an Ostrich farm is like, South Africa is just the place to live out your dreams.
Book that safari!
If this is the only thing you do, you HAVE to work in a wildlife experience while you’re in sunny South Africa. Regardless of your budget (or personal taste), most South African resorts can provide you with anything from basic camping to extreme glamping safari experiences, complete with a spa session in the bushveld.
Buy something for the family
Some of South Africa’s shopping malls are the size of football stadiums, which is exactly the excuse you need to get your fix of retail therapy. If you’re visiting KwaZulu Natal, be sure to stop by the Gateway Theatre of Shopping. Tourists visiting Cape Town can turn their focus to Canal Walk for the widest range of shops under one roof. Exploring Johannesburg or Pretoria? The Mall of Africa has everything you need and MORE!
When is the best time to visit South Africa?
South Africa is the perfect escape from those freezing American and European winters. Located in the southern hemisphere, South Africa enjoys it’s hot summers between the months of December and February, although anything from late September is considered “a perfect day for a picnic.” The average summertime temperatures range between 15 ̊C (59 ̊F) and 32 ̊C (89 ̊F). The winter months in South Africa are considerably cooler, with maximum temperatures peaking at 23 ̊C. The best time to visit South Africa, however, is probably between the months of March-May and September-November, when the country has its mild yet pleasant fall and spring seasons.
Fun facts about South Africa
- Outweighing that of the United Kingdom, Table Mountain is home to more than 1,500 species of plants!
- With a Guinness World Record, South Africa has the most official languages in the world
- Some of the world’s best dinosaur fossils can be found in the Karoo, a semi-desert natural region of South Africa’s Northern Cape province
- The University of South Africa (UNISA), located in Pretoria, is the largest distance learning institution in the world