We love South Africa!
Its people, its cultures, its unique places – each extraordinary in its own right.
This is truly a whole world in one country, and we can never get enough of exploring it. Even better than the exploring, is the sharing with our guests and friends.
For those who don’t know much about this magnificent land, we have sourced some useful information from the authority on all things “South African” – South African Tourism.
If you want an in-depth read, and to look through a collection of magnificent imagery, head on over to their website, southafrica.net.
NATIONAL SYMBOLS The South African flag is a much-loved symbol of the ‘new’ South Africa. It comprises a geometric pattern of green, white, black, gold, red and blue. South Africa’s national bird is the blue crane. The national animal is the springbok; the national fish, the galjoen; the national flower, the giant or king protea; and the national tree, the yellowwood. South Africa’s national anthem is based on the Xhosa hymn, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa), composed by Enoch Sontonga in 1897, and Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The Call of South Africa). (southafrica.net)
Since the first post-apartheid elections in 1994, South Africa has had a democratic government. The Constitution is regarded as an example to the world and enshrines a wide range of human rights protected by an independent judiciary. The head of the country is the president. The current incumbent is Jacob Zuma, who is the head of the ruling party, the African National Congress.
Regarded as an emerging market, South Africa has a well-developed financial sector and active stock exchange. Financial policies have focused on building solid macroeconomic structures. The country’s central bank is the South African Reserve Bank.
South Africa’s currency is the rand, which offers visitors great value for money. The rand comes in a range of coins (R1 = 100 cents) and note denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200.
An ocean sunset
South Africa is known for its long sunny days, hence the title, ‘Sunny South Africa’. Most of the nine provinces have summer rainfall, except for the Western Cape, which experiences winter rainfall. The high-lying areas of the interior can be chilly in winter. The South African Weather Service uses the following dates for seasons:
Spring: September, October, November
Summer: December through February
Autumn: March, April, May
Winter: June through August
South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cellphone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas.
For the ‘Adrenalin Junkie’ – Shark Cage Diving
Situated at the southern tip of Africa, South Africa is 1,233,404km² in size and is edged on three sides by nearly 3,000km of coastline, with the Indian Ocean to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The country is bordered in the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and also encloses two independent countries, the kingdoms of Lesotho and Swaziland. (southafrica.net)
Boulders Beach, Cape Town
South Africa is a multilingual country and there are 11 official languages, namely: English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Siswati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Although only about 10% of the population has English as its mother tongue, English is the language most widely understood, and is the second language of the majority of South Africans.
In urban areas tap water is usually of high quality and safe to drink. It’s quite safe to have ice in drinks and to eat salads. However, when travelling to remote rural areas and the bush you should take your own drinking water along or buy bottled water.
The South African electricity supply is 220/230 volts AC 50 HZ. With a few exceptions (in deep rural areas), electricity is available almost everywhere.
South Africa’s three major international airports are OR Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg); Cape Town International Airport; and King Shaka International Airport (Durban). There are also many regional airports, including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mbombela (Nelspruit).
Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but if you are visiting the Kruger National Park or low-lying parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal, be aware that you are entering malarial areas and should take precautions in the form of prophylactic medication.
SECURITY Use common sense and take basic safety precautions. Keep valuables locked away and don’t wear expensive watches or jewellery, flash expensive cameras, or walk in deserted areas. Keep car doors and windows locked at all times. If in doubt, ask a guide or at your accommodation for safety guidelines. (southafrica.net)
Smoking is banned in public places, but there are usually designated areas where people can smoke. Under-18s may not enter a designated smoking area or buy cigarettes.
For visa requirements, please contact your nearest South African diplomatic mission. South Africa requires a valid yellow fever certificate from all foreign visitors and citizens over one year of age travelling from an infected area or having been in transit through infected areas. Infected areas include Zambia and Angola in southern Africa.
Picnicking in the Cape Winelands
South Africa is home to the Big Five – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino – and a host of other animal, bird and plant species. To see the Big Five, your best bet is to head for the Kruger National Park and its environs in Mpumalanga or Limpopo.
You could also opt for the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West, Marekele National Park in Limpopo, or head for any of the private lodges or parks in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which is famous for its rhino population.
Another iconic wildlife experience is the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape. It’s a photographer’s paradise and home to the Kalahari black-maned lion.
South Africa has some of the most beautiful, pristine beaches in the world, and Cape Town’s famous beaches, such as Clifton and Muizenberg, along with Durban’s glorious beaches are extremely popular.
If you take yourself off to the Eastern Cape’s aptly named Wild Coast, or northern Zululand’s remote coast, you could well find yourself all alone with just surf, sand and sea to keep you company.
There are Blue Flag beaches, family-friendly beaches, beaches with African penguins, and beaches where you can watch whales breach and blow. And, of course, beaches where you can dive, snorkel, waterski, kayak, canoe or indulge in almost any water-based activity.
Cape Town, iconic Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Cape Winelands are a must on any itinerary, and many visitors start their South African trip at the southernmost tip of the country for this reason.
The Cape Winelands offer unexpectedly lush scenery, the opportunity to sample excellent wines and superior dining in well-regarded restaurants, many of which are on wine farms. Don’t miss a visit to the university town of Stellenbosch and nearby Franschhoek. Hikers will also want to lace up their boots and get out into the spectacular mountains of this region.
HISTORY AND CULTURE
Follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest freedom icons in modern history, such as Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Mahatma Gandhi, among many others. There are numerous museums and sites of interest located around Johannesburg and in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
While you’re about it, spend time in Soweto or a city township; visit a Zulu cultural village; admire the intricate beadwork, metal neck rings and unique geometric mural art of the Ndebele people; enjoy the hospitality of a South African farm.
South African rock art is among the best in the world and easily accessible, especially in the Drakensberg.
This route takes visitors east along the coast from Cape Town, past spectacular coastal scenery and through indigenous forests surrounding the beautiful town of Knysna. End your Garden Route trip with a visit to the Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth, where you are guaranteed good sightings of these lumbering giants.
A misty view of Table Mountain
Don’t miss the fascinating battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, where Brit battled Zulu and Boer battled Brit. Other parts of the country to have an interesting battle history include the Eastern Cape, site of the Frontier Wars (also known as the Wars of Dispossession), and the Northern Cape, where parts of the South African War (also known as Boer War) played out.
Whether it’s diving with great white sharks, a tandem paraglide flight or backpacking in Big Five territory, there is no shortage of adventure on offer in South Africa. You’ll find the sharks at Gansbaai in the Western Cape, and can book a tandem paraglide from Lion’s Head in Cape Town and hike on foot in the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga or Limpopo with armed guides.