Every year hundreds of thousands of tourists visit South Africa to discover its numerous natural and cultural attractions. South Africa is a fascinating country full of contrasts and beauty – everything from wild elephants to breathtaking landscapes, cave paintings, colonial heritage and vibrant towns.
Wild animals in their natural habitat
South Africa is the world’s most popular safari destination and for many visitors, a glimpse of the Big Five and other wildlife is a must. The iconic Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga is certainly the most famous place to catch this view, but Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is another popular choice. The vast arid plains of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, with its migrating herds of wildebeest, stretch across parts of South Africa and Botswana. A completely different landscape and wildlife can be found in the Imangaliso Wetland Park, which is another transboundary park located along the border with Mozambique. For divers, South Africa’s underwater world has much to offer, with the annual sardine run a highlight. The popular coastal town of Hermanus is probably the best place in the world for whale watching, and for the truly adventurous, there is the option of cage diving with great white sharks.
Areas of natural beauty and botanical interest
South Africa’s landscapes are magnificent and diverse, varying from flat desert bushland to lush green coastal areas and high peaks. The view from the famous, flat-topped Table Mountain is a classic African experience. The beautiful beaches in the Cape Town region also attract thousands of sun worshippers. The green coastal road Garden Route is a great nature experience, passing countless lagoons, several interesting towns and the beautiful Tsitsikamma National Park. Augrabies Falls National Park offers a 60m high waterfall. Close to the Kruger Park is the Blyde River Canyon, the largest green canyon in the world, and not far away are the high peaks of the Drakensberg Mountains. The Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park is one of the country’s 8 Unesco World Heritage Sites for its outstanding natural beauty and the many cave paintings found there.
A large number and some of the oldest hominid fossils have been found in South Africa, especially in the Cradle of Humankind, another World Heritage Site. Important fossils have been found in over 30 different caves, but the Sterkfontein Caves are perhaps the most important in this location. Far more recent is the 17th century Castle of Good Hope in beautiful Cape Town, one of the heritage sites from the colonial era. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned, has become an important destination. For more insights into the apartheid era, visit the District Six Museum in Cape Town or the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.
- Although regularly criticised, visits to the notorious townships are becoming increasingly popular. Some say such trips turn poverty into entertainment, while others think they benefit everyone involved. Either way, a township tour is an experience that sticks. Soweto, in Johannesburg, is particularly well known.
- South Africa has gained world fame as a wine country and if you are interested, a visit to one of the over 800 wineries can be a great addition to your trip. In the Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch you will find some of the best deals.