8 of the Best… reasons to holiday in South Africa

South Africa used to be advertised as and international tourist destination with the slogan ‘experience the world in one country’. That saying remains indisputably true and applicable. In almost any other country you could travel the length and breadth of that country and the scenery, the climate and the offerings and attractions will not change much from one side to the other.

However, in South Africa you can travel from a unique mountain desert in the west to the Bushveld in the north teeming with wildlife, to the beautiful coast, mountains and vineyards of the Western Cape with its Mediterranean climate, to the great forests of the Garden Route, through the wetlands and subtropics of the northeastern parts of the country, across the arid Great Karoo, and plenty more in-between.

Not only will the scenery, the landscape, the vegetation, and the climate undergo dramatic shifts and changes between these regions but so too the diversity and abundance of places of interest, things to do and experiences to enjoy. And the languages, the people and the cultural expressions will also change as you go along in this multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic land with its diversity of histories and heritage. All of these are not easily emulated anywhere else.

South Africa truly is a unique and varied tourism experience whether you are a local exploring your own beautiful country or whether you are visiting from abroad. In line with this we have compiled a list of eight of the best reasons why you should holiday in South Africa.

 

Sports Galore

With its magnificent sunshine weather and its great outdoors South Africans naturally are sports mad. Every kind of sport under the sun is practiced here and in many of these South African teams or athletes are internationally at the very top of their game. The country therefore boasts top class facilities in multiple sporting codes and attracts visitors from around the globe. The latter includes anything from the so called ‘balmy army’ of British cricketing fans who have come to support their team against South Africa’s Proteas or a tour group of Japanese golfing fanatics coming to sample the country’s many world class golf courses designed by the likes of Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, or Ernie Els, among others. And each year foreign and local tourists alike will travel to KwaZulu-Natal to compete in the world-famous Comrades Marathon or to Cape Town to participate in the Two Oceans marathon or in one of the great cycle races that take place here annually. For horse racing enthusiasts there are classics like the Durban July or the Sun Met also known as the Cape Metropolitan. There is of course plenty, plenty more for people who like their sports to come and do or watch it in South Africa.

 

Medical, Health & Beauty

South Africa has by far the best facilities, professionals and practitioners on the entire African continent when it comes to medical needs, health and beauty. With its top medical scientists and doctors and world class clinics and hospitals people from all over the world travel here for their medical requirements. In addition, the country has an abundance of top-class health spas and beauty and wellness treatment centers. These are great attractions for international and local tourists alike. With the outstanding medical care available in South Africa at highly affordable prices compared to many other countries, coupled to the multiple other tourist attractions available here, it is little wonder that South Africa has become a popular health, medical and wellness tourism destination.

 

Stunning Coastline, Beaches and Marine Activities

With its almost 3,000 kilometers of stunning and dramatic coastline, South Africa’s beaches waves, reefs and oceans alone are reason enough for enjoying an unforgettable holiday in this incredible country. Catch a tan on Clifton 4th Beach in Cape Town while watching the crowd of young trendsetters at play. Or go scuba diving and explore the exquisite reefs and shipwrecks off Sodwana Bay.  At Cape Town’s Table View and Blouberg beaches you can watch a multitude of colorful kites on the water as kite surfers from all over the world make use of summer’s southeaster winds. Or catch the world-famous surf at Jeffreys Bay and Cape Saint Francis. And anywhere along the coast between Durban and Port Nolloth you can book your place on a powerful boat for some exhilarating game fishing out on the open sea. Go whale watching at Hermanus or dive in a cage with the sharks off Gansbaai. There are any number of marine reserves, protected wilderness areas, national parks, game reserves and great hiking trails plus many other attractions and activities to be enjoyed along this stunning coastline.

 

Wildlife, Parks and Reserves

With its spectacular variety and abundance of African wildlife of every kind, including the Big 5, South Africa is a true wildlife lovers’ paradise. With well over 40 parks and reserves, both private and state owned, you are spoilt for choice, whether you are looking for that great all-included luxury safari experience, want to go on a one-day game drive only, or want to do the more adventurous on-foot safari among plenty of other options. There are hiking trails, kayak safaris, horseback adventures and much more to choose from. Among the 20 national parks operated by South African National Parks (SANParks) are two of the world’s greatest and best-known parks – the Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. To these two can be added more great parks such as the Richtersveld National Park along the Orange River border with Namibia and the iSimangaliso Wetlands National Park in the northeast just south of Mozambique. Other fantastic parks include the Table Mountain National Park, the Karoo National Park, the Garden Route National Park and the Namaqua National Park, to name just a few.

 

Hiking & Other Trails

With over 2,000 hiking trails spread around the country that offer close-up access to South Africa’s stunning natural beauty, this is another compelling reason to plan your next holiday here in South Africa. A trail for every taste and level of ease or difficulty can be found in national parks, reserves, wilderness areas, along the coast, across mountains, beside rives, in remote areas, or in and around cities. You name it – there’s a trail to be found. These range from short hikes of a few hours to ones that take place over several days and require overnighting in trail facilities that are usually clean and comfortable yet basic. Some of the better known trails include the world famous 5-day, 42km Otter Trail that hugs South Africa’s dramatic southern Garden Route coastline; the very challenging 6-day, 100km Amatola Hiking Trail in the Eastern Cape; a variety of Wild Coast hiking trails, also in the Eastern Cape, covering this truly wild, unspoilt and very unique coastal stretch together with it’s equally unspoilt and unique local cultural offerings; another magnificent hiking trail set in the far northern mountains of Magoebaskloof in Limpopo province; the St. Lucia wilderness trail set around the stunning iSimangaliso Wetlands National Park along the far north-eastern coast where giant marine mammals, an abundance of four-footed wildlife, lakes, lagoons, beaches, sand dunes, forests and more combine to provide an absolutely unforgettable experience; and lastly but not least the Golden Gate National Park hiking trails in the eastern highlands of the Free State province close to Lesotho. These are but a few – there are many, many more. To these hiking trails one can add a great variety of 4×4 offroad trails, mountain biking trails, game viewing trails, or horse trails, among others.

 

Great Cultural Diversity

Lesedi Cultural Village, South Africa – 20 October 2016: Unidentified African Zulu woman wearing traditional handmade costume, weave straw carpet in Lesedi African Cultural village, South Africa

If it is cultural diversity and experiences that you are after, South Africa with its more than 60 million people is just the country for you. The country has 11 official languages while a number more are also spoken, including at least a further 35 indigenous languages. The majority of its inhabitants (80%) are black Africans who hail from the Bantu group, and these are divided into nine major ethnic tribal groups, namely the Zulu, Xhosa, Bapedi (North Sotho), Tswana, South Ndebele, Basotho (South Sotho), Venda, Tsonga and Swazi groups. Apart from these black African ethnic groups, there are three other multi-ethnic racial groups who add to the cultural mix with practises and influences from all over the world. These include whites who originally originated from Dutch, German, French and English settlers plus later waves of immigrants such as Portuguese, Jews and Lebanese among others; Asians that include Indians, Pakistanis, and Chinese among others; and ‘coloureds’ (mixed race people) who are descended from the original Khoisan inhabitants of southern Africa, European settlers, and black Africans. Further enriching the cultural diversity of South Africa is the fact that a large number of religions are practised here freely and side by side, which range from various Christian denominations to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others. This eclectic mix of people who populate South Africa has blessed the country with a rich, varied and very fascinating cultural diversity just waiting to be explored and enjoyed in local communities, focused cultural villages and routes, museums and heritage sites, cuisine offered in a variety of eateries, and in arts and crafts markets and festivals among others.

 

Amazing Heritage & History

Tourists at entrance to the prison on Robben Island

Needless to say, given its unique cultural diversity and other factors, South Africa has an amazing history going back hundreds of thousands of years. It starts in ancient times with the country’s original Khoisan inhabitants about whom we have come to learn much more in recent years as one archaeological site after the other is being excavated. Then followed waves of immigration from central and east Africa, Europe, and Asia. The confluence of these human movements, cultures, influences and interests brought with it a variety of conflicts and other historical developments. Tourists can revisit the past in meticulously preserved heritage sites, battlefields, heritage routes, monuments, museums, and more. For instance, at the world-famous Cradle of Humankind complex in Northwest province you can travel back to the very origins of humankind. On the battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, you can revisit the heroic battles between Zulus and Boers (Afrikaners), and between Zulus and the British imperial armies. Spread throughout the interior of South Africa you will find battle sites, graveyards, monuments, and the remnants of concentration camps dating back to the Anglo Boer War. In Cape Town you can visit the museum that records the sad history of District 6 and racial groups’ forced removals under apartheid. In Johannesburg you can visit the Apartheid Museum or a museum complex that reconstructs the fascinating gold rush era. In Pretoria you can visit the Voortrekker Monument, a complex that tells the fascinating story of the Voortrekkers or Afrikaner pioneers who packed their waggons in the 1830s and trekked into the interior in search of freedom from British colonial rule. On the northern outskirts of Durban, you could follow a heritage route that shows you where and how Mahatma Gandhi once lived and also takes you to Inanda where John Dube, founding president of the African National Congress which today governs South Africa, left deep footprints. These include the Ohlange High School, the site where Nelson Mandela cast his vote in South Africa’s first fully democratic elections in 1994.

 

Adventure & Adrenalin

Finally, adrenaline junkies and all kinds of adventurers are spoilt for choice in South Africa. Adventure activities range from crossing mountains or game viewing from above in hot air balloons, to climbing mountains and rock faces, diving with sharks, exploring underwater wrecks, parachuting and paragliding, mountain biking, hiking challenging routes out in the wilderness, tree top canopy exploration and zip line flights across stunning scenery, testing your skills on challenging 4×4 offroad routes, white water and black water rafting, tracking Big 5 animals on foot with an armed ranger, kayaking on rivers, lakes and the oceans, and much more.

There truly is something to do and enjoy for everyone and every taste in this fascinating world in one country.