South Africa Travel Pictures

Cape Town cable car, South Africa

The cable car from near Cape Town to the top of Table Mountain.

Why South Africa Travel?

South Africa enjoys a superb climate, a magnificent collection of mountains and beaches, rampant wildlife, an efficient infrastructure, an interesting history to say the least, lively friendly locals, delicious cuisine – particularly seafood and fruits – and fantastic high quality but affordable wines in BIG glasses!

In fact holidays to South Africa are generally excellent value with plenty of action including top class beaches hiking, wildlife safaris, scenic drives and surfing at the head of a long list. And, if you’re European, the time zone is similar so you won’t have to contend with jet lag!

Downsides

• Visible crime deterrents. Depressing ‘armed response’ signs, razor barb and electrified fencing remind tourists they’re not in a comfort zone. But consult locals, take care and crime need not be an issue.
• Health precautions need to be observed also. Anti-malarials in season, see Health below, but also there are a lot more dangerous animals around than in most traveler’s home towns so learn to keep your eyes open on land or in sea.

Weather

Best seasons: Autumn (February-April) and Spring (August-October), but winter (May-July) though chilly at night usually provides blue skies, T-shirt days and good game-viewing due to the dry season short grass effect.
Cape Town has a 40% chance of rain during winter, but if you’re lucky it’s chilly but a good time to be there. Winter is not a good time to swim.

Worst: arguably midsummer except for the Cape when it’s the best season (mid-December, January) due to extreme heat, rains, humidity and massively crowded holiday places – with both foreigners and locals. On the positive side, this is the beach and party season, but book accommodation ahead!

Cape Town summer (November-January) temperatures average 16C-26C (61F-79F) and winter (May-July) 7C-18C (45F-64F).

Length of stay:
Minimum recommended stay 1 week, in and around the gorgeous Cape Town area.
Better: 1 month to see game parks, Durban, hike the Drakensberg Mountains and/or Lesotho, wander Cape Town and self-drive the Garden Route.

South Africa Travel Attractions

a rhino near a car in Kruger National Park, South Africa

A rhino closes in on a self-drive car, Kruger Park

By far the most appealing city in South Africa, it’s sophisticated, has a variety of attractive buildings old and new, excellent beaches, bars, restaurants, clubs and entertainment facilities. Then there’s staggeringly beautiful Table Mountain in the middle of it all and a cluster of pretty, a fine and lively Waterfront area, old Dutch style wineries and vineyards in the suburbs and spectacular, scenic drives along the coast nearby.

Cape Town pastel houses, South Africa

The most colourful part of Cape Town, Bo-Kaap, the old Malay Quarter.

Scenery that is wide and green and reminiscent of some of England’s rolling countryside, mountains that recede into the distance in layers, wonderful beaches, some of South Africa’s best walks, maddest activities and endless wonderful pictures demanding to be taken.

a Durban beach with surfers, South Africa

Durban beaches, where the water is a lot warmer than Cape Town’s!

Big, brash and the antithesis of Cape Town, this is the Atlantic City of South Africa, and it’s determined to part you from your wad with minimum intellectual input and and maximum speed. A lively, happening city, with wide, clean beaches, warm surf protected by shark nets and lifeguards, endless things to do and watch on and off the promenade and great bars, restaurants and clubs.

***Drakensberg mountain range

Drakensberg Mountains, South Africa

One of South Africa’s best hiking spots, with varied environments and spectacular views.

Camps Bay beach, Cape Town, South Africa.

 Camps Bay, Cape Town’s favourite beach.

The best time to swim off these massive, beautiful beaches is November – February. For scenic driving and hiking around the beaches, however – both popular activities with rich rewards – June-August may be a better bet, as daytime temperatures are T-shirt comfortable, humidity and prices are both down while accommodation is easily available and crowds/traffic limited.

*Lesotho: a mountainous blob of a kingdom accessible only via South Africa, Lesotho is cool and mainly about hiking, biking and riding in dramatic, Swiss-style scenery.

**Swaziland: another relaxed little kingdom with superb mountain views and various outdoor pursuits in various pretty places, including wildlife reserves. Local culture thrives, the people are friendly and handicrafts superb. Beware malaria.

Johannesburg (Jo’burg): the country’s powerhouse is not a tourist target in spite of the vast numbers who stagger through the airport daily.
Jo’burgers really know how to have a good time, the climate is excellent and the place is generally leafy and pleasant, but the city still suffers from too much crime and too few tourist attractions.
The main ‘sight’ is the massive township of Soweto – though tours to townships near Cape Town can deliver the same experience.

*Pretoria: Just 50kms north of Jo’burg, the country’s capital is a lower, older home to civil servants and students rather than businessmen.
The biggest sight is the hugely impressive Vootrekker Monument and Museum.
Crime is less of a problem here than for its neighbour, but still cause for concern.

Activities

Hiking: South Africans have trekking in their blood so combine that with a magnificent fertile, hilly country, striking coastline, great weather, good organisation and you will find some of the world’s best walks here.

The 5 day Otter Trail in Tsitsikamma is considered the best hike at present, along with a stunning 6 day Hoerikwaggo Trail along the Table Mountain Range.

Also on and around Table Mountain, Drakensberg, the Garden Route, Lesotho. . .

Biking and Horse Riding: widely available but especially good in the Cape area. e. g. Noordhoek

Wildlife safaris: all kinds, all over the country, in parks big and small, private and national. Kruger is the largest and most famous with self-drive available.

Scenic drives: This country is far more mountainous than many people expect, the coast is beautiful and the roads are excellent, so driving can be a great pleasure. The Cape area and the south coast especially – including the Garden Route – offer endless stunning views.

Surfing: there are vast numbers of premium, underused surf beaches, though the west half of the country gets thrashed by the chilly Atlantic rather than the warmer Indian Ocean.
Around Durban’s huge beaches the consistent waves are significantly warmer, while shark nets protect swimmers and surfers alike.

Hermanus Whales breaching, South Africa

Whales seen from the cliffs of Hermanus Bay, one stop on ‘The Garden Route

Whale watching: Rich waters attract a lot of marine life and whales appear at a distance in many locations, but Hermanus Bay, a few hours drive from Cape Town, expanding but still with a tranquil small-town feel gets regular close-up visits from Southern Right Whales from July-December. From a rocky promontory you can get clear, near views of the puffing, cruising, leaping big boys, if you’re not unlucky.

Rock Climbing: again, Cape Town is the focus for much of this activity – after all it has a lot of amazing climbs in its city limits.

Scuba Diving: much of the country’s water is too chilly for coral but offers good cold-water dives.
The most southerly coral reefs in the world are around Sodwana Bay, northeast coast, with warm, clear waters.

Golf: The courses here are magnificent.

Skiing: the only large, commercial operation is at Tiffindell, Eastern Cape

Safety

With 40% of the country’s population living below the poverty line, petty theft is a common problem and violent robbery an occasional one.

Both can be avoided if you apply a little common sense. Start with basic rules such as: Don’t leave valuables unattended on the beach or lying on the back seat of your car; don’t flash your cash or wear expensive clothes, keep the camera under cover till you need it and stay away from dark urban areas at night.

ATMs are bad news with endless potential scams. Some basic rules are: don’t use ATMs at night, don’t accept help from anyone and press cancel immediately after inserting your card. If it comes out then the ATM is probably safe to use, so insert the card again.
See Travel Safety for more suggestions.

Health

Aids is pandemic in much of the country so this is not a good destination if you’re single and looking for ‘companionship. ‘

Malaria is on the wing in the far east (e. g. Kruger Park and Swaziland), so take precautions if you’re planning to travel there other than June-August (winter). See malaria for suggestions.

Bilharzia is another eastern hazard. It’s a miniscule worm that lives in stagnant fresh water, so don’t bathe in lakes or slow moving rivers, and sterilize any wild water you’re going to drink. If you accidentally get wet, dry off a soon as you can, clothes too.

Visas in 2013

Citizens of Britain, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Commonwealth countries, most of West Europe and Japan do not need visas for up to 3 months (90 days), but must have at least 2 blank pages in their passports.

Festivals

1-2 Jan, Cape Town New Year Karnival, a wild and colourful event with music, parades and dance galore.
Jan-Feb, April-May, Kavadi Festival in Durban, a dramatic Hindu festival with much body piercing.
late March-April, Klein Karoo Arts Festival in Oudtshoorn.
early July, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.
early October, Morija Arts & Culture Festival, Lesotho.

Cape Flats township, near Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Flats township, near Cape Town.

Townships

These are large communities of poor and usually unemployed people – usually black or coloured (Asians) – living in homes ranging from shacks to shabby apartment blocks. Services are supplied by the government free of charge. Unemployment is around 90% and there is no social security system in South Africa. Jo’burg’s Soweto is the largest, supposedly around 4 million inhabitants.
You can visit townships but go with a professional guide and don’t expect to see exotic culture.

Tipping

10%-20% in restaurants and at game lodges in the staff box, as well as directly for the guides. ranger and trackers.
Car guards and gas pump attendants that check your tyres, a small amount.

Groot Constantia vineyards in the suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa

Groot Constantia vineyards in the suburbs of Cape Town.

Electricity:
230v, 3 round pins. i. e. unusual, but many hotels supply adaptors or have multi-system sockets. Bring your own adaptor if you’re power-dependent.

Language:
South Africans are amazingly multilingual. Most speak at least four languages, with English and Afrikaans (a kind of Dutch) being their common languages.

Other great places to visit near South Africa

If you have plenty of time – and money – to spare it’s not too far to brilliant Namibia (drive or fly), interesting Madagascar and the beaches of Mauritius (fly from Jo’burg).

Share