travel in South Africa?
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
In fact tourism here is generally low cost and
high 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
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.
Electric fencing in Durban.
South Africa Weather
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
Cape Town summer (November-January) temperatures average 16C-26C (61F-79F) and winter (May-July) 7C-18C (45F-64F).
Current Cape Town time and temperature
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.
***Game Safari Parks
A rhino closes in on a self-drive car, Kruger Park
***Cape Town is 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.
The most colourful part of Cape Town, Bo-Kaap, the old Malay Quarter.
***Garden Route - 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.
**Durban is 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 is one of South Africa's best hiking spots, with varied environments and awesome views.
The Drakensberg Mountains
***Beaches The best time to swim off South Africa's 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.
Durban seen from its neighbour, Umhalanga Rocks.
mountainous blob of a kingdom accessible only via South Africa,
Lesotho is cool and mainly about hiking, biking and riding in dramatic,
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.
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
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
Crime is less of a problem here than for its neighbour, but still
cause for concern.
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
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.
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
Around Durban's huge beaches the consistent waves are significantly warmer, while
shark nets protect swimmers and surfers alike.
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
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
With 40% of the country's population living below the poverty line,
petty theft is a common problem and violent robbery an occasional
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.
Aids is pandemic in much of the country
so this is not a good destination if you're single and looking for
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. More Visa information
1-2 Jan, Cape Town New Year Karnival,
a wild and colourful event with music, parades and dance galore.
April-May, Kavadi Festival in Durban, a dramatic Hindu festival with much body piercing.
late March-April, Klein Karoo Arts Festival
early July, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown.
early October, Morija Arts & Culture Festival,
Residents of a township having a pint down the pub.
These are large communities of poor people - usually black or coloured
(Asians) - living in homes ranging from shacks to 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.
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, 2-5R.
A pricey safari lodge in Kruger Wildlife Park.
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.
South Africans are amazingly multilingual. Most speak at least four
languages, with English and Afrikaans (a kind of Dutch) being their
Official South Africa Tourism site
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