South Africa Travel
*** Cape Town
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.
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.
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.
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
*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. See Below.
*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.
Cape Flats township, near Cape Town.
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.