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South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. Many people have misconceptions about the country and I can tell you, they can’t be further from the truth. If you look at the map above and find the dot smack bang in the middle and where it says Kimberley, you will now know where I was born. That’s my spot, so I can talk about the best places to visit in South Africa with some authority, because I have experienced it all. Well most of it anyway. You don’t really get to see much of the tourist attractions in your own country, but since marrying my German wife in 2005, I have experienced much of the country the touristy way.
One of the most common questions I normally get is, ‘Do wild animals run loose in the cities?’ Uuuuuh, nope…. Okay, okay, you got me. It only happened once, but that hardly counts. The village is situated right next to the Kruger National Park and a leopard jumped the fence one night when everyone was asleep and snatched the family dog.
Just imagine if elephants were to come and go as they pleased. It would be like shuffling snow. Somewhere in Norway, Sven wakes up in the mornings and clears his driveway of all the snow so that he could get to work. Jaco wakes up and looks out the window. The shovel I have in my hand, usually reserved to take care of the dog’s business, just won’t cut it today, ‘Honey! I think I’m gonna need a bigger shovel!’
With all the wildlife parks, subtropical beaches and scenic routes, there will be just too much to mention. You won’t be able to see it all over a 2-week holiday. You would need to move there for at least a year. So I’m going to cover some of the golden oldies and a couple of the lesser known destinations, but no less spectacular.
If you decide to land in Johannesburg first and decide to drive, I would suggest you reserve yourself a hire-car in advance, hire-cars are not always available on the day. South Africa is big and you will have to walk to all the tourist destinations if you miss out. Your car can be picked up at any airport and dropped off at any airport.
1. Cape Town
This is probably the no 1 destination for most tourists and there is so much to see and do that Cape Town actually deserve its own page. Located on the shores of Table Bay, you can fly to Cape Town from pretty much anywhere in the world as Cape Town International Airport serves both international as well as domestic flights. You can start off with a helicopter ride all around the city and coastline for the most breathtaking scenic views imaginable. Once that is done, it is time to take a closer look.
Table Mountain National Park
Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to scale Mount Everest and he had to walk to the top. If you want to see the top of Table Mountain, you can relax in a cable car on your way up without breaking a sweat. That was the route I had taken, but then again, I am quite lazy. For those of you that are not as lazy as I am, you can do an Edmund Hillary and hike up to the top. I would recommend that you have experience in climbing otherwise Jack and Jill will not be the only ones tumbling down.
The mountain top has a level plateau approximately 2 sq mi from side to side where you can follow a walking route and have spectacular views of the city underneath. Once you had enough, you can relax in the restaurant with a cold drink and some food. It is not uncommon for the native Dassies (rock hyrax) to approach you and beg for food. In fact, whenever you go near any cliff in Cape Town, you will get swarmed by them. I have not been bitten yet, so I think that it’s pretty safe to get close to them, because I am not that likeable. Yes, this is me feeding them.
The park, which surrounds Table Mountain, also has a wide variety of flora and you will be able to see Proteas (South Africa’s national flower), Asteraceae and more in their natural habitats. Wild animals like eland, bontebok (2 types of antelope) and zebras you can find in the Cape Point Section of the park.
Inlets between granite boulders make up a sheltered beach called Boulders Beach. It is located near Simon’s Town in the Cape Peninsula and this is home now to a colony of penguins that settled there in 1982 and never left. Kind of like my mother-in-law. It’s a swimming beach where you can take a dip, but you are not allowed to go too close to the penguins. If you want to see them up close you can walk on the specially constructed boardwalks that will take you within a few yards of the birds.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Now this place is something to behold. Situated on the foothills of Table Mountain and around 8mi from Cape Town city centre, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden was founded in 1913 to preserve the unique flora. You can actually walk up the mountain to where you see the white bits of rock showing on the photo above. It’s not difficult to see why it is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
The main focus is outdoors where you would find plants native to the region, but indoors a big conservatory houses plants from other regions including fynbos, karoo, savanna and more. There are plenty of trails leading along and up the mountain and one famous trail up a ravine called Skeleton George will take you all the way up to the summit of Table Mountain. Entrance to the garden costs around £2 or $2.60 for adults and only £0.60 or $0.80 for children. That really is not a lot.
We visited the garden in 2008 and it took us the whole day. We didn’t even get to see it all, so if you plan to stay longer than just a day, you can rent a cottage for the night with a king size bed, en-suit bathroom, kitchenette, wireless internet, satellite television and all other amenities. In the high season, which is October to April, room rates are around £130 or $170 per night per room. Smaller, single rooms are available and also slightly cheaper and you can even have your wedding there. The darkest day of your life will be brightened up by a bunch of flowers all around you.
The 90 acre garden is home to over 7000 plant species and many of them are rare and endangered. You can view them from the bottom or you can climb the 35-feet-high tree top walkway, which is 130 yards long and has spectacular panoramic views of the garden and mountain. Don’t forget to pack a few bananas to eat on top. You’ll feel like a monkey in a tree.
The very sturdy and low maintenance steel and timber bridge winds and dips its way through the trees and has wider view points where you can take photos. And it’s all included in the admission price to the garden, which is also wheelchair accessible.
This is a very popular tourist attraction and is famous for its prison and more so its prisoners, which is where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. Located about 5 mi west off the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, it’s roughly oval-shaped and around 3 mi². Boats depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V. & A. Waterfront and the tour takes around 3.5 hours and will cost around £20 or $26. Tour dates are from the 2nd of May till the 31st of October, Monday to Friday. When you disembark on the island, it is just a short walk to the bus stop, where the bus will transport you to all the historical sites including the famous prison. Tour guides are mostly former political prisoners and former residents of Robben Island and they will show you around. Just don’t look them directly in their eyes. I’m guessing.
Visit the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Situated in South Africa’s oldest harbour, this waterfront attracts more than 23 million visitors each year and has stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Bay Harbour, the city of Cape Town and Table Mountain. The waterfront still has a working harbour and on a daily basis you will see tugboats towing in the larger vessels, fishing boats bringing in fresh fish and with over 450 outlet stores selling everything imaginable, you will have plenty to do and experience.
When you are tired of shopping, you can visit the Chavonnes Battery; a fortification protecting Cape Town, which was build in the early 18th century and is now a museum and function venue.
Castle of Good Hope
Originally located on the coastline of Table Bay, this bastion fort was build in the 17th century and was moved inland to where it is now situated. This historical building and now museum is the oldest colonial building in South Africa and was originally used as a replenishment station for ships passing the treacherous coast of Southern Africa on long trips between the Netherlands and Indonesia. Later that century when rumours of war started to spread, the castle was converted into a pentagonal fortress made from stone and used as a stronghold.
Costing around £2 or $2.60 per adult ticket, you can wonder around the castle and even see some of the old prison cells used to hold enemies. Every day at 10:00 and then again at 12:00, the South African National Defence Force fires a real live canon. Trust me, it’s loud. For obvious reasons they don’t fire real canon balls, otherwise dodgeball would have been the first sport children learnt in school.
2. The Kruger National Park
A must see for all tourists visiting South Africa, is the Kruger National Park. Considered the jewel of South Africa’s park system, this 7523 sq mi wildlife reserve is one of the biggest in Africa and extends 220 mi from north to south and 40 mi from east to west. The headquarters are in Skukuza, which is also the main camp as well as the largest in South Africa and it’s situated on the southern banks of the Sabie River. The camp consists of shops and restaurants, 3 museums and a library. On the eastern verge of the camp, they have the Selati Train restaurant, which is situated on an old train platform. You can organise your game drives from the main reception, have bush braais (barbecue) and guided walks in the park. Skukuza doesn’t just have the camp basics, but also 2 swimming pools, a golf course, police station, post office and even a bank. Everything but a hospital for when you become a lion’s dinner one night.
Just three miles away from the camp there’s an airport with daily flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town. Skukuza is situated in the southern part of the park and the most visited of all the camps. It’s one of the best for game viewing and you can easily catch the big five and other exiting animals in the vicinity of the park. My personal favourite is the honey badger and I was lucky enough to have seen it once in 2005 when the wife and I had gone there on our honeymoon. Credited as the most fearless animal in the world, a honey badger once had taken on 6 lions at a time and another didn’t even die when a cobra had bitten it. All it had done was pass out, wake up and continued eating the cobra. Incredible.
Accommodation at Skukuza ranges from small but comfortable bungalows to large guest houses for groups, each with a braai (barbecue) outside as well as mosquito protection. If you’re an outdoor person, you can hire a caravan, tent or motorhome and stay in the campsite, where you will share the ablutions and cooking and wash-up facilities with fellow campers. Prices can be checked here. At night they also show movies on their outdoor cinema.
The Kruger National park also has 20 other camps with accommodation and facilities similar to Skukuza and is situated all over. Some parks are smaller and only have the bare necessities.
Zimbabwe borders the Kruger National park in the north and Mozambique borders it in the east where you can jump the fence if you have run afoul of the South African government. It has 9 main gates all over where you can enter during the opening hours of 06:00 – 17:30, which by then you should either leave the park if you were a day visitor or return to your accommodation if you are staying longer. The park has paved main roads and dirt roads for you to use with your vehicle, which stretches from the top to the bottom and from left to right. But this is an absolute must; you need to stay in your car at all times. Getting fined is the least of your worries when you leave the safety of you vehicle. Death, unfortunately had occurred more than just once as lions don’t live by our laws.
The Kruger national park is home to so many different types of vegetation that I won’t be able to name it all in time for Christmas. Instead I’m just going to tell you about my favourite tree in the world; the baobab tree. Every time I saw one I was just as excited to see it as with any animal. Maybe even more so, because they are just magnificent. Around 90 mi west of the park on a farm, they have the world’s largest baobab in the world. It’s over 6000 years old, has a circumference of a 108 feet and its tangle of branches soars up to 75 feet. It’s a popular tourist attraction and you can even enjoy a cold beverage inside the tree as the owners had built a bar inside the trunk.
The Kruger National Park is also home to 517 bird species; 253 of them are permanent residents, 147 are nomads and 117 are non-breeding migrants. My uncle and his family had moved to Phalaborwa (a city located right next to the park) in 1993 and has been going to the park at least twice a month ever since and there are very, very few of the bird species he hasn’t seen yet. We saw quite a few of the bird species when we went back there for 5 days in 2015.
Unlike birds, the animals don’t go north for the winter. Must be because they don’t have wings and thank goodness for that. Just imagine a pride of lions migrating to your hometown. Currently 147 species of large mammal call the park their home, including the big five, which are elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffalo. We went there twice, first in 2005 for our honeymoon and again in 2015, each time for 5 days and unfortunately I still didn’t see all five. Elephants, buffalo and rhinos are plenty, but lions not so much and leopards are even less since there are only 200 left.
Also trying to make a living in the park are 33 species of amphibians as well as 50 species of fish, which includes a Zambesi shark. 133 species of reptiles live there and over 3000 crocodiles. So I won’t urge you to go for a swim.
As I said before, it’s fun going to the zoo, but seeing these animals in the wild and up close is something very special, which will stay with you for a very long time. A giraffe got so close to our car that I was able to open up the window and touch it. In some areas the vegetation grows to a certain height all over and you can see elephants approach from over two hundred yards away as they tower above it all. Simply spectacular.
3. Sun City
Now this one is a doozy. I’m so exited and don’t know where to start. So let’s start with the accommodation, because this is luxury of the highest order. Just a short 2-hour drive from Johannesburg, this 5-star resort offers 4 hotels, which include the Cabanas, the Cascades Hotel, the Soho Hotel (formerly known as the Sun City Hotel) and the most luxurious of them all, the Palace of the Lost City.
The first 3 hotels are luxurious, yes, and has everything a 5-star hotel has to offer, like king size beds, satellite television and en-suite bathrooms, but the Palace is another kettle of fish. These photos above show the Junior Suite we stayed in. As you can see it has three rooms, a huge bedroom, big living room and a walk-in bathroom with a bath separate from the toilet and stand-alone shower. The living room also has another toilet and the counters in both are made of marble. We paid £350 or $450 a night and we stayed for 5 nights.
Full prices and room features can be viewed here, but it starts from £250 or $320 per room, per night for a luxury twin room and all the way up to £2500 or $3250 per room, per night for the King Suite and Africa Suite. It sounds expensive, but they are massive. 2700 sq ft in fact and comes with a fully stocked bar and stools and all drinks included in the accommodation price, a jacuzzi and sauna on the balcony, your own private butler, 2 huge bedrooms, each with its own en-suite and impressive views of the surrounding mountains. All of these room prices will be at least 8-10 times more expensive in the UK or US, especially considering what you get for that money.
The Palace’s pool is extraordinary. It’s slightly heated, not that it’s necessary, because the temperature during the summer will be around 30 – 35 degrees Celsius. It has 2 bars on either edge of the pool that sells the most delicious and exotic cocktails, cold beers in drafts and bottles, ciders, a wide variety of juices and cold drinks and there are plenty of gazebos for you to sit under if you had enough of the sun. On the one side there is a section with plenty of palm trees that provide some shade where you can lie on a deck chair and read a book, enjoy your cocktail while getting a massage and order some food, which will be brought to you by the waiters and waitresses. You really do not have to lift a finger in this resort apart from applying your own toilet paper.
At night when it’s dinner time, you can pick and choose from 4 restaurants where to eat. We ate in the main restaurant, which is called Crystal Court and just as the name suggests, there is a massive chandelier suspended from the ceiling that is made from crystal. The buffet is unbelievable with too many dishes to eat it all, ranging from beef, chicken, lamb and pork dishes to sea food, pastas, fruit and vegetables and so many types of desserts and ice creams that you would need to take out a gym membership when you return home to get rid off all the unwanted weight. You can pick and choose whatever you want or you can order off a menu. We paid around £90 or $115 including a tip for dinner and we were 5 people that also had drinks. And that included the 5 lobster tails I had.
Breakfast is served in the same place and the buffet has the biggest variety I have ever seen in all the hotels I have stayed in my life. Since you have already paid for the accommodation, your breakfast is free.
Things to do in Sun City
Now that we have gotten the accommodation out of the way, it is time to move on to the fun stuff. You will feel like a kid in a toy store. The whole resort is covered by a sky train, so you don’t have to walk too far. It takes you to all the hotels, the main arcade and headquarters where you can book all your activities. A shuttle service runs every 15 min and also takes you to every hotel, restaurant, main headquarters and anywhere you would like to go.
If you go in the summer, your very first task would be to get sunscreen. Trust me; I looked like a cherry tomato after the first day.
Sun Central Entertainment Centre
Situated in Sun Central, which is connected to the headquarters, The Magic Company offers a wide range of games, pool and ten pin bowling. This arcade is massive and also houses a cinema with all the latest movies, shops that sells almost anything, a wide variety of restaurants and fast food restaurants, bars and a massive casino, equipped for wheelchair users and smokers where you can play slots, poker, blackjack, roulette and more. Jackpots on the slot machines can easily make you a millionaire overnight.
Encore is a brand new nightclub for all Sun City’s nocturnal people where you can dance the night away. For those that want to take it a little easier, Vibes will be the place for you; a sports bar where you can catch the game, play some pool and have a few drinks with your friends. Now here you can get drunk if you want, because the shuttle service is there to take you back to your room. I was there on holiday with my mother-in-law, so I had no choice. The Gentlemen’s bar offers exotic entertainment, but be sure your significant other signs your permission slip. I don’t want you going back home in separate planes. Needless to say, I was there with my mother-in-law. My slip did not get signed.
The Maze of the Lost City
Creating the illusion of an ancient archeological discovery and constructed from artificial stone and wood, this is the largest, permanent maze in the Southern Hemisphere. Now this maze has no roof. Sun City lies in the Highlands, the air is thin and the sun is merciless. You put two and two together.
Covering around half an acre, the Maze took us around 50 min and it was a lot of fun. My 4 year-old couldn’t run fast enough to try and find the exit, which leads into a building with no walls and just a big roof where you can sit down and have a cold beer, cold drink and ice cream. You can also go up in the tower and view the entire Sun City in all its glory from the top.
Sun City has two golf courses; The Gary Player Golf Course and The Lost City Golf Course. Both designed by the great man, Gary himself. Home to the Nedbank Million Dollar Golf Challenge, it’s not difficult to see why these two championship golf courses make up South Africa’s premier golfing destination. Just watch out for the water hazard on the Lost City’s no 13. 38 Nile crocodiles reside there, so I would caution you; Happy Gilmore was just a movie. When your ball goes into the water, leave it there.
Kids stuff and Waterworld
If your child is between 3 – 12, they would enjoy testing their driving skills on a mini quad bike around a track. Just outside the Cabanas on the shores of a man-made lake, you can enter Animal world where the kids can view birds of prey and other small animals. At Camp Kwena the little ones can hold a baby crocodile and see the bigger ones feed. A hop, skip and a jump further you and the kids can enjoy an 18-hole mini golf course that provides a whole lot of fun.
For the more extreme, you can leave the kids on the golf course and head into the water for some water skiing. If you can’t, don’t worry. They have instructors available that will teach you to do it. A tube pulled behind a motor boat sits four and the worm sits 5. Don’t make the same mistake as I did and rather sit in the back. If that worm tips over, 4 other people will be landing on top of you. After you mastered the art of water skiing, you can hire a jet ski, go parasailing and take the family out on boat where you can spend the remainder of the day cruising the lake.
Don’t worry. They don’t just look after the kids. They have stuff for you to do as well. Dirt buggies, segways, drift trikes, grizzly 4 x 4 quads and hover crafts are suitable for the people that like to keep their feet firmly on the ground. If you don’t mind getting pushed off a mountain or strapped to a sling shot, you can give it a go if you dare. You will get strapped to a sling shot, attached to a quad bike, with a man that has his hand on the accelerator and thinks it’s a rocket ship as he shoots off and pulls you along until the giant elastic bands can pull no further. I’m sure you can figure out what happens next. But rest assured, you will stay attached the the sling shot, so it’s perfectly safe and just a whole lot of fun.
The highlight of my 5-night stay was definitely the world’s fastest zip slide. A minibus taxi picks you up from just outside the main headquarters and takes you to the zip slide site. You take off from a 280 yard high mountain top and zoom at speeds of up to 75 mi/h down the mountain, passing over trees and rocks. 1.25 mi further at the bottom and safely back on the ground, one of the staff will unhook you and set you free. Staff also takes photos of the entire experience so that you can keep those memories with you forever.
Wild Life, Sports and Outdoors
For those of you that don’t want to lose your beach bodies during your time at the Lost City, you can nip off to the fully equipped gym, play some tennis on any one of the 11 courts available, or go hiking and mountain bike riding in the mountains on designated trails. If you still didn’t have enough of nature, you can go on a safari, book a game drive, track a rhino and even view the Pilansberg National Park from above in a hot air balloon where you will be able to see the big 5 roaming around below.
Valley of the Waves
If you are staying in the hotel, entrance to Valley of the Waves is free; if you didn’t then you have to pay to get in. Around £9 or $12 for the entire day during peak season, this really is a small price to pay for you to play until your tongue drags along the ground.
A 70,000 sq ft wave pool with hydraulic mechanisms that generate waves of up to 7 ft every 90 s called the Roaring Lagoon is the main attraction at Valley of the waves. You can swim, float around or do whatever you like to do for 90 s, but when it’s time for the wave to come, you want to be ready. Swimmers of all ages wait in rows at the deep end of the pool where the wave will start, just so that they can ride it out.
For the more adventurous there are 2 body slides, the Tarantula and the Scorpion and also 2 tube slides, the Viper and Mamba where you can slide as many times as you like. The cues are quite long, so get there early.
The Temple of Courage is exactly what the name suggests. A 20-yard drop, down a 70-yard long, almost vertical slide is an exhilarating adrenaline rush that will turn your knee-long swim shorts into the skimpiest g-string. It took me almost an hour to find the trouser legs again.
If you had enough and wants to get your heart beating at a normal rate again, you can relax on a gentle, non-stop tube ride around the park on the Lazy River. The tube seats two, so you can have a kiss and a cuddle with your better half.
In the words of Forest Gump, ‘That’s all I have to say about that.’ But just to sum it all up in one word… Paradise!
Home to the world’s largest ostrich population and a number of ostrich breeding farms, this town has plenty to offer. As you make your way through the Garden Route (we already covered that) and feel like a change of scenery, you can head 40mi inland from George, where you can see museums, memorials, and monuments if you feel like brushing up on South African history. But seeing as you are on holiday and interested in the fun stuff, I will cover the three main attractions and leave the best for last.
There are plenty of accommodations for you to choose from, ranging from hotels and guesthouses at around £25 or $33 per night, per room to bungalows and a caravan park, where you can pitch a tent or sleep in a caravan at around £13 or $17 per night where you would need to share the ablutions with fellow campers.
Just 9 mi outside Oudtshoorn and on your way to the real reason you came to this part of South Africa, you can stop off at the Cango Ostrich Farm where you can view the biggest bird on earth up close, touch it and even ride it! Yes, I said ride it. Staff will help you up and then slap the bird on the bum. You will feel as if you are back in the sling shot in Sun City.
In the restaurant you can experience your first taste of ostrich in the form of ostrich steaks and no, they don’t taste like chicken. You can wash it all down with a bottle of wine and then tackle those ostriches again, maybe this time rodeo style. Heehaa!
Cango Wildlife Ranch
There are plenty to do and see on this ranch. They are open every day, Monday to Sunday and from 08:30 – 17:30. From stroking a cheetah, lemur and tegu to holding massive snakes and diving with crocodiles, you will have plenty to keep you up at night before you go there. The prospect of diving with crocodiles seems daunting, but as with shark diving, they lock you in a cage and toss you in the water. For the really brave and probably nuts, you can take a bloody piece of meat with you into the cage and see if the crocodile can come and take it from you.
Finally we get to the main reason we came to Oudtshoorn – The World famous Cango Caves. Located at the foothills of the Swartberg range in the Precambrian Limestones, the caves are only 18 mi north of Oudtshoorn. Wheelchair accessible, The Cango Caves are the only show caves in South Africa and offers heritage tours for only £6 or $8 for adults and £4 or $5 for children, which lasts around an hour, lead by experienced and accredited caves guides. For the brave and non-clausterphobic, you can do an adventure tour, costing £8 or $10 for adults and £5 or $6.50 for children, which lasts around 90 min and takes you deep into the heart of the caves where the smallest opening is only 6inches. I couldn’t fit.
Unfortunately only a quarter of the extensive system of tunnels, passages and chambers are open to the public, but that’s more than enough to experience the different rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites; some so old that that they grew together and formed columns. Flash photography and touching are strictly prohibited, because the blinding lights and sweat from your hands are damaging to the limestone.
Just outside the caves, you can have lunch in the restaurant where they serve ostrich, succulent Karoo lamb, Line Fish and other traditional dishes. Once your belly is nice and full you can go for a camel ride. Contrary to popular believe, camels don’t stink. Or maybe they all had a bath before I had climbed aboard, so I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that they can fart, but after my lamb lunch, I had easily won that contest.
That’s it. Oudtshoorn is done. There are other farms in the area to visit, so do yourself a favour and read up about it.
5. Nature Lovers
This one is for all you nature lovers out there and I can tell you; all of them are incredible. I know, because I’ve seen it all. Once you have seen everything there is to see in the Kruger National Park, you can head 60mi west from Skukuza to your first destination. You already hired a car when you had landed in Johannesburg, so you are good to go.
Situated along the Panorama Route in the Mpumalanga Province, you have no idea what you will get to experience. No travel guide or brochure could prepare you for the spectacular view from God’s Window. It is the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve’s best viewpoint with many other viewpoints along a route that range from impressive mountain gorges to cascading waterfalls. It has astonishing views over the Lowveld (name derives from the fact that it is so much lower than the escarpment along which the Route runs), the cliffs drop an impressive 700 yards and on a clear day you will be able to see the Kruger National Park. I cleaned my glasses before we went there and I saw a couple rabbits duking it out.
A 20 mi long gorge and popular adventure destination, the Blyde River Canyon is known as the longest green canyon in the world and is home to various species of antelope and birds. Pelgrim’s Rest is the biggest town in the region, a tribute to the gold rush days of the 1800’s and now somewhat of a living museum. You will feel as if you stepped back 2 centuries in time minus the smallpox and other diseases. Win win. Just south of the town there is another nature reserve with over a 100 species of indigenous trees; just incase you haven’t had enough.
Augrabies Falls National Park
This one is a bit of a drive; just over 900mi from God’s Window in fact, but it’s not all bad, because you will be able to stop at Sun City on your way there. We already covered it further up, so you know that you can’t miss it.
Situated within the Augrabies Falls National Park, these falls record a flow rate of 280,000 cu ft per second, which is over 3 times the average flow rate of the Niagara Falls. At 800 ft high and 10mi long, this gorge is an impressive example of granite erosion.
Accommodation is just a stone throw away in the form of a rest camp with chalets, a restaurant and spectacular view points of the falls. 6mi away you will find Gorge Cottage; a secluded accommodation facility also with breathtaking views with the Orange river flowing past, 240 yards below. If you get tired of your mother-in-law, just look down to the river for some help. No one will ever know. You can look forward to a luxurious one bedroom apartment with a double bed, kitchen and braai (barbecue) area. The ablutions are around 30 yards away and shared with other visitors.
The Namaqualand Flower Route
Now this is one of those unknown gems I was talking about. Still in your hire-car, it is time to make your way even further west until you reach Port Nolloth on the west coast of South Africa. This is where the Namaqualand Flower Route is starting; an annual transformation from a dry, barren, semi-desrt land with dusty plains that stretch for hundreds of miles into a pageant of flowers as if painted by Picasso himself. With the mountains as backdrop when everything starts to blossom in August; only lasting for 2 months, this whole area should be called natural wonder of the world. Unfortunately it all depends on the rain, so be sure to find out beforehand if the rains had fallen. If it didn’t, then the flowers will not be as pretty.
This route centres around 4 towns – starting at Port Nolloth, going past Springbok, Kamieskroon and finally ending in Garies. You will find plenty of nature reserves along the way where you can stop and stretch your legs as well as guesthouses, but I’m really not sure about the quality. Hiking and cycling routes are available, which means you can get as close to the flowers as you want and you can cap it all off with a picnic at designated areas.I would recommend stopping at the Oudrif Farm and lodge in the Cederberg Wilderness area on your way to Cape Town, which we already covered on the top of this page. Prices are £53 or around $69 per person per night and you will stay in a uniquely straw bale construction and eco-friendly lodge, where you can enjoy rock art created by the bushmen many, many moons ago and swim in rock pools.
Be sure to bring your telescope with. The sky is crystal clear and star gazing is a must, which you can enjoy anywhere, even up in the mountains. For those of you that live here in the UK, I can personally guarantee you that there is no way we will ever see a sky like that. Not with all the clouds and lights around.
The Garden Route
Considered as one of the greatest drives on planet Earth, the Garden Route stretches from Mosselbay to Storms River and is a stretch of south-western coast line. The name derives from the various lagoons, lakes and diverse vegetation and has even been listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the second mildest climate in the world after Hawaii.
Cities and towns along the route includes Knysna, which is famous for its 1200 sq mi forest and home to various flora, birds species and flauna such as the African Elephant, African Leopard, Bushpig and more. When you get tired and want to sleep over for the night, the Turbine Hotel will provide you with luxury accommodation ranging from normal rooms with king size beds, flat screen TVs and en-suits for £150 or $195 per room, per night during the peak season to the Water Cub apartment or Honeymoon suite with an open plan kitchen, bar with stools, dishwasher, washing machine and more for £195 or $255 per room, per night.
Other towns and cities along the rout includes George (administrative centre), Mosselbay, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley, which is a holiday resort and small village that lies between the Salt River, the foothills of the Tsitsikamma Mountains, the Groot River Lagoon and the Indian Ocean. You can follow a network of trails along the beaches and up and down the hills for your afternoon walk, go sailing and canoeing in the sheltered lagoon and witness all the native animals the valley has to offer, like moles, monkeys, baboons, porcupines and much more. Accommodation along the route is plenty, but their will be so much to see and do that you won’t have time to sleep.
A Few Honourable Mentions
- Cape Winelands
- Wild Coast
- Gold Reef City
- Durban Beach front
- Kimberley Open Mine Museum (biggest hand-dug hole in the world)
- Golden Gate Highlands National Park
And here boys and girls, is where we end. South Africa has much more to offer, so do yourself a favour and read up on it when you decide to visit.
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