15 reasons to visit South Africa
1. Because Cape Town is the world’s best city
You really can’t overstate the case for visiting Cape Town. First, there’s the in-your-face beauty of a craggy mountain range that drops precipitously into a glittering sea, its flanks carpeted in green. Then there’s the pristine white beaches lapped by – it must be said – a chilly Atlantic, their curves defined by giant granite boulders to bake on, and burbling mountain streams in dappled forests.
2. We’ve got the Big Five
That’s lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino, in case you weren’t sure. And then there’s hippo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, meerkats, wild dogs, kudu, hyena and ostrich.
3. You might even have a wildlife encounter like one of these
Rhino battles elephants in territorial row
4. It’s heaven for whale watching
Even if you stay on shore. This is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to watch whales from coastal footpaths, restaurants, cafés and even from the comfort of your hotel bed. Hermanus, especially, has some of the best land-based whale watching in the world.
5. It hosts one of the greatest migrations on Earth – the sardine run
First reported in the Natal Mercury paper on August 4, 1853, this is one of the great global events of the marine calendar. It involves vast shoals of sardines moving north along the coast of the Eastern Cape and Natal, with numbers immeasurable to man. They are pursued by anything with teeth, a beak – or a camera.
6. It’s got one of the best luxury train trips in the world
The luxurious Blue Train route covers the 994 miles between Cape Town and Pretoria in 27 hours, with one stop in each direction – the fashionable old town of Matjiesfontein in the Karoo on the northbound journey, and the historic diamond-mining town of Kimberley on the journey back.
You can also travel from Cape Town to Jo’burg on the weekly Premier Classe train for R2,840 or on the four-times-per-week Shosholoza Meyl Sleeper for an incredible R630 – Premier Classe passengers enjoy cosy private sleepers with three-course meals included in the elegant restaurant car and the day spent scenery-gazing in a spacious lounge with piano-bar – luxury on a budget.
7. There are some incredible landscapes
Like the Valley of Desolation:
And Bourke’s Luck, a rock formation in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve:
8. You can stay in Nelson Mandela’s former home
The private residence built for the great leader opened to the public as a luxury holiday retreat . It’s located on the Shambala Private Game Reserve, around 160 miles north of Johannesburg. Prices start at R70,000 per night. While this might seem expensive, the property can sleep up to 12 people.
9. Or in what might be the coolest treehouse in the world
This incredible accommodation is found at the Lion Sands Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park. Guests are taken to the ‘Chalkey Treehouse’ at sunset for a picnic supper and then left to spend a luxurious night in the bush. After dark, the night air is filled with the chatter of hyenas and the occasional roar of a lion. Campers are left armed with mosquito repellent and a two-way radio.
10. You can watch two oceans meet at Cape Agulhas
11. There are pristine beaches
Some of the best are found in Plettenberg Bay, in the Western Cape, along the popular Garden Route.
Great whites are common to the area.
Boulders Beach is known for its waddling visitors. Or go to see the seals on nearby Seal Island.
13. There’s some seriously good hiking
Ukhahlamba Drakensberg is southern Africa’s highest mountain chain, a 907-sq-mile park with spectacular views and some of the finest examples of Bushman art on the continent.
14. Eight World Heritage Sites
In addition to the aforementioned Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, there is Robben Island, the Richtersveld desert, Mapungubwe, the Cape Floristic Region, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Vredefort Dome and the “Cradle of Humankind”, known for its unique wealth of hominid fossils.
15. And the largest cave system in Africa
The Cango Caves.
That’s 15 good reasons – now start planning a trip