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A South Africa travel guide – outdoor adventures at the heart of the rainbow nation

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Climb sandstone mountains, track big predators and observe witch doctors preparing healing potions. Take an open mind on your holiday in South Africa and you’ll experience the real African spirit.

Get your bearings

The southernmost country in Africa, South Africa, has been described as “the world in one country”. Right at the bottom, the Western Cape’s scenic coastline is backed by majestic sandstone mountains and is home to the capital, Cape Town. The neighbouring Eastern Cape is an area of fascinating wilderness with off-the-beaten-track attractions. Further up, on an inner plateau, the Free State and Gauteng are farming grounds, with the exception of Johannesburg, where skyscrapers house the HQ of the country’s major businesses. Mpumalanga, to the east, is big-game territory and, further on, sun-drenched Durban is South Africa’s favourite domestic holiday destination.

Active Africa

Cape Town’s Table Mountain draws kayakers, trekkers and paragliders, and Clifton’s pristine beach is just minutes from the city centre. Hard-core mountain climbers are up for a challenge in the Cederberg mountain range, while Durban’s beaches are peppered with wetsuits and surfboards waiting for the perfect wave. Bungee jumping off Bloukrans bridge on the Garden Route will test your courage. Spot indigenous flora as you cycle through Knysna evergreen forests.  

 

Animal encounters

Track lions and elephants in the Mpumalanga province with a self-drive safari in the Kruger National Park or watch elusive leopards finish dinner at a private sanctuary. The sound of the horn warns visitors when great white sharks and whales approach the quaint town of Hermanus, while rare turtles can be seen laying their eggs at night in Zululand and KwaZulu-Natal. For a closer animal encounter, swim with penguins in the clear waters of Boulders Beach, Cape Town. 

Finger-licking dishes

Throughout South Africa’s holiday regions, you can tuck into meat-based dishes, like boerewors (beef sausage), and have fun eating pap (stiff maize meal) with your hands. Crayfish and the local snoek are delicious in beach restaurants along the West Coast, and for Indian curries, let Durban serve you the real thing. Complement wine tastings in the Western Cape with meat and cheese platters. Round off with the creamy Amarula liqueur, made from the centuries-old elephant tree. 

History and culture

Explore the struggle for democracy at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg or the Nelson Mandela Museum in the Eastern Cape. To discover a more hidden cultural aspect of South Africa, visit sangomas (witch doctors) and shebeens (drinking holes) in Soweto. Take a stroll along Johannesburg’s Diagonal Street, where lizards’ feet and crocodile fat are for sale. Architecture lovers can admire remnants of the colonial area in the Cape province, while human skull displays at Gauteng’s Cradle of Humankind takes visitors back to millions of years ago.