South Africa is a land of contrasts. A rainbow nation very much like it’s flag that is home to a melting pot of cultures.Each part of this beautiful country is filled with such diverse landscape and things to do.
South Africa should be on everyone’s #BucketList to visit at least once in your lifetime. Having lived abroad for almost a decade I returned home to South Africa and saw my home through the eyes of a tourist. I saw things I took for granted and was wow’ed by the beautiful country I get to call my home.
16 Interesting Facts about South Africa :
- South Africa is the second largest exporter of fruit in the World
- South Africa has the longest wine route in the world.
- South Africa is rated 3rd in the world in supplying safe, drinkable tap water.
- Walt Disney serves South African wine exclusively in its 73 acre Animal Lodge in USA.
- South Africa is the only country in the world to voluntarily abandon its nuclear weapons program.
- South Africa is the world’s largest producer of Macadamia nuts.
- SA is home to the worlds smallest succulent plant and the largest (Baobab Tree).
- We have the only street in the world to house 2 Nobel Peace prize winners is in Soweto, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses on Vilakazi Street in Soweto
- SA has the third highest level of biodiversity in the world.
- SA has deserts , mountains, escarpments ,plateaus,grasslands, bush, wetlands and subtropical forests.
- The Karoo region is home to some of the best fossils of early dinosaurs.
- The oldest remains of modern humans were found in Klasies River Cave in the Eastern Cape.They are well over 100,000 years old
- Kruger National Park supports the greatest variety of wildlife species in the African continent.
- Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the 1ST human heart transplant in the world in 1967.
- 3 of the 5 fastest land animals live in SA.
- General Motors SA is the only place outside the USA to build the Hummer H3.
Have I caught your attention yet ? Well if YES or NO then read on ….
During the month of September it was declared #TourismMonth here in South Africa. People were encouraged to be local tourists and explore locally. Been a blogger means I interact with several bloggers from around the world on a regular basis. All these bloggers have South Africa on their #BucketList or have been here already BUT want to come back.Travelling to South Africa can be done on a budget.
50 Reasons to visit South Africa :
1. A friendly country – South Africans are friendly people by nature and are very welcoming and entertaining.South Africans will find any excuse to celebrate so be prepared to meet their extended family and friends.With locals speaking 11 different languages and English been one of the official languages there is no language barrier.
2. Eat a bunny chow South Africa is known to have some of the most amazing culinary delights. DO NOT be put off by the name it is in fact an Indian dish that the immigrants from India invented in South Africa. It is basically a quarter or half a loaf of unsliced bread with the soft centre scooped out and filled with a delicious vegetable or lamb curry and topped with the sift bread. The bunny chow is hugely popular in Durban which is known as the home of The Bunny Chow.
3. Wineries of Cape Town are popular about local and international tourists. From Stellenbosch to Robertson you will find wineries with unique tasting experience. South African wines are of an extremely high quality and are exported worldwide. During my #ExploreWC trip I got to experience the Stellenbosch and Robertson areas. It is no surprise that the wineries are often wedding venues as well.
4.Table Mountain situated within a national park is a symbolic and well-known sight of Cape Town. With breathtaking views from the top of Robben Island and the rest of Cape Town a trip up the mountain is worth it. There is a cableway which offers passengers a 360 degree view to the top and for the adventure seekers there are several hiking trails.
5. Robben Island was home to political prisoners during the apartheid era in South Africa. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which thousands of visitors visit annually. Nelson Mandela a much beloved world icon was imprisoned here along with several other stalwarts who fought against the system. The only way to get to the island is by a boat or a private helicopter. A tour of the island includes the quarry mines where the prisoners worked and the prison cells. The tour guides are all ex prisoners of the island.
6. Nelson Mandela Capture Site situated just outside Howick in Kwazulu Natal is the spot where Nelson Mandela was captured and arrested in 1962. This moment is historically important in the struggle against apartheid. This site is home to an internationally recognisable sculpture. The sculpture is made up of 50 steel columns between 6 to 9.5 metres in height along a 30 metre length. To be able to see Madiba’s face visitors need to walk along a path that represents “The Long Walk to Freedom” where the laser cut steel columns gradually come together and focus on a point.
7. Isimangeliso which means “miracle and wonder” is exactly that with a rich biodiversity and boasts more species than the Kruger National Park. Found here in their largest concentrations in South Africa are Hippopotamus , Sea Turtles , Elephants , Humpback whales and over 521 bird species.
This wetland park became South Africa’s 1st World Heritage Site in December 1999. It gained recognition for its magnificent beauty and unique global value. The wetland is made up of 3 lakes , 8 interlinking ecosystems and a 700 year old fishing tradition.
8. Game Viewing can be done in literally every province of South Africa. There are numerous game parks and lodges to choose from.
9. Vredefort Dome found 120km in the South West of Johannesburg , is a representative part of a larger meteorite impact structure dating back 2023 million years ago. It is the oldest astrobleme yet found on Earth. The dome is evidence of the greatest known single energy release event which has catastrophic global effect according to scientists. This has provided evidence of the Earth’s geological history and is vitally important in understanding the evolution of the planet.
10. Durban the warmest city all year round is a popular place for local tourists and was recently named
Often compared to Miami Beach , Durban’s beach have a vibrant atmosphere with a constant buzz of activity.
11. Midlands Meander is located between Drakensberg and Durban. It is a popular tourist route filled with art galleries and museums. The Meander is South Africa’s first and finest arts and crafts tourism route and has been a rural haven for creative souls since 1800s.
Offering 130 destinations along this beautiful and very scenic route on is spoilt for choice from food to accommodation and homemade food products. Added to the charm of this route are Albert Falls , Midmar Dam and Tala Game Reserve. For the adrenalin junkies Karkloof Canopy Tours offer a range of activities to keep you happy.
12. Soweto an abbreviation for Southwestern Townships is a tourist hotspot. The history of the area was a housing location for black labourers.
Homes were made of corrugated iron and many were shacks built from building scraps. Soweto is the birthplace of the struggle for democracy. Today Soweto is no longer what it was but instead large home and businesses can be found here. There are guided tours which allow visitors to see and experience life in a township. Nelson Mandela and his wife lived in Soweto before he was imprisoned and his home is now a museum.
The Soweto Cooling towers have been abandoned for years and until a few years ago been turned into an adventure site with Bungee jumping and painting balling
13. Amarula Lapa is a promtional tasting and tourist centre in Limpopo. Amarula Cream is made from the fruit of the Marula tree known as the Elephant tree. This liqueurs has become a popular choice world wide and is easily spotted by it beautiful bottles with elephants on the label.
14. UNESCO World Heritage Sites- South Africa is home to sites. Each site so different and unique in various parts of the country.There are 7 sites in South Africa.
15. The Garden Route is one of the most beautiful road trips ever. The route is approximately 200km and runs through some very scenic places in South Africa, which stretches along the Indian Ocean from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape To Storms River in the Eastern Cape.
Some highlights along the way include :
- Tsitsikamma National Park with a magnificent suspension bridge.
- Bloukrans Bungee which is the World’s Highest commercial bungee jump.
- Wilderness is a small lush green area which is home to Wilderness National Park.
16. Drakensberg in the Kwa Zulu Natal province is known for its beautiful mountains. There are a variety of hotels in the area allowing one to be able to soak up the best of the Berg. There are several hiking and horse riding trails for one to explore. Several caves contain paintings from the San people who lived in the area over a period of 4000 years.
The Berg is the highest mountain range in South Africa.Drakensberg comes from the Dutch influence in South Africa and translated means “dragon’s mountains”. The Amphitheatre is one of the geographical features of this area and is regarded as on of the most impressive cliff faces on earth.
17. World’s Smallest Desert yes it is true and it is Red in Colour. Found 170km from Durban , in the small town of Port Edward lies a miniature hills and valleys of naked red soil. Barely 200m across the site is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation.
The locals have a theory about the Red Desert ,legend has it that a Zulu Tribe assembled in that area in the 19th century with cattle they had stolen. The cattle were stolen from a Pondo Tribe and the land became overgrazed and over time wind eroded and stripped the layer of soil. And this is the Legend of the Red Desert.
18. Shakaland is the home of King Shaka who was king of the Zulu Kingdom in KwaZulu Natal. On the site of where the popular documentary on King Shaka was made is the Shakaland Hotel. The hotel gives you a true traditional Zulu Experience from the dancing ,drumming, beer making and bead making. The rooms are all in the forms of thatched roof huts giving the feeling of living in a Zulu Village. Day trips are also a popular choice.
19. Temple of Understanding situated in the heart of Chatsworth in Durban is this beautiful temple. This temple is the largest Hare Krishna Temple in Africa. The eye-catching striking domes house a Hindu Temple on the top and below a vegetarian eatery. Anyone can visit the temple and only have to remove your shoes when entering. There is a sense of peace and serenity one feels as soon as you enter.
20. Durban’s Golden Mile is often compared to Miami Beach , Durban’s beach have a vibrant atmosphere with a constant buzz of activity.
With fantastic weather all year round, there is a definite beach culture in this city. During the weekends the Golden Mile is filled with health fanatics going for a cycle or run along the beautiful beach. The beaches are also home to amazing sand sculptors who will personalize a message for you for a small price. Along the mile one will find vendors selling touristy trinkets as well as a Durban favourite Masala Pineapple which is basically a slice of pineapple on a skewer drenched in a chilli powder trust me it is divine.
21. Try out a freak milkshake ! Be prepared for a sugar rush as you taste concoctions made up into almost wicked milkshakes using everything from the chocolate and sweet store.
22. Go on a Rickshaw ride- A colourful part of the Golden Mile in Durban . Here you will find African men decked put with elaborate head dresses and dressed traditionally. The carts they pull are equally and colourful as the strong men pulling them. The Rickshaws are wooden structures with wheels which carry passengers. So there is no carbon foot print from this mode of transport. These were brought to Durban in 1893 by a British man and were used to transport the ladies and gentlemen locally. Now only a handful of these remain on the beachfront. It is truly worth the experience and the small amount of money to pay for it.
23. Cape Town Food Scene is something very unique and different.From goyrmet food to food trucks and fusion food you can find it all here. The influences of the Malays mean the curries are not too hot but rather fragrant and often fruit is cooked with meat. No visit to Cape Town is complete without eating certain things :
- Koeksuster which is a doughnut with coconut and syrup drizzled over.
- Fish and Chips
- A vienna parcel also known as a poor man’s meal. Vienna’s are mixed fried potato chips and a variety of sauces are added before it is rolled up as a parcel and sold.
- A Gatsby is a bread roll filled up with chips ,salad ,sauces,cheeses and a variety of meats.
24. Gold Reef City takes visitors back in time to the days of the Gold Rush. A theme park and historic exhibits are found within the city. There are also reproduction of buildings from that time era. A fun day out for the whole family.
25. Visit Buddhist retreat in Ixopo which is very popular for people of all faiths. This retreat was voted by CNN in 2014, as one of the World’s 10 Best Meditation retreat.
Nestled in a very calming and tranquil part of the KZN Midlands ,this retreat offers a variety of weekend courses and is well known for the delightful vegetarian food they serve.
26. Eat a foot long Johnny’s Roti – situated on the hub of a busy road Johnnys is known by every one. With their cheap meals and late hours of trading it is popular among students and party animals wanting a cheap but filling meal. A foot long roti roll is exactly that a foot long wrap of cheese and a bean curry. 3 people can eat this and be full.
27. Sun City , the vision turned reality of an entertainment property with a casino in the middle of nowhere. Wait minute that sounds like Las Vegas. Sol Kerzner is the mastermind behind this popular spot which even boasts a man-made beach with waves and a water theme park. Known as Africa’s playground this property contains 4 hotels ,2 world-class golf courses , 2 casinos and a South African themed cultural village . A perfect holiday for the whole family. The property is home the Palace of the Lost City and this place is indeed magical.
28. Food – South Africa is a foodie heaven with influences from the British , Dutch , African , Malay and Indian cookery that has made it a melting pot of deliciousness. Every part of South Africa has its own regional specialities. Fresh produce is of an exceptionally high quality and is exported to various parts of the globe.
29. Braai the national way of entertainment in every South African home. Often referred to as a BBQ in other parts of the world is a wide selection of fish ,game meat ,karoo lamb and some of the best steaks ever. And no we do not do hamburgers but instead to boerewors. Side dishes include braai broodjies and roasted corn on the cob. A spit braai is also another popular way of entertaining where a whole lamb is rotated over a grill for several hours and tenderly nursed with a basting sauce.
30. Visit SAB breweries. South African breweries is a local brewery. Daily tours are offered which include a guided tour of the brewery in action and a sample tasting session of the local brews.
31. Shishya nyama township experience – The township experience is becoming more popular with not only tourists but locals wishing to experience what happens in a township. Shishya Nyama roughly translated is the Zulu word for a braai. With this experience comes the township vibes with the locals listening to local music,sometimes live music and drinking locally brewed beer. Mzoli’s in Cape Town and Max’s Lifestyle in Durban are 2 very popular places to try out.
32. Oudtshoorn is the largest town in the Little Karoo is known for producing Ostrich feathers. There are Ostrich farms where one can visit and even eat some Ostrich meat and stand on an Ostrich Egg.
Besides Ostriches , the area is famous for the impressive Cango Caves. Guided tours take you into the chambers of the caves to see the impressive stalagmites and stalactites.
33. Cape Town listed on literally every travel list out there as a place to visit before you die, is literally breathtaking.
A popular holiday spot for local and international tourists throughout the year. The city is home to many beautiful sites and sounds and a must visit.
34. An African Spa Experience with Mangwanani. This brand is a South African company who train local women from the townships in the skills of spa treatments. Mangwanani gives you a truly African experience as the products used are locally made and there an atmosphere of entering an African Village. Branches can be found in all major cities in South Africa.
35. Grahamstown Arts and Culture Festival happens each year between June and July when the little University town becomes a hub of creativity.
Situated between Port Elizabeth and East London, this historic town was once a battlefield between the locals and the settlers. Also called the City of Saints due to the large number of churches , 40 to be accurate in one area.
36. Durban July happens the 1st Saturday of July. It is a prestigious and glamorous horse racing event which brings hordes of people to Durban in their finery. Very much the “Ascot of Africa”
37. Value for money that is what all tourists say when they visit South Africa. There are a variety of packages to suit all budgets. And in the European summer it is Winter here but no snow and lots of sunshine. Winter in South Africa means discounted hotel deals as it is not peak season
38. Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa. It is larger in size than Israel.The Kruger now forms part of the Transfontier Park ,which is a peace park which links it to parks in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The reason behind this is animal migration. Found within this park are the Big 5 , Little 5 and the Birding Big 6 .
The Kruger is a self drive destination with overnight and day tours available. Other options include foot safaris, game drives and bush walks. There is also luxury accommodation within the park.
39. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens another beautiful spot in Cape Town that is a World Heritage Site. This Botanic garden is the 1st garden in the world to be given this status. There are over 7000 species of flora here including rare and threatened species. With an extensive collection of Fynbos and beautifully sculptured gardens you should add Kirstenbosch to your list.
40. Sani Pass is situated between Kwa Zulu Natal and Lesotho. This pass is 4X4 terrain and tours can be arranged if you don’t have a 4X4 . The pass is also home to the Highest Pub in Africa. Sani Pass is often a winter wonderland and offers majestic sweeping views of the mountains.
41. Babylonstren based in the Franschoek Valley is the oldest Cape Dutch Farm. It is a working wine and fruit farm. Babylonstren is a unique country getaway and has a Spa , accommodation , restaurant and greenhouse on the land. It is no surprise that this venue is also a wedding venue.
42. Luxury Train Travel on the Blue Train and Rovos Rail. Both these services offer luxurious cabins with gourmet food in elaborate dining cars.
43. Halaal Friendly , for several travellers of the Muslim faith this is an important factor when picking a holiday destination. South Africa is home to a large population of muslims. This means that getting Halaal Food is not a problem as well as finding places of worship.
44. Adventures for adrenalin Junkies galore in every part of South Africa. From Bungee Jumping to Skydiving to Shark Cage diving there is something for everything. From time to time there is a “meal in the sky ” which is literally a huge crane that picks up an open table which you sit around all strapped in while you have a bite.
45. Family friendly – there are loads of activities suitable for children in South Africa. Restaurants even have children play areas so the kids can be occupied while you are out for a meal.
46. Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein caves have provided vast amounts of scientific information on the evolution of the human being over 3.5 million years ago. The area defines the origin and evolution of humanity. Evidence has been found in these sites depicting how man lived , fed himself and his way of life.
47. Whale watching can be done in the popular town of Hermanus. There is a yearly festival.
48. Beaches – South Africa is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Surfers love the waves in SA and there are several surf events annually. There are 41 beaches that have Blue Flag Status.
49. Big Hole in Kimberly is found in the Northern Cape which was once the world’s Diamond Capital
The hole is the size of 8 football fields and is the world’s largest man-made hole. Between 1871 and 1914 , 14.5 million carats of diamonds were excavated from this mine. These days the mine is filled with water. There is a viewing platform for visitors to have a peak into the depth of the mine.
50. God’s Window – situated in the province of Mpumalanga . This site offers the most panoramic views of canyons , rock formation and waterfalls all in between lush green vegetation. Close by are a number of popular attractions including Mac Mac Falls.
South Africa has several different types of accomodation to suit all budgets.From 5 star hotels ,airbnb and some pretty cool hostels.
I could go on with 50 more reasons but I am sure these will tempt you to add South Africa to your #BucketList. Which are you most keen to see / experience/ taste ?
Be Inspired !