South Africa is a year-around destination and really has it all – diverse scenery, world-class cities, wildlife and culture. In one visit, you can have an array of different experiences, making it an attractive and fun travel destination.
Sitting on the southernmost tip of the African continent, South Africa is easy to get to from the United States with non-stop flights to the largest city, Johannesburg, from Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and New York City. In December, United Airlines will offer a direct flight to the beautifully situated port city of Cape Town from Newark, New Jersey.
Here are just a few of the reasons why South Africa should be your next travel destination.
Located in the Cape Peninsula, about an hour’s scenic drive from Cape Town, Boulders Beach is a sheltered beach and the only place in the world that you can get close to the African Penguins. This colony of African Penguins have been waddling on the white sands of Boulders Beach since 1982. It is estimated that between 2,000 – 3,000 penguins live there.
If you enjoy whale watching, South Africa is one of the top destinations worldwide to see the majestic creatures. Every year, southern right whales, humpback whales, Bryde whales and more come to South Africa between June to November. The whales can be seen from the cliffs and beaches around the Cape Peninsula – within driving distance from Cape Town. The nature reserves surrounding these beaches are great for hiking, swimming, or just relaxing and whale-spotting.
If shark diving excites you, you can swim with many different types, including the great white, copper sharks and even hammerheads, at many points on the country’s shores.
Of course, when many people think of South Africa the first thing that comes to mind is safari. A wonderful way to experience safari in South Africa is on a private game reserve in the greater Kruger National Park area. The private game reserves limit the number of vehicles so you never feel like you’re on a crowded road even when lodges are full. Most lodges in the private game reserves have extremely qualified and enthusiastic trackers and drivers on board, making wildlife sightings of elusive animals more likely.
In the greater Kruger National Park, you will have the opportunity to see the Big 5 (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo) as well as over 100 other mammals like giraffes, hippos, zebras and wild dogs. At the end of your safari, there’s nothing quite like witnessing an African sunset while enjoying your favorite beverage.
Cape Town, known as the Mother City, is one of the most popular places to visit in South Africa and for good reason – it’s picturesque and full of history. Going to the top of Table Mountain, either by a four hour round-trip guided hike or the easier way, by cable car, is a must-do for sweeping views of the city. It is the perfect way to begin a stay in Cape Town, to get your bearings and take it all in. Cape Town’s beaches are popular, with many types of beachfront bars to choose from. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront has great restaurants, cruises and lots of shopping.
Depending on your style and budget, there are many wonderful hotel choices while staying in Cape Town.
The most popular wine regions to visit in South Africa are located in the Western Cape, an easy drive from Cape Town. Franschhoek Valley is a favorite among visitors and is known for its world-class wines, with boutique tasting experiences and a lively culinary scene. Many of the accommodation options are located among beautiful estate vineyards so you can relax with great views after a day of wine tasting. If food and wine isn’t your thing, Franschhoek is full of art galleries and offers outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking in the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.
Rich History & Culture
It would be amiss to visit South Africa without learning about its tumultuous history. The country has 11 official languages, each representing a different culture with its own customs and traditions. Visiting Robben Island in Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years incarcerated, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, or the many other museums and landmarks around the country, will help you get a sense of the people and cultures, and the progress this beautiful country has made in recent years.
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Cover: Jaguar in the greater Kruger National Park area. Photo courtesy Royal Malewane
Alicia Saba is the founder of luxury travel agency The Splendid Traveler. Saba’s agency creates unique and personalized travel experiences you wouldn’t have known were possible by booking on your own. To learn more, visit thesplendidtraveler.com or The Splendid Traveler Instagram or Facebook pages.