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South Africa, also known as the Republic of South Africa is a gem of a place to visit. It is going to be a great experience for you, especially if you are a nature lover and a wildlife enthusiast. When you hear about Africa you would think about dense jungles and deserts and South Africa has all of it on offer for you. From golden-hued savannahs to grand deserts, from wide gorges to a plethora of African creatures such as the "Big Five" (lion, buffalo, elephant, rhino, and leopard), South Africa has all of it on display for you and so much more. So, without spending much time beating around the bush, let's dig into all the wonderful amazing wonders that South Africa has to offer you.
Kruger National Park
Whenever you think of Africa you think about jungles, safaris, and a chance to see animals such as lions and African elephants. So, what's a better gateway into Africa than visiting a national park! Kruger National Park is one of the most renowned among and also one of the oldest wildlife inhabited areas in South Africa. If you love to find yourself amongst nature and in the presence of wild animals and birds, this place has to be on your South Africa itinerary.
The Kruger National Park is easily accessible from Johannesburg and is just about 4 hours away on road. This is one of the places where lucky visitors can see all the animals among the “Big Five” which includes lions, elephants, leopards, buffalos, and rhinos. There are a plethora of other wild animals to be seen in this area too. The San tribe, one of the famed Bushmen of Africa, used to inhabit this region and you will also find many San cave painting works in the region. This has also led to the excavation of many archaeological sites in this area. There are multiple options to explore this rich region either on a jeep or walking safari. You might also get up on a hot air balloon and soar above the entire region, taking in as much as you can as you hover over the dense forests, intricate river systems, and huge grasslands. It is also very easy to find the kind of accommodation you are looking for in Kruger National Park be it a luxury resort or a budget campsite!
Cape Town is situated in the Western Cape and is one of the most hip-and-happening places in the world. This is a terrific place to visit and has to be on your list of places to visit while you are in South Africa. In fact, Cape Town is such a glamorous destination that it is considered one of the most breathtaking cities in the entire world. Cape Town has its own international airport and thus is very accessible to the rest of South Africa as well as the world. Being such an important city Cape Town also has well-maintained, direct access via roadways and railways to the rest of the country. It is surrounded by nature in its most vibrant form on all sides in the form of rugged mountains on one side and pristine waters on the other.
The Table Mountain in Cape Town is one of the most impressive natural features to look out for. It is a peak with a very flat top that looks over the rest of the city. You could either hike to the top of Table Mountain or take a cable car there. If you are hiking from Lion's Head up to the top, you will get some of the most impressive and picturesque panoramic views of the entire city on your way and obviously from the top! Towards the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain, you will find the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which is another brilliant place to visit and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once you have taken a trip through the mountain ranges surrounding Cape Town it is time to take to the coast. From gigantic whales to waddling penguins in False Bay, the coast of Cape Town has a variety of marine wildlife on offer for you. The southernmost tip of the city, Cape Point has some of the most impressive flora and fauna that South Africa has to offer. The beaches in Cape Town are outstanding and are lined with cool cafes and different kinds of shops. For more entertainment you might visit the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront- it is similar to the Fisherman’s Wharf situated in San Francisco and an excellent place for dining, café hopping, shopping, and so on.
The Garden Route
The Garden Route is a stretch of about 200 km situated towards the southeastern coast of South Africa. It is one of the most breathtaking driving routes along a coast in a country and stretches between Mossel Bay in the Western Cape region to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape region. Lush hills, quaint coastal towns, breathtaking lagoons and lakes, and cliffs that open out into the Indian Ocean are all part of this extraordinary route along the coast.
One of the most impressive towns that you will find en route to the Garden Route is Knysna quietly nestled between an electrifying lagoon and dense forests. The Garden Route National Park is another charming spot that you will find on this route and is worth a visit- you will get to see amazing gorges and thick forests with beautiful tidal pools in them. The Oudtshoorn’s Ostrich Farm is a marvelous place to visit to look at some ostriches. You should also visit the Robberg Nature Reserve situated in Plettenberg Bay if you are looking forward to meeting some seals. There are also different kinds of adventures that you could partake in while on the route such as elephant safaris, whale watching, bungee jumping, and so much more.
Kalagadi Transfrontier Park
Kalagadi Transfrontier Park is situated in Northern Cape and was formed in 2000 when the Gemsbok National Parks in Kalahari and Botswana were merged. This led to the formation of a giant area of wilderness, probably the largest in the entire world. It is a self-drive experience, meaning that you have to travel through the national park area in your own vehicle. It is preferred that you get an SUV or a 4x4 vehicle, though any other normal vehicle is also acceptable within the park. T is situated about 900 km away from the international airport at Johannesburg.
It is an excellent place to be in and quite the unique jungle experience. The area is mostly covered in red sands interspersed with golden grasslands and camel-thorn trees. The sky is generally a clear electric blue color and the entire setup welcomes you into a memorable jungle safari experience. This forms a great backdrop for photographers and game viewers.
There are all kinds of fauna available to look at within the boundaries of this amazing park. The most exciting thing to look out for is the famed black-maned Kalahari lions while you'll find other exotic species too such as the gemsbok, meerkats, and so many birds of prey! Other predatory animals such as cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas are also available abundantly throughout the park.
The Drakensberg roughly translates to the "Dragon Mountains" and is a spectacular natural feature to look out for while you are traveling through South Africa. It is situated in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa and is a favorite spot to visit even among South Africans. You will find some of the highest peaks in the country in this region. There is no way you can directly reach the Drakensberg from nearby airports and you have to go on break journeys. The nearest airport is in Durban and the region is about 5 hours away from the airport. You could also go to the Drakensberg from Johannesburg Airport, though it'll take you more than 9 hours to reach your destination. The region is well-connected via roadways and you might also find some favorable train routes.
The uKahlamba-Drakensberg Park in this region is worth a visit and it is also listed as a World Heritage Site. The area is so beautiful that it is going to leave you awestruck! You will find many rocky basalt buttresses in the region coupled with San rock art. You should also visit the Royal Natal National Park where you will find the extraordinary Amphitheatre which is a cliff face where South Africa’s main rivers arise from. You should also go to the Giant's Castle Game Reserve where huge eland herds are protected and you will find over 800 species of flora throughout the region. While the summer season brings to you a dramatic scenery of lush mountains with crystal-clear streams and turbulent waterfalls cutting through them, the winters see these mountains covered in a thick layer of snow! Hiking, biking, fishing for trout, parasailing, rock climbing, and white-water rafting are some of the most common activities to look out for while you are in the region. You could also hop on a hot air balloon and hover over the forested region taking in all the brilliance that the place has to offer!
Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park is situated just a 2.5-hour ride away from Johannesburg and is a great place to catch the Big Five in a short duration. This national park is buzzing with wildlife! Add to that about 350 different species of birds available in this region and you'll get something a wildlife enthusiast's delight! Since it is much smaller in terms of area covered compared to the huge Kruger National Park you have a higher chance of witnessing the game. This makes it an amazing opportunity at a day trip from Johannesburg and Pretoria or you might even stay here for a couple of days.
The reason you get a rich variety of fauna in Pilanesberg National Park is that it is kind of a transition area between the dry Kalahari Desert and the rainfed Lowveld area. The difference in climatic conditions brings in a huge variety of animal species in this area. Some interesting animals that you get to see in this region other than the Big Five are wild dogs, sables, roan antelopes, and zebras, not to mention the varied bird species. Another great thing about the Pilanesberg National Park is that you get accommodations as per your budget and you can choose amongst bed and breakfasts, luxury lodges, safari tents, and even self-catering units.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
iSimangaliso is a term in the Zulu language and refers to "miracle and wonder". True to its name, iSimangaliso is a gem of a place and has to be on your South Africa itinerary. It is indeed a World Heritage Area and showcases 8 different, interwoven ecosystems that include coral reefs, lakes, rivers filled with crocodiles, coastal dunes, savannah, and swamplands. It is situated in Kwazulu Natal and lies on the northeastern coast.
Since the area comprises such a diverse range of ecosystems you will find plenty of flora and fauna here. There are over 526 different species of birds to be found in this area coupled with various land fauna such as leopards, rhinos, loggerhead turtles, leatherback turtles, and a huge concentration of crocodiles and hippos. Because of the unique location of the place you can very well combine the experience of a safari with that of coastal activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, and diving.
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa with respect to population and could be regarded as one of the major entry points into South Africa. It is also known as Jo’burg and could be regarded as the economic center of South Africa. This is because of the rich mineral deposits to be found in Johannesburg which has garnered a nickname for the city- “City of Gold”!
One of the most interesting attractions to look out for while you are in Johannesburg is the Apartheid Museum- a place that depicts the victorious trail of Africans from oppression of apartheid to democracy. Constitution Hill is another important point in Johannesburg that you gave to visit. You should also plan a trip to Gold Reef City where you will find an interesting depiction of the city’s history through mining-themed presentations.
While you are in Johannesburg you have to also visit Soweto. These shantytowns, better known as South Western Townships are the region wherein the freedom movement in Africa had started and led to the creation of South Africa's democracy. A guided tour of Johannesburg will take you through all of these places and could be a delightful adventure for any history buff.
While you are in Johannesburg you should also visit the nearby city of Pretoria. Though close to Johannesburg, it could be regarded as a world apart from the culture and tradition that Johannesburg has to offer. Pretoria is the administrative capital of the nation and is quite beautifully built. Some of the most popular attractions to look out for in Pretoria are the Voortrekker Monument and Heritage Site and the famed Freedom Park.
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