I am a born and bred South African, yet in the almost-thirty years I’ve lived here, I still haven’t seen everything this beautifully diverse country of my birth has to offer. I have travelled through almost every one of the nine provinces, barring one – Mpumalanga (also formerly known as the Eastern Transvaal).
I am resident in a part of the country known as the Garden Route, but I grew up in Johannesburg. The richest city on the African Continent. The City of Gold. Today when one talks to people who actually still work in the city itself, one hears stories of rife crime, prostitution, illegal immigrants and all sorts, yet, Johannesburg holds a charm that not many cities, both African and European, can compare to. One of the main tourist attractions in Johannesburg is Gold Reef City – a theme park in the form of an old 1880’s mining town – a depiction of the history of Johannesburg. There is something for every age to be enjoyed at the park. It is a must visit if one is ever travelling there.
Many a tourist may be interested to visit the Apartheid museum, situated very close to Gold Reef City. I personally haven’t been there, but wouldn’t mind to if I was ever in the part of the country again.
There are various parks in Johannesburg, many in a state of disrepair, but the city is doing it’s utmost to clean up the image of the CBD, a kind of urban regeneration, so to speak.
The region where I am currently resident stretches from Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay.
Mossel Bay has a rich history. It was there that Bartholomeuw Diaz called in 1488, followed by Pedro de Ataide in 1500, Commander of one of Cabral’s ships, left a letter of importance in a shoe near a large Milkwood Tree. The letter was found a year later by Joao da Nova. In this way the first post office in South Africa was founded. Today that tree is still standing, a National monument, and ecologically protected. One can still post letters at the tree and they will be delivered to destination with a special stamp. Besides the tree there are various other historical attractions in the town such as the Diaz museum where there is a full-scale replica of the vessel Diaz sailed to the Cape upon to be seen. It was made for a special jubilee celebration and sailed from Portugal to Mossel Bay in 1988.
Besides historical attractions, there are various ecological attractions one may enjoy in the town, such as a boat trip around Seal Island upon the well-known boat, the Romonza. There is also a game farm on the outskirts of town called Botlierskop where one can spend the night in a luxurious tent or ride on an elephant.
If travelling on the back of an elephant isn’t adventurous enough for you, try cage diving to view Great White Sharks, or crocodiles in Oudsthoorn, an hour away.
Oudsthoorn is the Ostrich capital of the world. Here one can visit not only various ostrich farms, but a wildlife range where, for a price, you can actually touch the wild cats, both adult and cub. It is here too that the cage diving trend is continued, but this time it is not sharks, but crocodiles. The world renowned Cango Caves are also situated here. A must see for anyone ever visiting this part of the country.
Further along the Garden Route is Knysna where one can sip crisp wine and enjoy oysters upon the John Benn ferry as it takes passengers to the outskirts of the Featherbed reserve and to The Heads. One can also visit the Knysna elephant park and interact with these amazing creatures.
The drive between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay is a scenic one, with many interesting stalls and shops to pop in at. From pottery to arty clothing, to art, to food, this drive is a day trip on it’s own.
A must see destination in South Africa is Cape Town at the foot of Table Mountain. There are many attractions in the Mothercity (as it is known to the locals), from funky cafes, to jazz bars, to clubs, to restaurants…
Cape Town is also home to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where, during the summer months, one can bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy one of the many concerts on show.
For those of you who enjoy the outdoors, there are wonderful beaches in and around Cape Town such as Clifton and Camp’s Bay, although the Atlantic Ocean’s iciness takes a bit of getting used to. Hike up one of the many trails leading to the top of Table Mountain. Visit Boulder’s beach – a haven of protection for the African (formerly known as the Jackass) penguin. Visit the naval base at Simon’s Town or simply enjoy a Sundowner at one of the many trendy spots in Kalk Bay.
A visit to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront has much to offer for both young and old. Shop at one of the many exclusive stores or catch a movie. Watch a show at the amphitheatre or simply chill at the movies. Take a steam driven boat out into the harbour or board a vessel to visit the historic Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, icon of the South African democracy, was held captive for 27 years.
South Africa has so much more to offer than just this – like wine and cheese tasting in the Boland, beautiful scenery to hike through, many nature reserves like the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. The choices are endless…and our weak currency makes it a destination to enjoy for all types of traveller, from the one on a shoestring budget, to the one where money is no option. Both kinds will have a very enjoyable stay, guaranteed.