Visiting South Africa is a destination almost everybody wants to visit, it is almost a right of passage for travellers. Having a stamp in your passport from here will gain the respect of other travelling types. Extra points are available to those that have visited both Johannesburg and Cape Town, as these are the big two cities of the sub-continent.
It’s easy to understand why it’s such a popular destination, even outside of the two main players in South African tourism. Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal region is probably the next best know city. It’s on the Indian Ocean, has some great sandy beaches including North Beach which is generally considered the best. The beachfront is known as the ‘Golden Mile’, which is a reason I’m particularly fond of it; the promenade in my hometown Blackpool is known by the same name.
I’m surprised to learn that Durban is the most visited holiday destination in South Africa. However it’s blessed with a mild, sub-tropical climate and the waters of the Indian Ocean are seldom too cool, making it popular with those that enjoy water sports, such as kitesurfers, surfers and body boarders. There is also the huge Suncoast Casino, an extensive flea-market, internationally renowned conference centre, excellent hotels and restaurants. It is home to the largest Indian population in South Africa, and visiting the city without trying a curry would be criminal.
Experiencing a safari probably tops almost every visitors list. Seeing the ‘Big Five’ is a huge draw, and few pass up the chance, often staying in a lodge. Kruger is possibly the best known of all Africa’s game reserves, but there are many more, including Kgalagadi, Sabi Sands and Mapungubwe National Park. There’s little that matches the excitement of a close encounter with some of Africa’s amazing wildlife, whether in the bush or the ocean.
The Drakensberg is a beautiful, mountainous landscape, steep-sided cliffs, bisected by deep clefts with powerful rivers flowing in their base. It’s rich, unique diversity is recognised, and it is now a World Heritage site, with great cultural significance. There are around 600 sites displaying indigenous Bushman rock art, and over 35,000 individual paintings.
On my recent visit Cape Town was not on the itinerary, but there was time to spend exploring Johannesburg. It still has issues which need resolving, and many South Africans have few good words to say about the capital city. However, I enjoyed my day discovering the street art of Newtown and the Maboneng Precinct is fantastic and finishing off in the lively Neighbourgoods market was perfect. It’s a vibrant place, markets may usually be for shopping but the vibe in the second floor bar area is both chilled and dynamic. The jazz trio set the perfect tone and everybody is out for a good time.
In common with every destination it’s the people who ultimately make it worth visiting, and South Africa isn’t an exception. There are happy, smiling children which seem to love posing for the camera or Zulu women collecting heavy loads high in the Drakensberg equally happy to engage with visitors. Whether enjoying a braai in modern-day Soweto or a stroll along the Golden Mile in Durban, I was met with openness and a friendly smile. The traditional greeting of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ this is reason enough to love South Africa.
*All images were taken on a compact camera