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South Africa Travel Guide

Places to Visit

Cape Town

Drakensberg

Durban

Garden Route

Johannesburg

Kruger National Park

Tour Packages



South Africa
South Africa isSouth Africa an exhilarating, spectacular and complex country. With its post-apartheid identity still in the process of definition, there is undoubtedly an abundance of energy and sense of progress about the place. Travellers too are returning to a remarkable land that has been off the trail for way too long.

The infrastructure is constantly improving, the climate is kind and there are few better places to see Africa's wildlife. But if you want to understand the country, you'll have to deal with the full spectrum. Poverty, the AIDS pandemic and violence remain a problem.

The influx of foreign visitors in recent years has brought about an explosion of tours and activities: everything from abseiling off Table Mountain to sipping cocktails while watching lions. As a backdrop to all this, South Africa continues to go through huge upheavals as it comes to terms with democracy, and in these terms it is a young country.

Democracy has precipitated change both good and bad - the dissolution of physical and psychological barriers around skin colour at one end of the scale, the well-publicised crime problem at the other. It is both an invigorating and challenging time for South Africa, and a great time to visit and observe this metamorphosis first hand.

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» International Tour Packages
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PLACES TO VISIT IN SOUTH AFRICA :

Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa In this unequivocally beautiful city even transient visitors can't help but devote a few million brain cells to storing images of its grandeur: its striking Table Mountain backdrop, its glorious beaches and enchanting vineyards, its rugged wilderness coated in unique flora.

Outdoors, there are great walks and spectacular views from Tabletop Mountain as well as ocean swimming, boating activities, and plenty of ways to get out into the wilderness areas around Cape Town. Indoors, the city boasts a wealth of interesting museums.


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Darkensberg
The awesome Drakensberg (Dragon Mountain) is a basalt escarpment forming the border with eastern Lesotho. Although people have lived here for thousands of years - there are many San rock painting sites - some of the peaks and rocks have only been tackled by Europeans in the last few decades. Much of the range is taken up by national parks, perhaps the most spectacular of which is Royal Natal National Park.

The southern boundary of the park is formed by the Amphitheatre, an 8km stretch of cliff that is spectacular from below and even more so from the top. Here the Tugela Falls drop 850m in five stages (the top one often freezes in winter). There are some superb wilderness trails in the area, the flora is rich and varied and the mountain-climbing opportunities are heart stopping. Bergville is the jumping-off point for Royal Natal. It's accessible by minibus taxi from Ladysmith.


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Durban
Durban is a big subtropical city in the north-eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal. It has been a major port since the 1850s and is home to the largest concentration of Indian-descended people in the country. Today the city is better known as a holiday-makers' fun parlour with a happening nightlife. The weather (and the water, thanks to the Agulhas current) stays warm year-round drawing the crowds to Durban's long string of surf beaches.
Durban, South Africa
Apart from the sandy strip, 'Durbs' has a fair bit to offer. The impressive city hall houses an art gallery which has a good collection of contemporary South African works and a natural science museum (check out the cockcroach display and the reconstructed dodo). Also in the city centre, the local history museum has interesting displays on colonial life.

The Indian area, to the west of the city centre, has a bustle and vibrancy that's missing from most commercial districts in South Africa. The Victoria Indian Street Market is the area's focus, but other must sees are the Juma Mosque, the largest in the southern hemisphere, and the Alayam Hindu Temple, South Africa's oldest and biggest.

Marine Parade, fronting the beach, is Durban's focal point. Most places to stay and eat are on the parade or in the streets behind it, and much of the city's entertainment is here as well. At night, most people head to the restaurants in the northern suburbs, or the big hotels and clubs along the beachfront. Durban has an international airport, and is well serviced by buses and trains to all of South Africa's major cities.


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Garden Route
Heavily promoted and heavily scented, the Garden Route runs along a beautiful bit of coastline in southern Western Cape. The narrow coastal plain is well forested and is mostly bordered by extensive lagoons which run behind a barrier of sand dunes and superb white beaches. The Garden Route has some of the most significant tracts of indigenous forest in the country - giant yellowwood trees and wildflowers - as well as commercial plantations of eucalypt and pine. The area is a favourite for all water sports and the weather is kind year-round.

There are some tacky developments dotted along the route, but you can steer clear of the worst of it, and hostel accommodation isn't too hard to find. Some of the quieter places are Mossel Bay, Herold's Bay and Buffalo Bay.
George is the major transport hub for the area and is a pleasant enough town to park your pack while you get your bearings. If you're travelling between Cape Town and the Garden Route, there's a gruelling but spectacular alternative through the mountains of the Little Karoo or Klein Karoo. This area is renowned for ostriches, which thrive in the dry and sunny climate; for wildflowers; and for the kloofs (ravines) and passes that cut through the mountains.


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Johannesburg, South AfricaJohannesburg
A city of astonishing contrasts, a huge metropolis where opulent wealth and desperate poverty live side by side: Johannesburg is the intriguing, dynamic heart of the new South Africa. If you want to see the real South Africa - and try to understand it - Jo'burg has to be on your itinerary.
A hop-on, hop-off bus will show you both rich and poor suburbs and make seeing Johannesburg that much easier. Although it's one of the most dangerous cities in the world, if you consult with the locals and follow their advice you'll find it a fascinating place.


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Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park, South AfricaAs well as being one of the most famous wildlife parks in the world, Kruger National Park is among the biggest and the oldest - it turned 100 in 1998. You can see the 'big five' here (lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos) as well as cheetahs, giraffes, hippos, all sorts of antelope species and smaller animals. Although most people will have seen African animals in zoos, it is impossible to exaggerate how extraordinary and completely different it is to see these animals in their natural environment. That said, Kruger is not quite a wilderness experience: it's highly developed, organised, accessible and popular.

The park runs for 350km along the Mozambique border and has an average width of 60km. There are about 2000km of roads in the park, so even on weekends and school holidays, it's possible to isolate yourself and just see what comes along (it could be a fleet of BMWs). The main entry points to the park are through the towns of Skukuza and Nelspruit, both about a day's drive from Johannesburg. Accommodation is usually in well-managed huts run by the National Parks Board. Facilities vary from communal and basic to private and swish.



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