Fine beaches, glorious weather, amazing wildlife, great food and entertainments, mind-boggling landscapes. Throw in some of the most dramatic history in Africa and you have a destination which guarantees a trip of a lifetime.
Johannesburg International Airport, 25km east of the city, is the most common place for arrivals. Cape Town International Airport, 22 km of Cape Town, and Durban International Airport South West of Durban are alternatives. Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport is the gateway to the Kruger National Park. There are good road links from all neighbouring countries. South Africa's railways are mainly only good for long distance travel. There is a good network of domestic flights and good long distant bus networks. Car hire is possible but make sure you have a full set of spares and mobile phone before setting out. Taxis are probably the best and safest form of transport in the cities. Several cruise ships companies stop off at South Africa.
The terrain ranges from desert dunes to tropical forest and from sea level to South Africa's highest peak, Injasuti (34082m). South Africa has land borders with Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana and Namibia. South Africa also incorporates the Karoo, a semi desert, the flat central plateau. The mountainous region are the high veld. The low veld is where elephants and lions roam.
Climate varies considerably dependent on altitude and latitude. The Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with cool, grey, wet and windy winters and sunny summers. The North coast is subtropical. Temperatures vary in winter from 0C at night to about 20C at midday and in summer from 95C during the day to about 20C at night.
South Africa is the world's leading supplier of many precious metals, including gold and platinum.
Centuries of colonialism under Dutch and British rule gave way to the segregated apartheid system. Freedom was given the green light in 1990 when President FW de Klerk repealed the apartheid laws, making way for the first democratic government under President Nelson Mandela.
An exciting city bustling with street life, cafes, theatres and cinemas. Attractions include the Apartheid museum, Erikson's Diamond Centre, Johannesburg Zoo and Zoo Lake and Johannesburg Art Gallery. Gold Reef City is a combined open air museum and theme park which includes reconstructions of the South African gold rush plus several reconstructed Victorian streets with pubs, restaurants and old fashioned shops.
The climate of Cape Town is Mediterranean and buildings are European in style. There are great wineries and restaurants and nightlife. The population is truly cosmopolitan. Attractions include Bertram House, a rare example of early colonial architecture decked out with original fittings. Cape Town's Houses of Parliament is where the South African government operates. The Jewish Museum reveals the important role the sizeable Jewish immigrant community has played in the history of South Africa. There are also numerous interesting churches of all denominations, including the St Georges' Cathedral built unusually in the style of an English parish church. Several important museums include the South African National Gallery and The South African Maritime Museum. The South African Museum and Planetarium is the oldest in the country and specialises in African tribal culture. Its planetarium features the southern hemisphere night sky. The city is awash with public monuments and other attractions.
Kruger National Park founded in 1903 the park is 350km long and up to 60km wide - about the size of Wales. The rolling plains are a perfect habitat for lions, giraffe, antelope, elephants and hippos. The further north you go the more barren and wild it becomes. There are over 20 camps from remote sites to more developed ones with shops and other facilities.
A ridge of mountains along the Cape Peninsula falls into the sea via a mass of rocks. This spectacular region includes idyllic beaches and charming small towns. Sights include Peers Cave, an ideal place for whale watching and the stunning end of the world feel at Cape Point. Attractions in the region include South African Fisheries Museum at Hout Bay. Boat trips are available to the seal and seabird sanctuary on Duiker Island.
Famous diamond town 485 km South West of Johannesburg near where the first diamond was discovered. A diamond rush town of prospectors formed the origins of Kimberley now the town still produces half a million carats per year. Includes some splendid buildings including the rocco City Hall. During the Anglo-Boer war Kimberley was besieged by the Boers for 124 days so women and children took refuge in the mines. Attractions include The Big Hole and Kimberley Diamond Museum, which includes the largest man made excavation in the world.
Crime rates are falling but South Africa still has major problems with crime. Never hitchhike. Never stop to pick up hitchhikers. Do not flaunt wealth or carry large amounts of cash. Travel during the day and with guides or organised groups if possible. Some of the townships and city urban areas are not advisable for foreigners unless escorted by locals. When travelling in the bush always take a mobile phone. Take a hat, wear boots and have hot and cold weather clothing alternatives.
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