The South African Travel Guide: From the Bush to the Ocean

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South Africa is a land of  ‘beauty and splendour’. When you open one destination and look within you’ll discover another  – there is something unique and worth seeing in every ‘pocket’ of this this country we call home.

Choosing just one destination to explore is sometimes the only option when there is a time limit on your holiday. However, if you plan to dig deep into the magic of this country you’ll discover just how rewarding it can be. We have a number of bucket list suggestions that we believe would make you fall in love with the southern tip of Africa – whether you a first timer, a resident or a regular visitor, there is always something new that awaits.

The Call of Whales

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The giants of the sea hold a certain magic for the viewer – there is an enormous thrill that comes from spotting a whale and watching it frolicking in the surf. The Western Cape is a prime spot for seeing whales that have migrated from the icy waters of the Antarctica to the warmer feeding grounds of the Cape Coast. The best time for whale watching is from June to November along the Cape south coast but whales can be seen through to September and October.

The southern right whales make the journey to our waters to mate, calve and rear their young. Excellent sightings of whales can be seen in the coastal town of Hermanus in Walker Bay but they can also be seen along the West Coast and all around the Cape Peninsula. The well-loved hiking route known as the Whale Trail offers an incredible five day experience in the scenic De Hoop Nature Reserve and like its name sake,whales are often spotted in abundance along the route, making this trail a one of a kind experience.

The Lure of Wild Flowers

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There are two months of the year where South Africa’s floral wonderland puts on a spectacular show for anyone who is lucky enough to view it! During August and September, dependent on rains, the Cape West Coast through to the drier Namaqualand region, comes alive with carpets of blooming beauties (flowers painted in every shade of colour you can imagine).  You could easily spend a whole day or more dedicated to viewing the many flowers and seeing just how striking nature’s artworks can be.  The best places for seeing flowers is in the Namaqua and West Coast National Park.

The Sensational Highveld

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The city of Johannesburg may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a bucket list but it is a place that holds many attractions for those willing to look. The one undeniable lure of this city is most definitely its weather, warm and predictable with the most dramatic summer thunderstorms, which are something to behold! It is the economic hub and the largest city in the country –people from all walks of life reside here…

There is also no shortage of parties for those who like to razzle and dazzle at night. When you fly into Johannesburg you can’t help but notice how green it is – the sheer number of trees has placed the city as the largest ‘man-made’ forest in the world and it is estimated that there are around six million trees in Johannesburg from pavements and sidewalks to trees in private homes.

About three hours (by car) from the city, lies another beautiful destination, that of the Free State and its most well-known National Park – Golden Gate. There are a many number of reasons why you should visit the park, one of the main reasons is that the park is a great family destination and wonderful for game viewing and activities from horse riding in the mountains to cultural education programmes. It’s also a park that is so varied in it seasonal changes that it is worth visiting all year round to discover how different it can be from one season to the next. There are magnificent panoramas, great bird watching opportunities and it is a wonderful escape for deep relaxation.

Live your adventure, Live Safari

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A visit to the country is not complete without going on safari.

The Mighty Orange River

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The Orange River is the lifeblood of the Richtersveld, a personal favourite because of its dramatic and somewhat other worldly rock formations (a geologist and mountain lovers dream).

The river winds through mountain ranges on either side and paddling on the river is highly recommended for anyone visiting these parts. Book the four-day river rafting adventure (there are many companies that run rafting trips and all of them have a great reputation for the fun they provide). Soak up in the sun, enjoy the rapids and then the quieter parts when you simply paddle in your inflatable boat along the less ‘wild’ sections. It is a whole lot of fun especially with friends and a great way to enjoy the unique flora and fauna that this area provides in abundance.

Feasting on Flavours of Wine 

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Cape Town and its surrounds are usually placed high on a South African bucket list. This is due to the city’s undeniable beauty from mountain scenery to the ocean, food, city life and of course the wines! The winelands of the Cape region are spectacular and it is worth visiting wine farms to discover the many delicious varieties on offer – a true South African experience. There are many wine farms, some are more well-known than others and these should definitely be visited.

The Stellenbosch region and Franschoek are the most popular wine regions of the Cape but we would also recommend visiting some of the smaller towns of the Cape such as the Robertson Wine Valley that produces excellent wines – an easy 90 minute drive from Cape Town along the R62. 

The Luxury of the Blue Train or the Rovos Rail

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The Blue Train:

The Blue Train arose from a fantasy of travelling from Africa’s southern to northern most tips and came to being in the 1920s. When the train became modernised in the 90s from steam to electric and diesel, the Blue Train had a refurbishment completed in each of its carriages and to this day is defined as  ‘an unmatched experience of luxurious modern travel’.  It is the ultimate in luxury trains and one of the most interesting ways of exploring the country. The routes include Cape Town to Pretoria. There is also a route from Pretoria to Durban (going both ways). This five-star experience is romantic, stylish and, ‘offers a window to the soul of Africa.’

Rovos Rail:

Experience the opulent elegance of rail travel on the most luxurious train in the world on one of Rovos Rail’s exceptional safaris through the heart of Africa.  Combining some of the most magnificent scenery with the glamour and excitement of the golden age of rail travel, Rovos Rail will delight the most discerning traveller. Trains depart regularly from Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria for Cape Town, Durban and Victoria Falls with longer journeys operated on an annual basis.  These include two golf itineraries, of nine days, each with delightful programmes for non-golfers.  There is another nine-day safari to Namibia as well as the two-week adventure to Dar es Salaam.

The Falls and Desert

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Augrabies in the Northern Cape, situated 120 km from Upington, is known as the place of ‘Great Noise’. It is so named because of its one of a kind wonder, the mighty Augrabies Falls protected by the South African National Parks. The destination sees visitors from around the world visit to admire the sheer volume of water that flows from the falls into the Orange River. It is also a place of interesting rock formations, animals and a diversity of birdlife. Standing on the wooden platforms and looking over at the falls and river is exhilarating especially when seen in flood. Around you rock hyraxes or ‘dassies’ scurry about the rocks and can be seen sunning themselves. There are a number of interesting attractions and you could easily spend a few days exploring the park.  To get an indication as to the power of these falls, just take a look at this video below…

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, much like the Kruger National Park, is an iconic wildlife destination. The park is unique due to its desert terrain, a place of red undulating sand dunes and dry riverbeds. The key attraction apart from the landscape and interesting climate is the animals that have made the park home, from gemsbok commonly seen on drives to the sight of a pale chanting goshawk, there is an abundance of animals and photographic opportunities to be experienced.

Route 62: A journey to the Unexpected

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The Cape Route 62 is easily one of South Africa’s most scenic drives stretching from the Western to the Eastern Cape, through the Klein (Small) Karoo and through many of the country’s famous vineyards. It is a drive of towering cliffs, crystal streams, trees, orchards and majestic mountains. It is worth taking slowly to enjoy all it has to offer. Stop along the way and meet the colourful characters of small towns, dine at  restaurants and enjoy the scenic changes from lush grasses to the defining rugged mountain passes of the Karoo.

The Jewels of the Garden Route

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There are an endless amount of attractions to be found along the Garden Route of South Africa. The route comprises a stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The Garden Route is most famous for its beautiful beaches many found in protected areas such as the Tsitsikamma National Park and Nature’s Valley. The Otter Hiking Trail (43 km from Storms River Mouth to Nature’s Valley) is one of the country’s most popular trails. The five-day hike transverses incredible scenery that will leave you in awe.

The Scenic Panorama Route

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Situated conveniently close to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve and the Kruger Park, the Panorama Route is a favourite of all who visit.  The route includes the scenic landmarks: God’s Window, the Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and the Three Rondavels as well as many waterfalls, historical monuments and more. As Londolozi Staff members who have been treated to a trip on the route, we have all been left in amazement at the experience of the waters, forests, and most impressively, the view over the Three Rondavels that lies within the Blyde River Canon Reserve.

The Magic of the Drakensberg

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If there is a place where magic can be found than it must be in the Drakensberg.  The Northern and Central Drakensberg is place for romance and adventure alike, where cottages tucked under mountain peaks provide a cozy winter escape and where adventure activities are plentiful. There’s game viewing parks, 4×4 routes, mountain biking passes, canoeing, horse-riding and many fascinating historical tours. It is a place to visit and because it offers so much, it is a place you’ll want to revisit to continue exploring.

The City with a Mountain

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Cape Town, it does not need any introduction but again if you have not visited this city, it is a place to add to your bucket list. It is the city with Table Mountain, where hikes and a cable car take you to the top for a view across the entire city and its perimeters, where you literally feel on top of the word. There’s the many incredible white sand beaches, top restaurants where dining is taken to another level, and a vibrant night life. There are many places to visit while here but we suggest the following: Cape Point Nature Reserve, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Camps Bay and Clifton beach, Robben Island, Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain by cable car, the V&A Waterfront and the seaside towns of the Cape Peninsula.

Written by: Kate Collins.

 

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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