So you want to travel to South Africa? Well I don’t blame you. The country is rich in history, the landscape is stunning and the animals are diverse. The main cities to fly into are Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
There are only a few options when it comes to domestic flights in South Africa. It is however pretty cheap to fly between the cities.
South African Airways are the national carrier and offer flights internally.
SA Express offer reasonably priced internal flights.
Fly Mango is a budget airline.
The Baz bus is a hop on hop off bus for backpackers to travel the East Coast of South Africa. They also offer travel between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The best thing about these guys is they will drop you off at backpacker hostels directly. No need to get a taxi or local bus.
One of my fondest memories of travelling thus far is seeing the view of Table Mountain. I remember seeing a photo of cricketers – Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden gazing upon the endless ocean. From then on, I wanted to be sitting up there gazing into the same ocean. You have a couple of ways to get to the top. The mountain has a few walking trails up to the top. Remember to take some water with you as it can get quite steep. The views are worth it though. The quickest way is to jump in the cable car. Be careful to choose your time you go as the cable car may not be operating in fog or high winds. My advice is to get up the mountain on a sunny day as the weather can change very quickly.
Just off the coast of Cape Town is Robben Island. The Island is infamous for the holding cell of the late Nelson Mandela. The ferry ride is about 45 minutes and can get a bit rough in stormy weather. The view back upon Cape Town is something to admire.
Camps Bay is an affluent suburb of Cape Town, located 10 minutes from the central train station. At sunset, the light is dissolved into the distant horizon like a biscuit dipped into a tea. Camps Bay makes a perfect location to relax either from the balcony of your room or from one of the many restaurants on the esplanade. You are spoilt for choice of fresh seafood. My tip is to head along Victoria road and order mussels. These will be some of the best mussels you will ever taste; thinking about them makes my mouth water.
Shanty Town tour
I have mixed feeling about the Shanty Town tours. Although it is quite interesting to see how people live their day to day lives, I had the feeling we were at a zoo. You were toured through somebodies home. It felt a bit awkward at times and was a great insight in how other people live, especially those who do not have the money to afford luxury houses.
The heart of South Africa’s winery region, Franshoek is a French town which has picturesque streets lined with art galleries, craft shops, cafes and boutique hotels. Located 2 hours outside of Cape Town, the valley provides excellent grape growing conditions. Here you will find boutique hotels and vineyards. Wine is cheap but is tasty!
The Garden Route
Moving East of Capetown will take you along the Garden Route. The route officially starts in Mossel Bay and finishes in Storms River. Along the way you can see humpback whales at Plettenberg Bay, small towns such as Witsand, wild flowers blooming in Riversdale and diverse countryside. I would suggest hiring a car and take the route at your own pace. The minimum recommended time to travel the route would be 5 days, but you can definitely spend more time there than that.
Johannesburg is home to around 1 million people. There is not much to see and do in J’burg, but it does offer a gateway into the rest of the country. To the South West of Johannesburg sits the township of Soweto (SOuth WEst Townships). You can also do a tour of the township here, much the same as the one in Cape Town.
An area located on the Eastern side of South Africa, Kwazulu Natal is the birth place of the Zulu Nation. It has since developed into a diverse multicultural state with numerous nationalities shaping what Kwazulu Natal is today. The Zulu people have a reputation of being some of the fiercest warriors. A reputation which came across in the 1800’s Battle of Isandlwana. So much folklore cam of this battle, it was made into the 1964 film, Zulu. Although the story was largely based on the battle of Rorke’s Drift, find out the true story behind it by visiting Fugitives Drift and listening to the tales. A must see stop on any history buff’s adventure through South Africa.
Durban – Drakensburg Mountains
Wild planes are met by treacherous and rugged mountains known as the Drakensburg Mountains. In the valleys you will find boutique resorts such as Granny Mouse Country House and Spa. You can buy a full day spa package which includes lunch, spa baths and a full body massage. It is the perfect way to be pampered and to relax.
You cannot leave South Africa until you have done a safari trip. You will be in luck anywhere you go as safaris and wild animal reserves can be found all over South Africa. The most famous of these is Kruger National Park. It is one of the largest National Parks in South Africa and attracts around 1 million visitors each year. To find out a great little park, be sure to check out IFE’s On safari in South Africa article.
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