Top places to visit in SA
Durban - South Africa has been named the adventure capital of the world, with almost 3 000km of coastline and the world’s highest bungee jump. Travelstart has listed the country’s most popular tourist attractions, writes Liam Joyce.
Cape Point Nature Reserve
Cape Point lies at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, a nature reserve within the Table Mountain National Park. Originally named the Cape of Storms by the navigator Bartolomeu Dias, it features an 1859 lighthouse.
Boulders Beach, near Simon’s Town in False Bay, is famed for its resident penguin colony and clean, white beach.
Table Mountain is one of the world’s most recognisable natural icons with its distinctive flat top. Popular with tourists and locals alike, it offers a choice: take the five-minute cable car ride or hike to the top.
The Robben Island tour is an emotional pilgrimage to the former penal colony where many PAC and ANC members, including Nelson Mandela, were incarcerated. Today it holds symbolic status and, like nearby Table Mountain, is a Unesco world heritage site.
Named after Great Britain’s Queen Victoria and her youngest son Alfred, the V&A offers an amazing choice of shops, restaurants and lots of (mostly free) live entertainment.
Franschhoek Motor Museum
Franschhoek Motor Museum houses a fantastic collection of vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and fascinating memorabilia, ranging from an 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a high-performance 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar.
!Khwa ttu is a San education and culture centre providing a fascinating learning experience on the first indigenous people of southern Africa and their descendants.
How about a day out learning all about the history of beer? Sounds like thirsty work. A tour of Newlands Brewery illustrates the brewing process from start to refreshing finish.
Groot Constantia is noted for its shiraz, merlot and Grand Constance, the celebrated dessert wine. Its history goes back 300 years to 1685, when the farm was assigned to Simon van der Stel.
World of Birds
World of Birds, with its walk-through aviaries, is the largest bird park in Africa. Situated in beautiful Hout Bay, it houses over 400 species, totalling 3 000 birds.
Garden Route Attractions
If you enjoy going underground, a visit to the Cango Caves in the Swartberg Mountains, 30km north of Oudtshoorn, is the way to go. The 20-million-year-old caves consist of a progression of hidden chambers, cut deeply into the solid limestone rock layer.
The Big Tree at Tsitsikamma
This majestic tree is estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old. It stands 36.6m high with a trunk circumference of 9m.
Bloukrans Bridge is an arched road bridge and the highest in Africa. Standing 215m above the floor of the gorge, it is part of one of only three highways in the world to have a bridge exceeding 152m.
Ostrich Farm, Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn is the capital of the ostrich industry. A visit to the farm will clarify how the birds are bred and the ways in which ostrich products are marketed.
Addo Elephant National Park
The Addo Elephant National Park is home to more than 550 elephants, lions, black rhinos, buffaloes, hyenas, leopards, zebras and antelopes. The third largest park in South Africa, it also preserves a variety of flora.
Bathurst is one of the country’s largest pineapple-growing areas and has a 16.7m giant pineapple with a fibreglass skin and a metal structure to prove it.
Lying on the coastline about 70km west of Port Elizabeth, Jeffrey’s Bay (J-Bay to the locals) is one of the world’s most popular surfing spots.
The Big Hole
The world’s largest hand-dug excavation site was mined to about 800m and yielded 2.7 tons of diamonds. The mine closed in 1914. It is now a water-filled crater.
The formidable and thunderous flow of the falls courses down the Orange River when it is in full flood. The 55 000 hectares on both sides provide plenty for hikers and nature lovers to explore.
Namaqualand Flower Route
Lying five hours north of Cape Town, the Namaqualand is famous for its burst of colour every spring (July to October), when almost 4 000 species of flowers bloom and the semi-desert plains of Namaqualand are transformed into a sea of colour.
The Apartheid Museum
Designed to illustrate life under apartheid from 1948 until 1990, there are photographs, film footage, text panels and 22 individual exhibitions including visuals of life as it was then in the townships and the forced removals.
Gold Reef City
This large amusement park, located around an old Joburg gold mine, is themed on the gold rush of the 19th century.
Newtown Cultural Precinct
Newtown is at the heart of the city’s rejuvenated centre. There is so much to enjoy here: listen to live jazz in nearby restaurants, attend a performing arts play in the Market Square Theatre or shop for samosas at the colourful Oriental Plaza.
Between 1908 and 1909 Satyagraha House was the base of Mahatma Gandhi. Built and designed by Gandhi’s friend, Hermann Kallenbach, it was named The Kraal and has two rondavel-style rooms.
Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary
Situated west of Hartbeesport Dam, in the Magaliesberg mountain range, the sanctuary’s tour on elevated wooden walkways through natural forest will put you almost nose-to-nose with exotic monkeys.
This sanctuary, which promotes the well being and understanding of various endangered species, including rare white lions, cheetahs and wild dogs, is a wonderful learning experience for kids.
Nelson Mandela Square
Within Nelson Mandela Square, at the core of Africa’s most influential economic district, stands a six-metre statue of our beloved grandfather. The square is situated in Joburg’s European-styled piazza of the same name, in lively Sandton.
Some say it’s gaudy, and its Tuscan-inspired architecture looks out of place on the Joburg skyline, but there’s no denying that Montecasino offers an attractive option if you’re looking for entertainment in the northern suburbs.
SAB World of Beer
Located in the heart of the Newtown Cultural Precinct, World of Beer is a great place to learn all about the golden nectar from its early Mesopotamian days.
The Voortrekker Monument stands in Pretoria as homage to the Voortrekkers and their 1835 to 1854 journey of discovery from the Cape into South Africa, then named The Interior.
The Union Buildings
The Union Buildings in Pretoria form the official seat of government and are a national heritage site. The buildings are an iconic landmark, having borne witness to the country’s democratic change as well as its challenging past.
The Maropeng Exhibition in the Tumulus Building at the Cradle of Humankind is an hour’s drive from Joburg and one of eight world heritage sites in South Africa. The 47 000-hectare complex has thought-provoking exhibits, including stone tools, original fossils and engraved rocks.
The Sterkfontein Caves consist of a set of limestone caves also situated at the Cradle of Humankind, near Maropeng.
Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway
Take the Harties cableway for a fabulous view of the dam and the stunning Magaliesberg. The longest mono-cableway in Africa, it offers a variety of fun activities.
Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris
Slowly float over the Cradle of Humankind, the Magalies River Valley and the Hartbeespoort Dam.
The Palace of the Lost City
Luxury personified. Its entrance consists of stunning mosaic frescos and golden zebra-hide upholstered furniture, and its renowned towers are embellished with elephant tusks. The Palace was inspired by a lost African tribe fantasy and is rated as one of the leading hotels of the world.
Blyde River Canyon
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is the world’s third largest canyon and one of the most beautiful. As you look down on scenic waterfalls and abundant vegetation, the view from the aptly named God’s Window is biblical.
Moses Mabhida Stadium
Durban’s sports arena pride and joy is primarily known for having hosted the 2010 World Cup. It has a capacity of over 62 000 and its design permits the seating to be modified, enabling both smaller and larger matches to be played.
uShaka Marine World
A marine theme park in Durban comprising Sea World, the uShaka Village Walk shopping centre and the Wet’n’Wild Water Park, uShaka provides the ideal location for a family day out.
Durban Beachfront – The Golden Mile
For decades, The Golden Mile, with its paved and easy-to-navigate walkway that extends from North Beach, starting from Blue Lagoon, to Addington on South Beach, has been popular with cyclists, joggers and leisurely strollers.
Valley of a Thousand Hills
Scattered across the green hills of outer west Durban, around the Umgeni River and its tributaries, the valley is undeniably one of KZN’s most beautiful rural settings.
Tala Private Game Reserve
This wildlife sanctuary is situated on the hills of a quiet farming community close enough for a day trip from Durban, but far enough from the city to maintain a peaceful environment.
This 200km range of mountains is one of the oldest in the world and the largest and the most spectacular section of it concludes in KwaZulu-Natal. It comprises stunning cliffs, forests and waterfalls, as well as many hiking routes.
This is the only route over the Drakensberg escarpment into the Kingdom of Lesotho. Opened to traffic in 1955, it originally served as a pack animal trail. Sani Pass offers exhilarating path twists as it turns upwards through rocky cliffs that peak at 2 873m above sea level, thus earning it the title “Roof of Africa”.
The battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, which include Rorke’s Drift, are a must-see for history buffs. There are plenty of specialist tour operators who will organise a coach trip for you, or you can hire someone locally for the day once you are there.
Nelson Mandela Capture Site
A site of significance in South African history, the Mandela Capture Site near the Natal Midlands is marked by a striking sculpture. This commemoration spot was, until fairly recently, identified by a simple bricked area and plaque, but on the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s capture an imposing steel sculpture was unveiled.
Spirit of the Emakhosini
A visit to the Spirit of the Emakhosini monument should appeal to anyone interested in Zulu life and history.
This stunning 95m waterfall, which lies on the Umgeni River, is set in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, near the town of Howick, where it is surrounded by scenic rivers, lakes, dams and lush forest.
Gateway Theatre of Shopping
Situated in the stylish seaside suburb of uMhlanga, 30 minutes from Durban, Gateway is a multi-level mega shopping and entertainment complex incorporating more than 400 shops, more than 30 restaurants and coffee houses, a 10-pin bowling alley and a go-kart arena.
St Lucia Estuary
St Lucia Estuary is South Africa’s first world heritage site and home to about 800 hippopotamuses, 1 200 Nile crocodiles and many other animals, including black rhinos, leopards, greater kudus and abundant invertebrates. - Sunday Tribune