Crowd-free weekend breaks in SA
Johannesburg - South Africa is an amazing country for travellers: We have sophisticated infrastructure and a variety of destinations.
You can, for example, live and work in its industrial and economic heartland of Gauteng and be just a couple of hours from three major seaside towns, each with its own appeal.
Shaun Pozyn, Head of marketing for British Airways (operated by Comair), says this diversity means you can cherry-pick your getaway: if one coastal city is crowded with a major sporting event or conference that's not to your taste, simply sidestep the crowds to another locale. He recommends the following:
Explore Durban's heritage
The city's large Asian community has had profound influences on the city's culture and its cuisine.
Where to start? Take a guided walking tour of the district around Dr Yusuf Dadoo (Grey) and Bertha Mkhize (Victoria) Streets to immerse your senses in the city's Indian heritage and history.
Tourism KwaZulu-Natal's Oriental Walk-About includes stops at the Zulu muti (traditional medicine) market and the Victoria Street Market (the Vic), where dealers in traditional kurtas and saris hawk incense, ornately embroidered fabrics, and aromatic spices.
Voyage to the Bottom of uShaka Sea World: One of the world's largest aquariums, uShaka Sea World, is the centrepiece of the 40-acre uShaka Marine World, encompassing the Wet and Wild Water Park and the Village Walk Shopping Centre. The aquarium's animal encounters promote sustainable use of the marine environment.
The Ocean Walker experience enables you to don a tethered breathing helmet and stroll across the bottom of the Open Ocean Exhibit, home to rays and assorted pelagic fish that includes tuna, dorado, and sardines. Fancy something more toothy and primal? Step into a clear, enclosed cylinder and drop into the large shark tank as part of the Shark Dive Experience. No diving experience required (ages 12 and up).
Rickshaw Ride along the beachfront: There are only 20 or so registered rickshaw-pullers in Durban. They're well-known for their magnificent head-dresses adorned with beads and other decorations. This is a great way to get around and unique to the coastal city.
Bungee jumping at Moses Mabhida Stadium: The stadium is a beautifully designed modern sports structure that's well worth a visit. If you're in need of an adrenalin boost, there's a bungee swing from the top, or take the SkyCar to the viewing site on the stadium's great arch for a 360-degree view of Durban and a great photographic opportunity.
Breakfast at an art gallery: Fancy some breakfast, or perhaps a hearty brunch? You could stay at uShaka, where there are many eateries to choose from, or pop up to the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts in Bulwer Road for a tasty meal under the trees, and then browse the gallery and ethnic craft shop for mementos afterwards.
Durban is the bunny chow capital: The city has many excellent curry restaurants that specialise in this spicy cuisine, and there are as many that have made seafood their main drawcard. A hollowed-out half-loaf filled with curry - a “bunny chow” or “bunny” - is a traditional way of enjoying a Durban curry. Locals cite Gounden's in Umilo Road, Nita's Curry Den in Brickfield Road and El Arish in Bluff Road as among the top eateries for this aromatic, filling treat.
Muse at the museums: In the city itself, historical points of interest on your itinerary might include the extravagant, neo-baroque City Hall, KwaMuhle Museum and the Old Court House Museum. But simply taking in the many examples of 1930s art-deco architecture with a walking-tour is worthwhile. Check local listings.
Hidden Cape Town
Cape Town is world-renowned destination for its wines and scenery and its sunsets are a perennial drawcard. But Signal Hill is just about the only place where you can see the sun setting over the Atlantic while the moon rises.
You can of course ride the famed cableway to the top of Table Mountain to see the sunset or the view, but a lesser-known vantage-point is at the end of Tafelberg Road on Table Mountain: drive past the lower cableway-station to the end of the road for a view over the city, Table Bay and the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
Learn to surf: it's a demanding pastime that can take months to master, but Muizenberg on False Bay is an ideal place to get started. It has several surf-schools with helpful and patient, professional instructors, and the city's urban-renewal programme has seen once rather down-at-heel area transformed, with restaurants and shops of all sorts.
The stroll from Muizenberg to St James along the seaside boardwalk is a delight, and if you walk a little further to Kalk Bay, there are plenty of eateries and hipster-ish coffee-shops to enjoy. Shaun also suggests browsing Antique Warehouse on Main Road in Muizenberg for the eclectic and collectable. A few hundred metres further is Casa Labia, once the home of the Italian consul. Built in the 1920s along the lines of a fine Venetian house, it's been refurbished and is now home to Cucina Labia, an Italian restaurant earning good reviews.
Going Victorian in Port Elizabeth
The Port Elizabeth Opera House is the only surviving example of a Victorian theatre in Africa. Its links to the greats of SA theatre - John Kani, Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona, Nomsa Nkonyeni among them - give it indelible cultural pedigree.
It was also built on the site of the town's gallows and ghost sightings have been reported. Ghost tours by torchlight at midnight can be arranged.
Pozyn recommends the following to get rid of that feeling that a ghoul is behind you:
The craft-beer revolution has reached Port Elizabeth, with beer tastings at Bridge Street Brewery, the Dockside Brewery and The Beer Yard.
Go sand-boarding in the Alexandria Dunes or horse-riding in the Sardinia Bay Nature Reserve: a couple of hours of riding on the beach with sun and sea will work up an appetite for sampling PE's burgeoning restaurant scene, like the pastries at Grass Roof Farm or pizza at Charlies Pizza and Pasta in Summerstrand. Locals also recommend La Kouzina at Brookes on the Bay, which offers Italian and Greek food, as well as sushi.
Hacklewood Hill Country House in Walmer has won several awards and is a favourite for fine-dining.
Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism's (NMBT) smartcard gets you access to a variety of attractions and activities, including museums, nature- and game-reserves, adventure-sports, art-galleries and sight-seeing, as well as discounts on shopping and entertainment. See www.nelsonmandelabaypass.co.za for more.
Adapted from a press release for IOL