Our hotspots in South Africa include bustling tourist attractions and low-key places that might not normally make their way onto a list, but should. All of them are inspiring and beautiful …
Cape Town is World Design Capital 2014. This year the city that the New York Times rates one of 52 places to visit this year functions as a showcase of various design events and workshops. It also presents 450 projects that use design to enhance the social lives of people in the city.
Cape Town was selected not because it is an already-been-there design leader, but because it is a city the world will want to watch. We agree. Take the coffee beans route – it gives you an insider, and in-depth view of Cape Town, World Design Capital 2014 with two 5 – 7 day tours for groups. (Explore Cape Town’s attractions or find accommodation in Cape Town).
Part of the Cape known simply as The Winelands, Franschhoek not only boasts its own wine route but is also regarded as the gourmet capital of the country. The Franschhoek village does ‘country town vibe’ to a T and leaves you to drool at the renovated cottages and gardens with views onto lavender, roses and vines.
Annual music and literary festivals and a main road lined with top restaurants and cafés mean that it can get seriously touristy, but don’t let that bother you. (Explore Franschhoek’s attractions or find accommodation in Franschhoek).
Cast aside any preconceived ideas of Oudtshoorn as a farm village famous only for its ostriches. Whilst the town with seriously wide streets does boast throwbacks to the ostrich feather boom in the form of some seriously gorgeous sandstone buildings and ‘feather palaces’, and you can order an ostrich steak at just about any restaurant in town, much has been done to change the face of the Karoo town.
Both the KKNK (Kelin Karoo National Arts Festival) and the KKK (Klein Karoo Klassique) take place in Oudtshoorn just a few months apart (the former in March/April and the latter in August). Both bring a huge selection of art and culture to town and an influx of visitors. Definitely worth diarising. (Explore Oudtshoorn’s attractions or book accommodation in Oudtshoorn).
Those who know about the village in the Little Karoo visit time and again. Set well off the N1 along the R407 or alternatively reached via Oudtshoorn along the Swartberg Pass (so, in the middle of nowhere) Prince Albert is a collection of pretty tinned roof Karoo cottages, Victorian homes and national monuments.
A constantly-flowing stream supplies the town along street side viaducts with stream water, and an abundance of fruit orchards and vegetable plots grow a selection of sub-tropical fruits and vegetables. Include the Ghost Tour. (Explore Prince Albert’s attractions or book accommodation in Prince Albert).
Eclectic, bustling, loud, mall-crazy and huge, with a visible divide between rich and poor. Yet this is South Africa’s economic heartbeat, despite being neither the country’s capital nor its seat of parliament. Despite the stereotye of concrete jungle infested with crime, Jo’burg is also remarkably friendly and not at all pretentious.
With a resurgence of the inner city, an emerging black middle class, cool clubs, bars and restaurants and the continual reminder of the past at places like the Apartheid Museum, Jo’burg is a must for every visitor. (Explore Johannesburg’s attractions or book accommodation in Johannesburg).
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve
It might not get as much press as the Kruger, but it remains one of South Africa’s best-known parks, mostly because of the presence of both the black and white rhino, as well as lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, buffalo and wild dog.
If visitors’ feedback is anything to go by, the game drives in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Reserve are excellent, and the Centenary Centre includes rhino enclosures, for those who want a bird’s eye view of the seriously endangered mammal. (Explore Hluhluwe’s attractions or book accommodation in Hluhluwe).
South Africa’s major mountain wilderness is set up against the border with Lesotho, its effortless ‘barrier of spears’ creating an escarpment that separates coastal KwaZulu-Natal from the interior. Known simply as ‘the ‘berg’ the mix of grasslands, waterfalls, rivers, rock pools, forests and inspiring peaks makes it a haven for hikers and artists alike.
The vast 243 000 hectare uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park provides some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes and draws those who pit themselves against the peaks and those who are there simply to drink in the views. You choose. (Explore the Drakensberg’s attractions or book accommodation in Drakensberg).
Port St Johns
In the heart of the Wild Coast, Port St Johns is a heady mix of undeveloped seaside village (if a little confusing when you first arrive as it’s divided into roughly three different bits), swimming beach, river and Mount Thesiger and Sullivan overlooking the sea.
Those who head here come looking for escape from the usual tourist spaces, particularly backpackers. Port St Johns is as close as you will get to a seaside village forgotten by time. (Explore Port St Johns’ attractions or book accommodation in Port St Johns).
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Named for the San name for the Kalahari, this is Africa’s first official transfrontier park managed by the Mier and San communities, and SANParks. Almost twice the size of Kruger National Park the smaller section lies in South Africa, and you’ll clock up the miles – the shortest game drive is over 100 km.
But the predominance of red sand dunes, dry river beds, camelthorn and witgat trees, saltpans and grasslands make an unusual backdrop for sighting the black maned lion and the gemsbok, if a hot one (summer is a scorcher). (Explore the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park or book accommodation in Kgalagadi).
Another of South Africa’s mountain massifs, the Waterberg is probably least known, yet this area, once covered by lakes and swamps (hence its name), is today a series of game reserves and farms many of which boast the white rhino.
It is also part of one of the most important conservation projects – the Waterberg Savanna Biosphere Reserve – a series of landowners who have banded together to facilitate both the conservation of wildlife and tourism. Best of all, it’s a malaria free zone. (Explore the Waterberg’s attractions or book accommodation in Waterberg).