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South Africa is a land of untamed wilderness followed by breathtaking beaches, sparkling coastal cities, iconic safari lodges, world-class vineyards and what not. Spending nights at South African means spending nights on the lap of mother nature. South Africa really does have it all. Revel in the South African land and unfold the unique mix of improbable juxtapositions and beautiful contradictions that it has.
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Every trip to South Africa comes with a generous layer of surprise and a daily dose of distinctive experiences. Here are just a few to whet your appetite:
Have your senses awoken on a trip through the expressive and exquisitely beautiful Cape Winelands? Just an hour’s drive from Cape Town is the historic towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl, where some of the world’s most famous wine estates have been producing their award-winning shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay varietals since the 18th century. Scattered among these lush valleys are a host of other gourmet delights: from the celebrated restaurants of the Franschhoek Valley to prizewinning ‘cheeseries’, chocolate-makers and olive farms – all producing perfect accompaniments to the region’s legendary wines!
White rhinos cover Kruger National Park, blissfully roaming around the last of their great natural strongholds. Young bulls plod past your lodge balcony, mating couples emerge from behind trees, and endearing babies eye everything with quaint suspicion. They seem huge and imposing from your safari truck. But you can get much closer on a soul-stirring walking safari. You’ll witness this endangered mammal from ground level, an experience that leaves long personal impressions of power, beauty, and humility.
Vilakazi Street has a special claim to fame. Nestled in the sprawling township of Soweto, besides colorful houses and vivid murals, this is the only street in the world that has been home to two Nobel Prize winners. Soweto is the world’s second largest slum and it was integral to the fight against apartheid. It’s perfectly safe to visit and the attractions paint a poignant historical tale, including the homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the apartheid museum, and places that recount the 1976 Soweto uprising. Ever-friendly locals add charisma, and there’s never a shortage of welcoming smiles.
It will come as no surprise to learn that South Africa’s weather is also remarkably diverse. In the north, you’ll find stark desert conditions and dramatic variations in temperature – except when you’re on the tropical coastline. Remarkably, in the south of the country, the Garden Route is officially one the world’s most temperate climates. South Africa is a year-round destination, with the weather rarely becoming uncomfortable or challenging. But whatever time you visit, remember to bring your high-factor sunscreen. South Africa has an exceptional number of sunny days and the depleted southern hemisphere ozone layer can be unforgiving.
Peak tourist season runs from Christmas to the end of January, primarily because it’s the South African summer holidays. Outside this period there is no easy distinction between high and low season. With so much on offer, it’s rare to visit anywhere that feels over-populated with tourists. Furthermore, the diverse climate means that different destinations are more popular at different times of the year.
In general, the northern and central parts of the country have a typically African climate. Long summers run from November to April and are invariably warm, with temperatures occasionally hitting 90 degrees in Kruger, the arid northern desert areas, and the eastern coastline. Thunderstorms fill the rivers and turn the landscape green, although they occur randomly and certainly not every day. A cooler and drier winter follows from May to October. Note that the central plateau is at an altitude of over 3000 feet, meaning temperatures are always 10-15 degrees cooler. During winter you’ll need a coat at night, but daytime temperatures tend to hover pleasantly in the 60s.
Cape Town and the south has more of a Mediterranean climate, with long warm summers and short unpredictable winters. Visit Cape Town in July and you could be basking beneath 70-degree sunshine. Then the next day might be cold and wet. Visit during the summer and the weather is tailor-made for visitors: sunshine, low humidity, clear skies. A brisk breeze whips around the Cape Peninsula, ensuring pleasant temperatures through the height of summer. Spring and fall do exist in South Africa, but the unpredictability of the weather makes these seasons hard to define.
South Africa’s eclectic accommodation is designed to capture the essence of each destination – invariably elevating the visitor’s experience. Hotels in Cape Town are plush and luxurious, with interiors reflecting colonial grandeur, and views that encompass mountain and ocean. You’ll find some of the world’s finest hotels here. They don’t rise high or try to conform but are usually opulently delivered and cleverly constructed to make the most of their surroundings.
Across the country, you’ll find accommodation that exudes both personality and a personal touch. Many places cater for a limited number of guests, ensuring a charm that’s synonymous with South Africa. Boutique lodges and converted farmhouses are tucked away within immense landscapes, offering style, and a home-away-from-home feel. Accommodation within the national parks is perfectly appointed, combining immersion in nature with stunning luxury. Think of raised bungalows with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking waterholes in the Kruger. Wherever you go, expect plenty of space, mesmerizing views, and an achingly authentic experience.
Visa and Passport Requirements:
You can get a visa-free 90 day stay in South Africa if you are an American, Canadian and EU passport holder. Get your passport stamped on reaching any international airport or land border crossing. Officially, you must have proof of your return or onward travel. Keep a print out of your travel itinerary and confirmed return flight for a hassle-free South African Safari.
In general, South Africa is not a dangerous country to visit. The travel specialists and other South African people know how important the safety of foreign travelers is to the development of their country. They are keenly aware of the fact that even a small incident with the visitors can have serious implications for their country, so they take care of it to their fullest.
While roaming around the country, make sure to remember the usual precautions, like not wearing external money belts or flashy jewelry, or walking on unlit streets after dark. However, your hotel or guide will advise you better on this. They will let you know about areas to avoid after dark, or localized issues that must be considered.
South Africa is majorly a malaria-free country. However, you may get some threats at the Kruger National Park and the Limpopo Province during summers. At other times of the year, you will need to take precautionary anti-malarial medication.
The world’s first ever heart transplant was performed at South Africa. This shows how advanced the medical facilities are here. However, private healthcare is not cheap so make sure your travel insurance is up to date. You can drink tap water as it is free from germs and the risk of diarrhea is low in most of the country. However, in some rural areas, try to stick to the bottled water only.
South Africa is a very outgoing country and it’s because of the people who reside there. On the very first day of your trip, you will be marveled by the outgoing sociability of South Africans. You do need to be over-friendly with the people but not even eye contacting and not responding to a hello can certainly be considered rude. The general openness of the people is always evident and daily interaction with locals is part of the South African experience. South Africa has 11 languages to interact but out of these 11 languages how would you say hello? That’s easy. Almost all of the population is bilingual and English is universally spoken. Learning to say “molo” (Xhosa) or “sawubona” (Zulu) will endear you further.
Visa and Mastercard facilities are available throughout the country, especially in establishments that cater to tourists. So, do not worry about the billing part in South Africa. South African rand is the local currency and currency exchange is available in all cities and major hotels.
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