Its Cape Winelands must be one of the most spectacular in the world, producing world-class wines that complement perfectly with Cape Town’s exciting culinary scene. Art collectors now include Cape Town as an essential stop on their global shopping spree, as the city boasts not only the world’s largest and most comprehensive museum of African art at the Zeitz museum, but also a diverse variety of galleries and art spaces promoting a vibrant local art scene proving why this is considered Africa's cultural hub.
From above, the city is coloured in a carpet of green and purple, with jacaranda trees scattered throughout. The hipster neighbourhood of Maboneng is considered one of the most successful urban-renewal projects in the world and the city is awash with superb museums, many offering deep insight into South Africa's troubled past such as the Apartheid Museum. It is also the jumping -off point for safaris into some of the country’s best game reserves, and the Cradle of Humankind at Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves are right on its doorstep.
The country's most famous private game reserve, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, is an exclusive extension of South Africa's flagship Kruger National Park, with no fences between the parks so animals can roam free. Whilst Kruger caters to crowds of day-trippers and self-drivers, Sabi Sand and its neighbouring private game reserves are not open to the public and are exclusive only to guests who stay at one of their luxury lodges, allowing for a much more intimate safari experience. Famous for its Big Five, particularly its impressive number of leopard sightings, Sabi Sand is also home to some of the country's most luxurious and chic safari lodges.
Nearby Timbavati Private Reserve also offers outstanding game viewing and is famous for its white lions and its various wildlife research initiatives and programmes. Manyeleti and Thornybush game reserves next door also offer incredible private wildlife viewing, expert guides, and luxury lodges without the crowds.
Madikwe Game Reserve is the fifth largest game reserve in South Africa. Once predominately farmland, this private reserve is rich in biodiversity with a thriving population of 86 mammal species, including the Big Five, 350 bird species and 104 varieties of trees, all in a completely malaria-free zone. Madikwe is also home to packs of endangered wild dog. Closed to the public, this family-friendly private reserve offers exceptional wildlife viewing on thrilling game drives or leisurely bush walks through a variety of habitats. The reserve’s luxury lodges offer sumptuous cuisine and world-class wines can be enjoyed under the African stars.
Tucked away in Limpopo province, just a few hours' drive from Johannesburg, the pristine, rugged, and ancient Waterberg region has soaring mountain peaks, prehistoric rock formations, expansive savannahs, dense forests and plunging river valleys. This underexplored region, referred to as Africa's Eden, includes the Marataba, Welgevonden and Lapalala game reserves, blessed with over 40 species of mammals and more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds. This is a fantastic destination for families, and its grassy plains make it the perfect destination for walking and riding safaris.
Tswalu Kalahari is the country's largest private game reserve, covering over 100,000 hectares. Owned by the Oppenheimer family, Tswalu is a malaria-free area, and so is perfect for families. It is a vast, magical land of sweeping vistas and a liberating sense of space. The green Kalahari is home to over 70 species of mammals including meerkats and some of South Africa’s rarest species, such as desert black rhino, black-maned Kalahari lion, roan and sable antelope and cheetah. More elusives species such as aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin, and porcupine are also regularly seen.
Accessed via Durban, the capital of KwaZulu Natal, Phinda Private Game Reserve is a magnificent tapestry of woodland, grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, rivers, marshes and pans, home to Africa’s Big Five, as well over 400 bird species. Protecting Africa’s remaining rare dry sand forest, the reserve is situated close to the unspoiled beaches and spectacular coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, offering an unmatched combination of bush and beach adventures. Other KwaZulu game reserves include Thanda, AmaZulu, Zululand Rhino Reserve and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi.
The Eastern Cape is a relatively new kid on the safari block, ideally located for those keen on exploring the Garden Route. This is also a malaria-free area, making it perfect for families with children. With Addo Elephant National Park and stunning private game reserves such as Kwandwe, Shamwari and Amakhala offering exquisite luxury accommodation, award-winning conservation efforts and close encounters with the Big Five, a safari here works best for those wishing to spend their entire time in South Africa along its Cape provinces.
These are by no means the only game reserves in this wildlife rich country. Closer to Cape Town, the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in the Little Karoo offers game drives or walking and camping safaris with wildlife, stunning flora, and ancient rock art on offer.
Apart from its considerable natural charms, the city is also bursting with world-class restaurants, hip food markets and design-savvy arcades opening in once-industrial neighbourhoods such as Woodstock and the Waterfront's Silo District. The city’s art scene is exploding with an impressive array of galleries, museums, private collections, and art spaces all in addition to Africa’s artistic core, the Zeitz MOCAA – Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Above all, do take the time to meet the easygoing and friendly Cape Town locals.
Venture just outside of Cape Town and you will find the Boland, meaning ‘upland’. Thanks to its dry, mountainous climate, this breathtaking area is home to more than 300 vineyards. There have been colonial settlements here since the latter half of the 17th century, when the Dutch first founded Stellenbosch and the French Huguenots settled in Franschhoek. Both towns and their surrounds are full of stunning wineries with equally stunning accommodation choices that attract oenophiles from all over the globe, with varietals that range from Chenin Blanc to South Africa’s signature red Pinotage. Unsurprisingly, the region is also a hotbed of first-class restaurants.
Packed into a section of the dramatic southern Cape coastline often referred to as the Whale Coast is one of the best places in the world for marine life. Here you can see the Marine Big Five: whale, shark, seal, penguin and dolphin. The pretty coastal town of Hermanus, just two hours east of Cape Town is South Africa’s whale watching capital from July to November, during the southern right whale migration. Further along the coast are Grootbos Private Nature Reserve and De Hoop Nature Reserve, offering sea, sand dunes, mountains and a wealth of marine life, birds, animals, and rare plant species to discover.
The Garden Route is a stunningly beautiful 250-kilometre stretch of the southeastern coast from Mossel Bay to Storms River and the Tsitsikamma Forest. Sandwiched between majestic mountains and the Indian Ocean, it is difficult not to be seduced by the glorious natural beauty and the range of topography, vegetation, wildlife and activities on offer. The coast is dotted with excellent beaches and charming towns whilst inland you will discover indigenous forests, fynbos-covered peaks and pristine lagoons and lakes. This truly is one of the world’s most beautiful coastal drives.
There are, of course, many more places to discover in this magical country. There are the soaring peaks of the Drakensberg and its ancient rock art, the famous battlefields where the British, Zulus and Boers all shed blood, the iconic luxury Blue and Rovos trains that herald a bygone era of great rail journeys, and the West Coast with its unspoiled beaches, mountain ranges and colourful flora, which particularly comes alive in spring in its West Coast National Park and Namaqualand National Park – visitors also flock to the town of Darling in September for the annual Wild Flower and Orchid Show.
The travel slogan 'a world in one country' is very fitting – South Africa has something for everyone and no matter what you are looking for, it never disappoints. Tourism continues to be the country's brightest spot with new, cutting-edge hotels, safari lodges, museums, galleries, restaurants, vineyards and cafes appearing on the scene on a regular basis.
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