What Are The Must-see Places In South Africa?

Tourism and crime
As the country is large, its climate varies from subtropical in Durban to Mediterranean in Cape Town. The winters are cold and very dry on the plateau and very wet in Cape Town. Generally, however, "It is sunny in South Africa!" The Atlantic Ocean is cold in Cape Town and along the west coast. The Indian Ocean is warmer and one can swim in Durban the whole year long. In summer (December to February), some of the warm water gets into the False Bay south of Cape Town.

For a tourist, South Africa is a fascinating country with magnificent scenery and beaches, great wildlife, excellent food and wines, a lot of sunshine, dramatic history and many lovely people. But beware of people who pretend to be too friendly! With almost 50% of the country's population living below the poverty line, petty theft is a common problem and violent robbery an occasional one. The cruelty of some of the attacks is difficult to comprehend. However, the majority of crimes happens in areas where tourists never go.

Dangerous situations can be avoided by common sense. Don't leave your things lying on the beach or on the back seat of your car. If you can, try not to look like a tourist, keep the camera under cover until you need it and stay away from dark urban areas at night. Just like in Prague, be aware who is around you all the time. Don't use ATMs at night and firmly refuse 'help' from anyone. If it happens, don't continue and press cancel immediately; you can draw money later or elsewhere! Police emergency telephone number is 10111.

AIDS is pandemic in much of the country so this is not a good destination if you're single and looking for 'companionship'. Victims of AIDS often also have TB. Drug-resistant TB strains are becoming a problem. Malaria exists in the north-east, e.g. in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and Swaziland, north of Pretoria and Durban. Take the recommended pills if you're planning to travel there other than between June and August (South African winter). It is a good idea to visit KNP in winter because the lack of foliage makes it easier to spot animals hiding behind the bushes. Bilharzia is another hazard in the northern and eastern parts: along the coast down to north of East London. It is a minuscule parasite that lives in stagnant fresh water, so don't bathe in lakes or slow moving rivers. Sterilize any wild water you're going to drink. If you accidentally get wet, dry off as soon as you can, and change clothes as well. Tap water is clean and good to drink everywhere.

Cuisine for the whites means large portions of well-prepared meat or fish, often fried or barbecued (called 'braai' in South Africa). Seafood is fresh, varied and succulent and can be combined with the superb local white wine. Beef steaks, mutton, pork, ostrich, kudu (antelope) and spicy sausages go well with high quality beers or red wines. A variety of dried meat - 'biltong' - is a popular snack. Indian restaurants serve very 'hot' curry dishes and both Italian and Portuguese restaurants are excellent. In the prime tourist area of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, there are 48 different restaurants. Tip 10% unless you are not happy with the service. You can pay with MasterCard or Visa cards, sometimes also with American Express or Diners Club.

Car hire prices are reasonable, particularly when part of a package. The roads are good and there are many scenic drives and worthwhile places to go. Avoid Johannesburg city centre and keep all doors locked in all cities. Even in Durban, when you stop at night at a red light and feel uneasy, rather check quickly left and right and drive on. Interestingly, in South Africa, traffic lights are called 'robots'. National roads have two lanes with emergency lanes on the side which slow vehicles use to let faster traffic pass. The overtaking car then flashes hazard warning lights to thank them. Drunken driving is illegal but often tolerated and 30 people die on the roads every day. South Africans are aggressive on the road, worst of all the minibus (Toyota Hilux) taxi drivers. Half of the drivers' licences in the RSA have been obtained fraudulently without passing the necessary tests. The traffic police focuses only on speeding drivers who sometimes get away with a bribe.

Come to South Africa as a tourist, you will almost certainly find the country to be safe. But do not come to collect wildlife. If you do, you will be caught. If you are caught and you are not rich enough to be able to pay the enormous fines, you will go to prison. If you go to prison, you will get AIDS.

My selection of tourist destinations
1. The Kruger National Park (KNP) measures two million hectares. There are many animals but, because of the park's size, you need luck to see the 'big five' (elephant, lion, leopard, black and white rhino, and cape buffalo). Don't go there just for one day. As you are not allowed outside the camps that are protected against predators during the night, the best time to see animals is early mornings and late afternoons. Of course, you will drive (slowly or you'll be caught for speeding) the whole day and enjoy the park's vastness and serenity. Or you can join a tour with guides who know where the animals are likely to be. You can see animals better from a minibus or a 4x4 vehicle. If you want to sleep inside the park, you have to book earl or join a tour group. If you must see all animals, go to smaller parks or more expensive private game reserves.

2. The Panorama Route, next to the KNP, is one of the most beautiful and popular travel destinations. It leads through the rugged mountain range of the northern Drakensberg (there are two different Drakensberg ranges in South Africa). Here the inland plateau declines abruptly and steeply and opens up fantastic views of the plains of the 'Lowveld' a thousand metres below. The best view, 'God's Window', is most reliable in the dry winter months. At other times the spectacle is often obscured, since the escarpment is a barrier for the clouds coming from the east. Don't miss Blyde River Canyon, 'Bourke's Luck Potholes' and Pilgrim's Rest.

3. Johannesburg and Pretoria. You will probably land at OR Tambo International Airport (previously Johannesburg International, previously Jan Smuts). Taking a safe freeway route N12 you can see the panorama of Johannesburg and visit the 'Gold Reef City' just south of Johannesburg. The entrance fee is expensive. Besides a casino, the Apartheid Museum and a theme park with some very unpleasant rides, there is a historical gold mining section starting with an introductory film "Rich Beginnings" - Our Golden Heritage", some original houses: a mine official's house, a school, etc., a demonstration of gold panning and gold pouring and an underground gold mine tour. In Johannesburg, the gold reef was easy to reach, today it must be mined in some of the deepest mines in the world, south and west of Johannesburg.

The famous black township of Soweto is nearby, so you could go on a guided tour there. Or you can travel due north to the two main sites of the 'Cradle of Humankind' that comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossilised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite, in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a warm shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago. In 1936, the Sterkfontein caves produced the first adult Australopithecus. In 1947, the almost complete skull of a 2.7 million years old adult female Australopithecus africanus was found, initially named Plesianthropus transvalensis ("near-man of the Transvaal"), which inspired the nickname 'Mrs Ples'. You can visit the caves and, 10 kilometres further, the Maropeng Visitors Centre with an interesting and very politically correct museum so that you will no longer have any doubts that all present day humans are one species! Outside the centre, they are busy installing a footprint of Václav Klaus.

Pretoria is nicer and safer than Johannesburg. It has Union Buildings (the president's office - not open to visitors but the place and the park below are nice), the 'Paul Kruger House' just east of the historical Church Square, the best natural history museum 'Transvaal Museum', the best ZOO in Africa, Melrose House, Police Museum etc. Go south to the Voortrekker Monument, the shrine of Afrikanerdom, with its fine small museum.

4. Drakensberg: There is some dispute if the highest mountain in the Republic of South Africa is Njesuthi, but there is no doubt that the highest spot is on the border with Lesotho in the spectacular mountain range of Drakensberg, that it is higher than 3400 m, and that the highest mountain in Southern Africa, Thabana-Ntlenyana, which is 3482 m above the sea level, is well inside Lesotho.

5. In Kimberley there is a huge hole in the ground left over after the removal of about three tons of diamonds. Measuring over a kilometre deep, with a surface area of 17 ha, it is the world's largest hand-dug hole - a monument to the lengths (and depths) humans will go in search of wealth. The wild, vibrant and no doubt rather sleazy shanty town that arose around the diggings in the 1870s has been reconstructed into an open air museum. This is the place where South Africa's industrial revolution got under way. It was money from the easily worked Kimberley diamond fields that funded the rather more expensive gold mines of Johannesburg. Mining at the 'Big Hole' ceased in 1914 but there are still a few active mines in the area.

6. Cape Town: Table Mountain, Lion's Head and Signal Hill, the V&A Waterfront with the Aquarium, Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, Robben Island with Nelson Mandela's cell, beaches on both sides of the Peninsula, wine farms, penguins, seals, baboons, the unique 'fynbos' vegetation of the Cape Floral Kingdom in Kirstenbosch Gardens, the 'Castle' (a fortress built in 1666), the Malay Quarter and much more. The best day of the year to visit Cape Town is the 2nd January - to see the colourful procession through the town.

7. Western Cape: In spring you can take a tour north from Cape Town to Namaqualand. Between August and October the life-giving rains transform the ordinarily arid landscape into a thick and lush wildflower carpet of every colour. Or travel east to see an excellent old farm museum 'Kleinplasie' in Worcester (also with a Karoo National Botanical Garden and hot spas in Goudini and in Montagu), or the Moravian mission town of Genadendal with a bust of Jan Amos Komenský in the museum, or whales playing very near the coast in Hermanus from June to November. You can continue to the Agulhas lighthouse at the southern-most tip of Africa (there are 45 operational lighthouses in the RSA), the shipwreck museum in Bredasdorp, the fisherman village and a huge cave open into the sea in Arniston(Waenhuiskrans), then to Mossel Bay with a fine replica of Portuguese caravel, Oudtshoorn to see ostriches, crocodiles and caves, South Africa's best small town of Knysna (maybe there are elephants in the forests nearby), and the 'Garden Route'.

8. Beyond the RSA, you can see a lot of sand and some beautiful scenery in Namibia, Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or Zambia, and Okavango Delta in Botswana.


RE: What are the must-see places in South Africa?

I haven't traveled outside, but I think Kenya is a must to visit, first on the list. 🇰🇪

Then SA


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