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South Africa features some of the worlds most beautiful wildlife. With friendly people and rich culture too, it's no surprise more and more people are visiting the cities of South Africa. View our South Africa holidays travel guide for plenty more information on what's to see and do in South Africa.
South Africa is the adventure capital of the world, known as the 'Rainbow Nation', it is a fascinating and diverse country, with natural beauty and awesome wildlife. With friendly people, rich culture and freedom you can follow the African drum and gumboot beat; the bright sun; stars and city streets; the prize winning wines and the mountain air.
South Africa is well endowed with a wide variety of experiences to explore with one of the world’s biggest national parks. You can relax on one of the blue flag beaches and surf at some of the best super tubes. South Africa is also known for its cultural wine routes, Whale watching, numerous adventure sports, and an interior filled with deserts, mountain ranges and game parks, just waiting to be explored. Add to this some of the most cosmopolitan cities offering the best in culture, dining and entertainment, and it's no wonder more people than ever are enjoying the best that holidays in South Africa have to offer.
If there is any place where there is just lots and lots of things to do it has got to be in South Africa. The one being the most popular is whale watching. A good whale watching trip will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is not unusual for whale watching trips to see different species, mothers with calves or whole families at play. But like safari holidays, the thrill of whale watching lies in the unexpected.
The climate is moderated by the oceans on the three sides of the country with temperatures ranging from Mediterranean in the southwest to subtropical in the northeast. In South Africa the summer months are from December to February and temperatures in the Kwazulu and Cape Town areas will reach around 30C to 37C and give a spectacular 14 hours of sunshine per day. June to August are regarded as the winter months in South Africa but at this time of year you can still expect around nine hours of sunshine per day with temperatures reaching around 27C. March to May is regarded as the quieter time for a holiday in South Africa, it is less touristy, there is little wind and the climate is very mild and comfortable. The year round warm waters are the reason that South Africa is a top destination for lovers of water sports including scuba diving and surfing.
Many visitors start their holiday be exploring these enticing cities of South Africa. Cape Town, known as the 'Mother City' of South Africa, is a vibrant and sophisticated city on the southwest coast, one dominated by the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain, and home to an exciting mix of cultures offering a lively and bustling city scene. Spend time people-watching at the V & A Waterfront at Cape Town harbour, relax in front of the sunset on the glorious beaches or follow one of the famous Wine Routes and enjoy tasting in the beautiful vineyards of the region.
Over on the east coast of South Africa, the city of Durban, Africa’s' busiest port, also offers a cosmopolitan scene - wonderful shopping, dining and entertainment, together with the fabulous beaches along the Indian Ocean. The central city of Johannesburg is the financial and economic centre and, fast-moving and continually developing, truly reflects the heart of the real South Africa. From these cities the vast inland can be explored, from the beautiful Western Cape and the Garden Route down south, to the stunning game reserves such as the world-renowned Kruger National Park, and the famous playground of Sun City in the north, and the spectacular Drakensberg Mountains and the historic battlefields of Zululand in western South Africa.
Most visitors to South Africa come to experience the wildlife that roams throughout the country, with the numerous game parks and reserves giving tourists a chance to see the Big Five - rhino, elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard - up close. South Africa is an ideal destination for the adventure traveller and those who love the outdoors, with the most exceptional terrain for hiking, rock-climbing, and mountain-biking found amongst the countries' spectacular scenery. Visitors to South Africa can also find perfect conditions for golfing, angling and horse-riding, with the coastline offering scuba-diving, surfing and deep-sea fishing, as well as dolphin and whale-watching.
There are a number of cultural attractions in South Africa which are definitely worth visiting. Take, for instance, one of the most famous ones – that of Robin Island where in Nelson Mandela, the first black president of the country, was once imprisoned for his efforts to free his people from oppression. In KwaZulu Natal you will find that the Zulu culture is still very much alive in the descendents of the ancient Zulu king Shaka at Shakaland. Here tribal dance and song is performed with vigour and you can explore the mysterious, ritualistic world of the Sangoma with much pomp and ceremony. In the Eastern Cape you'll discover the remains of Saartjie Baartman – a san woman who suffered terrible humiliation at the hands of self-righteous Europeans and who has become a symbol of female empowerment and tribal rights recognition some 200 years after her death. A visit to the Drakensberg Mountains will make you privy to some of the oldest rock art in the country, while a trip to the many art galleries and theatres in most of the cities and towns is an excellent way to enjoy South African art and drama.
Music is another sphere of South African culture which exemplifies the range and diversity of this country’s culture. Classical music, although European in nature, is enjoyed regularly at al fresco concerts across the country amidst the beauty of large botanical gardens. Jazz is a favourite in the townships and it has developed and diversified into three distinctive genres: Township Jazz, Black Jazz, and Marabi. Kwaito is another favourite. Rock and pop are also popular and a number of South African musicians have created sounds which simply cannot be confined to a particular music group, but which are very South African in nature. So come and enjoy a hands-on introduction to South Africa's rainbow of culture!
Shopping has gained the nickname of 'retail therapy' because, for millions, it is the ultimate way to relax and enjoy oneself. It makes people happy and it provides a form of escape from the everyday worries that a person must normally confront. Because of this, shopping has become a favourite pastime for millions of people all over the world. What people enjoy shopping for may vary considerably. They may be searching for a great music CD, an item of clothing, a delightful perfume, an electronic device or the perfect surfboard. Regardless of what interests you, you will be sure to find something worth buying at most malls or shopping centres in South Africa.
The nightlife in South Africa can take many different and entertaining forms. Most are covered by the word 'Jol', derived from the fluid Cape dialect known as Gamtaal, which can refer to anything from a nice picnic to an all-night rave. Many South African 'Jollers' head out seven days a week in larger cities, while in country towns they restrain their night time activities mainly to weekends. However, regardless of how often they enjoy their chosen pleasures, they do so with a certain kind of dedication that is all-encompassing and cheerful.
If you're a gourmet and you enjoy a good plate of food, South Africa is definitely the country for you. A lot of traditional South African cuisine is tasty, filling and well worth every cent. The combination of cultures, which merge beautifully on this colourful tip of the continent, means that not only will you find a wonderfully diverse range of ingredients, but also an array of spices, cooking styles and recipes. Here you’ll be able to enjoy tasty treats like abalone cooked to perfection or fat-free Ostrich fillet for those conscious of their cholesterol. Meat is often a big feature on the menu in South African restaurants and you will find plenty of red meat, white meat and fish available. However there are also plenty of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and most establishments will at least offer a few healthy and tasty vegetarian alternatives.
About 80 percent of all South Africans are Christians, and most are Protestants. More than 8 million South Africans are members of African Independent churches, which have at least 4,000 congregations. The denomination generally holds a combination of traditional African and Protestant beliefs. The other large Protestant denomination, the Dutch Reformed Church, has about 4 million members in several branches. Most are whites or people of mixed race.
Tipping is customary in South Africa. A guideline for visitors is the following: Porters R5 per item taxis 10%, waiters and waitresses in restaurants 10 - 15%.