By Carissa Hickok
South Africa is known for its world famous safaris but it offers much more. With a population of over 54 million people, South Africa is perhaps most well-known for its history of apartheid. Arguably South Africa’s most famous son is Nelson Mandela, the first president of post-apartheid South Africa. SA has 11 official languages including English. Pretoria is the capital of South Africa but the most populated city is Johannesburg, a popular travel hub and tourist destination. This area offers much of what you would expect to find in an urban metropolis – restaurants, shops, international corporations, museums, and nightclubs.
Traveling to South Africa is relatively inexpensive. You can catch a direct flight from JFK in New York City or Atlanta to Johannesburg. From other cities, you will likely have at least one stop. If you prefer to fly to Cape Town, it will cost you typically cost you a bit more.
Kruger National Park is South Africa’s most well-known park but the country offers many public parks and private reserves that offer the safari experience. The national parks tend to be less costly but the private reserves offer more flexibility for game drives. You can see all of the Big Five – elephants, rhinos, lions, cape buffalos, leopards – in South Africa. Lodges run the gamut from basic tent camping to exclusive, luxurious lodges.
South Africa has much to offer aside from safaris. Cape Town is a picturesque town where you can enjoy the beach, watch boats, see beautiful gardens, shop for souvenirs in local shops, or enjoy the views of surrounding points of interest such as Table Mountain. To reach Table Mountain, you have the option to hop on a cable car from Cape Town. In the five minute ride, you will climb more than 3,500 feet above sea level. Check out the view as you ascend and take as many pictures and videos as you’d like. At the top of Table Mountain, there are more than one mile of trails and lookout points that allow you to see the Cape Peninsula from different angles. No matter where you look, the view is sure to be postcard worthy.
Robben Island is another popular tourist location. Robben Island was home to Nelson Mandela for 18 years of his imprisonment. The island is a short boat ride from Cape Town but be sure to reserve your tickets weeks in advance as they sell out quickly. At Robben Island, you will get the chance to walk in the footsteps of Mandela and see his tiny prison cell, and learn about the prison culture that Mandela endured.
A quick drive from Cape Town is the Cape of Good Hope, located at the intersection of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. As you drive from Cape Town, stop in Boulders Beach for the penguins sunbathing on the beach! It’s a sight you won’t want to miss.
South Africa also offers you the opportunity for shark cage diving. It is as scary and exhilarating as it sounds as you come face to face with the great fishes of the ocean behind thick steel bars. Shark cage diving is sure to make your trip an especially memorable one.
Carissa enjoys traveling so much that she left the corporate world to work as a freelancer, which allows her to up and go on a regular basis. She lives with her dachshund, Daphne in central Florida.