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The Wow Factor

Ashley Greenwood 2017-05-02 16:17

City break: Cape Town 

You will most likely start and end your visit to South Africa in Cape Town, a city that has become one of the coolest cosmopolitan destinations in the world, complete with great restaurants, top-notch galleries, and culture galore, all under the shadow of the imposing Table Mountain. 

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in the historic heart of Cape Town’s harbour is South Africa’s most-visited attraction in the country with 23 million tourists heading here each year. The Waterfront is still a working harbour, so while you look around the 450 retail outlets here, boats are bringing in fresh fish and tugboats are pulling in container ships. 


The Langa Quarter was once a run down part of the city described as an ‘apartheid dumping ground’, but now it is buzzing with optimism and potential. The oldest black township in the city, tourists used to be brought here to see the poverty, but now you can find thriving cafes, jazz bars, and art galleries here, and play your part in supporting an upcoming community that is full of spirit and vitality. 

Cape Town is also a great base from which to set out on safaris and whale watching trips. Hermanus Bay, less than two hours drive from Cape Town, is perhaps one of the best places in the world to see these majestic creatures, you might even spot some whales splashing in the sea while enjoying a glass of wine at one of the harbour side restaurants. 


Duicker Island 

Namaqualand daisies 

A drive north of Cape Town brings you to The Namaqualand Flower Route, where a riot of colourful flowers make for the most stunning exhibition. For much of the year the area is arid and seem like rather unexceptional plains stretching to the horizon, but they actually contain nearly 4000 species of plants lying in wait, until suddenly they transform the landscape in to a blanket of vibrant hues. 


The displays can be seen by driving around the towns of Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon, and Port Nolloth, and you can get up close by hiking the trails in the Richtersveld National Park where a mountainous desert landscape gives way to flat, sandy, coastal plains. The Richtersveld is regarded as the only Arid Biodiversity Hotspot on Earth and the area to the south of the park was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. 

Where exactly to see the best displays really depends on the weather and varies from year to year, so it’s best to first visit the local tourist information bureau to find out where to go – if it is a good year you might even need a few days to explore. 

Zulu Culture 

The Valley of a Thousand Hills offers visitors insight into Zulu history and culture. Just a half-hour drive from the beaches of Durban, you will also get the typical tourist curios and shops here, but all set amongst the beautiful scenery of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. 


The suburbs around the Valley of a Thousand Hills offer comfortable B&Bs with upmarket shopping, but this is where the Zulu, one of the largest ethnic groups in South Africa, have lived for generations. A visit to one of the Zulu cultural villages is a must to watch traditional dancing and cultural shows. 


Otter Trail 

The famous Otter Trail, in the Garden Route National Park, skirts the coastline where the Tsitsikamma forest meets the Indian Ocean. Named after the Cape Clawless Otter that is found in the area, it is considered the best hiking trail in the country, and even the world, stretching 42km along cliff tops and beaches, and is a great way to see the wide variety of flora and fauna in the area. 


South Africa has 19 National Parks 

The trail takes five days to walk, starting from the Garden Route National Park's Storms River rest camp and finishing in Nature’s Valley in the west. The first day is easy, just 4.8km long, but takes in caves and waterfalls along the way, while the longer 7.9km second day is more varied as you walk through stunning forest before reaching an outcrop from where you might spot dolphins or whales playing in the waves below. The four nights you spend on the trail are spent in comfortable huts offering fantastic views. 

The Otter Trail is extremely popular, and numbers of hikers are limited in order to protect the environment, so be sure to reserve a place at least a year in advance! 

About South Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu called South Africa the “Rainbow Nation”, reflecting the multiculturalism of a country with 11 official languages. Although still struggling with racial divisions, South Africa has much to celebrate with its exciting and beautiful diversity. This diversity is not just cultural either; a visit to South Africa offers a stunning wealth of natural wonder. 

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