I have been lucky enough to visit South Africa many times, and what I have learnt is ones’ perception of the country changes dramatically when you get there.
Locals do not have pet cheetahs, nor does the wildlife just wander down the streets of Johannesburg. The roads are not dirt bush tracks but rather part of a very well maintained infrastructure. Safety is not threatened any more than a night out in downtown Sydney, and day trips into the township of Soweto are now quite common. You do not need to travel with a gun, nor risk road accidents by not stopping at red lights. There is no harsh racial divide, rather welcoming smiles from people of all races, cultures and tribes.
South Africa has so much more to discover and experience than meets the eye. It is a country that has unique and amazing wildlife, breath taking scenery, diverse culture, deep history, tantalising gastronomic delights and a story to be told that will capture your imagination.
Whatever your itinerary may be, here’s my list of the top five MUST do’s in South Africa.
1. GAME DRIVE
Let’s face it, coming to South Africa and doing a game drive just goes hand in hand, and there are no shortages of places to do this. I highly recommend researching where to do your game drives as they can vary so much from place to place and can be self-drive or with an experienced game driver. My pick would be choose a lodge in a private game reserve as drivers can go off road and are well experienced, ensuring you get the best possible sightings.
Whether you are out in the bush, sat in the city or at a seaside escape, nothing is more spectacular than a South African sunset. Well maybe a South African sunset with a glass of wine or gin and tonic. Sundowners have long been an integral South African tradition, one not to be missed during your visit.
3. FOOD AND WINE
A vegetarian will struggle in the meat eater’s paradise of South Africa. From meaty braai’s to eating local game, there is an abundance of meat. The local cuisine in South Africa is unique, and with the wine regions throughout the country, a complementing glass of vino is easy to find. I recommend trying the biltong, which is a dried meat ranging from plain to various spiced flavours. Also the red wine Pinotage is a blend unique to South Africa.
4. A SOUTH AFRICAN STORY
South Africa has a thick history and rich culture which can be explored in the many museums, cultural centres and educational facilities. To learn about the struggles of the country, the cultures and traditions will open your eyes and give insight into how the rainbow nation came to be what it is today. Pick a tour with an experienced guide to get the most out of the experience.
5. MEET THE LOCALS
From the locals in Soweto to the Zulu’s in Kwazulu-Natal, the local South African people are welcoming and willing to share their part of the world. It is one thing to see the sights in a country, but it adds depth to mingle with those people who live there every day. A tour of Soweto Township can be enhanced by a visit to an orphanage. Make sure you don’t go empty handed, as colouring pencils, paper and even some simple bubble blowers will give an enriching experience that will touch your heart.