A safari in the untouched wild, breathtaking views, a sun-soaked beach, the pulse of a bustling city, a fascinating window into a vibrant culture, an unforgettable adventure through an outdoor playground – in South Africa you can have it all!
Swedes are among the most frequent travellers and they form a reference point when it comes to the trendiest destinations in the world. One of the countries that has seen a significant increase of visitors coming from Sweden in the recent years is South Africa. With all that South Africa has to offer in terms of experiences, breathtaking landscapes, food, wine and fashion, it’s no wonder that many families and DINKS (double income no kids) are choosing to visit South Africa. The country is only one timezone ahead and offers both commodity and originality to the visitors. We have chosen 5 activity and location highlights, shedding light on why South Africa should be on your future itinerary. Plus we’ve thrown in some handy travel tips!
1. WILDLIFE SAFARI
Picture walking through the untouched wilderness of South Africa… To your left there’s a 1000-year-old Baobab tree, to your right a herd of giraffes getting ready for the day ahead. Step by step, you’re connecting with nature in its rawest form. It’s a magical experience you will never forget.
Getting this close to the bush and the wildlife that call it home is a must-do item on any safari adventurer’s bucket list. All you need is an experienced tracker, which most lodges provide, to take you out and show you the best-kept secrets of the South African wilderness.
On your walk, you’ll learn about the ecology, the birds, the game, the plants and insects, and also how to interpret the signs of the wild, including animal spoor (footprints). When you come face to face with that elephant, or watch that dung beetle labouring with his ball of dung, you’ll realise just how impressive and interdependent African wildlife and their ecosystems really are.
Safaris vary, but sometimes even the most luxurious involve tents, a lack of electricity and the timeless schedule of nature as opposed to man-made rhythms. But never fear, this experience will leave you wanting for nothing. Simply put, a walking safari is the ideal way to really experience the South African bush. Only by becoming a part of nature, can we come close to understanding and appreciating it.
2. SUN-SOAKED COAST
There’s nothing more amazing than getting right up close to a thousand dancing and diving dolphins, their splashes spraying your camera lens with water. Nothing stops time like the explosion of sound and feeling of pure awe as a southern right whale breaches the blue ocean just meters away from you. No moment is more dreamlike than standing in frozen silence, witnessing baby loggerhead turtles hatch in the moonlight and make their awkward way to the ocean for the very first time. These are the moments that make South Africa special. And there are plenty more of them to be witnessed and experienced along its 2700km coastline.
It’s more than just the place where the cool Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans meet. It’s where the folklore of fishing communities is as charming and real today as it ever was; where perfect beaches lure you into staying all day and the freshest flavours of the sea are piled onto your plate at seaside restaurants or right there on the sand, while the smell of the ocean fills your lungs.
Explore South Africa’s natural wetlands where fauna and vegetation range from thickets and woodlands to marshes, forests and reed: home to hippo, crocodiles, black rhino, thousands of fish and bird species that go on with life just like they have for thousands of years. Be a welcomed guest in their world, go hiking along famous trails, crossing secret beaches, jumping over hidden rock pools and stopping to watch ocean sunsets with only the waves for company. South Africa’s sun-soaked coast lies ready, all-year round, to share its secrets, adventures and lazy days with you.
3. BREATHTAKING SCENERY – THE PANORAMA ROUTE
When you’re exploring a country, there are few things better than stopping your car at a viewpoint and being rewarded with the kind of scenery that brightens your day and broadens your horizons. On the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, every viewpoint gives you that opportunity.
Breathtaking views, plunging waterfalls, eagles flying above you and a rich history, quite literally, as it includes the gold rush years, are the kinds of things you better get used to when you visit the Panorama Route.
“Guarded” by the small town of Graskop, this famous route is home to mountains, forests and canyons, most notably, the Blyde River Canyon, which is also the world’s largest “green canyon”.
The awe-inspiring Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls and Mac Mac Falls are just a short drive away. As are scenic landmarks such as Wonder View, the Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels and God’s Window, where you can walk in the thick, indigenous mist forest that stands amongst the clouds some 800m above Blyde River Canyon.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes are an unusual geological formation and well worth the visit. These giant potholes have formed at the confluence of the Blyde and Treur rivers and mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.
Make sure you stop at God’s Window, so called for its panoramic view of the Lowveld more than 900m down into lush indigenous forest-clad ravine.
Viewing sites are provided along the length of the spectacular Blyde River Canyon including God’s Window, and there are numerous fantastic walks, hiking, horse and mountain bike trails. From the parking area, a very steep stepped footpath along the edge of the escarpment leads to the actual viewpoints.
While you’re there, why not add some historical romance to the mix? A short 30-minute drive from Graskop will take you to the gold rush town of Pilgrim’s Rest where you can relive the 1873 gold rush in surroundings of unparalleled beauty. You can even try your hand at panning for gold.
4. BUSTLING CITY LIFE
Johannesburg – South Africa’s City of Gold is where you’ll feel true urban energy packed with local colour, flavour and soul. Hang out with the trendiest locals at street-side cafes, overlooked by contemporary apartment blocks. Or get the taste buds revved up and ready to try everything you can see or smell at weekend food markets, aroma-filled coffee shops or some of the finest restaurants on the continent that are dotted throughout the city. There’s always something happening on the streets, among Jozi’s high-rise buildings. Join genuinely fun and friendly urban South Africans for a cocktail on packed rooftop bars, or meet them at art galleries and spaces brimming with culture and expression.
Cape Town – Just a short flight away, there’s Cape Town, one of the world’s favourite cities, a place so beautiful, one picture is enough to sell it to anyone. In this stunning city, the locals almost outshine the sights and their famous mountain, with a reputation to keep you smiling, chatting and dancing throughout your stay. Don’t miss the chance to take in some jazz at the city’s acclaimed international festivals, and prepare to be mesmerised by local musicians and the rhythms that define this city. Then sneak away for a picnic, or an unforgettable open-air concert at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, the most peaceful setting imaginable, hidden against the slopes of Table Mountain.
And city life doesn’t stop there, this country has plenty more remarkable cities to explore, like Durban on the semi-tropical east coast, where beach-life lives in perfect harmony with an energetic modern city, or you could feel perfectly at home in the warmth of the historic coastal city of Port Elizabeth, known as the “Friendly City”.
5. VIBRANT CULTURE
At the Lesedi African Lodge and Cultural Village you can experience the colourful sights and sounds of authentic African villages and learn about the ways of the Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho, Nguni and Ndebele people. Traditional song and dance and a feast fit for a king top off an unforgettable day and night.
Located near Hartbeespoort Dam in South Africa’s North West province, Lesedi African Lodge and Cultural Village is a flagship cultural tourism destination for visitors interested in learning more about South Africa’s traditional people and cultures.
Lesedi, which means “light” in Sotho, features traditional homesteads of the Zulu, Nguni, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele people, where guests can immerse themselves in cultural activities. If you’re staying over, the village offers accommodation in each homestead, ranging from luxury suites in the Nguni village to twin rooms in the Ndebele homestead.
Upon arrival at Lesedi, you’re welcomed to the Ndebele village before settling down to a fascinating presentation on the history of South Africa’s Rainbow Nation. You’re then taken on a guided tour of each of the cultural villages, where you can learn all about the various rituals and folklore of different South African cultures, and even learn a bit of the local lingo.
Traditional songs and dances round off the day’s activities, followed by a buffet dinner of traditional fare fit for a king, hosted in the 200-seater Nyama Choma restaurant. If you want to immerse yourself in South African culture, this is the place to do it.
Regular flights from Stockholm to Cape Town are run by KLM, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Swiss Air, British Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. The preferred airlines among tourists and South Africans alike are KLM and Lufthansa. To get good basic prices book long in advance or at the very very last minute, if you’ve got nothing to lose or no tight deadlines.
Now about where to land. If you are aiming for Cape Town, try for a direct flight there – of course there will be one landing in Europe, but you could land in Johannesburg and then might have to sleep over so book your stay directly.
All airports really are world-class, but bag-wrapping services are advised. Otherwise keep valuables on your person. Do arrange transport ahead of time with shuttle services and taxi.
A simple travel engine search will produce more choices than you can imagine. Plan carefully and take a flexible ticket especially when travelling with children.
If you’re renting a car, we can highly recommend you to take the max insurance with no residual. Anything can happen, although we hope that you’ll just get to enjoy a peaceful, soul-reviving and sun-kissed holiday.
All images used with authorisation and facilitated by the the official South African tourist site.