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South Africa

South Africa travel guide

South Africa has it all - from penguins to vineyards, from Zulu battlefields to zebra-strutted plains: hike, kayak, drive, bungy and explore Africa at its most accessible

South Africa's defining characteristic is its breath-taking diversity. As well as the Big 5 in Kruger (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinos), safari enthusiasts can spot hippo in the Limpopo River, whales off Hermanus and penguins at Boulder's Beach, Cape Town.

Like its wildlife, South Africa's landscapes vary dramatically from the heights of the Drakensberg mountains to the subtropical KwaZulu Natal coast, from the flowering Cape to the vast Karoo semi-desert in its heartland. And with an excellent network of highways, good public transport and clearly marked hiking trials, South Africa is one of the easiest countries to explore on the African continent.

South Africa also has a rich range of cultures and peoples – a fact often obscured by the Apartheid's attempt to categorise in black and white. With 11 official languages, it truly is the Rainbow Nation. So even if you've visited before, you'll have many more South Africas left to see.

Wanderlust recommends

  1. Visit the battlefields of Zululand
  2. Plan a road trip – South Africa is great driving country. Try the Garden Route or north from Cape Town to Namaqualand
  3. Star-gaze in the barren red landscape and eerily deserted towns of the little-visited Northern Cape
  4. Help yourself to an extra serving of Cape Malay culture on a Cape Town cooking course
  5. Explore the big game parks, including Kruger National Park and a host a fabulous private reserves
  6. Hike challenging trails in the little-visited Eastern Cape and Drakensburg Mountains
  7. Find wildlife on shore and at sea in remote KwaZulu-Natal

Wanderlust tips

Sleeping over in South Africa’s national parks is cheap and a great way to experience them early in the morning before the crowds arrive. A real gem is the self-guided Cape of Good Hope National Park Hiking Trail.

Most visitors to Cape Town pile into tourist buses and head straight to Cape Point’s funicular for the photo opportunities. Instead, go slow with the 33.8km two-day Cape of Good Hope Trail, with overnight accommodation in one of three basic cottages. You’ll be rewarded with a fragrant flower trail and secluded beaches on your way to the iconic Cape Point lighthouse.

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