A trip to the Rainbow Nation doesn't just have to be about the World Cup in 2010. Strike out from the major cities for a real adventure
All eyes will be on South Africa come 2010, as football fever takes over the nation. The cities will be freshly spruced, ready to host swathes of fans in their brand-new stadiums: it will be an electric time to visit.
But you don’t need to restrict your trip to the match-hosting hubs. Hire a car and you can easily strike out on the country’s excellent roads to soak up more of the Rainbow Nation. Here are some top itinerary tips...
Head out on the Garden Route. In three to five days you can navigate through the lip-smacking vineyards of Stellenbosch to the whale-watching capital of Hermanus – the southern right whales start appearing just offshore in great numbers from June. Then pop down to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the continent, before delving into De Hoop Nature Reserve for unspoilt beaches, rolling dunes and myriad birds. If there’s no rush to return to Cape Town, continue to the lagoon-side forests of Knysna and swoop back over the magnificent landscapes and mountain passes of the Karoo – it’ll take around 10 days, but it will be more than worth it.
Options abound from this laidback coastal town. To the south lies the Wild Coast – drive alongside an untamed shoreline, past bright Xhosa rondavels towards Port St Johns, then sweep inland to take in the rugged majesty of the Drakensberg Mountains: get out of the car and stretch your legs on one of the region’s great hikes. Alternatively spend three or four days heading north from Durban into Zulu territory; take a tour of the battlefield sites of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift with a local guide to truly capture the history and atmosphere.
After the final whistle blows on World Cup 2010, and after you’ve celebrated with a drink in a Soweto shebeen, navigate north to the Cradle of Humankind, a valley packed with caves and million-year-old fossils. Continue north to the De Wildt Cheetah Reserve for close feline encounters, then on into Limpopo Province – off the main highway you’re in a world of mud huts and misty hilltops. If instead you head east from Jo’burg, zip along the highway for 400-odd kilometres to reach Kruger National Park; this world-famous reserve is designed to be easily accessible, so you can drive yourself around its big game-packed wilderness.