South Africa is an utterly compelling country. The ‘rainbow nation’ is not just a melting pot of races and cultures, it’s a constantly changing landscape of rugged mountains and arid plains, verdant forest and windswept beaches, pounding surf and rolling savannah.
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It’s a destination where every day brings another unforgettable moment, from the thrill of a big cat sighting to the jaw-dropping views from Table Mountain. Most first time visitors are lured here by the incredible wildlife, and a South African safari is a true bucket list experience. There’s no need to rough it here, with an outstanding array of luxurious lodges that provide a perfect base from which to explore game-rich reserves like Sabi Sand and Kruger National Park.
Naturally you’ll want to tick off the ‘Big Five’ - lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino - but expert local trackers will also get you up close to zebras, hippos, giraffes and much more during your daily game drives. And the spectacular wildlife is not limited to dry land; the waters off South Africa’s dramatic coastline are home to seals, whales, penguins and even the great white shark.
Make sure you spend some time in Cape Town, one of the world’s most alluring cities, with its spectacular setting near the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. Take the cable car to the summit of Table Mountain, go bar hopping along buzzing Long Street and learn about Nelson Mandela’s struggle for freedom on Robben Island.
From Cape Town it’s only a short drive to the winelands of the Western Cape and the foodie nirvana of Franschhoek, while to the east is the Garden Route, one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world. South Africa’s rich cultural mix is reflected in its cuisine, drawing on culinary influences from Africa, India, Europe and the Far East.
Make sure you try Bobotie, a spicy Cape Malay speciality and the nearest thing South Africa has to a national dish. If you’re on safari then you’ll almost certainly be treated to a barbecue in the bush, with the chance to try more exotic meats such as ostrich and zebra, while Cape Town has a gourmet restaurant scene to rival any world city. South Africa also produces some truly excellent wines, a tradition that dates back to the arrival of French settlers in the 17th Century. Top destinations for wine tastings include Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, all within easy reach of Cape Town.