The wildlife on offer in South Africa's savannah, mountain and coastal regions is as diverse as it is spectacular, making South Africa a perfect destination for a safari. Most wildlife areas boast modern infrastructure set amidst pristine wilderness areas, including national parks, private game reserves and animal sanctuaries.
South Africa is one of only 17 countries in the world that is considered to be mega-diverse. Between them, these countries are home to the majority of the earth's species, so if it’s animals you’re looking for, South Africa’s wildlife will not disappoint.
From lunar-like deserts, to mountains, estuaries, beaches and bushveld, there are a number of places to view animals interacting in their natural habitats. Whether its penguins at Boulders Beach or crocodiles at iSimangaliso, or perhaps the big cats that roam the private game reserves, you won’t be disappointed by South Africa’s wildlife.
Common bushveld mammals include lion, leopard, white rhino, blue wildebeest, kudu, impala, hyena, hippopotamus and giraffe, not to mention smaller mammals like the fruit bat and the bush baby. There are also thousands of amphibians, reptiles, fish, butterflies, bugs and beetles that form part of South Africa’s animal kingdom.
There are also more than 850 bird species recorded in South Africa and 50 of these are endemic or near endemic and can only be seen in this country. South Africa also teems with more than 20,000 plant species, which form 10% of all the known species of plants in the world
You can enjoy South Africa's biodiversity in a number of ways – on foot with specially trained guides, on guided game drives, from a hot air balloon or river raft while enjoying a wide range of accommodation to suit any budget.
Visit one of South Africa’s cultural villages and enjoy a unique, interactive insight into tribal ways of life. Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Tswana, Shangaan and Ndebele cultural villages enable the visitor to engage in everything from crushing maize to enjoying traditional dance and song.
A big part of what makes South Africa special is its diverse, unique cultures and traditions. To best give you an insight into this rich heritage, cultural villages in South Africa have been opened to visitors, where you can see people from various tribes living the way their ancestors lived.
The beauty of South African rural villages is that travellers are invited to participate, giving you an authentic feel of what life was like in the past and, in some cases, what it is like in the present for those people who remain living in rural conditions.
Among the best known of these is the Basotho cultural village at the foot of the Sandstone Mountains in the Free State province, Shakaland and Simunye Zulu village in KwaZulu-Natal, and Lesedi cultural village in the Gauteng province. While traditional practices might be similar, each tribe enjoys its own customs in hut-making, hut decorating, dance, language and dress.
You will be told of the people's history and culture, while being offered traditional food and brew. You can also have your fortune told by a witchdoctor throwing bones. Entertainment comes in the form of rousing tribal dance performances. At some of the villages, you can stay overnight, completing an authentic African experience worthy of many a dinner party tale back home.
Some of these South African villages are also excellent responsible tourism projects, as the money generated from tourism is ploughed back into the communities, enabling them to be self-sufficient and preserving their age-old traditions.
South African craft markets offer an opportunity to get a true sense of the country's creative culture. For years, local crafters have sold their works direct to the public – some are established artists, others are talented amateurs from small villages using traditional skills handed down from generation to generation.
Items sold at South African craft markets are varied and can range from traditional beaded necklaces and clay pots to eco-friendly bags made from recycled material and fruit bowls made of colorful wire.
With afro-chic items gaining popularity around globe, local crafters are rising to the occasion by widening their range of contemporary items but still retaining the use of traditional materials, such as shweshwe fabric, glass beads, leather and clay.
Amongst the local craft markets not to be missed is Cape Town's Waterfront Craft Market. Locals and travellers flock to the country's largest indoor market, hosting over 120 stalls, which can be found wedged between the V & A Waterfront and the Two Oceans Aquarium.
Colorful, noisy and buzzing with activity, the Pan African Market is another must-visit market. Also in Cape Town, the Pan African Market offers 3 floors of African masks, clothing, wooden figurines, paintings and other African-inspired cu rios.
For a real taste of local flavour, go to the Khayelitsha Craft Market, situated 40 kilometers south-east of Cape Town’s city Centre. Here, within a vibrant township, you may get the chance to meet the crafters in addition to purchasing their wares.
Blue Flag Status
The Blue Flag concept is an international campaign that has been keenly adopted by South African Tourism, environmental and hospitality authorities. The Blue Flag award is a way of informing local and foreign visitors that accredited beaches are clean, safe and most importantly - environmentally safe.
Camps Bay Beach
Camps Bay beach is undoubtedly the Western Cape's answer to St Tropez, the Gold Coast and LA's Venice Beach all rolled into one. The beautiful beach is a popular haunt of the fashionistas of the world and offers spectacular views of Lion's Head and the Twelve Apostles. Sunsets on Camps Bay beach are a real treat….and if you have had enough of beach life, the trendy restaurants and bars nearby are perfect for a delicious meal or a spectacular sundowner.
Clifton lies on the Atlantic Seaboard and is known by film crews and fashion magazines around the world as `the perfect beach location'. Enormous granite boulders divide the four sandy beaches that make up Clifton. This is the Cape's millionaire's row and the beach is the favorite spot for international models and film-stars, although local folk love it too!
For lovers of photography, Bloubergstrand (Blouberg beach) is the perfect spot to take fantastic pictures of Table Mountain. If the weather is clear then this beach also offers the opportunity to snap up your own memories of Robben Island - Nelson Mandela's famous prison `home' for over twenty years. There are super outdoor restaurants nearby for snacks-on-the-run or lazy lunches.
The famous Boulders Beach in Simon's Town is certainly not your average sea, sun and swimming kind of beach. This well-known tourist spot is home to the jackass penguins (or African penguins) - and for locals and international visitors a visit to this fascinating habitat is a real treat. Boulders falls under the Cape Peninsula National Park and there is a small entrance fee for visitors, which covers the upkeep of this natural sanctuary. A visit to Boulders offers fantastic photographic opportunities and the enormous granite boulders that give the beach its name are the perfect backdrop to any picture.
Hermanus - Grotto Beach
The sleepy town of Hermanus is known for one thing: whale watching. Tourists love to visit this part of the world during Spring to catch a glimpse of the famous Southern Right Whales that are abundant in this region. Grotto Beach in Hermanus was recently awarded Blue Flag status for the 3rd time in a row because of its pristine environmental standards and excellent facilities.
One of the friendliest family beaches in the Western Cape, Muizenberg can be found on the False Bay seaboard. It must be noted that the ocean here is several degrees warmer than that of the Atlantic seaboard, which makes it very popular with those who love to swim. Muizenberg offers fantastic sunsets and is the ideal spot for a relaxed beach picnic. Nearby, are a few lovely restaurants that offer exquisite freshly caught seafood. Not to be missed.
Garden Route, Western Cape
The Garden Route is known for its natural scenic beauty. Not only is the area a forest within a forest, the beaches are spectacular.
A little way from the arty town of Knysna, you will find the little town of Noetzie, famous for the three romantic beach castles situated on the beach, and keen photographers can't help but snap up the opportunity to take pictures. Not too far away you'll find the pristine sands of Buffels Bay, definitely worth a visit for some serious rest and relaxation.
`Plett' is one of South Africa's favorite holiday playgrounds, and for good reason. The gorgeous bay is home to two incredible beaches, namely Robberg and Lookout Beach. Robberg beach is a real winner with visitors for its whale watching success rate and Lookout Beach offers incredible views of the Outeniqua Mountain range. Lookout, predictably, is the perfect spot to catch a bright pink sunset…..as it fades over the ocean's horizon.
The beaches of KZN are a veritable wonderland for any outdoor-lover. The Natal coastline is blessed with fantastic weather all year round and the beaches along both North and South Coasts are absolutely sublime.
Cape Vidal, Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park
The beach at Cape Vidal has to be one of the finest in the country. Here, long stretches of snow-white sand go on forever and ever. This is a wonderful spot for a long, languid stroll followed by a dip in the ocean to cool off. It is a real adventure to explore the many rock pools along this beach, and the area is also known as an excellent spot to sight humpback whales during October.
Umhlanga Rocks, KZN
Not too far away from the bustling city center of Durban lies Umhlanga Rocks. The beaches of Umhlanga come alive during the South African school holidays, and offer a veritable feast of fun for the whole family. Wonderful rock pools, excellent swimming areas, warm tidal pools and a bona fide working lighthouse all make a visit to Umhlanga a worthwhile experience. Of course the fact that the beachfront restaurants and ice-cream parlors are just a stone's throw from the ocean are also a major plus factor.
South Beach, Durban
South Beach is known to some as the Miami of Durban. This fantastic beach has achieved Blue Flag status because of its pristine condition, and locals as well as international visitors absolutely adore the place. There is so much to do at this beachfront - why not visit the Sea World aquarium and enjoy the antics of performing dolphins and penguins, or visit the shark tank and test your nerves. Alongside the beachfront there are local hawkers selling authentic goods - Zulu beadwork and baskets, beautiful woodwork and handicrafts - and you may even get to catch a ride with the local rickshaw!
Margate, South Coast
Margate Beach lies along what is known as the Hibiscus Coast, and is the fun capital of the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. A fantastic stretch of beach draws the crowds during holiday season. This is hot chocolate sundae and hamburger heaven…and that's just for starters. There is lots to see and do in an around Margate's Main Beach, so don't forget to visit the local restaurants, shop up a storm at the village shops or lose your heart to the local artists and their beautiful wares. Margate's Main beach has also been awarded Blue Flag status for the quality experience it offers to visitors and for the fact that the area is environmentally sound.
Port St John's, Wild Coast
A favorite destination along the Wild Coast, Port St John's offers up an incredible stretch of coastline. Second Beach at Port St John's is a tropical paradise and nature lovers find it hard to leave this haven. The beaches of Port St John's are fantastic for swimming and a nearby lagoon is a great place to have fun in the sun.
Humewood Beach, Port Elizabeth
The friendly city of Port Elizabeth is known for its wonderful beaches, protected gently by the curves of Algoa Bay. These sandy playgrounds are superbly safe for swimming and surfing. King' Beach is a favorite, but it's Humewood Beach that is hauling in the accolades. The beach recently won Blue Flag status and for good reason. Not only does the beach offer best environmental practice, there are also top-class facilities for visitors. Don't forget to include a visit to the nearby Snake Park and witness the playfulness of the dolphins at the Oceanarium.
East London's Best
A visit to the laid back city of East London would not be complete without exploring the thriving beach culture. The beachfront area is a wonderful combination of sand dunes, rock outcrops and wonderful views of the ocean. Orient Beach is great for swimming, and the black rocks of Eastern Beach are great for taking photographs and exploration. Nahoon Beach and Gonubie Beach are spectacular for long walks.
Comedy in South Africa
South African comedy took on a new life after the heavy cloak of apartheid oppression lifted in 1994, creating a multitude of diverse comedic personalities, styles and lingos. Comedy in South Africa is now in hot demand, filling out venues and putting the country’s comedy acts on an international level.
South Africa often depicts its various cultures, interesting history and assortment of colorful characters through humor, so it's not surprising that it makes for some excellent and often satirical material for truly indigenous comedy.
South African comedy culture is alive and well and is, in fact, showing significant growth across all the different disciplines including television, stand-up, satirical/comic theatre and even print media, where columnists showcase their pertinently witty points-of-views.
The best way to experience South African comedy is by visiting the country's theatres and comedy clubs - hosted in restaurants, bars and other venues on specific evenings only. To find out where and when, check out South African comedy blogs, Computicket online or go to The Comedy Shop's website, which covers everything on South African comedy.
Most of the major cities will have a comedy event being performed somewhere and even a few quirky small towns put on some excellent shows, like Darling, in the Cape, where one of South Africa's most famous satirists, Pieter-Dirk Uys' alter-ego, Evita Bezuidenhout, performs outrageous comic theatre in the delightfully over-the-top venue, Evita se Perron.
South African Music Culture
South African music culture is made up of diverse genres, from hip hop, kwaito and gospel, to pop and alternative rock. Jazz has a special place in South African music culture and South African artists are well-known for pushing musical boundaries and doing things in new and exciting ways.
Making it, listening to it or moving to it; in South Africa, music infuses every aspect of people’s lives. The country has a rich musical heritage that includes both popular and folk forms, encompassing genres such as jazz, blues, gospel, rock, pop, reggae, hip hop, kwaito and more.
This vibrant contemporary music scene reflects a long and colorful history that saw African, American and European music forms mix, evolve and go on to entertain diverse groups of South Africans over the decades.
While old favorites like Ladysmith Black Mambazo remain one of the world's most popular choral groups and the likes of Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim continue to enthrall, there is an exciting new group of South African musicians that have emerged over the last decade.
Theatre in South Africa
South African theatre is an enthralling, interactive experience - between actors and audience, plots and understanding, stimulus and response. South African plays will make you laugh or sob, gasp or hold your breath. You’ll rage or you’ll swoon, and ultimately you’ll applaud, because South African plays will touch your heart.
Tapping into ancient wisdom, South Africans are masterful in the art of storytelling; they are natural born yarn spinners. Theatre has survived the ravages of time because it is a nexus for the arts - an explosive interaction of song and dance, a masterful blend of acting and storytelling, and a creative fusion of design and fashion.
There is nothing quite like the thrill of anticipation as you wait for the stage curtain to rise. The magic and electricity of a live performance, or live theatre is, simply put, an altogether spellbinding affair.
South Africa has major and minor theatres in all its main centers, and even in the country's nooks and crannies. From Johannesburg's slick, world-class theatre complexes, to balmy Durban's parochial, cozy affairs, and then there's Cape Town's uber cool sets.
Grahamstown, the cornerstone of theatre culture in South Africa, stages the annual National Arts Festival where South African plays enjoy unrivalled, sell out support, and often go on to tour the rest of the globe.
Among the best known South African playwrights are Athol Fugard, Barney Simon and controversial writer, lyricist, composer and director Mbongemi Ngema, whose talents have enriched South African theatre, where their plays continue to captivate audiences today.
Dance Festivals in South Africa
Dance festivals in South Africa express with wonderful exuberance the varying dance traditions in South Africa. These wide-ranging styles are often grouped together at one of the many dance festivals regularly held across the country, where visiting audiences can expect a post-modernistic stomp second to none.
Dance festivals in South Africa have blossomed since former President Nelson Mandela smilingly jigged onto the world stage, instilling happiness in the hearts of a divided nation perched on the threshold of unified liberation.
In South Africa dance festivals are like rugby for the rhythmically inclined. Spontaneous break-outs of dance aren't uncommon on the streets and if you miss these, be sure to witness the natural affinity South Africans have for riveting rhythm at one of the many venues hosting dance festivals.
Be it the Barn Theatre in Port Elizabeth; the Baxter or Little Theatre at the University of Cape Town; the Dance Factory in Johannesburg; the Guild Theatre in East London; Port Elizabeth's Opera House and Savoy Theatre; the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in Durban; or Grahamston's Box and Rhodes theatres, you can count on a dance festival being staged at a venue nearby.
In South Africa, dance festivals often have a distinct grassroots appeal. In Stutterheim there's the Amahlathi Festival, Knysna has an Arts Festival, Oudtshoorn has the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, in Potchefstroom there's Aardklop, the Stellenbosch Summer Festival hosts the St Anne's Theatre Festival, Grahamstown takes the lead with its National Arts Festival and Pick of the Fringe, and just over the mountain in a fairytale part of the country said to have inspired Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien, is the Hogsback Festival.
South African dance events in the cities include the FNB Dance Umbrella, the Arts Alive Festival, the Women in Arts Festival, and the Out the Box Festival in Johannesburg; the Spier Contemporary Festival as well as Pick of the Fringe in Cape Town; and in Durban the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience has become all the rage.
South African theme parks are a boon to the thrill-seeking traveller and whether it's a ride on a roller coaster, a plunge down a water chute or the perfect wave for a spot of surfing, adrenalin junkies will find the theme parks cater to all tastes with a wide variety of activities and entertainment.
South Africa's theme parks offer visitors more than just the chance to have loads of fun under the African sun.
Though frivolous and fantastical entertainment is always a top priority at theme parks, most also offer a variety of educational programs and historical attractions for those who wish to explore in depth the culture and history of South Africa.
Theme parks in South Africa run the gamut from the typical carnival funfair park complete with rollercoasters, big wheels, bumper cars and other rides, to wildlife-themed shows, sport-themed parks and those that are more historic in nature.
From Johannesburg's memorable Gold Reef City, rated amongst the top theme parks in South Africa, and one of the few where history is as important as adrenalin-pumping action, to Durban's wet and wonderful uShaka Marine World and Cape Town's sparkling Ratanga Junction, open during the summer months, there is something to appeal to all tastes and moods.
Children - and their parents - will adore the breakers churned up at the Valley of the Waves water park at over-the-top Sun City, the wild rides on offer at Gold Reef City, Umhlanga Gateway's Wave Park, and the marine wonderland of uShaka Marine World.
Parents, if they haven't regressed to childhood themselves at the thrilling thought of riding the Tower of Terror or the Jozi Express, could take a more sedate trip back in time at Gold Reef City's many historical attractions, visit a working crocodile farm at Sun City or let their kids drive them up the wall - literally - at Gateway's 8-storey, free-standing indoor climbing wall.
Whatever your pleasure, South Africa's theme parks offer a whole world of fun and adventure - and not just for the kids.
Zulu cuisine offers marvelous menus for travelling taste buds. From the comfort of isibhede and phutu porridge to the intoxication of utywala beer and the fiery perfection of chakalaka relish, Zulu dishes are seasoned with history, infused with culture and full of fine flavors.
The foundations of Zulu cuisine are sorghum and maize starches, which are generally eaten as polenta-like porridges or drunk in the form of beer.
Isibhede is a fermented porridge, which tingles on the tongue, while phutu is an unfermented, crumbly porridge. Amahewu is a non-intoxicating grain beer while utywala is a highly alcoholic brew. Of secondary starch status in Zulu food are amandumbe, fibrous root vegetables similar to the sweet potato.
Historically the Zulus were a rich and powerful nation with large cattle herds. Zulu cooking reflects this history with high levels of beef and dairy in the traditional diet. Milk is consumed in a soured form known as amasi while meat is stewed or grilled over an open fire.
Meat is commonly eaten with a spicy vegetable relish known as chakalaka, providing evidence of the cultural and culinary fusion legacy of Zulus living and working closely with the large number of South Africans of Indian origin who also live in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
If you have an insatiable appetite for alimentary authenticity, Xhosa cuisine is for you. From rhabe wild spinach to amasi fermented milk, Xhosa cooking is deliciously diverse.
While maize is a staple food in most of Africa, it is the Xhosa of the Eastern Cape who have refined its culinary usage to an art.
The most famous maize dish in Xhosa cuisine is umngqusho. This dried maize and bean mélange has been compared with Italian risotto and is delicious when served with a meaty stew. It is also Nelson Mandela's favorite food. Other key Xhosa foods include isopho corn soup, umpoqhoko maize porridge and soured milk porridge.
Vegetable dishes are common in Xhosa cuisine. Imithwane is a pumpkin leaf and butter mélange; when the leaves are cooked together with fresh pumpkin the combination is called ilaxa.
There's also a range of wild indigenous plants that are specific to Xhosa cooking. Ikhowa is a mushroom that grows after summer rains, imvomvo is the sweet sap of an aloe, and rhabe is lemon-scented wild spinach, reminiscent of sorrel.
Xhosa cuisine is at its most authentic in the rural Eastern Cape, but those wishing to taste it outside of its traditional home should try the umngqusho at Gramadoelas in Johannesburg or the meats at Mzoli's Tavern in Gugulethu.
VhaVenda Traditional Food
Those who love opulent African epicurean adventures need look no further. Traditional VhaVenda food reflects Limpopo Province’s heritage of earthly bounty to delicious perfection. Whether you opt for baobab infused milk dishes or peanut rich venison stews, VhaVenda cooking is the flavor of the month.
While maize porridges are common throughout South Africa, VhaVenda cooking includes a porridge which is unique in taste, texture and shape. Known as Vhuswa, it is traditionally served in a stack of what look like thick pancakes. Vhuswa are eaten with Mukusule wild spinach, and meat stews.
In addition to maize porridge traditional VhaVenda food culture also includes a Baobab porridge in which the acid flesh of the fruit of the Baobab tree is pounded and mixed with milk. The acid in the fruit pulp will thicken and mildly ferment the milk.
Both indigenous and foreign fruit, vegetables, beans and groundnuts are plentiful in the Limpopo region and common in VhaVenda cooking. Dophi groundnuts are used to thicken sauces and add flavor to wild spinach dishes such Tshidzimba, Tshimbundwa and Tshigume.
The Marula tree is indigenous to the region and the tart fruit is commonly fermented into a potent but delicious fruit wine while imported fruits such as mangoes, apricots, avocadoes, oranges, peaches are also used extensively and cultivated in domestic gardens.
There are many spices indigenous to the region including Lunonya seeds (which taste similar to caraway) and Mufhoho (a grain which tastes similar to mustard seeds). VhaVenda people consider Mopane worms to be a delicacy. Also known as Mashonzha, these worms are an acquired taste but those who like them consider them to have a nutty taste. Mashonzha can be eaten dried, deep fried or cooked in a tomato-rich stew.
Traditional South African Food
African food is colorful, interesting and alien to most visitors. It also tastes terrific. A well-prepared local meal can be a highlight of your trip to South Africa. Many restaurants specialize in the cuisine of the continent and serve a good variety of traditional African dishes.
A number of specialized restaurants in South Africa do an excellent job of serving both modern and traditional African food. Each dish reflects one or more of the different cultural influences found across the continent.
Traditional African food is generally cooked over an open fire or in a three-legged pot (or potjie), so meat tends to be served in either stewed or grilled form. A starch usually accompanies the meat: mieliepap (maize porridge), potatoes or rice. Beetroot, carrots, cabbage and pumpkin are the vegetables most commonly served. Typical South African dishes include tripe, morogo, chakalaka, amadumbe, and the ubiquitous boerewors roll.
Tripe is a traditional treat favored by most Africans. In the Cape it is considered a regional delicacy and is often served lightly curried with small new potatoes and fried onions.
Morogo is a type of wild spinach. Combined with butter-braised onions and tomato or mixed into maize porridge, it is a rural ingredient with mainstream appeal. Amadumbe is a sweet potato and peanut mash. A tasty restaurant variation of the dish is to cook sweet potatoes, mash them with butter and sprinkle them with roasted peanuts, topped off with a drizzle of honey.
Chakalaka is a spicy relish served alongside a main course and consists of grated carrots, green peppers, sliced onion, vinegar, chilli and that secret ingredient that will distinguish it from anyone else’s.
The boerewors roll is pure South African cuisine – the tastier answer to New York’s hot dogs. At a roadside stand, boerewors (a variety of spicy sausage) is char-grilled over an open-flame then placed into a bun and covered in mustard and tomato sauce.
Other local favorites include a wide variety of delectable Cape Malay dishes, biltong and sweet delicacies such as the koeksister and melktert.
South African national monuments can be found across the country. Commemorating the past and those who shaped it, they range from the imposing to the quirky. Among these national memorials are everything from the grand Union Buildings to the eccentric Owl House and even a post office tree.
There are many South African national monuments and memorials commemorating those people and events that shaped the country. Some of these, such as Robben Island, are World Heritage Sites, others point to the quirky side of their character.
Among the many national memorials are the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek, dedicated to the French religious refugees who settled at the Cape in the late 17th century; the magnificent Union Buildings in Pretoria; and the Samora Machel Monument at Komatipoort where the Mozambican president's plane crashed.
Then there is the Owl House at Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape. One of the best examples of Outsider Art in the world, it was created by the eccentric Helen Martins during the last 30 years of her life. In that time she completely transformed her typical Karoo cottage into a haunting world of glass and mirrors.
As poignant is the National Women's Monument in Bloemfontein. This honors the thousands of women and children who succumbed in the concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War.
Provincial monuments and memorials celebrate everything from battles and the arrival of the British settlers in 1820 to hyena traps and temples. In Port Elizabeth there is the only monument in the world to Prester John, the mythical priest thought to be the key to vast African wealth and the inspiration for 15th century Portuguese exploration.
In Mossel Bay is the first post office in South Africa - a tree. In 1500 a Portuguese captain left a letter in an iron pot under a milkwood, which was found and delivered by a Dutch naval commander the following year. The tree is now a South African national monument known as the Post Office Tree.
Bakone Malapa Museum
Experience the warm hospitality and rich culture of the BaSotho people in the stylishly created Bakone Malapa Museum.
Just outside Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo province, the Bakone Malapa Museum is a showcase for the BaSotho culture.
The name Bakone is a Northern Sotho clan name taken from Bakone ba Matlala a’ Thaba who lived here in the 17th century, while Malapa is the Sotho word for homestead. Archaeological digs show that the Ndebele and the Shangaan also lived in the area, and evidence has been found of a Stone Age influence dating back 20,000 years.
The on-site cultural village offers visitors further insight into the Bakone people, a sub-group of the BaSotho. The village has been reconstructed in a style that was typical about 250 years ago.
The organized tour of the Bakone Malapa Museum begins with a visit to an area recreating the modern ways of a BaSotho family. Here, within the lapa, you will see the separate thatched brick and mortar bedroom, kitchen and living room. Floors are still made from a mix of mud and cow dung, as they have been for hundreds of years. You will then be given a view of life 250 years ago.
National Cultural History Museum
A historical overview of major South African artists, 1,000-year-old clay figurines from Limpopo Province and an apartheid exhibit about the forced removals of people from Marabastad in Pretoria are just some of the highlights of a visit to this cultural history museum in Pretoria, home to the most extensive collection of cultural records in South Africa.
The National Cultural History Museum houses a large collection of art, historical documents, photographs and archaeological objects from around South Africa. It is regarded as one of the most dynamic, innovative heritage institutions in South Africa.
The Pretoria Cultural History Museum forms part of the Northern Flagship Institution (NFI), a group of 8 Gauteng-based museums. It was formed through an amalgamation between the Transvaal Museum, the National Cultural History Museum and the South African National Museum for Military History.
Polokwane Art Museum
The Polokwane Art Museum has over a thousand artworks, including an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures by Venda, Pedi and Tsonga artists, many of which explore the region’s rich mythology. You can also visit Polokwane’s downtown sculpture park, the only one of its kind in South Africa.
The Polokwane Art Museum is home to a notable collection of South African art, with a special focus on work from Limpopo Province.
This Limpopo art gallery's collection includes over a thousand artworks ranging from ceramics and paintings to sculptures, photographic prints and installations by well-known South African artists. The gallery reserves a special space in its permanent collection for work by artists from the province.
Pretoria Art Museum
The Pretoria Art Museum’s collecting policy has long-focused on establishing a representative collection of South African art. It hosts revolving exhibitions of work from its permanent collection, as well as regular temporary exhibitions by local artists, including urban and rural art, paintings, sculpture, graphics, tapestries, photographic prints and ceramics.
Today, the Pretoria Art museum focuses on collecting contemporary pieces of art - including urban and rural art and includes paintings, sculpture, graphics, tapestries, photographic prints and ceramics. It has several exhibitions halls that host concurrent exhibitions from the permanent collection, as well as temporary local and international exhibitions.
The Centurion Art Gallery is a commercial satellite of the Pretoria Art Museum. It shows a variety of art forms that reflect the cultural diversity of South Africa and exhibits work by artists from the Pretoria area. It also promotes visual literacy, helping to make art more accessible to the people of South Africa.
South African Art Museums
The Western Cape is home to dozens of important South African art galleries, among them the South African National Gallery, which houses outstanding collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art. The Michaelis Collection of Dutch and Flemish artworks and the Johans Borman Fine Art Gallery, which features a selection of works by South African masters as well as works by leading South African contemporary artists, are both worth a visit.
Gauteng has several important galleries too, ranging from the Pretoria Art Museum and the Unisa Gallery to the Johannesburg Art Gallery with its collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings, as well as works by Picasso, Pissarro, Monet and Degas. Its large South African collection continues to grow and features the work various South African artists.
In KwaZulu Natal, you can visit the Durban Art Gallery, home to artworks from Europe, the East and Africa, dating from the 15th century to the present. The Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg houses a collection of significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.
In the Eastern Cape, you can visit the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth. It houses a large collection of South African art, with a special focus on art from the Eastern Cape. In Limpopo, the Polokwane Art Museum specializes in collecting work from the Limpopo province, including Venda and Pedi art. In the Northern Cape, you can visit the William Humphreys Art Gallery, home to collections of Flemish art from the 16th and 17th centuries, along with British and French paintings, South African art, ceramics and antique furniture.
The Iziko Museums
The 12 museums that make up the Iziko Museums of Cape Town pride themselves on being able to inspire and engage their visitors. They are set in and around the city Centre and reflect the diverse elements and influences that make the Cape unique.
The Iziko South Africa Museum is located in the heart of the city Centre. It was founded in 1825 and today takes care of 1.5-million items ranging from fossils that are 700 million years to fish caught last week. It also houses the Planetarium, where visitors can take a trip through the skies of the Southern Hemisphere.
The Iziko Slave Lodge
The Iziko Slave Lodge documents the Cape’s role in the Indian Ocean slave trade route, where slaves were brought to the Cape from Indonesia, India-Ceylon, Madagascar and Mozambique. At the same time, this Cape Town museum pays tribute to those who were forgotten, denied and stigmatized through slavery.
This Cape Town museum was built in 1679 as the slave lodge of the Dutch East India Company.
Exhibits at the Iziko Slave Lodge include an installation that evokes the cramped conditions of slaves aboard a slave ship. An alcove features an interactive column of light commemorating the slaves. Each ring in the column is inscribed with the names of slave inmates and turning it is symbolizes a process of remembering them. The rings in turn are associated with tree rings and the passing of time. Finally, a room uses sound, projected images and animation to take visitors into the dark and oppressive conditions of slaves' lives in the Slave Lodge.
The Michaelis Collection
Situated in Cape Town’s Old Town House, the Iziko Michaelis Collection is one of the most significant collections of Dutch and Flemish paintings outside of Europe and America. The permanent collection is complimented by a range of temporary exhibitions that relate to the Netherlands 350-year-old cultural legacy in South Africa.
This Cape Town Art Gallery features works by Dutch masters such as Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan van Goyen, Pieter de Hoogh, Abraham van Beyeren and Willem van Aelst, as well as Flemish artists such as Anthony van Dyck, David Teniers, Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Frans Snijders.
While this Iziko art museum's key attraction is Dutch Art, the Old Town House is also used for a range of temporary exhibitions that relate to the Netherlands 350-year-old cultural legacy in South Africa. Past temporary showings have included a video recreation of a 17th century Dutch painted portrait, contemporary Dutch-inspired still-life paintings, and beadwork.
The Museum Africa
Museum Africa in Johannesburg focuses on documenting and sharing the art, social history, geology and cultural heritage of Southern Africa. Its exhibits range from historical war memorabilia to ancient rock art. Some of the museum’s highlights include its collection of cultural products made by African communities and its collection of South African art.
Museum Africa is more than a museum: it is a collage of South African art, history, photography and cultural artifacts that tell the intriguing story of Southern Africa's past.
William Humphreys Art Gallery
Visit the William Humphreys Art Gallery in Kimberley and discover one of the country’s most important art collections. Numerous international pieces are complemented by a collection of South African art that documents the country's journey over the last century and includes ceramics, sculptures and paintings by today’s best-known local artists.
Kimberley is world famous for its diamonds, but they're not its only treasure trove. This Northern Cape city is also home to one of South Africa's most important art museums: the William Humphreys Art Gallery.
The gallery was established when William Humphreys, a prominent Kimberley resident, donated a portion of his collection of art, furniture and objects d'art to the people of Kimberley. Known at the Humphreys Bequest, the initial collection was made up of a selection of European and British paintings, furniture and copies of classical sculptures.
Escape from the pressures of city life in one of South Africa's parks. Smell the roses, watch the birds, go boating, listen to music, take a walking trail – you can do all these and more in any of the beautiful and diverse South African parks.
The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens are only a short drive from the city Centre. In the evening you'll see canoeists and small boat enthusiasts working out on the dam. Early morning sees the joggers, cyclists and dog-walkers, and during the day you can enjoy the sumptuous rose gardens, feed the ducks, admire the amazing collection of succulents or just sit in the shade of more than 20,000 indigenous trees.
Zoo Lake is a Johannesburg institution where city dwellers chill out by boating, walking, picnicking or attending a monthly open-air art exhibition or grooving at the annual Jazz on the Lake concert. The internationally recognized Johannesburg Zoo is right next door.
Another favorite South African park is Delta Park, one of Johannesburg's largest green lungs. Take a walking trail around one of the 3 dams, spot birds in the Florence Bloom Bird Sanctuary, or just take time to stand and stare.
Mitchell Park in Durban is always a riot of color all the year round, noted for its gorgeous displays of flowers, trees and shrubs, whilst the 150-year-old Durban Botanic Gardens has a renowned orchid house and collection of rare cycads.
There are many lovely parks in Cape Town, but a visit to the famous Company's Garden established in 1652 by Dutch settlers, one of the city's premier tourist attractions, is a must. It boasts South Africa's oldest cultivated pear tree (circa 1652) and is surrounded by some of the city's most important landmarks.
South Africa is renowned for some of the best cuisines in the world. You can get almost any kind of food and the quality is sure to be the best you ever had. Because South Africa is a culturally diverse society there is a restaurant for almost everyone.
The South African delis are influenced by cultures from across the globe. There are Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, European, American, African and other restaurants splashed all over the country.
Shopping in South Africa
Shopping in South Africa comes at attractive prices in comparison to many other parts of the world. Explore the sophisticated malls, vibrant markets and specialist curio shops. Interact with the informal street sellers and buy great art and crafts at bargain prices from the roadside stalls!
South Africa is a place of remarkable people and places, offering lush forests, vast desert plains, vibrant cities, pristine beaches – and great shopping! There are sophisticated malls, vibrant markets, specialist curio shops and informal street sellers at almost every turn.
This means that while you explore the sea, mountains and abundant wildlife, you will also have a chance to explore some of the best shopping on the continent and effortlessly pick up gifts and souvenirs on your way. Along with superb local art, you will be able to buy a wide range of quality textiles, jewelry, leather goods and local beverages and even designer clothing at relatively affordable prices.
For serious shopping, South Africa is home to world-class malls in all major cities. Malls are also often centers of local entertainment and stock top brands of clothing, jewelry and accessories at large chain stores and smaller, specialized boutique outlets. These South African shopping malls all have banking facilities, restaurants and children’s activities.
You will also find large and well-stocked local markets all over the country, with the biggest located in the major centers of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. These stock authentic traditional arts and crafts like wire sculptures, beadwork, pottery and carvings – South African shopping at its best.
There are also many specialist curio shops, which are most abundant (and expensive) at well-known tourist centers. They stock books, DVDs, ceramics, designer jewelry, cutlery and leather items like bags, belts and shoes made from local materials.
Be sure to stop at roadside stalls run by informal traders who use their artistic talents to earn a living. You can pick up anything from arts and crafts to home-made preserves, depending on the particular stall you stop at. Invariably you will also encounter street sellers, who take advantage of the great weather to ply their trade almost anywhere they can – often at traffic intersections or busy commuter routes.
Aside from the bargains and unique buys, in South Africa, shopping is also a chance to interact with local people, making shopping an even more rewarding experience. South Africa’s exchange rate is also tourist-friendly, which means that shopping is affordable – just make sure you leave enough room in your luggage!
Shopping Malls in South Africa
With products ranging from exclusive designer-wear and jewelry to ceramics, cosmetics, original art, home-ware and anything else you can think of, South Africa’s shopping malls are a retail force to be reckoned with. When visiting a mall, you will find some spectacular bargains and unique souvenirs to take home.
Shopping malls in South Africa range from the most expansive to the most exclusive and offer many exciting retail experiences in all major cities.
Items that you can pick up at South African shopping malls like Canal Walk in Cape Town, Sandton City in Johannesburg, Gateway Mall in Durban and Boardwalk Shopping Mall in Port Elizabeth include unique and well-priced merchandise. Take a look at the jewelry, crafted from the finest South African gold, diamonds and semi-precious stones; the leather and suede items; local crafts; ceramics and also local wines, brandy and liqueurs. Check out exciting local and international fashion and cosmetics and many specialist and lifestyle-related products. These malls are also home to major retail chains, such as department stores like Woolworths and Stuttafords.
Some of the best-known South African shopping malls are so big that you will need at least a full day to explore them thoroughly. If your time is on the short side, most malls offer good online information about their retail outlets so that you can plan your shopping, whether you have a day or an hour. They also offer a range of services for your shopping pleasure, including facilities for children, babies, different faiths and people with disabilities.
What’s more, many of the malls have also adopted a holistic approach to shopping, which means that you can combine the best retail therapy in the country with some of the finest dining and entertainment facilities, including award-winning restaurants, cinemas, amusement parks, gaming arcades, with some also boasting casinos, wave pools, theatres and climbing walls. Malls also often host on-site events, displays and competitions, as well as information on transport, accommodation and local attractions.
Snorkeling with Seahorses
Go snorkeling with seahorses in Knysna and encounter an enchanting little greenish-brown creature, a bit bigger than the palm of your hand, which has survived for 40-million years. It’s an unforgettable diving experience.
When you go snorkeling with seahorses in Knysna, you'll be privileged to meet the endangered Knysna seahorse. Endemic to South Africa, they are only found in certain estuaries along South Africa's southern coastline.
Knysna, South Africa's most popular coastal town, is the place to find these seahorses, and when you travel along the Garden Route, take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come face-to-face with one of the world's most fascinating marine creatures.
An experienced diver will take you at high tide to the places where you can safely encounter these little creatures. As they are endangered and protected by law, great care is taken not to disturb their natural habitat on the sandy floor, where they congregate around clumps of plants.
There's other abundant marine life in the waters of Knysna. The southern right whale comes to breed in these waters between August and December, and you'll get great views all along the Garden Route. If you visit the nearby Robberg peninsula, home to a colony of fur seals, you may well see dolphins leaping the waves in pods of up to a 100 strong.
Kids Learn to Surf
Kids learn to surf safely and expertly with help from top international surfers at the Waves School of Surfing in Mossel Bay. An initial Ocean Awareness lesson will get them on the board, after that they can take it as far as they like.
Mossel Bay, one of the many charming towns along the Western Cape's Garden Route, is a perfect place for children to learn surfing the right way – safely and in expert professional hands.
Mossel Bay enjoys temperate sunny weather for much of the year and superb surf much of the time. Here Llewellyn Whittaker, former Triple Crown surf champion, teaches kids how to surf, how to stay safe and, above all, how to respect the sea.
Rock Climbing South Africa
South Africa offers more rock climbing routes than most other countries around the world. Established tour guides, who adhere to strict safety regulations, gladly welcome traveling climbers. Glorious sunshine adds greatly to the South African rock climbing experience.
South Africa has a huge amount of cliff faces, and is therefore a rock climber's dream destination. Rock climbing tour operators exist in most parts of the country, offering equipment, training and guiding. From the famous Table Mountain in Cape Town, to remote cliff faces in the Drakensberg, there are a vast amount of climbs to suit climbers of all experience levels.
Canopy Tours afford you a perspective on the fauna and flora of the forest that few human beings would ordinarily experience. See amazing sights while you learn about the forest and soar from platform to platform as free as a bird on a remarkable system of pulleys and wires.
Canopy Tours are one of the most amazing ways to see nature: ancient forests, rocky gorges... basically places that you are normally on ground level at, looking up. Here you are up in the sky looking into the heart of the forest. It's a very different and thrilling perspective.
Hiking Trails In South Africa
South Africa's scenery, warm climate and outdoor culture make it one of the world's most popular hiking destinations. Whether you like to hike up mountains, along rivers or through valleys, you will find a route to suit your preferences.
Hot Air Balloon Rides
Peaceful and serene, a hot air balloon ride is a subtle adventure. From the thrill of watching the balloon inflate, and the imperceptible lift-off, to the gentle descents where one moment your pilot is skimming the treetops, and sending you soaring heavenward the next, the sensational views are worth getting up early for.
In the Free State, take a flight over the Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site, or Clarens, with views of the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. In the Northern Cape, rust red sand dunes and the blue vault of the Kalahari Desert sky make for compelling adventure. In the Mpumalanga Lowveld, drift over the foothills of the northern Drakensberg, sub-tropical fruit orchards, and follow the Sabie River.
In Oudtshoorn, sweep silently above the plains of the Klein Karoo, with the majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges for company, or in Limpopo, go game spotting over private game reserves adjoining the Kruger National Park, and the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.
South African board sports started off with surfing, then spread rapidly to skate boarding, windsurfing, kite boarding, and more recently, dune boarding. It's all about the adrenalin rush, the sheer joy of movement, the interface between you and the surface of the Earth.
South African fishing is unaffected by the relatively few deep rivers and lakes. Instead, it thrives. The abundance of food seems to make the trout bigger, the bass wilier, the yellow fish more feisty. Chat to the locals, and soon you'll be out there, wondering what's tugging at your line. There are many fishing activities in South Africa. As you drive around the coastline, especially down in the Western Cape and up the West Coast, you'll see fishing villages gleaming white in the afternoon sun. These are communities that have lived off the bounty of the sea for centuries.
'Catch and release' is the new mantra in South African fishing circles, and for some species that's the way to go. Fishing must be sustainable, and maintained for future generations.