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South Africa

Visiting South Africa could be likened to an epic adventure from start to finish. Where does one start in a country so diverse in landscape, culture, wildlife, fauna and flora, the list goes on…There is one constant however, the friendliness of its peoples.  Compare hotel prices in South Africa.

The Kruger National Park (the size of Wales), Mpumalanga is where you are most likely to see The Big Five (Lion, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Leopard and Buffalo) in the wild.

The Lowveld, Mpumalanga with its quaint towns, beautiful scenery and historical landmarks should not be missed.

The Garden Route, Western Cape from Plettenberg Bay all the way down to Cape Agulhas and then on to Cape Town (approximately 750 kms. – 450 miles) is another must see.

Main ports of entry: Johannesburg and to a lesser extent, Cape Town.

Languages Spoken

There are 11 official languages which should give you a heads up. English is widely spoken especially in the cities, towns and places of interest.

Weather

Being south of the equator, South Africa has opposite seasons to those of the northern hemisphere (Europe, North America etc.).

South Africa is famous for its sunshine. South Africa’s climatic conditions generally range from Mediterranean in the southwestern corner of South Africa (Cape Town) to temperate on the interior plateau (Johannesburg) and subtropical in the northeast (Durban). Country temperatures are influenced by variations in elevation, terrain, and ocean currents more than latitude.

Cape Town has a typical Mediterranean climate with rain falling in winter (May to October) and the summer days are long with the sun going down at about 20:00 (8 PM). Temperatures in winter normally go up to 15° C with a low of 10° C and in summer a low of 15° C and rising into the low 30° C’s.

Johannesburg has an elevation of 1753 m (5751 ft) which affects its climate more so than the city’s latitude (26° 10’ S). The rainy season is during the summer months when thunderstorms can be expected in the afternoons on a regular basis. Temperatures normally go from 15° C to a high in the low 30° C’s during summer. Winter has sunny days with virtually no cloud for several months on end. Temperatures can go below freezing at night and go up to a high of 18° C.

When to go

That depends on what ‘floats your boat’ but October through to March is generally considered the best time to go as it is summer everywhere.

September can be lovely on the Highveld and Lowveld (Gauteng and Mpumalanga).  April is normally wonderful in the Western Cape.  The flora is best in August and September.  Game viewing is excellent during late spring (September and October).  The southern right whales can be seen off the coasts from about mid-June to the end of October.  The diving is best in most of the country from April through to September and so is the surfing Spring and autumn are the most suitable for hiking, as summer can be hot over most of the country.  If you’re a birder, the palaeoarctic migrants arrive around November and the intra-African migrants usually by mid-October.

The indications provided above do not mean that these activities cannot be pursued at other times of the year.

Historical Places

Going back to the 17th and 18th Centuries, South Africa experienced so much conflict that the country is littered with battlefields:

  • Ghandi Route – Kwa Zulu Natal – follow the footsteps of Ghandi whilst he was living in South Africa.
  • Blood River — famous Zulu battle site.
  • Mafikeng – known for the siege during the Boer War

UNESCO World Heritage Sites – 7 in all:

  • The Cradle of Humankind, where it all began (or should that be, where we all began). Situated close to Johannesburg, Gauteng.
  • Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, Western Cape where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years.
  • The Cape Floral Region in the Western Cape
  • iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Kwa Zulu Natal
  • Mapungubwe Kingdom, North West
  • Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, Kwa Zulu Natal for its landscape, biodiversity and rock art.
  • Vredefort Dome, North West, 120 kms. (75 miles) south west of Johannesburg – remnants of the largest and oldest meteorite impact crater.

Bucket & Spade

There are literally countless miles of sandy beaches running from the north east of the country (north of Richard’s Bay) all the way down the coastline fronting the Indian Ocean to Cape Town and then north to the border with Namibia following the cooler Atlantic Ocean.  Twenty three of South Africa’s beaches are categorised as ‘blue flag’ beaches (an International grading system indicating that the beach in question has met certain very high standards).

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