South Africa’s rich diversity makes it difficult to pin down only ten tourist attractions this list aims to include at least one thing that will appeal to every type of tourist. Whether you’re looking to rub shoulders with the trendy set in Cape Town or want to experience the thrill of seeing lions hunt.
Starting in Cape Town with what is arguably one of South Africa’s most well-known attractions, Table Mountain. This imposing landmark stands over the city creating what is known as the “city bowl” and from the top offers views of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, the CBD, and the peninsula. The cable car costs R250 return for adults and R150 return for children aged between 4 and 17. There are several hiking routes to the top and one can then purchase a one-way ticket down again, most of these routes take the best part of a day. The cableway trip takes 4 to 5 minutes and the cable car travels up and down the mountain every ten to fifteen minutes.
Staying in Cape Town, another natural wonder that is a must see is Cape Point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are said to meet. This is also the unofficial Southern tip of Africa, unofficial because the geographic Southern tip of Africa is at Cape Agulhas, though few tourists realise this. The tip of the Cape Peninsula is a national reserve and there is a small entrance fee. The park is open from 6:00 am till 6:00 pm every day of the week and the funicular that will take you up the hill to the tip of the peninsula runs from 9:30 am till 5:00 pm. It is however, possible to walk to the tip and if the weather is right it is a pleasant enough walk. The only real danger you’ll encounter here are the baboons. They are not vicious animals but they are opportunistic and cheeky and are known to take food right out of visitor’s hands.
Just outside of Cape Town are the world famous wine routes. Internationally award-winning wines come from this region. The Spier wine estate is perhaps one of the better known.There are however dozens more and one can easily spend an entire day tasting wines on the different estates. Well worth a visit to are the brandy distillers, brandy has become something of a national drink in South Africa with 57 million litres of brandy produced every year brandy makes up 65% of all spirits produced in South Africa.
Visiting Robben Island in Table Bay is an experience that no tourist should leave Cape Town without having. The island’s history as a place of incarceration for political prisoners during apartheid makes the tour an incredibly emotional experience. The island’s history, however, dates back to long before the days of Apartheid, having always been used as a place of isolation the stories you will hear are fact filled and interesting. Possibly the most special aspect of the tours is the fact that they are conducted by former political prisoners that served time on Robben Island. They provide first-hand accounts of what life in the prison was like.
North of Cape Town in the Northern Cape Province is an area known as the Namaqualand. Every year during spring in this region nature puts on a display the likes of which you’ll only see elsewhere on Guy Fawkes Day. At spring time this dusty, arid, semi-desert plane is transformed as if by a painter’s brush into a riot of colour. Over 400 different species of flowers bloom here every year and attract thousands of visitors. This amazing display of nature is one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets and seldom seems to draw a large crowd of overseas visitors, it is however very popular with the locals and so accommodation should be booked in advance. The route starts about 5 hours outside of Cape Town once you get to the Namaqualand but evidence of the desert transformation can be seen as soon as one leaves the city limits and starts heading up the N7.
The Augrabies Falls, near Upington in the Northern Cape Province, are the spectacular drop off point of the Orange River. The falls are nearly 60m in height and during the floods of 2006 had a recorded flow of 6 800 cubic meters of water every second. The name derives from the Khoi-San word “Ankoerebi” which means “place of big noise” when you visit this amazing place you’ll see or rather hear how the falls got this name. The falls are managed by the South African Parks Board and there is a variety of accommodation available from camping sites to upmarket guesthouses.
The 16 mile long Blyde River Canyon is a significant natural wonder in South Africa and is the third largest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon and the Fish River Canyon. It is also the largest green canyon in the world, covered in trees and foliage, part of the reason for this is that the Blyde River still runs through the canyon. At an average depth of 800m, it cuts a huge scar into the landscape and provides some the most amazing views available anywhere in South Africa.
The 47 000ha site in Gauteng known as the Cradle of Humankind holds what could possibly be the key to the theory of evolution in its fossil filled caves. The area lies mainly in the province of Gauteng but extends into the North West province. This area has yielded some of the oldest hominid fossils ever found, some of which date back 3.5 million years. Large tracts of the land are privately owned however the Sterkfontein caves an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria offer a spectacular insight into the past and present of mankind.
At nearly 19 000 square kilometres the Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa and is the premier destination for visitors to South Africa looking for a game viewing experience. Located in the Limpopo Province the Kruger has become part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, incorporating National reserves in both Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Kruger is a 6-hour drive from Johannesburg and the roads are well maintained, otherwise the park is serviced by three runways one of which handles commercial SAA flights from O.R. Tambo Airport. The game viewing in this park is second to none.
The V&A Waterfront is perhaps South Africa’s premier shopping destination for the rich and famous. Built alongside the working Cape Town docks, the shopping mall houses big designer brand names such as Hugo Boss and the Adidas Concept Store. With Table Mountain as a backdrop, it is one of the most beautiful settings in Cape Town at which to while away a day shopping or enjoying a beer in the sun.