Introducing South Africa
Every country in the world displays some diversity, but South Africa, stretching from the hippos in the Limpopo River to the penguins waddling on the Cape, takes some beating. It befits its position at the southern end of the world’s most epic continent, with more types of terrain than photographers can shake their zoom lens at. There’s the deserted Kalahari, Namakwa’s springtime symphony of wildflowers, iconic Table Mountain and Cape Point, Kruger National Park’s wildlife-stalked savannah (scene of the famous lion-buffalo-crocodile battle watched more than 40 million times on YouTube) and, running through the east of the country and into Lesotho, the Drakensberg. KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park alone has five distinct ecosystems, attracting both zebras and dolphins.
If you’re interested in another kind of wildlife, hit the nightclubs on Cape Town’s jumping Long St or sample African homebrew in a township shebeen (unlicensed bar). When it’s time to reflect on it all, do it over seafood on the Garden Route, curry in Durban’s Indian Area, a sizzling Cape Malay dish, or a braai (barbecue) in the wilderness – accompanied by a bottle of pinotage produced by the oldest wine industry outside Europe.
Of course, it's impossible for travellers to South Africa to remain oblivious to the fact that, despite the rise of ‘black diamonds’ (middle-class black folk), racial inequality persists here. Black and coloured townships face problems such as a horrific HIV/AIDS rate and xenophobic tensions caused by economic refugees from nearby countries.
Nonetheless, South Africans are some of the most upbeat, welcoming and humorous folk you’ll encounter anywhere, from farmers in the rural north who tell you to drive safely on those dirt roads, to Khayelitsha kids who wish you molo (‘good morning’ in Xhosa).
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These tours & activities make it easy:
Best places to stay in South Africa
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South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Gauteng (Chapter)
Gauteng, formerly the Boer Republic of Transvaal, remains the pulse of the South African nation. Johannesburg (Jo’burg) is the country’s largest and most happening city, where gold was discovered in the late 19th century and where fortunes are...
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Southern Africa Unplugged
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Ten of the world's best city hikes
Stretch your legs over hours or days, without leaving some of the world’s biggest cities. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro Aerial shot of Rio de Janeiro surrounded by the Tijuca Forest. Image by Paddy Eckersley / Digital Vision / Getty Images...
South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland - Plan your trip (Chapter)
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South Africa's World Heritage sites
Southern Africa Explorer
A classic overland journey through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe
Africa - South Africa (Chapter)
South Africa’s blend of cultures is evident, but its diversity stretches far beyond its people. Sleep under the stars in the deserts, hike to snowcapped peaks or surf and sunbathe in Cape Town. Bucolic Zululand and the Wild Coast provide an...