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South Africa

Welcome to South Africa! A trip to this big African county is very promising: Wide-open natural spaces, breath-taking landscapes, sublime beaches great for surfing, mountainous areas offering unlimited hiking possibilities. The climate is always temperate. You will also benefit from excellent infrastructures, good modes of transportation, and modern means of communication. The only downside is that the country is not very safe. But it is pretty easy to avoid problems when you take basic safety precautions.

 

 Key Facts

  • Capitals: Pretoria (administrative), Cape Town (seat of parliament), Bloemfontein (seat of high court)
  • Languages: English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
  • Time difference: GMT+2
  • Entry formalities: UE, Swiss and Canada residents do not need a visa for purposes of tourism and business which are less than 90 days
  • Electricity: 220/230V or 220/250V
  • Telephone: +27
  • Health: Ensure vaccination against yellow fever, diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, typhoid fever and hepatitis A and B

Money

Currency: South African rand (ZAR)

Daily budget: The cost of living is not so high. Prices are affordable for Europeans and North Americans

Less than 500 R:

  • Bed in youth hostel or dormitory from 150 R
  • Cheap meal for 60 R
  • 4 Hours Bus ride for 200 R
  • Free visits in museums

From 750 R:

  • Double bedroom for 400 – 2500 R
  • Meal 60 – 150 R
  • Train ticket: Johannesburg – Cape Town: 430 R
  • Wildlife viewing tour: 250 R

Above 1 200 R:

  • Double bedroom from 1 500 R
  • Flight Johannesburg – Cape Town from 800 R
  • 4×4 tours: 1 000 R per person
  • All-inclusive luxury lodgings

Celebrations

South Africans generally take their vacation during summer, from mid-December to the end of January. During this period, many resorts are full and prices are increasing.

JANUARY

South Africans go to touristic regions, on the coast and natural parks during summer vacation (beginning of December to mid-January).

  • Cape Town Minstrel Carnival (KaapseKlopse): The most colorful street ceremony of Cape Town starts January 2nd and lasts one month. Songs, dancing and costumes brighten up this South African “Mardi Gras”.

FEBRUARY

Summer is still in the air…southern beaches delight visitors on their way to Table Mountain to watch the sunset, whereas the rain is falling in the north of the country.  Elephants are getting drunk after eating “marula” fruits, while antelopes, zebras and giraffes are snorting in the natural park.

  • Buganu (Marula) Festival: This festival celebrates the harvesting of “marula” fruits. From February to march, women make “buganu” (“marula” wine) drunk by men during national festivities.
  • 6 Hands-on Harvest: Festival stretches over almost 2 months. During those 2 months you can participate to the grapes picking, sorting, trampling and the mixing of different varieties.

MARCH

As fall nears and the temperatures drop, Johannesburg and Cape Town are getting ready to host the festivals. The weather is also perfect for sunbathing on Cape Town beaches or hiking.

  • Cape Argus Cycle Tour: This big cycle road race welcomes more than 30 000 competitors in South Africa’s Cape Peninsula. Disguised local inhabitants and experienced racers ride towards Table Mountain and Chapman’s Peak Drive.

APRIL

Around Easter, as fall approaches, temperatures drop sharply. Observation of the fauna becomes easier. This season marks the breeding of wild animals until May.

  • AfrikaBurn: During this annual festival, participants gather in the Tankwa Karoo to create a temporary city of art, theme camps, costume, music and performance (www.afrikaburn.com)

 JULY

The winter season brings rain showers on the Cape Peninsula and clouds above Table Mountain. Northern regions have cool and sunny days and evenings with clear skies.

  • Oyster Festival: During ten days, Knysna, a small town on the south coast, hosts the oyster festival: Championship to open oysters, tasting oysters, cycling race, and marathon. (www.oysterfestival.co.za)
  • Ski season in Lesotho: It is possible to ski in southern Africa! Peaks in Lesotho are covered with snow particularly around Oxbow which has downhill ski runs. The ski resort “Afri-Ski” has even a snowboard park.
  • Fauna observation: The climate is cool and dry, which is perfect to watch the fauna. Animals come to drink at water points. The vegetation is not dense, which make the wildlife observation pretty easy.
  • National Arts Festival: Join the creative effervescence of South African artists. The festival starts end of June or beginning of July at Grahamstown.

SEPTEMBER

Winter gives way to spring, and cherry blossoms in the Eastern Highlands. This is a good time for wildlife viewing

  • Wild flowers of Namakwa: During late august or early September, the dry lands of Namakwa are covered with flowers carrying all the colors of the rainbow.
  • Whale watching: During the second half of the year, the Southern Right Whales calve off Walker Bay. The best time to watch them is during the Hermanus Whale Festival (September/October).
  • Traditional festivals: The Reed Dance or Umhlanga takes place late august/early September in Swaziland. Tens of thousands of unmarried and childless girls and women travel from the various chiefdoms to the Ludzidzini Royal Village to participate in the eight-day event.
  • Johannesburg festivals: Festivals season of Johannesburg starts from late august to late September. Soweto festival and Soweto wine festival take place on the campus of the university.

NOVEMBER

Summer season begins. The grasslands, which are arguably most spectacular in the Drakensberg Mountains, are home to some of the most beautiful plants

Music festivals

During summer, there are many music festivals. In Western Cape, you can choose between Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset concerts in the Cape botanical gardens (from November-December to April) and Rocking the Daisies (www.rockingthedaisies.com) or Up the Creek (www.upthecreek.co.za) festivals.

Climate

The Eastern uplands (Johannesburg) have a dry and sunny climate during winter (20°C daytime, 5°C during the night). The Western Cape Province experiences hot and dry summers (26°C) and sometimes violent storms. Winter season can be cold (from 5 to 17°C) with occasional snowfalls in high peaks. Along the southern coast, the climate is temperate and tropical on the east coast towards the north of the country.

Must See

  • Neigbourgoods Market, Cape Town: Every Saturday morning, people come from all parts to purchase local products (fashion and crafts) at The Old Biscuit Mill, Salt River
  • Cape Winelands, Western Cape: Less than an hour away from the Cape by car, you will discover beautiful vineyards around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek
  • Hiking at Table Mountain National Park (Cape Town): You will need trekking boots if you planning on visiting Cape Town. Even if you don’t have time to do the whole 6 days / 5 nights hike along Hoerikwaggo Trail connecting Cape Point to Table Mountain station, the national park is crisscrossed by a dense network of clearly marked trails which will allow you to get in touch with the beautiful natural setting.
  • Whale watching, Hermanus: Between June and December, come admire these majestic animals. Hermanus is one of the world best spot for whale watching (http://www.hermanus.co.za/whale-watching)
  • Grahamstown: The charming city of Grahamstown, steeped in colonial history welcome every month of July the most ancient arts festival of the country.
  • Wild Coast: Climb the Wild Coast hills, dotted by round thatched huts. Relax on the stunning beaches, watch wild animals in the natural parks, and enjoy a stay in traditional villages….you will love the immersion in the Xhosa culture.
  • Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park: The park is home to Africa’s big five animals: elephant, rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, lion and leopard. It is home to 86 special species including: Nile crocodile, hippo, cheetah, spotted hyena, blue wildebeest, jackal, giraffe, zebra, waterbuck, nyala, eland, kudu, impala, duiker, suni, reedbuck, common warthog, bush pig, mongoose, baboons, monkeys, a variety of tortoises, terrapins, snakes and lizards. It is one of the world’s top spots for viewing nyala. The park is a prime birding destination and is home to 340 bird species.
  • Soweto, JO’BURG: If you want to discover the famous township of Soweto, you must stay at least one night and enjoy one of the liveliest nights of Jo’burg.
  • Blyde River Canyon: This canyon is one of the most impressive landscapes of South Africa.
  • Kruger National Park: Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. The Kruger National Park has 21 rest camps, as well as 2 private lodge concessions, and 15 designated private safari lodges
  • Pilanesberg National Park: The Pilanesberg National Park is one of the most beautiful parks of Africa. The park is home to about 8 000 animals.
  • Venda Region: This area is famous for traditional wood carving. Red sand trails and green hills will turn your African dream into reality.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large wildlife preserve and conservation area in southern Africa. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and comprises two adjoining national parks:  Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and  Gemsbok National Park in Botswana
  • The total area of the park is 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq. mi). Approximately three-quarters of the park lie in Botswana and one-quarter in South Africa.
  • Madikwe Game Reserve: You won’t regret waking up at dawn to admire the beautiful sunrise next to a lioness with cubs. The park is home to nearly 80 lions which you can watch very easily.
  • Nelson Mandela Museum: This excellent museum dedicated to the life of Nelson Mandela, near the dynamic city of Mthatha is very inspiring.

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