Consisting of nine unique provinces that each have something unmatchable to offer tourists, South Africa is a natural playground of eight world heritage sites, twenty national parks and some of the world’s most spectacular beaches.
The Western Cape is considered by many to be the tourist mecca of South Africa, largely due to the miles of unspoilt beaches that frame the coastline. The major city, Cape Town, is home to many of the province’s most popular beaches such as Clifton, Camps Bay and Llududno, which are all overlooked by the imposing landmark of Table Mountain. Another attraction, for which the city is famous, is the V&A Waterfront, where tourists can visit the prison at Robben Island that held former president Nelson Mandela.
The Garden Route is a breathtaking tourist meander that stretches from the quaint seaside town of Mossel Bay to the beautiful Eden of Nature’s Valley. The enchanting towns of Knysna, George and Wilderness lay in wait to tempt visitors to stay a little longer in their restful retreats as the whales and dolphins play in the bay.
There is no better place to experience the extreme diversity of the South African landscape than the Eastern Cape Province where the lush Afromontane forests of the Tsitsikamma National Park stands in stark contrast to the sheer cliffs of the Valley of Desolation in the heart of the Karoo. Then moving east, the gorgeous beaches of Port Elizabeth beckon, which attracts surfers and water-sports enthusiasts from across the globe.
Durban is the main tourist city in KwaZulu-Natal, characterized by golden beaches and a vibrant nightlife that make it a top draw card for local and international visitors. The biggest attraction is undoubtedly uShaka Marine World, a gargantuan marine complex which contains an aquarium, a dolphin stadium, a water theme park and a host of marine-themed displays. KwaZulu-Natal is a major cultural destination because of its deep Zulu heritage. The Battlefields and Zululand regions have both developed their own tourist routes which reflect the cultural history of the region.
Despite being the smallest of the provinces, Gauteng is the economic powerhouse of South Africa. It also sits on the fringe of Africa’s birthplace. The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is one of the world’s most important archeological sites where the fossils of Mrs. Ples and the Taung Child were discovered. The major attraction of the region is the Sterkfontein caves which are open to the public. The bustling city of Johannesburg is a major metropolis that has many museums and art galleries worth visiting including the famous Apartheid Museum.
The Limpopo province is dominated by the immense Kruger National Park that spans an incredible two million hectares. This wildlife sanctuary is home to more wildlife than any other nature reserve in Africa, including the Big Five, and contains over 147 species of animals and 507 species of birds. Games drives are the best way to experience this remarkable wildlife paradise in South Africa where visitors can get as close as possible to Africa’s wildest inhabitants.
Many visitors to South Africa have argued that the best view to be had in the entire Mpumalanga Province is from God’s Window, and few could argue the point. Looking out over the entire expanse of the Drakensberg Escarpment, it is nothing short of breathtaking with the forests, canyons and waterfalls stretching out before you in an endless panorama. The Blyde River Canyon is a striking natural attraction that offers incredible dramatic scenery such as the “Three Rondavels” and the “Bourke’s Luck Potholes”.
The Free State is framed by the mighty Drakensberg Mountains which cover most of northern South Africa. Other than hiking and mountaineering, a highlight for many visitors to the country is exploring these magnificent mountains for caves that contain perfectly preserved Bushmen rock paintings. The city of Bloemfontein, the principal city of the province, is the judicial capital of South Africa.
The dazzling resort of Sun City is located in the North West Province. This world-famous attraction is a myriad of man-made forests, casino’s, entertainment and the spectacular Valley of the Waves in the neighbouring Lost City complex. Just a stone’s throw from the resort is the Pilanesberg National Park, a 55 000 hectare nature reserve that is the fourth largest in South Africa. Positioned within the crater of an extinct volcano, the park has an unequalled array of flora that sustains the resident wildlife, which includes the Big Five.
Of course, no visit to the country would be complete without a visit to Kimberley, the star of the Northern Cape. Home of the Big Hole, the town is a living memorial to the Victorian Diamond Rush Days. A tram ride takes tourists past many of the original 19th Century buildings that have been meticulously restored to their former glory. The Northern Cape is another fine example of the diversity of South Africa’s natural heritage. The Namaqualand comes alive each spring in a plethora of wild flowers and fynbos. It is truly a spectacle not to be missed.
Start your journey with Protea Hotels by selecting one of South Africa’s nine provinces, with so much to be discovered in each one and uncover the true beauty of South Africa.