South Africa is a land that thrives on unity. Its national motto “Diverse People Unite” describes not only the incredible social advancement that has brought its people together, but beautiful relationships of all kinds that can be seen all across this country. The Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian along its coasts, deserts meet forests in its interior, and amazing parks, wildlife and countryside villages share ideas with the cosmopolitan vigor of its modern cities. Many African countries offer awe-inspiring safari experiences; a few others, their cultural and city highlights. All of these can be found in abundance in South Africa, where diversity and unity truly flourish!
Johannesburg and Cape Town each hold treasures for the traveler in their multiculturalism, historic neighborhoods, museums, scenery and waterfront activities. These are the places where most South Africa tours get rolling, but they are far more than just jumping-off spots! The Apartheid Museum and township tours (including Soweto, former home of national hero Nelson Mandela) await as two top activities in Johannesburg, epicenter of the struggle to end the racial segregation of South African society that formally lasted from 1948 to the mid 1990s. Scenic Cape Town offers a bountiful array of activities, from taking in the soaring skyline of Table Mountain from the city below, by hike or aerial tramway, to exploring the V & A Waterfront and beach-studded coastline. UNESCO World Heritage site Robben Island is the notorious site of Nelson Mandela’s 18-year imprisonment under apartheid, and is located just a short boat ride offshore. Durban, another municipality known for its local indigenous and foreign national populations, boasts tempting beaches and vibrant urban culture along the eastern coast’s Indian Ocean. With fascinating history, top tier gastronomic provisions at local restaurants, and captivating surrounding scenery, South Africa’s urban centers are not to be overlooked!
Replete with breathtaking scenery and wildlife, South Africa safaris have earned well-deserved fame. Covering the western portion of the country, the succulent vegetation-covered “karoo” drylands give way to the Kalahari Desert to the west as it extends into Namibia and Botswana, and grasslands and savanna cover the majority of the eastern half of the country. It is this area where most national parks, game and private reserves are located, and their numbers and variety of wildlife stands out as some of this nation’s top attractions. Of these, three rise above the rest: Kruger National Park, Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Kruger’s mind-boggling wildlife communities that go far beyond just the Big Five, the dramatic geography of Blyde River Canyon, and the UNESCO World Heritage network of lake and estuarine waters of iSimangaliso present endless adventure opportunities! Together with other smaller areas such as the exclusive Phinda Private Game Reserve and luxurious Sabi Sands, exhiliration beckons in the eastern provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. Along the southern coast stretching between Mossell Bay and Storms River lies the Garden Route, which passes through the national park of the same name. An idyllic climate, biodiverse forests and many recreational activities await along this 200 kilometer, winding stretch of highway.
The cultural diversity of South Africa - including indigenous groups and descendents from many countries from across Europe from the Dutch to Germans - has created a culinary setting unmatched by any other African country. The Mediterranean climate created the environment for wine country, and South Africa’s Cape Winelands have risen to the occasion; their wine rivals any from Europe or the west coasts of North or South America. Stellenbosch is the center of South Africa’s wine industry, and when paired with the French gastronomic sophistication of Franschhoek, you have the recipe for cuisine of the finest order. Providing a respite from active days on safari, enjoy touring wineries and estates for tasting in between feasting at award-winning restaurants. Time at breweries and cooking schools are available in Cape Town, where you can sample craft beers and or learn how to prepare local ingredients for quintessential South African dishes. When it comes to a delicious culinary tour or luxury safari, South Africa and Global Basecamps know how to deliver!
Like any country our travels might take us to, South Africa’s true richness is in its people. South Africa claims 11 national languages, among the highest on the African continent. The Zulu, Xhosa, Makuleke, Khosan and other tribes have occupied this region for thousands of years, and play an important role as cultural representatives of South Africa. More recently prominent South African Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and subsequent rise to political leadership as president from 1994 to 1999 cemented him in the cultural memory of the country, as well as that of global consciousness. Renowned musician, actress, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and activist Miriam “Mama Africa” Makeba was also influential in opposing apartheid and bringing African music to the world stage until her passing in 2008.
With South Africa’s positioning near Zimbabwe and Mozambique, some who travel with Global Basecamps opt to combine visits to these wonderful countries. Whether a relaxing retreat to a pristine white sand beach in Mozambique or visit to Zimbabwe’s glorious Victoria falls, your multi-country African adventure is within reach!
As the continent’s second most visited country, South Africa has gained repute as one of the Southern hemisphere’s top travel destinations. Diversity and unity have lifted this country high for the world to see, and it awaits travelers like you with open arms.