South Africa is an incredibly diverse country – its landscape, people and culture are like nowhere else. Here’s what you need to know before you go on a holiday to South Africa.
If there is one word that sums up South Africa, it is diverse. What other country has 11 official languages, ever-changing, dramatic landscapes, and a multicultural population that draws on traditions from all over the world?
With an area of 1.22 million square metres, this is a giant land of sweeping savannas, incredible wildlife, soaring mountain ranges, rugged coastlines and bustling mega-cities.
Arriving in South Africa
For most visitors from Australia travelling on holiday to South Africa, the first glimpse of Africa is from the sky. Gauteng is South Africa’s smallest, but wealthiest province. The region is home to one of two capital cities, Pretoria (the other is Cape Town), Johannesburg and the country’s most well-known township, Soweto – once home to two Noble Peace Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
Flights arrive into OR Tambo International Airport, a major, modern air travel hub, with connecting flights throughout South Africa, Africa and the world. All the standard airport conveniences including duty-free shopping, pharmacies, foreign exchange outlets and ATMs, are available. The South African currency is the Rand – roughly AU$1 is equivalent to R10 and South Africa represents excellent value for money for Australian and New Zealand tourists.
From OR Tambo International Airport, visitors can connect on onwards to other cities including Nelspruit, the gateway to the world-famous Kruger National Park; Cape Town, South Africa’s best-loved city or; Durban, KwaZulu-Natal’s beachside playground.
Visitors to South Africa are routinely wowed by the country’s dramatic landscapes and the sheer variety of scenery – the country has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites including four cultural sites.
The cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria are located in the Highveld – literally ‘high bush’. Perched on an escarpment 3000 m above sea level, this is a unique geographical feature.
Travel about 350 km northeast of Johannesburg towards Nelspruit and the escarpment dramatically drops off, revealing the savannahs, grasslands and forests of the Lowveld in Mpumalanga (place of the rising sun). This is safari country and a visit to the Kruger National Park, where the Big Five (elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino) are found, is a must.
Alternatively, head about 350 km south of Johannesburg to the Drakensberg – a UNESCO listed mountain range that is a favourite with hikers, nature lovers and history buffs keen to discover more about the country’s first inhabitants and their significant rock paintings.