South Africa Travel Guide
Known by many to be one of the most developed countries in Africa, South Africa is a great place to start a travel adventure on this vast continent.
With a wide diversity of wildlife, a fascinating (and occasionally heartbreaking) history, and prices that are shockingly cheap, South Africa is an ideal place to go for a quick vacation or a long backpacking trip.
Currency: South African Rand
Languages: Afrikaans, English, Zulu
What To Do
If you are beginning your trip to South Africa in Johannesburg, be sure to drop by the Apartheid Museum. True to its name, this institution tells the story of racial segregation and division throughout the 20th century here.
It chronicles the rise of this policy through archived film footage, dramatic pictures, first hand accounts, and through physical artifacts that are capable of relaying the realities of this brutal era to those touring this museum.
If you enter the country via Cape Town, experience the apartheid era by heading over to Robben Island. Best known as the location of the jail that held Nelson Mandela prisoner for almost 20 years, this flat island off the coast of Cape Town had been used as a prison for political prisoners since the 17th century.
In addition to its long history as a jail, this place has also been used as a leper colony, whaling station, and as an animal quarantine station. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Cape Town area.
After paying your respects at Robben Island, head up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. Rising magnificently above the downtown core of Cape Town, it is a prime spot to get panoramic photos of the surrounding area.
Standing more than 3,500 feet above sea level, it is also a refreshing place to be on a hot summer’s day, and with trails leading out from the top tram station, coming here is an easy way to get in touch with nature without having to leave city limits.
Once you have had your fill of Cape Town, rent a car and head out for a drive along the Garden Route. A scenic route that traces the coast around the Western and Eastern Capes, this highway is best experienced over several days of leisurely driving.
You’ll discover vineyards, deserted beaches, as well as viewpoints that take in the very best of ocean and mountain scenery. While it is only 300 kilometers from end-to-end, the less you rush, the better your experience will be.
If you are looking to see elephants, lions, and other wildlife native to South Africa, there is no better place to see them all than within the bounds of Kruger National Park.
Covering almost 20,000 square kilometers in the northeastern corner of South Africa, this park has 147 species of mammals (including all of the big five: lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinos, and leopards), 517 species of birds, and 114 species of reptiles, which includes over 3,000 crocodiles.
In addition to the safaris that are available throughout this park, those that have the guts and experience to explore this park on their own will have the opportunity to do so, as there are several trails that offer backcountry hikers the chance to spend a night alone in the Kruger wilderness.
What to Eat
Those looking to dine on what is commonly considered be the national dish of South Africa will want to track down some Bobotie. The history of this dish is rather intriguing, as its origins can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire.
It is often thought that South African gourmand Louis Leipoldt introduced this dish to his home country in the 17th century, as he wrote about it at around this time. Consisting of beef, lamb, or pork that has been minced and flavoured with a variety of Malay spices, and then topped with an egg-based crust, it is enjoyed by South Africans of all backgrounds.
South Africans are very fond of barbeques, as the average diet in this country are among the world’s most meat-heavy. A common sight at these outdoor gatherings is Boerewors, a type of sausage made from lamb or pork.
Legally required not to be created through mechanical separation (a common method of mass-producing sausages), it is a food that many South Africans take great pride in creating from scratch.
One of the most unique types of food that you will be able to find in South Africa is Bunny Chow. Created in the eastern city of Durban, it consists of a hollowed-out bread loaf filled with Indian curry. Forget your low-carb diet for a day and indulge in this filling treat.