South Africa

Summer CSANews Issue 67  |  Posted date : Jul 22, 2008.Back to list

What wonderful experiences await you in this "World in One Country"! South Africa has more diversity than one's imagination could ever dream up. the scenery ranges from dramatic sea coasts on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, to the desert flatland of the Kalahari, and the Karoo with occasional hills or koppies, the dragon's mountain range called the Drakensberg, nature parks galore, plus the 'fairest cape of all.'

There is also diversity in the peoples of South Africa. There are 11 official languages to be heard.

English and Afrikaans are spoken and understood just about everywhere. Then there are Zulu, Ndebele, North and South Sotho, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Seswati and the one with all of the clicks when spoken, Xhosa .

The scenes mentioned above are just a few of many that will make your South African adventure exciting and very, very enjoyable. Spending your winter in South Africa's summer will provide a lifetime of memories. I have done little more than scratch the surface of this country that has been literally ignored for far too long. The days of white dominance saw many facilities set up for the enjoyment and edification of locals (of all ethnic backgrounds). Frequent visitors who, like my wife and me, were fortunate to witness the 'winds of change' sweep over the land, were given a much better understanding of South Africa's people of all colours, denominations and political persuasions.

European settlement started shortly after the explorations of Bartolomeo Diaz . People from the British Isles, Germany, France and Holland arrived in the 1600s, at about the same time as the Americas were opening up, with the French and British to the north, Spanish to the lands below the Rio Grande. Conquistadors conquered much of the southern hemisphere, while the Portuguese took over what became known as Brazil. When Dutch farmers (Boers), Brits and French Huguenots arrived in South Africa, they found that they were sharing lands with just a few tribal factions, most of whom had moved from farther north or were pushed south to escape tribal wars in their home territories south of the equator. Indeed, the Boers will tell you that their "Great Trek" from the Cape of Good Hope to the Transvaal forced them to separate warring tribal groups to establish peaceful co-existence.

Great Britain had their own ideas for the colonization of Africa's southern extremities and took up arms against the Zulus and, later, the Dutch establishment in what became known as the Boer War. Visitors with an interest in history should seek out the Voortrekker's Monument near Pretoria and visit Rorke's Drift, where a Zulu war battle was fought. In the lovely Cape region, there is a beautiful monument to the Huguenots.

The French had the foresight to bring plants from their homeland vineyards. They found that the southern sun and lands produced fine grapes for wine and an industry was born around False Bay. A wine route can be enjoyed from Stellenbosch near Cape Town. You should drive the Strand east around the Bay and stop for lunch at Vergelegen, a 300-year-old wine producer. Continue to Hermanus for whale-watching. Nearby is Caledon, with more than 400 varieties of wild flowers including aloe and the country's national flower, Protea. Another wine route has been established in the Tulbagh region.

If gaming is on your agenda, you must visit Sun City, a Las Vegas-style attraction a short spin from Jo'burg. All of the gambling facilities are here – roulette, craps, blackjack, poker, keno and of course, slots. Entertainment is world-class. If your base is in the metropolitan area of Johannesburg or Pretoria, you will be able to drive (on the left-hand side of the road as in the U.K.) to Sun City, or take a transfer by bus from the airport.

You just cannot go to this country without a visit to a game park. Kruger is the largest wildlife reserve on the planet. There are several others and each has specialties of its own: Addo Elephant Park; Hluhluwe (rhino); Ndumu (birds); Lake St. Lucia (crocodiles). The newest, Pilanesburg, has been established bordering Sun City and features the 'big five' – elephant, rhinoceros, lion, leopard and cape buffalo.

Most visitors have a curiosity about Soweto. The name is a contraction of "South Western Townships" and was established during the apartheid era as a community for mining and industrial workers. There are now roughly one million residents there. Visitors can see where Nelson and Winnie Mandela lived before Nelson's 27-year incarceration at Robben Island. Both the home and prison are now museums. For lunch in Soweto, try a little local cuisine or drop in at a shebeen (pub) for a Lion Lager or Cold Castle.

South Africa's largest urban area, Johannesburg (shortened by the locals to Jo'burg), was built over gold mines that brought the settlers in, in droves. Gold mine tours can be arranged and you might want to see a mine dance performance at Gold Reef City. Aside from gold, you can go to the 'big hole' at Kimberley, where diamonds were mined from the late 1800s until 2005. You will learn about the history of diamond mining and the business of diamonds in general at Kimberley's Big Hole museum.

With so much to see and do, do yourself a favour and the destination real justice, by spending enough time (at least a month) to really get to know South Africa, the 'World in One Country.'

Pic 1: You are standing on a shore overlooking a seemingly endless sea. Behind you, a range of cliffs provides a dramatic backdrop. You are transfixed by the sound of the ocean and the sight of whales surfacing and blowing just a few metres from your vantage point.

Pic 2: You awaken to a cacophony of melodic bird songs. You see your first lilac-breasted roller, then an emerald spotted wood dove. Over there is a gorgeous bulbul; down at the river, a malachite kingfisher waits for his next meal. The unmistakable call of the hadeda ibis echoes ahead and you see your first yellow-billed hornbill. After sunset, you hear the haunting call of the night jar.

Pic 3: Your swing is accurate and strong. The small white sphere sails over a well-groomed fairway. Trees with names such as ironwood, stink-wood and leadwood grow here. World-renowned golfers Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have honed their skills here.

Pic 4: Your guide steps warily ahead and with one finger to his lips, cautions his small group of hikers to be quiet. All of you have been following him, single-file, on an adventurous bush walk. Stopping, he points to the enormous frame of a black rhinoceros browsing just 50 metres away.

Pic 5: Cascades at Sun City

Because of the distance involved, you must expect to have at least one stop along the route involving a change of planes. The most direct route is through New York or Dallas, via South African Airways. Several airlines will get you there by going to Europe en route. Check out Air Canada, British Airways, Olympic, Lufthansa and Air France, among others. Have your travel agent find the best price for you.

The power in Southern Africa is 220, as in most of Europe. You will need a transformer and a 15-amp adapter with three round prongs, so that you can use any small appliances which you take with you.

Currency: the South African Rand varies in value. At writing, it was quoted at just above seven to the Canadian dollar.

There is a ton of information about the country on numerous websites. Start with

Make sure that your passport is valid for your entire stay. A visa is not required for Canadians citizens.

Accommodations vary from B&Bs to luxury hotels and resorts. Even in the bush, you have a choice – stay in a tented camp and hear the night sounds of nature all around, or choose Earth Lodge at Sabi Sabi for the ultimate combination of excitement and pampering.

A self-catering facility allows you to save on dining expenses, but at least try some South African specialties at top-class restaurants.

Long-stay arrangements and tours can be booked through:
Exotic Tours – e-mail: webpage: http//
Goway Travel: (416) 322-1034 or toll-free: 1-800-387-8850

When you rent a car, be sure to drive on the left as in the U.K.

Popular souvenirs include wood or stone carvings, beadwork, paintings, decorated ostrich eggs. Quality is best at city shops. At roadside stalls, be sure to bargain.

Related links
South Africa Tourism
Exotic Tours