Given our history, beautiful beaches, wildlife and warm hospitality, South Africa is still not one of the top choices for travel destinations. Being proudly South African, I am going to give you a few reasons why you should definitely make South Africa your priority to see and experience!
The South African Market
South Africa is an emerging market that has some elements of a developed country or market. It has a mixed economy. South Africa is part of BRICS – an association of five major emerging national economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). South Africa is a popular tourist destination, generating a great revenue for the country. Comparatively, given our currency (Currency Rank 2-medium popularity), it is affordable to travel to and within South Africa. Accommodation, internal flights, traveling by bus or hiring a vehicle is relatively easy to find and you can identify with what suits your budget.
The South African Climate can be described as mix between Mediterranean, subtropical and amazing! South Africa is surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian ocean on it’s shoreline which gives way to some wet winters and hot, humid summers. Most of the country has warm, sunny days and cool nights – the perfect blend to enjoy the outdoors during the day or night!
South African beaches rival those you see in post cards! If you’re looking to catch some waves and surf, or lay in the sand and soak up the sun, you definitely have to visit our beaches. From the amazing beaches on the east coast with the warm Indian Ocean to the beautiful beaches on the west coast with the cool Atlantic Ocean. Indulge in water sports, the promenades with world-class restaurants, nature reserves with hiking trails along the beach as well as some pretty decent beach parties!
South Africa is home to vast mountain ranges with scenic hiking trails and activities to keep you busy for hours. If you fancy the outdoors, you definitely want to see Amatola (densely forested mountains); Magaliesburg (amongst the oldest in the world); Cederberg (dramatic, sandstone formations, and ancient San rock art); Table Mountain (most iconic mountain range) and the Drakensberg Mountains (highest mountain range in South Africa and a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
With a population of about 55 million, from diverse backgrounds, South Africa’s people are known as The Rainbow Nation. Due to South Africa’s colonial past, we have Afrikaners (Dutch Settlers); English (British colonization); South African Indians (initially brought as slaves from India) and Native Africans (Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho (South Sotho), Bapedi (North Sotho), Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele, all of which speak Bantu languages). The coloured population came about from mixed families (Black and Afrikaners or English). We also have around 5 million illegal immigrant from neighbouring countries).
South African people have great differences from each other, however there are 3 things we stand by: being proudly South Africa, our welcoming hospitality and our food!
The Food and Wine
We are serious about good food and wine! Our cuisine has emerged from such a diverse history, that it all blends together and is enjoyed by everyone. Indigenous cuisine was made with the use of a very wide range of foods including fruits, nuts, bulbs, leaves and other products gathered from wild plants and by the hunting of wild game – these have become more readily available. South African cuisine has influences of Dutch, German, British, French, Greek, Indo-Asian and Portuguese. A must try is Potjie-kos (small pot of food) which includes meat (usually beef or lamb – or can be omitted) with a wide array of veggies (carrots, potatoes, onions, butternut, peppers, gem-squash, patty pans and courgettes) and is cooked over a low heat on a cast iron 3-legged pot!
Wine making dates back to 1659, in Constantia in Cape Town. The South African Wine Market has since then boomed and vineyards, wineries and production centers can be found predominantly in Paarl, Stellenbosch and Worcester. We have a successful wine industry and our wines reaches the likes of UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Finland, USA, China and Russia. Our vineyards and wine tasting in the Cape is a must do!
We also have something called a Braai (barbeque) which we have adopted and improved upon, coupled with our amazing wine and music!
South Africa has a wide variety of wildlife – which all can be seen if you decide on a safari tour in different parts of the country. The Big Five consists of the lion, the leopard, the buffalo, the elephant and the rhinoceros – all of which are featured on South African bank notes. The Kruger National Park, the St. Lucia Game Reserve and Addo Elephant Park are the more popular safaris amongst locals.
Being on the shores of the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, the marine Big Five are the Southern Right Whale, The Great White Shark, The Cape Fur Seal, The African Penguin and Dolphins. There are major opportunities to view the marine life along the Garden Route to Cape Town.
With everything South Africa has to offer, activities are unlimited. From outdoor hiking trails, cycle routes, cable car rides up mountains to water sports such as surfing, fishing, jet skiing and paragliding to indoor actives such as playing a soccer match, going to the movies and malls or go-kart racing – South Africa has something for people of all ages to enjoy! The possibilities are endless!
South Africa is known for it’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Outside influences have combined with local, native influences to bring about the beauty of South Africa. Cultural heritage, languages and religious beliefs are held in high regard by South Africans.
Art and architecture have colonial influences as well as Bantu and Nguni people’s insights. We have 11 official national languages which are all spoken throughout South Africa by different tribes or groups of people. Our cinema is primarily foreign, however, recently South Africa is producing and showing our own local movies, showcasing our talent. The South African Music industry is large as it is diverse, with artists delving into Kwaito, Jazz, House, Pop, RnB and Hip-Hop as well as classical and traditional music.
Th history of South Africa is rich and filled with knowledge that makes you want to know more, and appreciate the country for how far we’ve come. Slavery, colonization, war, exploration, militarism and expansionism, the discovery of gold, apartheid and the republic makes up the history of South Africa which you can read from the books or go on tour to discover where everything took place in South Africa’s timeline.
This is a first of many posts that I am going to write, showcasing South Africa as a hidden gem in Africa. This is a beautiful country with so much potential that I am unable to capture it in just one post!