Must See Attractions
Monday, 12 April 2010 14:27 Administrator
South Africa's Department of Tourism has rated the country's Top 10 tourist attractions (based on numbers of visitors annually) as follows below.
1. Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront development.
The V & A Waterfront redevelopment scheme - a multi-billion rand private venture - has aimed to reunite the city of Cape Town and its harbour. It is a working harbour as well as a tourist attraction, with restaurants, bars, bistros, speciality shops, craft, fresh produce and fish markets, cinemas and entertainment centres, hotels, museums, the Two Oceans Oceanarium (one of the finest in the world) and a yacht basin. Under construction is a waterway canal which will link the Waterfront with the centre of the city.
2. Cape Point.
Cape Point, at the tip of Cape Town’s Cape Peninsula, is popularly known as the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and is the second-most southerly extremity of the African continent after Cape Agulhas. Cape Point is part of the extensive Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park, a place of stunning fynbos floral diversity - particularly in the spring months - and a sanctuary for antelope species, zebra, ostrich, baboons, marine and bird life.
3. Table Mountain.
This world famous natural wonder - and perhaps South Africa’s most famous symbol - rises 1 086 metres above sea level, and there are awesome views from its distinctively flat-topped summit : over the Cape Town city centre, the Atlantic Ocean and the infamous Robben Island. Most visitors ascend the mountain in the state-of-the-art, rotating cable car.
4. Cape Town’s Wine Route.
The winelands of the Western Cape comprise a region of grand mountain ranges, verdant valleys, vineyards, orchards and historical Cape Dutch homesteads. The towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are at the centre of this wine-growing hub of the country, and are all worth visiting for their history and natural beauty. Various wine routes have been established linking the literally hundreds of wine estates and co-operative farms, and an exceedingly pleasant day or two can be spent selecting a handful to visit. Most farms offer tours and tastings; many run excellent restaurants; at others there are farm stalls, gift shops, galleries and museums.
5. The Garden Route.
South Africa’s "Garden Route" is a coastal strip between the Storms River Mouth and Mossel Bay on the south-east coast, separated from the semi-desert Karoo of the hinterland by the magnificent Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua Mountains. Spectacular cliffs, beaches, bays, mountain passes, rivers, waterfalls, indigenous forests, lakes and estuaries are the ingredients that make up the awe-inspiring beauty of this year-round rainfall region. Some of the country’s finest hotels and resorts are situated along the coast : within the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park; at Plettenberg Bay, Knysna, the Wilderness lakes area and at Mossel Bay.
6. The Kruger National Park.
The Kruger National Park, in the Lowveld region of the Mpumalanga province adjacent to the border with Mozambique, is South Africa’s premier game sanctuary. Covering 20 000 square kilometres of territory, the park boasts the greatest animal species diversity on the continent - due to the fact that the reserve encompasses so many different habitats. This is “real” Africa, “Big Five” country, and a safari to Kruger is essential. Accommodation within Kruger ranges from camping sites to bungalows and chalets; the adjacent Timbavati, Manyeleti and Sabi Sands private reserves boast sumptuously luxurious lodges and supremely fine cuisine.
7. The beaches of Durban and the KwaZulu Natal game parks.
Durban, in the eastern KwaZulu Natal province, is South Africa’s third-largest city after Johannesburg and Cape Town, and the country’s main seaport - the biggest and busiest harbour in Africa. Durban’s beachfront, known as the Golden Mile, is extremely popular with tourists because of the warm Indian Ocean waters, and the safe bathing, The Golden Mile stretches for 6 kilometres, and is a playground of shark-netted beaches, piers, amusement parks, high-rise hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, markets, amusement parks and a fine oceanarium and dolphinarium. Most visitors to Durban take the opportunity to break away to one of northern KwaZulu Natal’s excellent National Parks. The Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park and the Maputaland Marine Reserve protect beaches, lakes, estuaries, hippos, crocodiles and a myriad of birds. Hluhluwe-iMfolosi, Mkuzi, Ndumo, Itala and Tembe are classic African game reserves and havens for the “Big Five”.
8. Oudtshoorn and the ostrich farms of the Little Karoo region.
Visitors to the ostrich farms of the Little Karoo region of the Western Cape concentrate on the town of Oudtshoorn, the “ostrich capital of the world”. This prehistoric bird was indigenous to the dry, arid region, and the world ostrich feather boom of the late 19th century resulted in the commercial farming of the bird, the largest non-flying bird in the world. Today ostrich leather is the finest in the world, and ostrich meat is becoming increasingly popular due to its low cholesterol content. A number of show farms exist in and around Oudtshoorn, where guided tours can be undertaken. Visitors to Oudtshoorn also usually visit the Cango Caves, ranked among the most remarkable of Africa’s natural wonders. A labarynthine complex of tunnels and caverns in the Swartberg Mountains behind Oudtshoorn, they contain a stunning fairy land of weirdly shaped and coloured stalagmites and stalactites.
9. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town.
On the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain range lie the spectacular Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, ranked among the world’s most celebrated gardens. Largely indigenous in character, the gardens contain about a quarter of the country’s 24 000 species : proteas, ericas, aloes, mesembryanthemums, pelargoniums, tree ferns, cycads - even a baobab in the newly-opened hothouse. Beautiful walkways and paths; sweeping lawns; a restaurant and tea room, and Sunday evening concerts make this a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year.
10. Gold Reef City and the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg.
Although many visitors use Johannesburg, the nation’s economic powerhouse, as a point of transit only, the Gold Reef City reconstruction of pioneer Johannesburg is ranked tenth on the list. Johannesburg is a city built on gold and the fortunes thereof, as the Zulu name “eGoli” implies. Gold Reef City is situated on the old Crown Mine site, just south of the city. Visitors can descend a mineshaft; watch gold being poured; and enjoy the heady feel of a pioneer digger town : tram and horse-drawn omnibus rides, a Victorian pub, funfair, theatre, and museums. Attached to the Gold Reef City complex is the Apartheid Museum, which documents the history of segregation and Apartheid in South Africa, as well as the struggle to end it. A must-see when in "Jozi", this is certainly one of the most powerful museums in the world.
As can be seen from the above list, Cape Town - the “mother City” of South Africa - features high on the list of popular destinations. An Olympic-bid city for 2004, It has recently achieved the status of one of the most visited cities in the world.
Other highlights of a tour of South Africa might include :
* The Wild Coast of the former-Transkei homeland - untouched, endless beaches, rugged cliffs and estuaries, mangrove swamps and shipwrecks, and a year-round sub-tropical climate.
* The Drakensberg Mountains, the highest range in the country, is an area of stunningly rugged national parks and nature reserves, a haven for hikers and mountain climbers.
* The city of Pretoria, the nation’s administrative capital, is a beautiful, historical city of wide, jacaranda-lined streets and elegantly Colonial architecture.
* One of the biggest entertainment complexes in the world can be found at Sun City and the newer Lost City west of Johannesburg and Pretoria - “the world’s largest piece of Kitsch”, according to the Lonely Planet!
* For train-buffs, South Africa has some of the most luxurious possibilities in the world - with the sumptuously luxurious Blue Train and Rovos Rail trains.
* The country’s unbelievable variety of wild flowers are perhaps best seen in the stark, semi-desert Namaqualand region of the west coast, in the spring months just after the limited rains have fallen.
* Perhaps the most remote and wild of the South African national parks, The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape is one of the finest places to see the “big cats” : lion, leopard and cheetah. It is also South Africa's first "trans-frontier" park, a joint conservation between our country and neighbouring Botswana.
* The Panorama Route through the Drakensberg Escarpment of Mpumalanga province is a worthwhile detour en route to the Kruger National Park. Mountain passes; ravines; waterfalls with romantic names like Mac Mac, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe; the third biggest canyon in the world, the Blyde River Canyon; the weirdly fashioned Bourkes Luck Potholes; and the restored gold mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest are some of the points of interest.