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In the lower portion of the African continent lies South Africa, a diverse and fascinating country with a multitude of natural habitats, culture-filled cities and coastal enclaves to explore.
Famed for its wildlife, such as the lions of Kruger National Park, South Africa has coastlines on both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and borders Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique and Swaziland. A holiday to South Africa has such broad appeal because there is simply something to suit every kind of traveller within its vast territory.
From the scenic cycling trails of the Garden Route to the lush wine lands and vineyards of the Cape Peninsula and the colourful food markets of multicultural Johannesburg, there is no such thing as a typical South Africa tour. The country’s tumultuous history has ignited interest from across the globe, especially the political and social upheavals of the 20th-century, so it’s a fascinating place to visit as you can witness the emergence of a new, forward-looking and optimistic South Africa and get to know the fabric of its diverse society.
Holiday package to South Africa is particularly popular with adrenalin junkies as it’s wild landscapes offer plenty of opportunities to explore outside your comfort zone. You can get your adrenaline fix in a dose to suit you, from shark cage diving off the coast to a leisurely hike up to the top of iconic Table Mountain; whatever your preference for adventure, South Africa will provide. Three cities share the title of capital: Bloemfontein, Pretoria and Cape Town, the latter of which is known as the ‘Mother City’ and is the most popular destination for travellers to South Africa.
South Africa, as we know it today, is barely more than 100 years old and was originally a creation of the British Empire, who had colonised many parts of southern Africa, conquered indigenous tribes such as the Zulus in order to take control of more territory.
Historically, this part of the African continent had been inhabited by various different indigenous communities such as San, Khoikhoi and eventually, after their expansion, the Bantu peoples. In fact, South Africa is home to some of the oldest evidence of the existence of mankind in the world, such as in the caves of Sterkfontein, sometimes referred to as the ‘Cradle of Humankind’ and an unmissable sight on a tour of South Africa. Before British involvement in South Africa, Dutch settlers had colonised parts of the country following their arrival in 1652. South Africa was valued, not only for its rich diamond and gold reserves but also for its important location on the trade route from Europe to Asia. British and Dutch, or Boer as they were known, colonialists clashed over territory resulting in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899, a major conflict resulting in huge losses for both sides.
The British came out of the conflict favourably and eventually established the Union of South Africa in 1910. Although the white population were a minority, they had seized control over much of South Africa, sowing the seeds for the dark decades of apartheid in the later 20th-century. After the election of the National Party in 1948, apartheid was established. Both Dutch and English-speaking white minorities enjoyed the highest standards of living and full rights during this time, whilst the indigenous majority remained disadvantaged in all areas of life. Visitors that choose South Africa holidays are often curious to find out more about this part of South Africa’s history and to understand the lasting effects this had on today’s society.
In 1992 a referendum ended apartheid, following ongoing negotiations between the recently freed Nelson Mandela and President F. W. de Klerk. Today, South Africa continues to strive towards complete racial equality and, on the whole, looks to the future with optimism.
With so many unbelievably beautiful natural wonders, South Africa packs a punch when it comes to adventure travel. Whilst the rugged coastline of the Cape Peninsula is home to delights as varied as the penguins of Boulder’s Beach and great white sharks, the interior of the country is mostly flat and home to the immense landscapes of the Great Karoo, characterised by its unique flat-topped mountains and sparse grasslands.
In the north, where South Africa borders Namibia, the landscape transforms into the great dunes of the Kalahari Desert. A South Africa holiday all inclusive is incomplete without contemplating the country’s great biodiversity; lions, leopards, cheetahs, rhinos and giraffes can be spotted in the Bushveld ecoregion, part of which is encompassed within the famous Kruger National Park. A safari in South Africa is a popular choice for travellers who wish to get up close to the wildlife whilst also appreciating the immense landscapes of the savannah. Other natural sights to explore on a package tour to South Africa include the mighty Blyde River Canyon, the world’s largest ‘green canyon’, where the winding river Blyde cuts its way through a lush, rocky landscape. The red sand dunes of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park offers completely different scenery and the baobab trees of Mapungubwe enchant the imagination of all who lay eyes on them. South Africa’s Garden and Panorama Routes give adventurers a blueprint for their discovery and offer a great introduction into the diversity of the country.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘rainbow nation’, this nickname is a testament to South Africa’s diversity. A total of eleven official languages, including Zulu, Afrikaans, English and Xhosa, show just how intricate and multi-faceted modern South African culture can be.
Traditional African culture exists mostly in rural areas, whilst the cities have fused westernised and traditional culture to create a vibrant tapestry of urban life, represented in an energetic music and arts scene. If you can incorporate both the modern urban centres and the rural communities into a tour of South Africa, you’ll be rewarded with a more complete picture of the national culture.
Indigenous communities such as the San and Khoikhoi are known for their artistic heritage. Ancient rock drawings deemed the oldest pieces of art in the world can be linked to these communities. Zulu ethnic groups, who live mainly in the KwaZulu-Natal region, are known for their colourful beadwork, basketry and beehive-shaped huts. On the other hand, the architecture of major cities such as Pretoria and the towns of the Cape Peninsula exhibit the remnants of European influence in South Africa.
The music and arts of the townships are brilliant representations of modern-day South African culture; often edge and always vibrant. If you have the chance to visit a township during a holiday to South Africa, don’t pass up the opportunity as it is here that you can really understand the culture, history and lives of everyday people.
Embrace the vast open spaces, exceptional wildlife and multi-faceted culture of the ‘rainbow nation’ on a trip to South Africa. From the laid-back surfing beaches of Cape Town to the wilds of Kruger and trend-setting Johannesburg, South Africa needs to be on your bucket list!
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