Exploring South Africa’s Provinces

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Ever considered visiting Africa? How about South Africa? Take a look at some South African Provinces and find out what they have to offer.

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Exploring South Africa’s Provinces

  1. 1. Exploring South Africa’s Provinces Each of South Africa’s provinces has something fascinating to offer visitors. For international and local travellers alike, the South African landscape presents breathtaking scenery, rich culture and a host of beautiful attractions. Below, discover some of the highlights of each of South Africa’s provinces. This guide will help you to plan your ideal South African holiday, and to choose your preferred accommodation venues in South Africa. South Africa Travel Highlights • Western Cape The Western Cape is best known for the scenic grandeur and laid-back ambience of its capital city, Cape Town. While the ‘Mother City’, with its perfect beaches, Mediterranean climate, vineyards and vibrant lifestyle should not be missed during your visit to South Africa, the Western Cape is home to countless other hidden jewels. Cape Aghulas No trip to South Africa is complete without a journey to the Southern-most point of the African continent. While you won’t find the glitzy sophisticated Western Cape accommodation you’d find in Cape Town, the town offers convenient self-catering chalets, small hotels and bed and breakfasts. The desolate, haunting landscapes of the Cape Agulhas give no hint of the fact that this area is a haven for fisherman - the nutrient-rich waters off the Southern tip of Africa provide some of the best fishing opportunities in the country. Hermanus If you’re looking for an attractive coastal village in closer proximity to Cape Town, Hermanus is an ideal destination. Located within a two-hour drive of Cape Town, Hermanus offers Western Cape accommodation ranging from 3-star lodges to sumptuous 5-star hotels. Hermanus is best known for its whale-watching opportunities. A ‘whale crier’ alerts the town when whales come into sight, and visitors to the town can either view the whales from chartered boats or enjoy excellent views of these animals from atop the cliffs on which the town is built. The Karoo The Karoo is an arid semi-desert that that lies to the north of Cape Town. The area is the home to a number
  2. 2. of well kept travel secrets, with its quaint desert towns, scenic mountain passes and vast expanses of open wilderness. A great destination in the Karoo is the town of Oudtshoorn. Once the hub of the ostrich- feather industry, this town lies in the foothills of the majestic Swartberg Mountains, offers first rate Western Cape accommodation. Oudtshoorn also offers easy access to game parks, the famous Cango Caves and numerous ostrich farms. • The Garden Route If you have time on your hands, avoid simply flying into the Eastern Cape. Instead give yourself the chance to explore the magical Garden Route, a national road that leads from the popular Western Cape into the Eastern Cape. Along the Garden Route you’ll find Eastern Cape accommodation to suit all tastes, from sophisticated 5 Star hotels to homely bed & breakfast lodges run by friendly locals. The route is a scenic experience in its own right, opening unending vistas of natural beauty. The Eden District The aptly named Eden District is home to some of South Africa’s most beautiful coastal reserves and tourist destinations. The Eden District hugs the Eastern seaboard of the Western Cape, and can be easily access by road via the N2 – South Africa’s famous ‘Garden Route’. Only a road trip down the Garden Route can unlock the numerous wonders that this area has to offer. Highlights include the town of Knysna, with its world-class seafood and lagoon, and the Wilderness Nature Reserve, with its spectacular coastal scenery and quaint B&Bs. • Eastern Cape The Eastern Cape is home to abundant scenic and natural beauty, ranging from miles of unspoilt white sand beaches to rugged untamed wilderness, where the legendary Big Five roam free. Here are just a few places you must visit exploring the Eastern Cape: Port Elizabeth The ‘Friendly City’ is an ideal destination if you’re looking to enjoy a relaxed beach holiday away from the crowds that plague Cape Town and Durban during the tourist season. Port Elizabeth boasts some of the finest beaches in the country, as well as warm sea temperatures. Walk the Donkin Heritage Trail to take in the history and culture of this South African city, or spend relaxed afternoons at the trendy Boardwalk waterfront complex. Port Elizabeth stands out amongst the
  3. 3. Eastern Cape accommodation experiences, with superb, but affordable beachfront hotels. Addo Elephant Park If it’s more rugged terrain you’re after then you can head to the Addo Elephant National Park. This elephant sanctuary is situated within a short drive of Port Elizabeth, and is the home to over 400 majestic African elephants. You needn’t limit your visit to the Addo Elephant Park to a day trip. Eastern Cape accommodation facilities include a central camp which overlooks a water hole and offers numerous facilities, as well as a selection of additional bush camps dotted around the park. Southern Drakensberg The southern foothills of the Drakensberg Mountain Range extend into the Eastern Cape region, giving visitors to this province an opportunity to explore an untouched paradise. Icy mountain streams meander through valleys where you’ll find hidden bushman paintings and untouched natural splendour. The Southern Drakensberg offers a wide variety of tourist activities, ranging from trout fishing in crystalline mountain lakes, to hikes and trips to the Rhodes hamlet, a historic town located beneath the highest peak in the Eastern Cape. You can even visit South Africa’s only ski resort, Tiffendell, located a short drive from the Rhodes hamlet. • Northern Cape The Northern Cape is an ideal destination if you wish to escape the tourist crowds while travelling around South Africa. As the country’s least populated area, the Northern Cape offers travellers the opportunity to reflect and slow down, while sampling some of the region’s quaint and fascinating tourist attractions. A host of Northern Cape accommodation options are within easy reach of its leading attractions. The Namaqualand Daisies The Namaqualand is located within close proximity to the urban metropolis of Cape Town, and is one of the most accessible attractions in the Northern Cape. Usually a dry and desolate landscape, the area is renowned for the displays it puts on during spring, when yellow and orange flowers carpet the Namaqualand terrain. The Namaqualand daisies are only part of the appeal of this area. Like much of the Northern Cape accommodation on offer, places of rest in the Namaqualand are rustic but friendly, offering one the opportunity to reflect on one’s place in the universe amidst the seemingly endless expanses of space and wilderness. The Kimberley Big Hole
  4. 4. Kimberley is the capital of the Northern Cape, and a stopping point on the N12 highway from Cape Town to Johannesburg. While this sleepy urban centre may lack aesthetic appeal, it conceals one of South Africa’s most famous man-made landmarks. The Big Hole lies in the middle of Kimberley. This abandoned diamond mine is the second largest hand-dug hole on the planet, and was once relentlessly probed for diamonds by up to 50,000 diamond miners at a time. Almost half a kilometre wide, and quarter of a kilometre deep, the Great Hole’s bottom is now covered in brackish water. The Augrabies Falls One of South Africa’s biggest rivers winds through the desolate landscape of the Northern Cape. The Orange River connects with several tributaries in this province, offering tourists the opportunity to explore the river on chartered tours. The Augrabies Falls is one of the Orange River’s most famous features. Located in the Northern Cape, the waterfall drains the Orange River over a 60-meter rock ledge, creating a thunderous noise and casting spray and mist hundreds of meters up into the air. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park Like many of South Africa’s provinces, the Northern Cape is home to a national park – the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. The park lies on the border of South Africa and Botswana, with much of its area located within the borders of South Africa’s neighbour. Despite its arid, desolate terrain, the Kalahari Gemsbok Park is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, and the absence of trees makes for excellent game-viewing opportunities. As is the case with other areas in the Northern Cape, accommodation is rustic, with visitors housed in a selection of functional but atmospheric rest camps. • Kwa-Zulu Natal Located on the Eastern seaboard of South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal is one of South Africa’s most popular holiday playgrounds. The mild climate, lush vegetation, warm seas and perfect beaches make this an ideal destination for vacations during South Africa’s winter months. Durban The City of Durban is an ideal place to begin exploring the Kwa-Zulu Natal province. This buzzing metropolis is separated from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean by golden sand beaches fringed with palm-trees, and offers and assortment of interesting attractions. These include the Ushaka Marine Park, South Africa’s largest marine theme park and aquarium, the Umgeni River Bird Park and the Natal Botanical Gardens. If you’re looking for Kwa-Zulu accommodation in Durban, look no further than the luxurious hotels that line the city’s famous ‘Golden Mile’.
  5. 5. Umhlanga Coastline The Umhlanga Coast offers some of the finest Kwa-Zulu Natal accommodation options for travellers looking for a base from which to explore the province. Located a short drive North of Durban, this area is best known for its long, clean beaches and luxurious beach- front lodging. Relaxation is the name of the game on the Umhlanga coastline. Once you’ve booked your Umhlanga hotel accommodation, you can amble down the famous O’Connor Boulevard that stretches from the Durban View Park to the Breakers Resort, or simply find a secluded spot on a beach to soak up the rays of the South African sun, and swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The Natal Drakensberg The Kwa-Zulu Natal province has more to offer than some of the country’s finest beaches. Head inland and you’ll soon find yourself standing in the foothills of South Africa’s most majestic mountain range – the Drakensberg. The Drakensberg is one of South Africa’s premier hiking destinations. Visitors willing to ascend the Drakensberg’s lofty peaks are greeted with incredible views, waterfalls that plunge into icy mountain pools, and the revitalizing effects of this area’s crisp, clean air. Natal Midlands Once you’ve explored the mountainous terrain of the Drakensberg you may want to indulge your senses in the pastoral beauty of the Natal Midlands. Venture along the ‘Midlands Meander’ sampling its excellent restaurants and first class Kwa-Zulu Natal accommodation options as you head back towards the coast. While in the Natal Midlands, make sure not to miss out on a visit to the area’s ‘capital’ of Pietermaritzburg. Best seen in spring, when the area’s myriad trees are in blossom, this historic city is bursting with colonial charm, and is often described as the ‘Last outpost of the British Empire’. • Gauteng South Africa’s largest city is the pulsating heart of the African economy. The region’s up- market urban areas offer superb Gauteng accommodation options, providing visitors with a comfortable base from which to explore the region’s vibrant cityscapes. Gold Reef City If you want to get a feel for the early history of Johannesburg whilst simultaneously enjoying all the features of a world class theme-park, look no further than the Gold Reef City. Built around a mine, and featuring a number of historic buildings, Gold Reef City makes an ideal day trip for visitors to Gauteng. The Gold Reef City offers a number of theme park rides designed to get your adrenalin flowing. However, it is the heritage of this site that makes it fascinating, and you can
  6. 6. explore this by taking a trip into the bowels of a gold mine, watching traditional gumboot dances or wandering through the perfectly preserved miner’s homes that evoke Gauteng’s early history. Sterkfontein Caves The Sterkfontein Caves are located within a short distance of Gauteng, and are famed as the source of a number of important archaeological discoveries, including some of the most ancient hominid remains on the planet. This World Heritage Site is a working excavation, with paleo-anthropologists continuing to delve into the hidden mysteries of this limestone cave complex. Scientists consider this site to be the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, making it a must-see destination for any trip to Gauteng. Johannesburg Zoo If your Gauteng accommodation is located within the city of Johannesburg, and you don’t have time to venture beyond the city limits to explore a game reserve, you won’t want to miss out on the Johannesburg Zoo. Set in the leafy suburb of Parktown, the Johannesburg zoo features a vast selection of large, natural enclosures featuring a selection of Africa’s most famous reptile and mammal species. The zoo has a peaceful feel, and makes for a relaxing but fascinating day trip. Constitution Hill Politics is central to South African society, and a visit to Constitution is in order once you have settled into your Gauteng accommodation. This venue is home to the South African constitutional court, and is built on the infamous Old Fort Prison Complex that once detained the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Constitution Hill is an ideal destination for Gauteng travellers wishing to learn more about South Africa’s turbulent political history. The complex is regarded as a ‘living museum’ that includes exhibits on the history of the Old Fort Prison as well as South Africa’s struggle for freedom. • Mpumalanga The northernmost reaches of South Africa provide unending vistas of unspoiled African bush. Mpumalanga Province, which translates as ‘the place where the sun rises’, stretches from the borders of Mozambique in the north, down to the northernmost reaches of Kwazulu-Natal. The area is best known for its game-viewing opportunities and spectacular scenery, which include: The Kruger National Park
  7. 7. One of the world’s largest game reserves, the Kruger National Park straddles the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. The southern region of the park lies in the north of the Mpumalanga province, and features both terrain and species unique to this area of the park. Many visitors to the Kruger National Park choose to enter the reserve in Mpumalanga, traverse the park by car, and then depart near the Limpopo town of Phalaborwa. Numerous Mpumalanga accommodation options are available in the park, including budget rest camps and more pricey private lodges. Sudwala Caves One of South Africa’s most famous cave complexes lies within the borders of the Mpumalanga Province. These caves are the oldest known caves on the planet, and once provided shelter to the prehistoric tribes that roamed the area. Once a month the managers of the Sudwala Caves offer a 5-hour-long ‘Crystal Tour’ which culminates in a magnificent crystal chamber. However, casual visitors can explore several of the cave’s enormous chambers during a typical day visit, and one chamber is even used to host musical concerts. The Blyde River Canyon The Blyde River Canyon ranks amongst South Africa’s most magnificent natural spectacles. Carved out of the hills of Mpumalanga by the Blyde Rivier, this canyon harbours a number of attractions, including the majestic Tula Waterfall and the famous Bourke’s Luck Potholes. As one of the region’s most prominent tourist destinations, the Blyde River Canyon offers excellent tourist infrastructure. This includes numerous Mpumalanga accommodation options catering to all budgets, as well as a variety of guided tours to the various natural features around the canyon. Pilgrim’s Rest If you’re looking for a window into South Africa’s distant past, look no further than the ancient mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest. This national monument was once the country’s most active alluvial gold mine, where thousands of miners sifted river sand in search of gold nuggets. Efforts have been made to preserve the buildings and infrastructure around Pilgrim’s Rest, providing an authentic sense of what life must have been like for the earliest settlers in this region. Don’t miss out on the Pilgrim’s Rest graveyard, a haunting evocation of the danger and uncertainty that plagued the short lives of South Africa’s early miners. Booking accommodation in Pilgrim’s Rest is well worth the experience. • Limpopo
  8. 8. The Limpopo Province conjures images of the African heartland: vast expanses of untarnished bush, herds of African game, majestic hills and valleys and the warmth of the African sun. An ideal destination for travellers looking to get in touch with Africa’s soul, the Limpopo Province is home to a number of superb game parks: Polokwane Game Park Polokwane, the capital of the Limpopo Province, is close to one of the most accessible game parks in the region. The Polokwane Game Park is located within a half-day drive of the busy metropolis of Gauteng, making it an excellent destination for a weekend trip. A large portion of the Polokwane Game Park comprises flat grassland, which means game tends to be less concealed and therefore easier to spot. Many visitors to the park tend to choose accommodation in Polokwane, thanks to its numerous hotels and lodges catering to all budgets, and its proximity to the park. Kruger National Park Once you have whetted your appetite for the African wilderness, you can head towards the world famous Kruger National Park, which straddles the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces. This wilderness area is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, and is one of the largest game reserves on the planet. The Kruger National Park can be easily accessed via the Limpopo town of Palaborwa. One of the advantages of a visit to the Kruger National Park is the freedom to traverse the park’s pathways by car, spotting game you meander through the African bush at your own pace. Limpopo accommodation tends to range from affordable and rustic rest camps to luxurious private lodges. The Kruger National Park is no exception, featuring a variety of rest camps set in the midst of bush, along with high-end private lodges for the well- heeled traveller. The Waterberg The Waterberg Massif straddles the northern-most reaches of South Africa, providing an authentic taste of wildest Africa. The area is a recognised UNESCO Biosphere area, which includes native forests and rolling, sun-drenched grasslands. If you choose the town of Lapalala for your Limpopo accommodation requirements, you will have the opportunity to visit some of South Africa’s best known cave paintings. This area, recognised as one of the ‘cradles’ of mankind, is home to a number of well- preserved rock paintings, which effectively convey the immense antiquity of the region. • North West Province The North West Province is one of South Africa’s most accessible wilderness areas. While not as sparsely populated as the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces, the North West Province still manages to serve up vistas of virgin bushveld, herds of wildlife and plenty of African charm.
  9. 9. Magaliesberg The Magaliesberg Mountains is one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The ancient area is rapidly developing into one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa, with travellers flocking to the Magaliesberg to explore its verdant hiking trails and the deep, tranquil ‘kloofs’ created by erosion and mountain streams. The Hartebeespoort Dam is one of the major attractions located amidst the Magaliesberg Mountains. Visitors to the area can visit the Hartebeespoort Snake Park, take a boat trip on the Hartebeespoort Dam or enjoy a relaxed lunch at one of the many quaint eateries that line the shore of the dam. Pilanesberg National Park If it is game viewing you are after, look no further than the Pilanesberg National Park. The park is situated at the center of an ancient super-volcano, with its slopes offering excellent views of the wildlife that teems on the sun-drenched savannah of the park’s plateau. The Pilanesberg National Park is home to South Africa’s famous ‘Big Five’, with lions, elephants, rhino, cheetahs and buffalo to be found amongst the park’s large game population. Various North West accommodation options are located in close proximity to the park, including Kwa Maritane and Manyane. Sun City No visit to the North West Province is complete without a visit to Sun City, South Africa’s premier casino destination. This glitzy casino resort offers premium North West accommodation, with visitors able to choose between four different hotel complexes, including the spectacular ‘Lost City’. Located in close proximity to the Pilanesberg National Park, Sun City is as much a theme park as it is a casino and hotel. Visitors to this destination can enjoy a world-class water park, a top quality golf course, superb international live acts in the arena, and the electric excitement of one of the country’s most glamorous casinos. When visiting South Africa, there are few things more luxurious than accommodation in Sun City. Booking accommodation in South Africa Whichever province you’re travelling to, you’ll be able to find the ideal accommodation venue online. Browse e-SouthAfrica.com to find a range of South African accommodation establishments to match your travel style and your budget, and then book online to take advantage of our easy, quick and rewarding booking facility.

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