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Visiting South Africa

Updated on October 20, 2014

A Virtual Tour of the Land of the Rainbow Nation

South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It is also the land of my childhood and where all my children were born. It is a place populated by so many different ethnic groups that Archbishop Desmond Tutu dubbed us the 'Rainbow Nation'.

Many of you may never have the opportunity to visit South Africa, so I will take you on a virtual tour. Come with me and see my favorite haunts, try our food, meet the locals. And if you can visit, you can get ideas here on what you can do during a real visit to South Africa!.

This lens was made as part of the Jenga challenge on Squidoo. I was challenged by GreekGeek to make a lens on South Africa seen through my eyes. Enjoy!

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/4711380526/

Before You Leave Home

It is always a good idea to get a feel for the country you are visiting before you leave home. I love reading so my first choice for you would be to select one or more of these books set in South Africa to read. Apartheid, the segregation of whites and non-whites, which dominated most of South Africa's history, has left its legacy on the country. Although now all people are equal under the law, the scars remain. I highly recommend you read at least one of these books to understand something of what our country has gone through.

The Story of an African Farm
The Story of an African Farm

A South African classic! This is a book one usually reads at some point in school.

 
Fiela's Child (Phoenix Fiction)
Fiela's Child (Phoenix Fiction)

Set in the area near Knysna, a beautiful story you should read if you plan to visit the area.

 
Cry, the Beloved Country
Cry, the Beloved Country

This is one of my favorite books and gives a great portrayal of life in South Africa in the apartheid era. Not all whites were"bad" and not all blacks "good". The truth was far more complex and Paton does an amazing job of telling it.

 

South African Movies

If you aren't a reader, then I suggest you watch one of these films. The God's Must be Crazy has a sequel which is fun too. It is meant to happen in a neighboring fictious country. The director and most of the actors are South African.


The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

A very funny movie! There is a sequel too if you enjoy this one.

 
District 9 (Single-Disc Edition)
District 9 (Single-Disc Edition)

This is SciFi action - not my type of thing but my son watched it and you will hear South African accents in it.

 
Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior
Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior

This is the story of the leader who made the Zulus into a great nation.

 
Invictus
Invictus

My favorite of all these. And history I lived through! Morgan Freeman made me forget I was watching an actor. This is the story of how rugby helped heal some wounds of apartheid.

 
The Power of One
The Power of One

There is a movie of this book too which I haven't watched but I believe it is also good. This is a gripping portrayal of life in South Africa in more modern times.

 

Let's plan our itinerary for our South Africa trip

We will start in Johannesburg, then fly down to Cape Town, my favorite South African city. From there we will rent a car and drive to Knysna down the beautiful Garden Route. Another flight will take us to the Drakensberg Mountains. And finally, we will fly to the north eastern corner of South Africa and visit a game park.


The Rough Guide to South Africa (Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland)
The Rough Guide to South Africa (Rough Guide to South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland)

If you want to add more stops, this is an excellent book to use.

 
Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg | Source

The Start of our Journey: Egoli, City of gold

If you can, fly to South Africa on South African Airways. It will give you the first experience of the culture. The largest international airport in South Africa is Johannesburg International, so we will fly in there and spend a day or two getting rid of jet lag. Johannesburg is the financial hub of South Africa and the largest city. It is also not one of my favorite places to visit as it is a big city! But there are some fun things to do. Here are my recommendations if you decide to visit Johannesburg:

Time for your first meal in South Africa

South Africa has great food. Tonight we will visit the best fast food chain here - Nando's. Nando's makes Portugese-style chicken and I can still remember how great it tastes even after 8 years of not tasting it!



Nando's Medium Peri-Peri Sauce (2 x125ml Pack)
Nando's Medium Peri-Peri Sauce (2 x125ml Pack)

Nandos sauces are really really yummy. They come in a variety of 'strengths'. Start with mild if you aren't sure which to get. They also have various flavors - Peri-Peri is their signature one, but Lemon & Herb is my favorite. Amazon carries all of them, I think!

 

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Now on to visit Cape Town

Cape Town Waterfront
Cape Town Waterfront | Source

Cape Town is possibly the most beautiful city on earth. It is nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, so named because it looks like a table. I went to college here, met my husband here and my third and fourth children were born in Cape Town. So, it also has many great memories for me.

Cape Town has exquisite beaches, but as the water is rather cold - even in summer - I preferred walking along them to swimming. But Cape Town also is a great place for people who love history and nature. Come with me to visit my favorite places.


Victoria and Albert Waterfront

Vistoria and Albert Waterfront, Cape Town
Vistoria and Albert Waterfront, Cape Town | Source

Spend a morning wandering around the waterfront. If you are lucky you are staying in a hotel in the vicinity. I love to just stand and watch the boats coming in and out, but if you get tired of doing that, there are also plenty of unique stores to amuse you.

Eat lunch at the waterfront - there are wonderful restaurants around every corner. In fact, all over Cape Town you will find some of the best eating places to be found anywhere in the world. So, forget about your diet, and enjoy!

After lunch catch a boat to Robbin Island and visit the place Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. It is a very moving experience. If you have time also take a sunset catamaran cruise round the harbor. My husband and I did that for a wedding anniversary. Magical!

Visit the Penguins at Boulders Beach

One of my favorite things to do is to drive down to Boulders Beach and watch the penguins who live there. They are just the cutest critters.

Eating with the Locals

South Africans are very friendly and hospitable, and when you visit South Africa you may well find yourself invited to someone's home for a meal. If you are, you are likely to be invited to a braai. Be sure to watch this hilarious video to see how you should behave if you are.

Day Trips from Cape Town

There are many fishing hamlets you can drive to in a day that make for a fun visit, but the day trip I would most recommend is to the wine farms near Franschoek and Stellenbosch. The Huguenots fled to South Africa to escape persecution and brought their knowledge of wine farming with them. The farms are breathtakingly beautiful and the wines are excellent. Most farms offer wine tasting and some also serve meals. Make sure you are really hungry as the food is plentiful and delicious.

Other things to do in Cape Town

To get a feel for the local history, a visit to the castle (or fort) is a must. It is in the heart of downtown Cape Town, so come with me and see if you can find it. Use the map and the hints to locate it. A few more clues: look near the main railway station and close to the water.

Found it? Now take a tour.

For some other things to do, select from this list:

The Garden Route

From Cape Town drive along the coast to Knysna. This is known as the Garden Route because of how beautiful it is. First you wind your way over mountains, then you hug the coast and enjoy spectacular views on your 4 hour drive. My parents own a holiday home in Brenton, just outside Knysna, but there won't be place for you, so I suggest you stop at a cute Bed and Breakfast in Knysna itself. The town is one of the prettiest in South Africa and has excellent shops. Many artists make their home in Knysna, so don't bypass the art galleries. We have a number of paintings from local artists on our walls.

The Drakensberg Mountains

We will fly to Durban and the rent a car to take us into the Drakensberg Mountains. Durban is on the warm Indian Ocean so stop at a beach for a swim if you are so inclined before you start your drive. Drakensberg literally means 'dragon's mountain' and these beautiful mountains are a great place for hikers and nature lovers to get away from it all. Spend a day or two exploring the area.

Final Stop: Game Parks

The Kruger National Park is the largest game park in the world. We visited regularly throughout my childhood and I loved the experience of staying in thatched-roofed rondavels (round huts) and driving through the park trying to spot the wildlife.

If you can afford it, try to stay in one of the private game parks. My dad treated us to a trip in one just before we left South Africa. You will get to ride in a jeep through the bush and get really close to the animals. A tracker will follow the spoor (markings left by the animals) in order to let you see as many different species as possible. I can't begin to describe how amazing this experience is ... you need to do it to understand! Seriously, you really can't visit South Africa without visiting a game park.

These photos were all taken in game parks by my father, John Temple, or my brother, Peter Temple.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Souvenirs from your visit to South Africa

The cheapest place to buy souvenirs are the stalls set up at tourist attractions and on the edge of main roads. Popular items are wooden bowls, handmade jewelery and items made from wire. And then of course, there are always vuvuzelas!

Do you want to visit South Africa? Have you already visited? - Share your favorite thing you did there, or want to do there

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    • Mariefg profile image

      Marie Greyvenstein 2 years ago from Alexandria , Eastern Cape , South Africa

      Great , this is exactly why I love South Africa .

    • Magda2012 profile image

      Magda2012 4 years ago

      Never been to South Africa. Hopefully one day I can go there! Your article is a very nice introduction of South Africa!

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      What beautiful photos and information! I will certainly add this to my Africa lens. Thanks for the note and retweet. :)

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      One of my favourite memories as a teenager in the 1950's is travelling by train from Zambia to Capetown, a five-day journey. I loved pulling out the bunks and sleeping on the steam train, with its perpetual motion and rhythmical noise, travelling through the changing countryside, through the Karoo Desert, and then finally arriving for a wonderful holiday. I never lived there, but went to school in Johannesburg, University in Capetown, and had frequent holidays in Capetown. I loved the old historic buildings there - probably all replaced by skyscrapers now!

      Here are some angel blessings for reviving happy memories!

    • JeremiahStanghini profile image

      JeremiahStanghini 6 years ago

      I look forward to one day visiting S. Africa!

      With Love and Gratitude,

      Jeremiah

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      If I ever do have the opportunity to visit South Africa, I shall certainly revisit your lens for tips on places to go and things to see and do. I absolutely love your photos, they are beautiful and excellently photographed. Well done!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Funny quiz, hi, hi, I have to do it better next time.

      Very informative lens Blessed by an Angel

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 6 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Beautiful - so many beautiful places to visit!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 6 years ago

      Wonderful! ~ Blessed >*

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I've been to SA 7 or 8 times... I am moving there for 18 months

    • petermurray profile image

      Peter Murray 6 years ago from Izmir, Turkey

      I'm adding South Africa to my travel wish list

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a gorgeous lens and wonderful love story. I really haven't known much about South Africa, so you just gave me and inviting introduction. I have seen The God's Must be Crazy and did enjoy that. I love the background map of South Africa throughout, it does something special. Perfectly done!

    • profile image

      KDimmick 6 years ago

      Nice Jenga challenge. Blessed by an angel :)

    • charle lm profile image

      charle lm 6 years ago

      I also wrote a lens about sierra leone and would like you to read it , thanks

    • Springbok LM profile image

      Springbok LM 6 years ago

      My favorite place on earth - A country so diverse that you can be in the snow capped mountains of the Drakensberg to the deserts of the little Karoo and down to the beaches of the east coast of Afrika. A rainbow nation and a rainbow land full of golden treasurers

    • DallasNicole LM profile image

      DallasNicole LM 6 years ago

      I am in love with this lens. The way you designed it makes one feel that they have been there after reading... Thanks for sharing!

    • PaulaMorgan profile image

      Paula Morgan 6 years ago from Sydney Australia

      I love the way you have laid out this page. I probably won't make it there but I have enjoyed most of those movies

    • Addy Bell profile image

      Addy Bell 6 years ago

      I definitely want to visit South Africa some day. It's a fascinating place, with some truly awesome music. What a lovely addition to the jenga tower. Thank you.

    • javr profile image

      javr 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Good job. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • javr profile image

      javr 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Good job. Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • profile image

      barefootedboy 6 years ago

      I have been many times to SA , I love it there and have to say that this a great way to get a taste for the country- Well done

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 6 years ago from New Zealand

      I had never thought about visiting South Africa before but seeing it through your eyes it is much more appealing. Great lens.

    • Dawoud-Williams profile image

      D Williams 6 years ago

      Yes have been blessed to visit numerous times. The Kramaats of Cape Town and the Cable car are also wonderful. Cape Town is good for the surfers. I would like to (visit) and hear more about Durban and the Transvall in general. Thanks

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      I loved the quiz on speaking English in South Africa. Even though I only got half of them right, I am sure that I would love to visit South Africa.Thank you for showing us so many delightful sites to see there.

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 6 years ago from Montana

      This is lens of the day worthy...a fantastic delivery on the jenga challenge.

    • profile image

      gods_grace_notes 6 years ago

      I saw a documentary about the penguins that was totally captivating... your homeland is beautiful, and your story makes me want to learn more about Africa!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great lens! I loved the BBQ video.

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      This is a beautiful lens! I have never been but it looks amazing. And an excellent quiz as well - I managed 7 correct, many of the words like nappy and lift are what we use in the UK!

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 6 years ago

      I've been to the northern part of Africa, but never made it to South Africa. From your tour it is just as I pictured it! What a glorious lens for a fantastic tour! The Jenga tower is growing and now I'm off to work on my own!

    • ChemKnitsBlog2 profile image

      ChemKnitsBlog2 6 years ago

      I have not visited South Africa. I'm afraid that I only knew the words in the quiz that my family in the UK use as well. I would love to visit the country someday. Fantastic addition to the Jenga tower!

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

      What a beautiful, beautiful lens! It was just what I hoped -- I learned a lot (and I loved the language poll), and got to see a part of the world I know far too little about, geographically! My parents will be flying there on the way to Magascar for a nature cruise in February; I hope they get a chance to get out and see a few sights.

      Thank you so much! I hope that despite the hassles you enjoyed putting this together -- it's a wonderful lens.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      I have always wanted to visit Africa to photograph the animals. Now you have given me several additional reasons to want to visit. Oh, but I need a translator :) Beautifully presented!

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 6 years ago

      You have built an amazing lens to showcase South Africa. Wonderful job and a fantastic jenga block! And now I know what lekker is.