Every spring in the usually-barren deserts of Namaqualand, a mass of colors emerges from the parched landscape. The wildflowers have arrived – 1,000 of the 3000 species unique to the area – making this a unique springtime haven for knowledgeable travelers and photographers from all over the world. This is just one example of the lesser-known South Africa waiting to be discovered.
South Africa has the fabulous scenery of 21 National Parks. It has eight World Heritage Sites, over 3,500km of fine coastline, plus an agreeable and varied climate. In South Africa also, there are sights and adventures to repay an extended stay with memories and thrills to last a lifetime. Some of these are natural wonders; others are of historic or sporting interest, not least the amazing opportunities for big-game viewing, shark-diving for the intrepid and surfing for the enthusiast.
South Africa’s southern cape is where two great oceans meet – the Indian and Atlantic – which makes for a unique and varied marine ecosystem. Here is the ideal environment for an extraordinary number of creatures. Key amongst these is the phenomenon known as ‘the greatest shoal on Earth‘. This describes the massive numbers of migrating sardines, more than ten million of which come down the east coast between June and August every year, attract hungry dolphins and massive flocks of dive-bombing gannets.
Meantime, further around from the cape, there is a large and accessible population of Great White Sharks at False Bay. Here, the sharks group together to hunt the Cape Fur Seals breeding on Seal Island. Amazingly, the sharks can be seen to leap clear of the water whilst hunting the seals in a technique known as ‘Air Jaws’. False Bay has become the leading destination for travelers to see this spectacle.
Moving on from the sights of the natural world, those interested in ancient history will want to visit the Taung ‘Heritage Site in North West Province. Here in 1924 a two million-year-old human skull that was unearthed here during excavations, one of the most significant archaeological finds at the time. Also worth a visit for pre-history enthusiasts is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vredefort Dome. This has the largest and most visible meteorite impact crater on Earth, created by the impact of a meteorite the size of Table Mountain itself.
Those interested in more recent history might want to know about Vilakazi Street in Soweto. This is the only place in the world that was once housed two Nobel Laureates – Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the former President, Nelson Mandela. Here, visitors will find the Mandela House Museum, and also the award-winning Sakhurnzi’s Restaurant famous for its African township cuisine and specialities such as roast beef with honey.
And for those looking for the thrills and excitement of extreme sports, the natural locations offered by South Africa add a new dimension. This includes rafting, hiking, bungee jumping and abseiling.