Saturday, 08 August 2009

South Africa - why to visit

South Africa has attracted some negative publicity in the international media in recent months. A recent TV documentary by Louis Theroux (Law and disorder in Johannesburg) focussed on crime in two of the worst areas in and around Johannesburg. While the picture is a true one of these areas, it does not represent South Africa or Johannesburg as a whole. Other reports have focussed on corruption and other problem areas of the country.

While these reports are accurate in many ways, they portray only one aspect of a beautiful country and one of the world’s youngest and most vibrant democracies. The crime rate is certainly high, and there have been cases of alleged corruption amongst politicians.

For most people life is much more normal than the images emerging from the TV screens. In fact, there is much that is good and positive about life in South Africa.

The climate and lifestyle of the country were just two of the big attractions to the country.

Located on the South of the African continent, South Africa is a curious mixture of the first and third worlds offering a huge variety of things to do and see.

It is flanked by the Indian Ocean on the East and the Atlantic on the west.

Cape Town is cosmopolitan and sophisticated boasting a huge range of world-class hotels. The latest of these is the One&Only seven star resort which opened in April 2009.

Cape Town is a picturesque city blessed with stunningly beautiful beaches on the warm Indian Ocean and the icy Atlantic. Table Mountain dominates the city wherever you happen to be. Table Mountain resembles a table especially when covered by white clouds that resemble a table cloth.

Restaurants and theatre of all types abound. Cape town is in the heart of the South African wine country, and a popular wine tour is an inexpensive way to experience the richness and variety of South African quality wines.

The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a not to be missed venue. Sit at one of the many restaurants overlooking the harbour and watch the ships come and go.

One of the highlights of the Cape Town year is the annual Coon Carnival' on the first and second of January. The Cape has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and wet winters.

South Africa's largest city is Johannesburg. The city is the business centre of the country and experiences hot wet summers and dry mild winters. Johannesburg has an altitude of 6000 feet above sea level. Johannesburg has little in the way of natural features, but does host a number of good restaurants and theatres. The Market theatre is known as one of the leading fringe theatres in the country and has staged a number of award winning shows over the years.

Johannesburg is host to a number of world class casinos. The best of these is Monte Casino which also hosts a theatre, cinemas, curiosity shops, fashion retailers, night clubs and restaurants. It also plays host to a bird sanctuary and hotel.

While in Johannesburg a visit to the Constitutional Court is a must. This was built on the old Fort prison that played host to Nelson Mandela amongst others. A guided tour is strongly recommended. The architecture is unusual and quite stunning. The court is host to an impressive art collection.

While Johannesburg does experience a high level of crime most people are able to go about their business on a day to day basis with little trouble.

The Cradle of Humankind is the site where the earliest known humanoids were found. The Cradle has been developed into a major resort offering conferences, accommodation, guided tours and much more.

200 kilometres away from Johannesburg is Sun City a spectacular casino resort built in the middle of nowhere.

Sun City has a number of hotels ranging from the Cabanas to the Palace of the Lost City. The Palace is an African dream and not to be missed. Sun City also houses a Vacation Club with self-catering chalets nestling in the hills. Top class restaurants are the order of the day. Bordering on Sun City is the Pilansberg Game reserve which is well worth a tour.

Durban is South Africa's third largest city on the Indian Ocean. It boasts a spectacular aquarium at Shaka's Rock in the form of a ship wreck. The harbour area is also being developed as a popular night spot. To the north are the quiet resorts of Umhlanga and St Lucia boasting beautiful white sand beaches.

The Kruger Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa. This is in malaria territory so precautions are required. To many lions, elephants, rhino, crocodiles, hippos, springboks, wildebeest and a whole range of other animal and bird species this is home. The Kruger Park is about the size of Wales. The best time to view the wildlife is in the early morning, before the heat of the day drives the animals to seek shelter.

South Africa is about to host the FIFA World Cup in 2010. Preceding this huge event was the highly successful Confederations cup in 2009. South Africa has already hosted cricket and rugby world cups and played host to the Indian Professional League 20-20 cricket tournament where capacity crowds filled the stadiums.

While the rest of the world is experiencing the worst recession in recent years, South Africa has thus far escaped the worst. South Africa is an inexpensive holiday venue. A three course meal for two at a good restaurant would cost between R300-R500 or US $30 to $50. Accommodation at a good hotel will range from about $60 per night depending on where and when.

Many visitors to South Africa return to experience the country again. South Africa is a worthwhile and affordable place to visit.

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