South Africa Major Icons and Attractions

Nelson Mandela Square, South Africa.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is truly spectacular from any angle, but the view of choice is undoubtedly that from Bloubergstrand on the opposite side of Table Bay. It forms the backdrop to almost any holiday experience in Cape Town, but the mountain itself is worth visiting for its stunning views of the city and coastline, as well as the lovely, flower-strewn walks on its summit. Now part of the Cape Peninsula National Park, the mountain is truly the wild heart of Cape Town. Most visitors on South African holidays choose to ascend the mountain by cable car, but there are lovely, not too strenuous walks as well.

The big five (wildlife)

Most visitors to South Africa come here to see big game. For most, this means the big five, namely elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. The term "big five" is a hangover from the days of big game hunting. The Kruger National Parkis South Africa's premier game-viewing destination. It is an enormous reserve of two million hectares about the same size as Wales or the state of Massachusetts.

It is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park as the fences between South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are starting to be taken down to allow the animals to return to their ancient migratory routes and create one of the largest wilderness conservation areas on the world. The park is home to the big five, as well as 150 other species of mammals, a staggering 507 species of birds and covers several vegetations zones.

Although the southern part of the park has extensive and comfortable visitor facilities, the northern part is somewhat more remote with fewer facilities, so it's a great place for slightly more adventurous visitors. Guests on South African holidays may drive around in their own cars, do an escorted game drive, an escorted night drive (no private vehicles allowed at night) or for the really adventurous - an escorted wilderness walking safari.

Cape Point

This the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. While it might not officially be the places where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet it is still one of the most spectacular headlands in the world - no wonder Sir Francis Drake - after his record-breaking circumnavigation dubbed it "the fairest cape in all the circumference of the world".

(The official meeting point has been declared to be at Cape Agulhas - the southernmost point of Africa). Needle-sharp and steep-sided, Cape Point lords it over a sometimes wild and stormy sea. But, on the usually bright summer days, it is sunny and pleasant with pretty fragrant flowers all around.

The point is at the far end of the Cape Peninsula National Park, in the section that was previously called the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. You can visit here by car, on a bus trip or, for the more adventurous, join a cycle tour through the reserve, ending with a walk to the viewpoint. The truly adventurous guests on South African holidays may like to join a sea kayak trip around the point - only done in perfect weather.

Johannesburg

Johannesburg is undoubtedly the economic and industrial powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa. Going by many names, it is at various times - called Joburg, Egoli, the City of Gold or Jozi. Spreading out across the Highveld, it encompasses a number of different areas and suburbs, all with very different characters. One of the most surprising is that it comes up on satellite photographs as a sub-tropical area as it contains one of the largest man-made forests in the world.

The inner city is in a state of flux - it is being rapidly revamped, with new theatres, galleries and whole areas given over to cultural renewal. The Newtown Cultural Precinct is home to theatre, jazz, clubs and restaurants as well as museums making it one of the new trendy areas. As a major business center for the region, Johannesburg boasts a number of world-class conference facilities.

The Northern Suburbs, which form the defacto business centre, is a monument to opulence while trendy areas like Melville speak eloquently of the creativity and vibrancy of the residents of this dynamic city. The sprawling township of Alexandria situated right next to the upmarket Sandton emphasises quite clearly the many-faceted nature of Johannesburg that is eloquently illustrated by the city-within-a-city of Soweto. With its prominent role in the overthrowing of apartheid, Soweto is an icon itself as the 16th most popular attraction in South Africa. The heritage routes take travellers through history while seeing the homes of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and spending some time drinking and eating in a local shebeen.

Blyde River Canyon

Guests on South African holidays will love the sight of this beautiful canyon, situated in Mpumalanga Province. It is the third largest canyon in the world. It can be seen to great effect from a number of viewpoints, including a spectacular peek into its depths at the Bourke's Luck Potholes. Here the river has carved crazy rock formations, potholes and pourovers out of the gleaming rust-coloured quartzite. There is a two-day hiking trail that crisscrosses the canyon, and a rafting trip for the intrepid. For those wanting to get closer to the canyon, without too much huff and puff, there is self-catering accommodation to rent, right in the canyon. The southern part of the Kruger National Park is also very close by.

Cape Town

Cape Town is one of the world's favourite cities. There is just something about it. It's not just the scenery and the place it occupies at the tip of Africa, but also in the hearts and minds of all who have visited this memorable city. In and of Africa, it is yet something entirely different. Broadly cosmopolitan, this incredible city is so many things to so many people. But whether it's culture, wine, scenery, the home ofthe parliament, the beach, or the many wonderful leisure activities available here - Cape Town will capture the heart and soul of your clients. The new international conference centre that will link the city to the world-famous Waterfront is an exciting addition to this diverse city.

Robben Island

One of the World Heritage Sites, Robben Island is an international symbol of South Africa's unique approach to reconciling past differences. During its long history, this little piece of land in Table Bay has been a prison, a leper colony, a lunatic asylum and a military base - in short, a cupboard for the various skeletons. It is of course best known as the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during the apartheid years. Since 1994, Robben Island is the concrete manifestation of the culture of forgiveness that South Africans are trying to forge in their country. Incidentally, it is also a pretty place with bounding antelope, many birds, including a large colony of African penguins, and gorgeous scenery.

Garden Route

The Garden Route runs from Mossel Bay in the west to Tsitsikamma in the east. It is a very refined destination with great guest houses and lodges, wonderful restaurants, hundreds of creative craft outlets and a number of museums and areas of historical interest. But it really is about the scenery. This area is just beautiful and a wonderful destination for guests on South African holidays. It consists mainly of lovely coastal towns, backed by high, forested mountains and facing a spectacularly rugged coastline - interspersed with lovely beaches, of course. It is a really easy area to travel, the roads are excellent and towns are close together. Active travellers will never get bored - there is diving, golf, surfing, abseiling, bungy jumping, paragliding, canoeing, kayaking, horse riding, hiking, mountain biking - oh, lots. And what's more it is a great place for family holidays.

Union Buildings

The Union Buildings, along with Robben Island, are an example of the way South Africans have transformed their national symbols in their new democracy. Built to house the Union of South Africa that, in 1910, united the British colonies of the Cape and Natal with the independent Boer republics of the Transvaal and the Free State, this magnificent edifice was, in every sense a symbol of European colonialism.

However, with the change in 1961 of South Africa to a white-governed republic and the democratic freedoms that came after 1994, the building remains with its name unchanged. Still the seat of government, it has changed its symbolic meaning with each successive government and, as such, now truly represents the political soul of South Africa. The Union buildings, which were completed in 1913, was designed by the celebrated colonial architect, Sir Herbert Baker.

Drakensberg

This imposing mountain range, which is highest in Southern Africa and divides the coastal plain from the high inland plateau, is a superb wilderness area. Much of the range falls within the Ukahlamba-Drakensberg Park which is an amalgamation of the many pre-existing smaller parks, including the well-known Royal Natal, Lotheni, Rugged Glen, Cobham and others. This park, which is already a World Heritage Site for both its spectacular natural beauty and rich collection of rock art, is in the process of being consolidated into a large conservation with South Africa's neighbours in Lesotho to form the Maluti Transfrontier Park.

The major attraction for guests on South African holidays is the glorious scenery spectacularly steep and rugged mountains rise up above the plain in a manner which explains the meaning of the Zulu name, Ukahlamba - Barrier of Spears. In summer, the whole area is bright green with new growth and, in winter, the acres of waving blonde grass are highlighted by a frosting of snow on the high peaks.

The Afro-montane grassland biome is renowned for its many species of wonderful flowers, interesting game, such as eland and reedbuck, and rich bird life. Active visitors can walk, ride a horse, play golf, do fly-fishing or wander up to look at rock paintings, while the more sybaritic can explore craft shops, sample the wares at cheese farms, coffee shops and farm stalls in the foothills. Keen golfers are offered a wide choice of scenic courses. All these activities makes the Drakensberg a popular place for outings.

Durban

What a city! With its sub-tropical climate, vibrant population and the beach practically in the city centre, it's a blast. Great beaches, great music, great food. Everyone is laid back. Surfers, Zulu ricksha drivers, frolicking children, elegant sari-clad matrons, bikiniclad teenagers, and even the odd executive out for a Tuesday lunchtime run, make the beachfront a hive of activity.

The diverse mix of cultures and religion also makes for a wonderful built environment. Lovely sandstone colonial buildings rub shoulders with ornate Hindu temples and the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere regularly sends its call to prayer over the city streets. There is a range of accommodation, with the majority of hotels strung out along the beachfront, all with wonderful views.

Active visitors will enjoy diving, surfing, sailing and golf while those interested in culture and history will have a field day with all the wonderful historic buildings, monuments, art galleries, craft centres, and nearby cultural villages. Durban is also a world-class conference venue, with the International Convention Centre and the adjacent Durban Exhibition Centre able to accommodate conferences of up to 15,000 delegates.

Greater St Lucia Wetland Park

Stretching from the mouth of the St Lucia Estuary in the south to Kosi Bay in the north, extending into the Indian Ocean on the east, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park is an amalgamation of a number of smaller parks and conservation areas. It is the biggest wetland system in the southern hemisphere and is a South African World Heritage Site. Conserving a range of biomes from coral reef, estuary and wetland to open Bushveld, this world heritage site is home to an astonishingly diverse range of creatures. Highlights are diving at Sodwana Bay, paddling or birdwatching at Kosi Bay, paddling on Lake St Lucia itself, birdwatching at Mkhuze and, of course, general game watching. The park is very close to the wonderful Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park and borders on the Phinda Resource Reserve and its luxury lodges.

Namaqualand Flowers

The arid areas to the north and north-west of Cape Town are renowned for their brilliant display of spring flowers - the rare sight of a desert in full bloom. The different areas have different characters so, in one locality there are acres of daisies spreading out to the horizon, while in another, dozens of species of flowering bulbs grow together to create a little "garden", with small deflation hollows between snow white dunes looking like deep pools as they fill with nodding bright blue flowers.

Sun City

Sun City is the destination of choice for the tourist who wants to gamble, eat in a variety of restaurants, watch a show or two, and generally indulge in all sorts of hedonistic pleasures. The glitz is relieved by some fun outdoor options including a manmade beach and wave pool, and two world renowned championship golf courses. Not far away, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve offers a chance to escape into the wilds for game drives and walks, and the Madikwe Game Reserve offers luxury lodges within easy distance.

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