South Africa has surfaced out of dark days to share its brilliant bushveld, award-winning wine regions, emerging cities and golden beaches with the world. Spend time scouting out the creatures of the savanna, immersing in the colourful culture and cruising through the cosmopolitan cities that shine with optimism and enthusiasm.
South Africa Tours & Travel
All our South Africa trips
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Articles on South Africa
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South Africa Highlights
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in South Africa, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in South Africa you may find yourself staying in a:
About South Africa
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Pretoria (official, population 1 million); Bloemfontein (judicial, population 370,000); Cape Town (legislative, population 2.9 million)
- 49 million
- Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Swati, Tshivenda, Tsonga, North Sotho
- Time zone:
- (GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria
- Type M (see D)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit South Africa
South Africa is an excellent year-round destination. Winters are mild, dry and good for wildlife viewing. Summers can get very hot and humid, but are a great time for visiting beaches and festivals. Spring is a great time for viewing wildflowers in the Northern and Western Cape provinces, and very little rain falls anywhere in autumn but the days are warm and the nights cool. Overall, there’s always a good time to head to South Africa.
Culture and customs
The cuisine is generally a combination of Indian, Dutch, English and tribal flavours and techniques, while dress can range from modern fashion in the big cities to simple traditional, tribal dress in the bush. Although South Africa has made significant inroads towards peace and reconciliation since the end of apartheid, racial tensions are sometimes evident and it is generally best not to contribute to this in any way. Overall, most travellers will find South Africans to be welcoming, appreciative of your visit and ready to share their homeland and stories.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Things to try in South Africa
South Africa is fast becoming one of the most interesting wine producing regions in the world. Quality has risen steeply in the past decade so if you’re visiting the Stellenbosch Wine Region, be sure to sample some fine reds, which are world-class.
With such easy access to the Indian Ocean and Southern Atlantic, South Africa boasts some of the best seafood dining experiences you’ll ever have. From an indulgent oyster platter at a Cape Town restaurant to a spicy seafood curry in Durban, the seafood here is fresh, cheap and flavoursome.
Biltong tends to divide people. Some find this preserved, spiced meat snack impossible to refuse and others simply can’t stomach it. Either way, it’s extremely popular and readily available in markets, supermarkets and shops throughout South Africa.
Another one for the meat-lovers, this coiled, spicy sausage is a South African delicacy best done on the barbecue. Flavoured with coriander, cloves and nutmeg, this is a meat born from South African and Dutch traditions.
Geography and environment
Located on the tip of Southern Africa, South Africa shares land borders with Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland. It also shares a long stretch of coastline with the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans. The topography of the land changes remarkably around the country, from the lofty plateaux of the inland region to the low-lying coast and mountainous ranges of the Cape. This variance in topography makes South Africa rich in many species of flora and fauna, something that attracts many tourists and travellers from all over the world.
History and government
The land of South Africa has been inhabited for centuries by tribes hailing from different areas of the African continent, including the San and Bantu people. Most tribes relied on hunting and gathering, but gradually were introduced to agriculture and animal husbandry over the years. From around 1200 AD, the tribal people of South Africa started to become influenced by outsiders, including Muslim traders, the Portuguese and the Dutch, who established a settlement in the mid 1600s.
The Dutch continued to dominate the country until the 1800s, when the British became interested in the Cape Colony. During this time, the native population had become increasingly dissatisfied with being marginalised and treated poorly by their European colonisers. Many native people were used as slaves on plantations and were treated brutally by their ‘employers’ and many resented losing their land, culture and traditional way of life. Further to this, the Dutch descendants (known as Boers) didn’t appreciate the arrival of the British in a territory they had inhabited for years before their arrival. This frustration and anger regularly resulted in confrontation and armed conflict between the British, Boers and Zulus, culminating in a series of wars – most notably the Boer Wars.
More recently, South Africa has managed to overcome the Apartheid era, a time where discrimination of black people was legalised. Until 1994, black people were unable to legally own land or vote in elections. Further to this, education, healthcare, beaches and public places like cinemas were segregated. During this time, South Africa was ruled and controlled by the white minority, much to the dissatisfaction of the black population and ultimately, the world. After much international pressure and many attempts at reform, the Apartheid era was finally ended in 1994, with Nelson Mandela stepping up to lead the nation as President. Due to this challenging history, modern day South Africa has many social issues to work on and resolve, but many of its people are filled with hope and optimism. In 2010, South Africa successfully hosted the FIFA World Cup, much to the delight of its citizens and the world.
Top 10 Photo-Worthy Places of South Africa
1. Drakensberg Mountains
Use your wide-angle lens to capture the majestic Drakensberg Mountain Range in all its panoramic glory. This impressive mountain range is the highest in Southern Africa and provides a wide and wonderful scope for impressive postcard-worthy shots.
Rolling green pastures, vineyards and orchards combine to create classic photo moments straight out of a guidebook. This cultured and charming area showcases a different side to South Africa, and will no doubt have people guessing where your photo was taken.
This quaint seaside town located on South Africa’s Garden Route is one of the most photogenic in Africa. Whether you’re snapping the boats in the harbour, the dolphins frolicking in the waves or the wild and rocky coast, it’s hard not to snap Knysna in a good light.
Fans of street art will love capturing the murals and memorials of spirited Soweto. The gritty urban landscapes and candid faces make it simple to capture the soul of this endearing, inspiring community.
This gem of the South African Coast has retained a village atmosphere despite its growing popularity with tourists. The beaches, bays and rock pools provide sensational photography moments, especially at dawn and dusk when the sun gives off incredible, moody light.
6. Cape Town
Easily one of the most picturesque cities in the world, Cape Town has some of the most photo-worthy landscapes in the world. From breathtaking Table Mountain to the stunning coast and beautiful beaches, Cape Town has profound natural beauty coming at you from every angle.
Sure, Durban’s beaches are special but the interesting mix of Indian, Muslim, African and European influences makes for great photography. Durban’s cultural cornucopia of markets, mosques and galleries offers rich fodder for snap-happy travellers looking to capture a different side of Africa.
8. Lamberts Bay
The tremendously large colony of Cape Gannet birds who live off Lamberts Bay is often photographed - and with good reason. The sight of hundreds of birds tightly packed into a small space against a backdrop of azure ocean provides a unique, snap-worthy photo subject.
9. Blyde River Canyon
This canyon is every bit as stunning as America’s Grand Canyon, yet in a different way. Lush greenery grows over most of the area and a diverse range of animal and plant life is supported within its deep cliffs and valleys. It’s difficult to take a bad photo here, as Mother Nature has kindly provided a near perfect canvas.
10. Kruger National Park
This iconic national park has some of the ‘most-photographed’ animals in the world. Visitors love capturing shots of lions hunting prey, elephants drinking at waterholes and cheetahs sleeping under trees. Mesmerising amber sunsets and rolling savanna only add to the atmospheric magic of it all.
From the provincial markets of sleepy towns, through the malls of Johannesburg and to the galleries and cafes of Cape Town, there are many options for parting with money in South Africa. From budget market souvenirs to more indulgent bespoke buys, visitors will be pleased with the variety on offer here.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in South Africa
1. Zulu Beads
Zulu beadwork acts as a form of communication for Zulu people but visitors are usually drawn to buy beads for their vibrancy and visual appeal. Necklaces, bracelets and head pieces are particularly popular.
2. Township Art
This urban art form involves recycling common landfill items like soft drink cans, telephone wire, paper and tyres, and turning them into jewellery, ornaments, key rings, bags and toys. Township art makes a unique souvenir or gift as it supports local artists and keeps excess waste out of landfill.
3. Gourmet Goodies
The Cape area has loads of amazing providores and food producers, so this is the best place to stock up on chutneys, jams and preserves made from local mango, fig, oranges and grapes.
4. Rooibos Products
This caffeine-free herbal tea has been drunk in South Africa for generations, and is a cheap souvenir option for friends and family back home. You will also be able to find rooibos skincare and beauty products too.
Festivals and Events in South Africa
This national public holiday commemorates the anniversary of South Africa’s constitution democracy – a very important sentiment to Africans living in the post-apartheid world. Marked by military flyovers, song, dance and other entertainment, this is a time of celebration, peace and unity.
Cape Town Jazz Festival
Cape Town shines with two days of hot jazz performances from African entertainers at this very popular festival. Although many of the shows sell out well in advance, the free outdoor concert ensures no one misses out.
Knysna Oyster Festival
This annual festival held over 10 days in winter offers so much more than oysters. Sure, indulge in some oysters but don’t forget about the fun runs, marathons, wine tastings, eating competitions, live music and cooking demos.
FAQs on South Africa
Coffee in a cafe = 12 ZAR
Beer in a bar = 15 ZAR
Simple takeaway meal = 30 ZAR
Bottle of wine = 30 ZAR
Three-course restaurant meal = 300 ZAR
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Mar 21 Human Rights Day
Mar 29 Good Friday
Apr 9 Family Day
Apr 27 Freedom Day
May 1 Workers’ Day
Jun 16 Youth Day
Aug 9 National Women’s Day
Sep 24 Heritage Day
Dec 16 Day of Reconciliation
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Dec 26 Day of Goodwill
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/south-africa/public-holidays
Citizens of Australia, UK and most EU countries do not need visas to visit South Africa as a tourist for up to three months. Citizens of all countries should check with the relevant consulates as to whether a visa is required.
Entry Requirements - Yellow Fever Certificate
As of October 1st 2011, A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is now required for all passengers over one year of age who arrive or are transiting through South Africa, from a country or region listed by the World Health Organization as infected by yellow fever. Travellers unable to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate issued at least 10 days before arrival in South Africa will be refused entry. There is no option for travellers without a vaccination certificate to be vaccinated on arrival. Please note this also includes transiting through an infected country or region. As of October 1st South Africa will also consider Zambia as a country infected by Yellow Fever even though the WHO does not currently list Zambia. All travellers from Zambia into South Africa will be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
South Africa Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for South Africa
1. Be considerate of South Africa’s customs, traditions, religions and culture.
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!
5. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
6. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.
7. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
8. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.
9. Avoid purchasing ivory and products harvested from endangered animals.
10. Be sensitive towards South Africa’s fragile political and social history when talking with locals.
The Intrepid Foundation
The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.
In South Africa, The Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:
Thusanani Children’s Foundation
This organisation assists to brighten the lives and futures of some of South Africa’s most vulnerable children by providing occupational therapy and treatment to babies and children at risk of development delay. It also provides valuable training to caregivers so that they are empowered to positively influence the lives of the children they care for.
Image supplied by Thusanani Children's Foundation.
To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org
|Long Walk to Freedom||Nelson Mandela|
|Cry, The Beloved Country||Alan Paton|
|Welcome to Our Hillbrow||Phaswane Mpe|
|The Pick Up||Nadine Gordimer|