South Africa, occupying most of the southern area of the African continent, makes a great destination if you’re looking for somewhere a bit different for your next break. Car hire in South Africa is convenient and affordable, and it’s one of the best ways of getting around this huge country and exploring its natural and cultural highlights. Here are just a few of the delights you shouldn’t miss on a visit there.
The war between the Boers and the British Empire broke out here in 1899 and raged until 1902, with the British claiming victory. Today, there are various memorial sites and museums commemorating those events, with the best museum being at Bloemfontein. At Talana Hill close to Dundee, Talana Museum is on the site of the first battle of the war, fought on 20 October 1899. This area is now a heritage park and cemetery, with displays of local colourful bush traditions as well.
Some of the best scenery in the country is to be found at Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, which is the world’s third biggest gorge after the USA’s Grand Canyon and Namibia’s Fish River Canyon. At its heart, Blyde Dam is home to crocodiles and hippos; whilst at the mouth of the canyon Lowveld Plain is full of zebra, waterbuck and blue wildebeest. There’s fishing and hiking on offer throughout the reserve, and the Pilgrim’s Rest former gold-mining town is of particular historic interest with its artefacts from the mining period between 1873 and 1972.
Table Mountain and Cape Point form part of the Cape Peninsula National Park, with Table Mountain standing slap in the middle of Cape Town itself and defining the downtown sector. Cape Town’s southern suburbs are flanked by the mountain’s forested ravines. A cable car was built in 1929 which still takes visitors right up to the top to get panoramic views of the city and adjacent beaches. You get to Table Mountain cable car station by taking the N1 from Johannesburg, the N2 from Overburg or the N7 from the West Coast.
Robben Island, located 7 miles to the north of Cape Town, is where political prisoners were kept banged up between 1961 and 1991 for resisting the notorious apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela was its most famous guest, although the place was used as a prison as far back as 1525, used to house lepers and the mentally ill. This legacy of misery and suffering has however been triumphed over and Robben Island is now a national museum and culture centre where you can see amongst other things the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. To get here, take the ferry from Jetty 1 at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to Autfhumato, Makana.
Don’t miss the Kruger National Park if you have time, as this is South Africa’s biggest game reserve and contains the highest concentration of different wild species on the planet. There’s also an excavated Iron Age settlement on Thulamela Hill, and in the village of Masorini you can see how the original Stone Age occupants of South Africa lived millennia before the white settlers came and took over.
Hiring a car is great way to see this large and diverse African country.
David Elliott is a freelance writer who loves to travel, especially in Europe and Turkey. He’s spent most of his adult life in a state of restless excitement but recently decided to settle in North London. He gets away whenever he can to immerse himself in foreign cultures and lap up the history of great cities.
Photo credit: gego2605