South Africa

South Africa Travel Diary

The warmth of Durban (Photo: Lesli Lundgren)South Africa, placed as it is on the very southern tip of the Great Continent and home as it is to such immense beauty and varied landscapes, has so much to offer everyone who makes their way to visit here that a trip is undermined neither by the length of their stay nor by the breadth of their budget. One of the most exciting places to enjoy - both as a destination and as a starting point - is Durban. This sunshine city on the east coast has a plethora of beaches to offer up to sun seekers the world over. My favourite time of year here is around July, when the ‘Gunston 500’ is held at Durban beach and surfers from all points of the globe come by to compete. I would spend the day just lazily basking in the sun like a lizard while watching the endless array of surfers manoeuvre their boards adroitly, looking like demi-gods as they cut and slice the glassy tubular waves rolling in to shore. The temperature at this time of year is mild and the days are generally filled with sunshine and clear blue skies, which makes it all the more attractive to the public who have little choice but to sit down for a while and admire the stealth of those who ride the waves.

The Durban beachfront is a mini wonderland, with stalls dotted all along the promenade in which the locals sell their wares; the vast assortment of beaded culinary utensils or jewellery and baskets are a joy to all, buyers and window shoppers alike. The beachfront was designed for all to enjoy, with a walkway that parallels the golden sands, giving you access to hop onto the sand at any point, find a place to lay your towel and dive into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. The sands are soft and golden, but beware! In the summertime, it can get so hot you have to hop from towel to towel to get into the water as the day's temps get into the forties. The beachfront stretches for miles in both directions and further down meets Addington Beach; the waves here are large and the water is refreshing on a hot summer’s day.

The most beautiful hotels line the forefront of the Marine Parade, offering the visitor cuisine and comforts equal to any five start hotel worldwide. Security is important for any visitor to the region, nowadays, and it is best not to take valuables down to the beach itself as doing so would pose an unnecessary risk. Wallets and money or jewellery are best kept safely in a hotel safe when out and about as, sadly, pickpockets are an everyday occurrence.

Having said that, people do come from all over the world to visit and stay in many of South Africa's beautiful coastal cities - such as Durban and Cape Town - because of the beauty that both offer.

Colourful Cape Town (Photo: Fokko Veenstra)

Cape Town is my favourite city, even though it is known for the blustery winds that howl around Table Mountain at certain times of the year. It is the nearby wineries and vineyards have a special place in my heart, given the time I spent at university in Stellenbosch where the tall oaks tower and where, in the distance, you can see the purple and blue mountain ranges with traditional Dutch-gabled homesteads flanking the vineyards. On some of these wine farms, you can go out for the day to savour the wines, while sitting under the trees and enjoying a light lunch with spectacular scenery as the backdrop. Some of the best times to visit the region are in the summer, when the Cape is hot and dry, and drives along the country's famous wine route will take you through Paarl, Franschoek and Stellenbosch, not to mention Grabouw - the robust apple growing region - along the way. Unlike Durban, the waters that surround Cape Town are influenced by the icy water as the Atlantic as well as those of the warmer Indian Ocean. I remember swimming there a number of years ago, diving through the glassy waters when I suddenly saw a lining of silver all around me. The next minute, fishermen were rushing into the water with huge nets catching a run of sardines. At that point, nobody had warned me that very often the sharks follow the sardines and I was diving and splashing away, enjoying the cascading water as the waves rolled and tumbled to shore. The salty smell of the sea clung to the air and to everything around me as I sauntered to shore a few hours later, totally exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

Drakensburg (Photo: Robbie Ribeiro)

Beyond the beaches and wine making regions - and of course it's abundant wildlife - South Africa is home to the Drakensberg mountain region, the nights in which, for those who don't know, are as cold as those in the Swiss Alps! I spent my honeymoon in this region, and when we arrived it was the middle of winter; the snowfall had turned the landscape into a Christmas picture postcard. The air is crisp and when you breathe you inhale volumes of clear fresh air; to experience the sights, smells, sounds and feel of this area in winter leaves you breathless, to say the least. The Drakensberg region has many wonderful, welcoming hotels and lodges that offer up varying degrees of luxury and comfort and fit into any number of traveller budgets.

Finally - though no list of things to see and do in South Africa could ever be 'final' - one thing visitors may want to consider is the uber-luxurious Blue Train. As the country is rather vast, seeing many places could be tricky for some so those with more money and less time could hop aboard. Complete with butler services, gold-tinted windows and private en suites, the Blue Train is considered by many to be one of the most luxurious train rides in the world. The train rides the rails between Cape Town and Pretoria, cutting through the stretches of the Karoo.

Of course, all of this is merely a start and only hints at the natural and wondrous beauty that South Africa has to offer. From one end to the other, and up and down, this country offers such a variety of landscapes that any traveller here, to any part of it, will leave with a true appreciation for its visual delights.

About the Author

Rosemary Ferraro grew up in the Karoo, in the South African countryside, and has lived in a number of places since, including New Zealand, South Korea and the UK. An English teacher by trade, she is a writer and traveller at heart and plans to enjoy this beautiful planet for years to come.

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 Full name: Republic of South Africa

 Population: 48.8 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Pretoria (administrative capital)

 Largest city: Johannesburg

follow url  Area: 1.22 million sq.km. (470,693.3 sq. mi.)

cliquer sur cette page  Major languages: IsiZulu, IsiXhosa,  Afrikaans, Sepedi, English, Setswana,  Sesotho, Xitsonga, siSwati, Tshivenda,  isiNdebele, Other

 Major religions: Protestant, Catholic,  Muslim, Other

 Monetary unit: Rand

 GDP per capita: US $11,000

 Internet domain: .za

 International dialling code: +27

 Source: CIA World Factbook