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Africa's most popular and best-developed travel destination is famed for its sun-soaked beaches and vast game reserves, but it also provides exceptional opportunities to indulge in pursuits as varied as wine-tasting, hiking and museum-hopping
South Africa is a land of extraordinary natural wealth and variety. Indeed, one recent ecological survey ranked it as the third-most important country in the world in terms of biodiversity. The Big Five – lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino – roam freely through South Africa's premier safari destination, the vast Kruger National Park, along with a host of other iconic large mammals.
And the country is even more remarkable when it comes to smaller creatures – it is home, for instance, to more endemic and near-endemic bird species than any other African country, while the tiny Cape Floral Kingdom in the southwest contains around five percent of the world’s plant species.
I've probably travelled in South Africa for more than two years in total, and I've yet to exhaust its incredible variety. Obvious favourites spots include Cape Town and the Kruger Park, but I'm equally drawn to lesser-known highlights such as the remote Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Augrabies Falls National Park in the little-visited Northern Cape.
Popular South Africa safaris
These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates
From Sun City's hedonistic pleasures to the majesty of nature at Madikwe Game Reserve, this journey combines the best of two very different worlds
Combine Cape Town chic with Africa's most luxurious train and an elegant Big Five safari for a stylish South African holiday
Combine three of Southern Africa's most loved destinations into one romantic getaway and you'll share the memories forever
More on South Africa
The main coastal tourist focus is Cape Town, which ranks alongside San Francisco and Sydney among the world’s most beautiful harbour cities. Elsewhere, a 3,000-kilometre coastline includes the wild forested dunes of Cape Vidal, the family-oriented resorts of the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, and the spectacular cliffs of the Garden Route and Cape Point.
The interior is even more varied. Contrast the mesmerising red dunefields of the Kalahari region with the autumnal purple winelands inland of Cape Town. Or the tangled green forests that blanket parts of the eastern coastal belt with the spring wildflower displays that enliven the wide open plains of Namaqualand.
At the heart of it all rises the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, a hiker's paradise known for its imperious montane landscapes and immense wealth of prehistoric rock art.Part of South Africa’s fascination is its emergence as a unified nation, boasting a unique multicultural cocktail of indigenous, European and Asian influences, following the 1994 elections that swept Nelson Mandela to power. This achievement is placed in perspective by Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum and Cape Town’s District Six Museum, which confront the country's racially divisive recent past. Elsewhere, traditional Zulu and Ndebele cultural villages offer insight into life here prior to the arrival of Europeans.
South Africa Map
South Africa's location on Google Maps