By Sinazo Mkoko
Despite challenges faced by the tourism sector, South Africa remains “geopolitically distinctive and possesses natural and cultural diversity that supports a globally compelling tourism proposition.” According to the National Tourism Department, the country’s tourism base is significant and is one of the world’s most popular long-haul destinations. Here, we look at some of the best tourist destinations the country has to offer.
Spring has sprung in:
Namaqualand, Northern Cape
Namaqualand is known as “the world’s only exception that flourishes every spring.” Located in the Northern Cape province, Namaqualand’s natural ability to transform from a dry desert to a beautiful floral carpet leaves many visitors blown-away. Each year, between August and September, hundreds of tourists flock into the Namakwa region to see wildflowers bloom making it a sight for sore eyes. SANParks states: “Namaqualand is renowned for its annual mass display of wild flowers in spring and a rich diversity of succulent plants, with an estimated 3 500 species, more than a 1 000 endemic to the area.”
The weather is monitored closely and the natural landscape is watched for the “first
signs of spring and report on the progress of the flower season as soon as the first Namakwa daisies appear, the first sign that Namakwaland is unfolding its spectacular carpet of colour.”
They state: “As much as the Namakwa daisies herald the arrival of spring, the end of the flower season is introduced by the “arrival” of Namakwaland’s famous purple vygies. And while the vygies are showing off their vibrant colours, the Namakwa daisies are sowing their seeds in preparation for the next flower season.”
Boulders Beach, Western Cape
Nestled in the Cape Peninsula, near Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach is one of the most loved and beautiful beaches in South Africa. In May this year, while celebrating 15 years of the Google Street View feature, Google shared that Boulders beach topped the list as the most searched beach in South Africa over the past year. According to SANParks, Boulders has become world famous for “its thriving colony of African Penguins and magnificent wind sheltered, safe beaches.”
“From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 2 200 in recent years. This is partly due to the reduction in commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovies, an integral part of the penguins’ diet,” they said. The beach was recently named the 9th best beach in the world by a global travel site, Big 7 Travel.
Kruger National Park, Limpopo and Mpumalanga
From its breathtaking and picturesque landscapes, and spectacular African wildlife, the Kruger National Park is South Africa’s largest and most loved park and is a premier destination for viewing the Big 5.
According to the South African National Parks (SANParks), while seeing the Big Five remains something of a quest for millions of visitors, they encourage visitors to be open-minded when visiting the park as there are plenty of other fascinating animals and birds in the African bush. SANParks states: “ Kruger is one of the premier game-watching destinations in the world. Approximately 147 mammal species occur in the park. It is possible to see all the classical African big game, including elephants, black and white rhino, hippopotamus, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, warthog and many antelope species. Large carnivores include lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog and spotted hyena. There are also many smaller mammals equally enticing species.”
When it comes to vegetation, the Park is known for its vast botanic diversity. “Simplistically the Kruger National Park can be divided into 16 macro ecozones. The northern half of the park, north of the Olifants River is predominantly mopane veld, while south of the Olifants the ecozones are thorn veld. There are 336 tree species in the park.”
The Drakensberg, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Known as “the dragon mountain” this is a mountain that stretches over 200 kilometres and forms a natural border between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. The mountain is the second largest in Africa and the highest mountain range in southern Africa. Within the Drakensberg of KwaZulu-Natal lies the 243 000 hectare mountain region that is also a World Heritage Site, known as Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park by UNESCO. This region has some of the most significant scenery in this country with over 600 examples of San rock paintings in caves around the park, according to SA Venues.
Siyabona Africa says: “The scenic uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a rich wildlife sanctuary. A diverse range of habitats protects high levels of rare and endangered animals and plants. A significant concentration of San rock art can be seen in hundreds of caves and rock-shelters at this Drakensberg nature reserve in KwaZulu-Natal – the largest group of Bushmen paintings south of the Sahara.”
Experience Northern Cape | SANParks | Northern Cape Gov | Drakensberg Info | Siyabona Africa | Google South Africa
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