SOUTH

If I’m completely honest, South Africa never really featured on my radar until a few years ago. It’s embarrassing to admit it now, but I never really saw the appeal. My mind was consumed by all the horrific stories about the atrocities that were committed in Africa – and, to my younger mind, that pretty much outweighed any possible benefits of visiting.

But Africa is a huge continent – and South Africa is a big country. I can’t deny that dark news stories about the country still don’t bother me, but it’s silly to concentrate on all the bad things when you’re talking about a country so rich in history and beauty. In fact, one of my friends is originally from South Africa, and she says it’s absolutely fine, so long as you keep your wits about you.

So, with my perceptions changed, I’ve been reading up about all that South Africa has to offer – and boy does it have a lot to offer! Plus, with Flight Centre, you can be right in the heart of it all from just £389. Here are just a few of the reasons why I think everyone should visit. And if you’ve been to South Africa, or have anything to add to this list, please do leave me a comment!

SOUTH

Safaris

Did you know that South Africa has 22 National Parks?!

Of these, Kruger National Park is probably the best known, as well as the biggest. Around 400km from Pretoria, the park gives travellers the chance to see the Big 5 – namely, lions, leopards, rhinos, cape buffalo and African elephants. Kruger also has a selection of gorgeous accommodation options, perfect for honeymoons or just a relaxing week away.

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Penguins

When I was at college, I used to have pictures of South Africa’s penguins taped to the front of my folder to encourage me to work hard so that I could see the world.

A colony of penguins reside at Boulders Beach, just outside of Simon’s Town – and have even be known to get up-close-and-personal with swimmers in the bay!

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Table Mountain

Around 1,085m high, the top of Table Mountain is reachable by cable car or foot (if you’re feeling fit).  The mountain gives uninterrupted views across the roofs of Cape Town and out to sea. I would love to get snap-happy with these views, but I think I’d draw the line at abseiling down which some (crazy) people do…

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Shark diving

Shark diving is one of those things that I’m always really enthusiastic about, but if I ever had to do it, I’m not sure how I’d react.

The chance to get up-close-and-personal with one of the ocean’s most dangerous animals is something that does strangely appeal to me. And it’s definitely not something you can do in the UK!

Garden Route Tour

The Garden Route takes visitors from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape, a journey of around 150 miles. Quite rightly, the Garden Route is a tourist attraction in its own right, with many travelling to South Africa just for the opportunity to drive through coastal villages and inland, mountainous regions. And with views like this, who can blame them?

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Johannesburg

Johannesburg has a smorgasbord of cultural offerings, ranging from the Apartheid Museum to the colourful Orlando Towers (below), from which you can bungee jump off. From what I’ve read, Johannesburg is fast becoming a hip place to travel to, so we’d better get there before everyone else ‘discovers’ it!

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Colourful communities

One thing I’m always hearing from people who’ve visited South Africa is that the people they meet are always so friendly and warm. One place that really sums this up is the Malay Quarter in Cape Town which features brightly decorated houses of all colours. My South African friend said this is one of the best places to walk around, with plenty of boutiques and cafes to while away an afternoon.

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Beaches

South Africa is full of beaches, many of which are often cited as being the best in the world. Even if you’re not a beach person, the sandy stretches cannot be missed. The city of Durban has been nicknamed ‘Surf City’ thanks to its optimum location for those looking to catch a few waves. I’m not someone who would laze around on a beach for hours on end, but when you’ve had nine long months of grim, English weather, a South African beach looks absolutely ideal.

History

No matter where you are in South Africa, there’s always a slice of history to be explored. From the battle sites of the Anglo-Zulu wars, to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela famously spent 18 years imprisoned, South Africa is a blanket of important, historical stories woven together.

Vineyards

According to Wikipedia there are countless vineyards and wineries all over South Africa. Wine tourism is big business, with many places offering on-site accommodation and wine tasting sessions. I’m not a huge fan of wine myself, but South Africa’s selection of wine has got to be better than that in Tescos, right?

Vineyard in Franschhoek, South AfricaVineyard in Franschhoek, South Africa. Image source: Flickr Commons

Would you like to visit South Africa? Have you had your perceptions of a destination changed?

This post is in collaboration with Flight Centre. However, all opinions – and desire to visit South Africa – are my own.