Three words: Kruger National Park This is where locals (and plenty of foreign visitors) get their wildlife fix: nearly two million hectares of classic African bushland in the north-eastern corner of the country which a glorious abundance of wildlife – including the Big Five – calls home. Luxury lodges rim the border of the park, but for an equally satisfying – and less expensive – safari experience, hire a car, take a slow drive along the park’s less busy dirt roads, and stay at delightfully rustic camps along the way.
Melting pot You can eat your way through South Africa’s ancestral history. Start with umvubo, a traditional Xhosa dish made with umphokoqo (maize meal porridge) and amasi (sour milk). Move on to boerewors, a sausage that gets its name from the Afrikaans words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage). Taste bobotie, a spicy Cape Malay dish, and tackle bunny chow, a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with Indian curry. Finish off with syrup-drenched koeksisters, a traditional Afrikaans dessert that will have you clamouring for more.
Africa’s thumping heart Whatever you do, don’t bypass Johannesburg, Jo’burg or Jozi, as the locals variously call it. This mega-city is Africa’s powerhouse, and it has an atmosphere to match. Yes, it’s big and brash and has a reputation as a crime hotspot, but with a little planning and a sensible approach to safety visitors will quickly uncover the city’s sweet centre. The hop-on-hop-off bus service delivers the best overview; be sure to jump off at the Apartheid Museum and to take a side trip to the Maboneng Precinct, a once down-at-heel inner-city suburb brought back to life with street art, galleries, bars and restaurants.
The empty quarter South Africa is best known for its wildlife, beaches and the spectacular Mother City, Cape Town. But sitting in the country’s heartland is the Karoo, a semi-desert region of endless, scrub-dotted landscapes and vast blue skies. Separated by the majestic Swartberg mountain range in the Cape Province, the Groot Karoo (Big Karoo) and the Klein Karoo (Little Karoo) span almost 400,000 square kilometres; visit in springtime, when the wildflowers bloom.
See how they grow The ‘most beautiful garden in Africa’ – and quite possibly the world – creeps up the slopes of Table Mountain, affording visitors sweeping views of the suburbs below. This is Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, set within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cape Floristic Region and encompassing a rich diversity of indigenous flora. This is a truly immersive garden, with hiking and walking trails and a walkway known as the boomslang (tree snake) winding its way through the arboretum’s canopy.