The South African hidden gems
Positioning as the adventure capital of the world
June Mukherjee, 26-11-2021
Following the tourism board’s plan to emphasise on diversifying the geographies and expanding the product range, hidden gems of the rainbow nation will be highlighted more in the coming days to the multi-generational source markets around the world.
Inspired by border openings and increased confidence in travel, South African Tourism is now capitalising on the strong consumer and corporate traveller demand in the country towards reaching a global target of 2.6 million visitors in 2021-2022.
The plan includes aggressive promotion of experiencing the new regions, building on the destination’s position as the adventure capital of the world, providing increased value-for-money itineraries and catering to niche traveller segments like the runners, bikers, sports enthusiasts etc. The hidden gems of South Africa are spread all over the country.
The rugged Drakensberg
KwaZulu-Natal is home to the Drakensberg mountains (the Zulus call them the Barrier of Spears) in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a natural and cultural World Heritage Site owing to the mountains’ rock art and natural beauty, and a popular destination for local and international tourists alike. The mountains offer dramatic views and outdoor activities, and are an important cultural resource, containing many thousands of works of San rock art that dates back to the late Stone Age.
Travellers can go to Drakensberg during the weekend, to stretch their limbs and indulge in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, hot air ballooning, helicopter rides and horseback riding trips into the mountains.
Ostriches in Oudstshoorn
Inland from the Cape’s famous Garden Route, travellers will find Oudtshoorn – popularly known as the ostrich capital of the world. The town is home to several interesting attractions like Cango Caves with its truly grand stalactite and stalagmite formations and Cango Wildlife Ranch, which offers thrilling crocodile-cage dives. It is also one of the few places in the world to enjoy a Meerkat safari.
Look out for the Big 5 in Limpopo
Known for its huge rivers, splashing hippos and immersive culture, Limpopo is one of the most interesting, and abundant provinces in South Africa. Here you will find vast open spaces with wildlife galore and breath-taking mountainous landscapes covered in mist. With seven of South Africa’s eleven official languages being spoken here, travellers stand a good chance of meeting people from a majority of the country’s ethnic groupings.
The region is also endowed with a remarkable number of game and nature reserves, housing the one of the country’s highest population of rhinos and a multitude of elegant antelope species. With Kruger National Park – the largest national park in Africa – situated here, this province can easily be termed the ‘mecca of wildlife’. For some reason, the wildlife seems bigger and more exciting in this place of strong, gushing waterfalls, enormous trees, open sky, and never-ending bush land.
Easy-going East London
A contemporary setting and a laidback charm give East London a distinctive identity. Well-travelled visitors would appreciate this picturesque city, still untouched by tourist commercialisation as the perfect solution for leisurely vacations clubbed with a variety of adventure experiences in very untouched natural settings. East London is also one of the few places where one can see the White Lion at the Inkwenkezi National Park.
Slice of history at Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth houses South Africa's third largest national reserve where travellers can watch hundreds of African elephants roam around freely, making it a great safari experience. The Addo National Park also has a thriving marine life and rich flora and offers the only big seven safari options in the world. This safari is a combination of marine safari searching for sharks and whales and the famous big five safari. Port Elizabeth also includes Nelson Mandela Bay where one can find Route 67 – a collection of 67 art pieces celebrating the years Nelson Mandela devoted to public life and freedom.
Coastal Coffee Bay
Nestled within the wild coast of the Eastern Cape, is Coffee Bay, a beautiful coastal town that draws enormous interest from the visitors due to its unspoilt beaches and rich, traditional Xhosa lifestyle. The Coffee Bay is also widely known for the Hole in the Wall, a geographical marvel that rests within its gates. It is an offshore stack of rock through which the elements have eroded a hole; this hole amplifies the sound of the waves onto the rock, inspiring the local Xhosa people to name it Esikhaleni which means the ‘place of sound’.
Splash at Sodwana Bay
Sodwana Bay is located on the east coast of South Africa, in one of the most unique and unspoiled parts of the world. Sodwana’s spectacular coral reefs in a national marine protected area are among the southernmost tip in the world and are a scuba diving and snorkelling paradise. All those interested in fishing, this is your place too.
Wonderful West Coast
A 90-minute drive from Cape Town, the West Coast is a local favourite for a restorative weekend away. Travellers can hike, explore bike trails through fynbos (small belts of natural shrub land), or visit the icy waters of Langebaan Lagoon for kayaking and sailing. West Coast National Park is great for spring wildflowers (between August and September when the blooms are at their peak). Southern right whales can be viewed between August and November.
Trail the Panorama Route
Your visit to the rainbow nation would be incomplete without a drive along the Panorama Route. With some of the most unique and breath-taking scenery, the highlight of the route is the Blyde River Canyon: one of the longest chasms in the world, consisting of spectacular geological shapes and the most stunning scenic views of the country.