In the Green Kalahari, the roaring sands on the farm Doornaar near Groblershoop presents an interesting site. The white dunes, surrounded by typically red Kalahari dunes, are said to ‘roar’ when the wind blows.
Eleven water wheels are still used today along the hand-built irrigation canals at Kakamas. The Orange River Wine Cellar Co-op Rockery Route runs between Keimoes and Kakamas.
Kanoneiland is a settlement on the biggest island in the Orange River.
At Keimoes, the Orange River flows at its widest. The Tierberg Nature Reserve offers spectacular views of the Keimoes Valley and the many islands in the Orange River. The original irrigation canal system is still in use. The Orange River Wine Cellar Co-op’s largest cellar is situated here.
Kenhardt is the oldest town in the Lower Orange River area. The Quiver Tree Forest and Kokerboom Hiking Trail, consisting of between 4 000 and 5 000 quiver trees, are within easy driving distance of the town.
Upington is the commercial, educational and social centre of the Green Kalahari, owing its prosperity to agriculture and its irrigated lands along the Orange River. A camel-and-rider statue in front of the town’s police station pays tribute to the ‘mounties’, who patrolled the harsh desert territory on camels.
The South African Dried Fruit Co-operative is the second-largest and one of the most modern of its kind in the world. Tours of the plant are offered and freshly packed dried fruit is sold.
The Orange River displays its impressive power at the Augrabies Falls, also known as the ‘Place of Great Noise’, in the Augrabies Falls National Park. Visitors can hire canoes to ensure closer contact with the natural heritage surrounding the world’s sixth-largest waterfall.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises 38 000 square m of land, making it one of the largest conservation areas in the world. Straddling the Green Kalahari and Botswana, the park is a two-million ha sanctuary for various raptors, antelope, gemsbok, springbok, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Kalahari lion, black-maned lion, brown and spotted hyena, leopard, cheetah, and smaller game including mongoose, porcupine and honey badger.
The names of various landmarks within the park reflect its long history as a crossroads of many cultures, which have included the San, the Mier, the Huguenots and the Scottish at various times. The park is an important element of the first phase of the Transfrontier Conservation Area 2010 Strategy, which is a priority of the SADC.
The indigenous people of the Namaqualand region are the Namas. Their traditional Nama reed huts still abound in Leliefontein, Nourivier and Steinkopf.
Namaqualand annually puts on a spectacular show in spring when an abundance of wild flowers covers vast tracts of desert. The flowers sprout and survive for a brief period before they wilt and disappear just as suddenly in the blistering heat and dry conditions.
The small town of Garies is the centre for those setting out to enjoy spring’s show of exuberance in the Kamiesberg.
After diamonds were discovered along the West Coast in 1925, Alexander Bay was known for its mining activities. The town is no longer a high-security area and no permits are needed to enter. The Alexkor Museum paints a picture of the history of the area. The town also features the world’s largest desert lichenfield with some 26 species.
At Hondeklip Bay, visitors can dive for crayfish and watch the local fisherfolk conduct their trade.
Established as a small-vessel harbour and railway junction in 1954 for the copper-mining industry, Port Nolloth is a centre for the small-scale diamond-recovery and crayfish industries. It is the only holiday resort on the Diamond Coast. Fish and crayfish can be bought from the local factory when in season.
Set in a narrow valley bisecting the granite domes of the Klein Koperberge lies Springbok.
South of Springbok, near Kamieskroon, lies the Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve, part of the Namaqua National Park, which captures the full grandeur of the flower season. The 1 000-ha reserve operates only during the flower season.
The Goegap Nature Reserve comprises 15 004 ha of typically granite, rocky hills and sandy flats. The reserve also offers a 4x4, and several hiking and mountain-biking trails.
Namaqualand is also home to the Ais-Ais/Richtersveld National Park. It is managed jointly by the local Nama people and South African National Parks.
In the Bo-Karoo, one of the Northern Cape’s most beautiful towns, Colesberg, is flanked by the Towerberg.
The town features one of the country’s last working horsemills. An Anglo-Boer/South African War tour is also on offer. A weekend tour includes a visit to the Norvalspont prisoner-of-war camp and cemetery. Colesberg has bred many of the country’s top merino sheep. It is also renowned for producing high-quality racehorses.
De Aar is the most important railway junction in South Africa. The author Olive Schreiner lived in the town for many years. Visitors can dine in her former house, which has been converted into a restaurant.
Hanover is known for its handmade shoes and articles made mostly from sheepskin and leather.
The Star of South Africa diamond was discovered at Hopetown. The town, which is steeped in history, also features an old toll house and a block house dating from the Anglo-Boer/South African War.
At Wonderdraai near Prieska, visitors can see the horseshoe-shaped island formed by the flow of the Orange River. It seems as if the river turns to flow uphill.
Vanderkloof was built to house the people building the Vanderkloof Dam. Today, it is a flourishing holiday resort. Visitors can enjoy waterskiing, boardsailing, boating and swimming, or visit the Eskom Hydroelectric Power Station situated within the dam’s wall.
Victoria West is home to the Apollo Theatre, South Africa’s last operational art deco movie theatre from the 1950s. The theatre comes alive each September with the Apollo Film Festival.
The Victoria West Nature Reserve is the habitat of the rare riverine rabbit.
Near the small town of Brandvlei lies Verneukpan, where Sir Malcolm Campbell unsuccessfully attempted to break the world land-speed record in 1929.
The Hantam Karoo is also home to Carnarvon is well-known for its corbelled domed-roofed houses built of flat stones because of a lack of wood. The floors of these interesting houses were smeared and coloured with a rich red mixture of fat and oxblood, polished with smooth stone.
A few kilometres outside Fraserburg lies the Gansfontein Palaeosurface. Discovered in 1968, it comprises several trackways of large, four-footed and five-toed mammalian reptiles. The prints are estimated to be some 190 million years old.
Sutherland, birthplace of well-known Afrikaans author and poet NP van Wyk Louw, is known for its brilliant night skies and cold, biting winters.
The sterboom (star tree), which blossoms in September, is found only in Sutherland.
The South African Astronomical Observatory’s (Saao) observation telescopes including the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt), are in Sutherland. From Monday to Saturday, the Saao offers two guided tours per day and two night tours per week. Day tours entail a guided walk through the visitor’s centre adjacent to the telescope sites on the mountainside and a guided tour of selected telescopes, including Salt. During night tours, visitors can view interesting objects in the sky through two dedicated visitors’ telescopes. Booking is essential.
The Free State lies in the heart of South Africa with the Kingdom of Lesotho nestling in the hollow of its bean-like shape. Between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south, this immense rolling prairie stretches as far as the eye can see. This central region is characterised by endless rolling prairies of wheat, sunflower and maize fields, and forms the principal bread basket of South Africa.
With its King’s Park Rose Garden containing more than 4 000 rose bushes, the Free State’s major city, Bloemfontein, has rightfully earned the nickname ‘City of Roses’. This city in the Motheo district also hosts an annual rose festival.
The Eerste Raadsaal (First Parliament Building), built in 1849 as a school, is Bloemfontein’s oldest surviving building. Still in its original condition, this historical building is used as the seat of the Provincial Legislature.
The National Afrikaans Literary Museum and Research Centre has a repository of works by prominent Afrikaans authors. Exhibits in the Afrikaans Music Museum and the Theatre Museum (part of the centre) include old musical instruments, sheet music, costumes, photographs and furniture.
The national museum is notable for its wide collection of fossils, cultural-historical exhibits and archaeological displays, including the Florisbad skull, which was discovered in the 1930s at the Florisbad Spring, about 50 km north of Bloemfontein.
The National Women’s Memorial is a sandstone obelisk, 36,5 m high, which commemorates the women and children who died in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer/South African War from 1899 to 1902. Visitors are afforded a glimpse into life in the concentration and prisoner-of-war camps. The research library contains an extensive collection of Africana.
The Old Presidency dates back to 1885 and was the official residence of three presidents of the former Republic of the Orange Free State. It houses a museum depicting their respective terms of office, and a cultural centre for art exhibitions, theatrical productions and musical events.
The Observatory Theatre in Bloemfontein’s game reserve is a unique attraction.
Bloemfontein has a busy cultural and social-events calendar. One of the annual events not to be missed is Mangaung African Cultural Festival,, popularly as the Macufe Arts Festival, in September.
Sand du Plessis Theatre and Art Gallery at are also worth visiting.
Botshabelo (Place of Refuge), 45 km from on the N8 road to Lesotho, is believed the largest township settlement in the Free and the second-largest in South Africa after Soweto.
Nearby, the town of Thaba Nchu features luxury and a casino, with the Maria Moroka Nature Reserve surrounding Thaba Nchu Sun and the Dam.
Bethulie in the Xhariep region used to be a London Missionary Society station. The original mission buildings still stand.
The Pellissier House Museum depicts the history of events in the area.
The Gariep Dam, more than 100 km long and 15 km wide, is part of the Orange River Water Scheme, the largest inland expanse of water in South Africa.
Between the dam and Bethulie is the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve. On the southern side of the dam lies the Oviston Nature Reserve.
Philippolis, the oldest town in the Free State, was founded as a London Missionary Society station in 1824. It was the first mission station in the province.
Trompsburg is the hub of the Free State Merino sheep-farming industry.
The Tussen-die-Riviere Nature Reserve reputedly supports more game than any other sanctuary in the Free State. It is reserved for hunters in autumn and winter.
A fountain near Koffiefontein was a favourite outspan for transport riders in the 19th century. In June 1870, one of these transport riders picked up a diamond near the fountain. This prompted the usual diamond rush and by 1882, Koffiefontein was a booming town with four mining companies.
With its beautiful snow-capped mountains providing a backdrop to numerous romantic hide-aways, this untouched, pristine area of Thabo Mofutsanyana with its breathtaking scenery possesses grandeur of majestic proportion.
The Basotho Cultural Village in the QwaQwa Nature Reserve is a living museum where visitors can witness the Sotho traditions and lifestyle in the chief’s kraal.
Clocolan is known for its cherry trees, which provide a spectacular sight when they blossom in spring. San rock paintings and engravings are also found in the area.
Clarens is often described as the ‘Jewel of the Free State’, owing to its spectacular scenery. San paintings are found on farms in the area. Close by, the Highlands Route meanders along the foothills of the Maluti mountains. One can also explore the magnificent mountain scenery by bike. The town offers art excursions and painting getaways and has 14 art galleries.
Ficksburg is known for its cherry and asparagus farms. A cherry festival is held annually in November. The town is a gateway to the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.
The Golden Gate Highlands National Park, known for its beautiful scenery, is a very popular holiday destination. A vulture restaurant enables visitors to observe these scavengers closely. San paintings can also be viewed.
The Highlands Route follows the Lesotho border via Ladybrand and ends at Zastron in the south. San caves and rock art are some of the main features of the route.
The birdwatching mecca of Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve near Memel constitutes a wetland with Ramsar status, and is surrounded by private game and holiday farms.
Bethlehem lies on the banks of the Jordaan River in the Lejweleputswa region and was founded by the Voortrekkers during the 1840s. The museum in Miller Street depicts the history of the area. The banks of the Jordaan River form part of the Pretoriuskloof Nature Reserve – a sanctuary for birds and small game.
Van Reenen’s Pass winds through the Drakens-berg, and was originally used by migrating herds of zebra, hartebeest, blesbok and wildebeest. The Llandaff Oratory in the nearby village of Van Reenen is believed to be the smallest Roman Catholic Church in the world.
At Harrismith, there are various memorials in honour of those who fought in the Anglo-Boer/South African War and World War I. Of particular interest is a memorial for the Scots Guards and Grenadier Guards. Platberg, the 2 394-m ‘flat mountain’, is the town’s landmark. A well-known race, claimed by some to be the toughest in the country, is run annually up, along and back down the mountain. Sterkfontein Dam is ideal for water sports and fishing.
The Riemland Museum in Heilbron depicts the heritage and agricultural activities of the region.
The QwaQwa district is a traditional home to the Basotho people. Karakul carpets, mohair, wall hangings, copper, glassware and brass are made and sold at Phuthaditjhaba. The Metsi Matsho and Fika Patso dams are renowned for trout fishing.
Welkom is known for its gold mines. It is also the only city in the country where traffic circles are used instead of traffic lights.
The world’s deepest wine cellar is at the St Helena Mine which is 857 m below the Earth’s surface.
Bothaville is regarded as the centre of the Free State Maize Route. The Nampo Harvest Farm and Festival attracts more than 20 000 visitors each year and is the second-largest private agricultural show in the world. Bothaville also hosts the annual Food and Witblits Festival, drawing visitors from all over South Africa.
Winburg is the oldest town and first capital of the former Republic of the Orange Free State. The Voortrekker Museum, using life-size models, depicts the daily routine of the trekkers. A concentration camp cemetery is situated close by.
Sasolburg originated in 1954 with the establishment of Sasol, the synthetic fuel producer.
Parys, which is situated on the banks of the Vaal River, is a popular holiday destination.
The Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site was caused by the collision of a meteorite with the Earth many years ago.
It features unique fauna and flora, including 100 different plant species, more than 300 types of birds and a variety of small mammals. Various hiking and mountain-bike trails are also on offer.
The main feature of the Eastern Cape is its magnificent coastline. With its wide open sandy beaches, secluded lagoons and towering cliffs, the Indian Ocean coastline provides the province with a rich natural tourist attraction, which is also a paradise for watersports enthusiasts.
Added to the diverse coastal experiences are more than 60 state-owned game reserves and more than 30 private game farms, which collectively cover an area greater than the Kruger National Park.
Amatola mountain region
The Amatola mountains are famous for their scenery and history, and stretch from Adelaide in the east to Stutterheim in the west. With its lush forests and ancient battlefields, it is an area steeped in Xhosa culture and early settler history.
The dense forests of the Amatolas are a haven for the endangered Cape parrot, and were also home to the first dinosaur to be identified in South Africa, The ‘Blinkwater Monster’, a large fossilised reptile discovered near Fort Beaufort.
Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Cathcart, where trout-fishing, hiking, riding and birdwatching are among the attractions.
The Amatole Hiking Trail is a well-known scenic but strenuous trail.
The coastal city of Port Elizabeth, which has earned the name ‘Friendly City’, is a superb holiday destination, offering a diverse mix of eco-attractions. The Isuzu National Sailing Week is held annually in April in the waters of Algoa Bay.
The city boasts various scuba-diving sites. Visitors can also visit Bay World with its oceanarium and snake park, and many splendid museums. Other attractions include the Greater Addo Elephant National Park and game reserves; the traditional healing village, Kaya Lendaba; birdwatching; air tours; canoeing; various mountain-bike and horse-riding trails; and organised outdoor excursions.
Within the city there are some beautiful parks with well-landscaped gardens, including the St George’s Park, which covers 73 ha and houses the famous Port Elizabeth Cricket Club, the oldest bowling green in South Africa, Prince Alfred’s Guard Memorial, the 1882 Victorian Pearson Conservatory, and the 54-ha Settler’s Park.
Tourists can also explore the Donkin Heritage Trail, take a ride on the famous Apple Express, and hike along the site of ancient shipwrecks on the Sacramento Trail. At King William’s Town, tourists can visit the Amathole Missionary Museum. The grave of Black Consciousness activist, Steve Biko, is also in the town.
Since Portuguese mariners first pioneered the sea the Cape to India, the notorious Wild Coast has claimed countless ships.
Southern right and humpback whales and their regularly spotted from the high dunes, between May and November, while and bottlenose dolphins are often seen shore.
The entire region, once known as the ‘Transkei is the home of a major section of the speaking southern Nguni (or Pondo) tribes.
Brightly coloured examples of their beadwork, with traditional pottery and basketry can from roadside vendors and at some trading posts.
Visitors to the rural village of Qunu can view the childhood home of former President Mandela. In the city of Mthatha, the Nelson Mandela Museum tells the story of this great figure.The museum is a collection of heritage sectors spread across three locations: Qunu, Mveso and Mthatha. A display reflecting the life and times of Mandela can be found at the Bhunga Building section of the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mhatha. Mandela has received thousands of gifts from presidents, groups and ordinary people. Accepted on behalf of the people of South Africa, they are in safekeeping at the museum for the benefit and appreciation of the nation. Artefacts range from children’s letters to bejewelled camel covers.
The alignment of the N2 national route along the Wild Coast will help open up investment opportunities in this area.
Coffee Bay is popular among surfers, anglers and shell collectors.
To the south is the prominent rock formation, the Hole in the Wall. The local Xhosa call this place Izi Khaleni (Place of the Thunder). During high tide, the waves move through the hole in such a way that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.
The vast plains of the Karoo have an air of grandeur and its many picturesque towns are steeped in history.
The Owl House in Nieu Bethesda displays the creative talent of the late Helen Martins. Statues of mermaids, wise men, camels, owls and churches create a wonderland in the garden. All the artworks were created with broken bottles, bits of mirror and cement.
More than 200 houses in Graaff-Reinet have been restored to their original Victorian appearance, and proclaimed national monuments. The Old Library Museum houses the Lex Bremner Fossil Collection of Karoo reptile fossils and a collection of Khoi and San art reproductions. Urquhart House has a popular genealogical research centre.
Almost 50 km south-west of Graaff-Reinet is the Kalkkop Crater, a gigantic circular impact that is of major scientific importance.
To the north-west of Graaff-Reinet lies the Valley of Desolation. A steep and narrow road leads into the mountains that surround the valley.
The Valley of Desolation is a national monument within the Karoo Nature Reserve, and was formed millions of years ago by weathering erosion.
The first evidence of the presence of dinosaurs in South Africa can be viewed at Maclear.
The Mountain Zebra National Park is a haven for the Cape mountain zebra species, which at one time inhabited most of the Cape. The park saved these animals from extinction and today their population stands at about 350.
Other species found in the park include antelope, eland, African wildcat, bat-eared fox, and more than 200 bird species, including the pale-winged starling, the booted eagle and the blue crane.
The N6 route runs from Bloemfontein to East London. Popular attractions include the slopes of the Tiffindell Ski Resort and the streams filled with trout, as well as the many caves adorned with ancient rock art.
Several historic towns can be found in the region, including Barkly East, Rhodes, Lady Grey, Elliot, Aliwal North, Burgersdorp and Queenstown.
The Sunshine Coast comprises miles of unspoilt sun-drenched beaches.
Port Alfred lies at the mouth of the Kowie River. Coastal hills are home to the oribi – a small territorial buck that was recently near extinction.
Inland, Grahamstown is sometimes referred to as the ‘City of Saints’, because of the more than 40 churches found in the town. The town is also known for the National Arts Festival, which is held here annually. During this time, Grahamstown is transformed into a dedicated arts venue where performers, visual artists, audiences, writers and craftspeople fuse in a celebration of creative energy.
Other attractions include various museums and historical buildings, the oldest post-box in South Africa, botanical gardens, the cathedrals of St Michael and St George, nature reserves and hiking trails.
Situated north-east of Grahamstown, the Great Fish River Reserve consists primarily of valley bushveld habitat and is surrounded by both tribal land and commercial game reserves and farms.
The reserve boasts abundant wildlife such as white rhino, giraffe, waterbok, Cape buffalo, hippo, kudu, springbok and eland.
There are several historic forts and remains from the legendary frontier wars located in the area.
East London, South Africa’s only river port city, was originally established as a supply port to serve the military headquarters at King William’s Town. The city’s own waterfront development, Latimer’s Landing, is situated on the banks of the Buffalo River. The East London Aquarium houses approximately 400 different marine and freshwater species.
The East London Museum depicts the natural environment and rich heritage of the region. Best known for the prehistoric coelacanth, the museum also displays reconstructions of the extinct dodo of Mauritius, along with the only extant dodo egg in the world.
The Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area is the largest of the inland protected areas and provides opportunities to visit spectacular fynbos-covered mountains on foot or in off-road vehicles.