South Africa invariably wows visitors with its unique mix of improbable juxtapositions and beautiful contradictions. It starts with Nature’s beguiling spell. Stark mountain chains rise vertically from whale-ruled oceans; deserts and tropical rainforests are separated by slivers of rolling farmland; giant elephant herds wander through savanna that overlooks warm Indian Ocean rollers. South Africans themselves provide a marvelous celebration of individuality. This is a country with 11 official languages and a national anthem sung in four mother tongues. Meeting the locals is integral to the experience and it’s impossible not to be buoyed by their boundless resilience and laughter. Even the lion prides and rhinos seem to share this irrepressible enthusiasm.
At the same time, South Africa is shaped by a remarkable unity, a collective identity that leaves an indelible mark on all who visit. From the moment you step off the plane, you know you’re in the ‘Rainbow Nation’. Friendly welcomes are unanimous and universal, regardless of the language. The diverse geography provides endless magic: from the hippo-infested swamps of the Limpopo, to the soaring snowcapped peaks of the Drakensburg, and dozens of sun-drenched beaches tucked away on the country’s 2000-mile coastline. Even its cities can harmoniously package everything together – epitomized by Cape Town, one of the most singularly spectacular destinations on the planet.
- Explore the Garden Route, a bewitching stretch of coastline that offers never-ending changes of scenery and perpetual surprises. Mystical forests tower over serene beaches, the Big Five roam in private reserves, arid desert is flanked by towering mountains, and coastal heathlands are dominated by the vibrantly-hued fynbos that constitute the smallest and richest of the world’s floral kingdoms. The Garden Route is South Africa in a nutshell, an enchanting journey through ever-changing landscapes, which is always relaxed and benevolently easygoing.
- South Africa’s rugged coastline is a clash of styles: brutal Atlantic waves merging with warm, unruffled Indian Ocean waters. Transcending the competing currents is a collection of the world’s largest marine animals. Three different whale species can be found breaching just meters from the Hermanus Cliffs; you can go on a boat trip to see the magnificent southern right whales at breathtakingly close range. Whale sharks – the peaceful plankton-eaters that grow up to 12 meters long – roam the waters near St Lucia, while formidable great white sharks can be seen from an underwater cage in Gansbaai. Fortunately the sharks aren’t everywhere, and safely dotted around the 2000-mile coastline are numerous famous surfing spots.
- Take a day trip down the Cape Peninsula, meandering along cliffside roads that often defy engineering. Stop to sunbathe on fine white beaches, swim with the fearless penguins at Boulders Beach, have a meal in a quaint fishing village, and admire the stunning views over the South Atlantic from a succession of lookouts. Your final destination is the very southwestern tip of Africa: a jagged range of rock, sand, and a fairytale lighthouse. Set sail from here and the next stop would be Antarctica. Just think about that for a moment.
- In South Africa there is no defined itinerary, no standard collection of attractions or ‘must-dos’. Beach, city or safari? Exploring, relaxing or going on an adventure? Wine, wildlife or wonderful culture? In many ways, South Africa epitomizes the Zicasso experience. Here is a country with so much to offer it can be mind-boggling just thinking where to start. Tailoring an itinerary to your personal interests is clearly the best way to go. So let our handpicked travel specialists indulge your imagination – and craft your perfect South African vacation.