For South Africa I did not have great expectations. It was never a destination that I would ever have thought of, at least not seriously.
I came to know of South Africa for the first time in London, when, during the cigarette break in the office, we were chatting with the South African colleagues.
Very beautiful country. But to my whys nobody gave me the answers I hoped for, thus not particularly adding fuel to my imagination.
October has arrived, it seems to me this fall has arrived earlier than usual.
On the legs I notice the last remnants of the Indian ocean tan when I let myself be kissed by the sun until September, I wonder if I really want to do the season change of the wardrobe.
This time, I do not feel much desire to travel, to move, to wake up in the morning at 8 and have a plan of action always ready. To shift around every 2, with luck, 3 days.
I would rather just stay in a climatically pleasant and warm place, in an urban situation that would give me the chance to work without having to undertake 1 hour in a minibus to find a wifi that works, that is near the sea and not too far from Europe, also culturally.
South Africa has been revealed as a “papale candidate” (likely) option, as my mother would say.
Apparently, what I was looking for seemed to be there.
There are rumors that South Africa is not Africa but at least it is, I thought, closer to countries where I am happy to travel in, in the case I might not like it, I always have a way out that compensates for the disappointment. There is a Plan B.
The preparations were very little. Upon landing I did not know whether to go east, west or north. In the meantime, in the two weeks following arrival, I enjoyed and appreciated Cape Town and designed the route that I would take.
It’s been two months since that landing and I stand to greet a country which has surprised me. Not one but 100 times.
South Africa has been a happy compromise between the Western world with its comforts and also habits and African world with its “discomforts” but and its wonderful customs and traditions.
A passage between the West/Africa varying views hard to find in other places, from the coasts with waves for surfing, to placid beaches for swimming, deserts and mountains, reserves where to catch sight of the big 5 and shopping malls, excellent restaurants with cuisine from all over the world and banquets with delicious fruit (in particular mango and pineapple!).
I like to think of it as Fan Country, complex and diverse, between the West and Africa that amazes, perhaps because too little is known of it, and what is known, not well at all.
10 reasons to travel to South Africa
1# – It’s economical to travel and live in
At the moment the Rand (ZAR) is very convenient for us European exchange rate but also so with the American dollar, South Africa has proved to be a cheap destination offering excellent cost / quality solutions. To live well (in nice apartments, hotels, eat in fine restaurants, entrance fees to parks, petrol, car rental) there is no need for thousands of dollars and living standards/trip is on high and excellent standards.
Even backpackers here have a rather simple view, even those who do not want to rent a car but prefer to move around by public transport. The transport system is very well organized, most of the roads are asphalted and you can get pretty much anywhere with trains, buses and minibuses.
For more practical information to organize a trip to South Africa click on South Africa On The Road.
2# – The variety of the landscapes and cultures
It has been a long time I was traveling in a country where the variety of landscapes can be as comprehensive as in South Africa which is not only beautiful coastlines, and some are, or beaches that take your breath away, but it is also a country with deserts, mountains, countryside and villages as we imagine when we think of them, even without ever having been to Africa.
Not to mention the complexity of the ethnic groups and even of the tribes in this country where the official languages are many and so the skin color, that have made this huge country nicknamed as “The Rainbow Country“.
#3 – The food
Whether it’s shellfish or fish, South Africa not only serves excellent dishes but also at very affordable prices. I have eaten seafood in large quantities, because the portions are abundant, paying no more than $8.
Meat is a South African specialty, needless to say it is in direct competition with the Argentines, who are experts, and for those who want exotic touches, easy to find cuisines from all over the world, from Thai to Mexican.
Durban, then, is the city of the “Indians” where the spices are dispersed in the streets of the center.
4# – It is not as dangerous as you think
South Africa is usually linked to violence and danger, I must say that in two months I have never had the feeling of being in danger, perception I have rather had in other places, even if I had taken the necessary precautions when needed.
Is it dangerous? Surely in the city it is not recommended to go around by foot at night and all the houses have alarms and you have to take rather classic precautions, but personally I was pleasantly surprised of not experiencing nor was told about episodes of violence of any kind. If not by locals who have always lived in the cities.
But this I would say do not make the cities in South Africa more dangerous than what could be the Latin American cities. With belief, no sense of danger.
5# – Allows a real road trip even without 4 × 4
Excellent condition of the roads, apart from the tract in the Wild Coast where things get a bit complicated but continues to be feasible, South Africa does not ask for a 4×4, not like the rest of Africa like Namibia in some places or Tanzania.
A 2×4 is sufficient and comfortable for traveling the country far and wide, with technical difficulties in the Wild Coast, and, other good news, the rental prices are affordable, as well as the cost of gasoline that does not reach to the euro per liter, the 2015/2016 exchange rate.
6# – National Parks, reserves and safari
Safari, meaning sighting of animals in parks with almost no boundaries, should be done in Tanzania, from my humble opinion.
On safari in Tanzania I will deepen the topic in the specific post, but in this case I must say that South Africa despite not having, for me, the best national or even private hunting parks for safari, on the other hand allows you to go on them and sight the animals of Africa at value prices, compared to Africa’s parks of the Eastern and central Africa, and to do so also in self-drive mode, thanks to the well-marked paths and the well-organized parks.
The safari is an extension to routes which between them have no continuity, the cities, the coast, the deserts, and on the whole of the country makes it even more varied and really suitable for everyone.
7# – It’s an excellent destination for digital nomads
All digital nomads flock mainly into Asia, where the cost of living is notoriously low, but South Africa has also surprised me from this point of view.
Affordable costs, internet pretty much anywhere, except in the desert and a little shaky in the Wild Coast, concentrated on sports activities (from the extreme to the less adrenalin provoking), excellent compromise between Western life and African life.
In Cape Town are also springing up co-working offices with fast fiber internet. A city where you can live well with 1,000€ per month.
8# – It’s easy and cheap to travel
South Africa needs time because it is huge and has a range of activities as of regions so large that to claim to visit the country in full in a few weeks it is simply impossible.
But if on one side travel planning can be a bit complex and takes time, more time than other destinations in the world where in principle you follow a classic route, once landed, after that, to realize the trip will be child’s play.
Let’s talk about costs for transport, whether one moves by car, bus, train or take domestic flights, South Africa has proved to be an inexpensive country.
Car rental is absolutely advantageous, for 50 days hire with full coverage on Rentalcars – €750.
9# – The climate
Simply wonderful, especially the coastal, summer on the coast is never particularly hot but pleasant, and generally depending on the time of year when one comes to South Africa it is always possible to find a place in the sun and warmth.
South Africa is a subtropical region, moderated by the sea on two sides of the country in the shape of triangle and the altitude of the interior plateau that make the climate temperate all year round.
The country is bordered on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Indian Ocean, the waters that meet at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of the continent, along a coastline that stretches for well 2798 km.
South Africa is relatively dry but while in the Western Cape most of the precipitation falls in winter in the rest of the country rainfall is in summer.
Johannesburg which is of altitude 1,694 meters in the summer does not exceed 30 degrees in temperature which in winter will drop drastically.
Definitely the best time to travel to South Africa is in our wintertime, so as to be able to pass Christmas by the sea!
10# – South Africa is Africa!
I have left this point to the end although in truth, where I’m concerned, it was the first question that I asked myself: Will I find Africa in South Africa, or will I find a Western world that has little to do with Africa?
The news is that South Africa is Africa and you can experience the African continent just by going a little more out of the Garden Route and the province of Cape Town.
The rural and tribal Africa exists and there is no need to find it who knows where, it is within reach of all, and so even for the most reluctant, as I was up to 24 hours before arrival, the truth is that this aspect is not missing, or rather, that that at the travel’s end has particularly fascinated me is precisely the variety of cultures, colors, lifestyles and traditions that can also be found within the same city.
The same Cape Town that at first glance everything seems except Africa, in truth, in the Townships tells of the African life that you can meet in any African capital.