south african rand (zar)
South Africa is a stunning country. It is where you can find the largest game life reserve in the world as well as powdery beaches surrounded by two oceans. Due to its jaw dropping landscapes, stunning star-studded desert skies, and magnificent diversity, South Africa is revered as one of the worlds most prized countries.
There are many reasons to visit South Africa; a few of them include jungles, elephants, safaris, deserts, and most of all adventure!
WHY WE LOVE
South Africa is a country that has access to both modern cosmopolitan culture as well as the rugged and lush character of the Earth’s geography. From rhinos to zebras, it is brimming with wildlife. The South African grasslands have a greater biodiversity than the rainforests with about 30 species per square kilometer. Amazing right? According to National Geographic “The country takes up only about one percent of Earth’s land surface, but is home to almost ten percent of the world’s known bird, fish, and plant species and about six percent of its mammal and reptile species.” This alone is enough to inspire you to visit South Africa.
It is no secret that Africa, as a whole, is a continent with a vast array of natural elements and activities to partake in. This country offers everything from land and water sports, to amazing food and wine, and even spiritual experiences. But, what makes South Africa extra special for many Westerners is that, they speak the same language, English!
You can also visit South Africa and set your sights on one of the oldest mountains in the world!
This country is known for its wildlife. Now, don’t get us wrong, wildlife is a major part of South African appeal but it is definitely not all of it. Nelson Mandela’s country has a bustling city life filled with the vibrant energy of today’s youth as well as a deep-rooted culture. South Africa’s beauty is unique in that although its history traces back to the beginning of humanity, it manages to remain relevant and thriving. The combination of old and new, traditional and novel is uniquely satisfying. Not to mention, South Africa is home to eight World Heritage Sites!
We urge you not to take our word for it. Discover magnificent treasures on your own. Join us, let’s visit South Africa together…the Wildthentic way. We promise to always keep the adventures wild, authentic, and life changing. What are you waiting for?
“South Africa never leaves one indifferent. Its history, its population, its landscapes and culture - all speak to the visitor, o the student, to the friend of Africa." Tariq Ramadan
Did you know…?
- Table Mountain is not only one of South Africa’s most iconic landmarks it is also one of the oldest mountains in the world! It is home to over 2,200 species of plants, of which 70% are endemic.
- South Africa has three capital cities. The Legislative capitol is Cape Town, Pretoria is the Administrative, and Bloemfontein the Judicial.
- South Africa also has nine provinces, each with its own government. The provinces include: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
- South Africa has 11 official languages, each with equal status. The languages are ordered by most common usage to least: include English, isiZulu, Afrikaans, isiXhosa, siSwati, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Sepedi, isiNdebele, Setswana, Tshivenda.
- The national animal of South Africa is the Springbok. This animal is the only southern African gazelle.
- South Africa is home to many of the world’s biggest and in one case fastest land animals. It has the largest land mammal which is the elephant, the largest bird aka the ostrich, the giraffe which is the tallest animal, the largest fish (whale shark), and the largest reptile, the leatherback turtle, as well as the fastest land mammal which is the cheetah.
- In 2006 South Africa became the first African country and the fifth country in the world to recognise same sex marriage.
- South Africa has the longest continuous wine route on earth, Cape Route 62!
- South Africa is the only country in the world that has voluntarily left its nuclear weapons programme.
- South Africa is home to the oldest meteor scar in the world. The Vredefort Dome is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa, elected from 1994-1999. He carried out his 27-year sentence, in harsh conditions while also having to do intense manual labour. He and was released in 1990 in attempts to soothe the racially charged political and social climate.
- Nelson Mandela's main goal was to rid South Africa of its apartheid, which had racially segregated its people.
- One of Mandela’s famous quotes is “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
South Africa travel guide
When to go
South Africa can be visited and enjoyed year-round. Although we suggest you visit in the summer months between November and February if you like the heat as well as visiting beaches it is important to note that the best months for whale watching are from July to November.
How to get there/around
Most flights arriving from America or Europe land in Johannesburg because it is the country’s international hub. There are other international airports in both Cape Town and Durban but these offer few direct options if you’re flying from either continent.
Once in South Africa many decide to rent a car and drive themselves around. This is a wonderful option because it allows you to be your own boss and see what you want, plus South African roads and facilities are very well-maintained. If driving isn’t your thing we suggest you consider bus and or train travel, both are comfortable and relatively affordable although they don’t give you the same freedom and flexibility a car would. If you are going to drive, be aware that South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. There are also regularly scheduled domestic flights throughout the country, and various chartered airlines fly to and from safari camps.
What to see & do
This stunning country allows you to not only gaze Table Mountain in Cape Town but also witness dolphins playing, penguins walking, whales breaching, and sharks lurking. Due to South Africa’s intense connection to nature and all animals it is no surprise that it was the first country in the world to protect the Great White Shark. It is important you get out, see, and connect with the wildlife. South Africa is heaven to both people and animals alike. It is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to watch whales from most places along the coastal walkway and surrounding areas.
What to pack
November to March are the summer months in which you should pack clothes that keep you cool, think lightweight and comfortable. South Africa has a casual vibe therefore dresses, t-shirts, shorts, and sandals are fine. You will most definitely need comfortable hiking or walking shoes, especially if you plan on going on a safari, in which case you should also bring neutral coloured clothing. Winter in South Africa tends to be mild. Coastal cities receive more rain than inner cities which tend to be colder and drier. During this season you should pack more layers and thicker pieces like socks, a sweater or two, a warm jacket, and a raincoat. No matter what time of the you travel to South Africa, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, insect repellent, SPF, camera, and sunglasses.
Some travel insights from our experts about South Africa
- If you decide to drive, keep in mind that fuel stations are called garages and to tip the attendant about $1 for the service.
- When going on a Safari it is of the utmost importance to read the guidelines and rules provided by guides. Be careful when driving in national parks such as Kruger. Make sure to follow the rules; if an animal comes close make sure to slow down and or stop to let him/her go, this same rule applies for a herd. Let the entire herd pass before you continue to drive. Do not chase and or do anything that will likely stress the animal (especially elephants) as they may charge.
Do: Make sure to only use cabs that have lettering on the sides, not just lights on the roof.
Do: Give and or receive a gift with either your right hand or both hands. Common gifts include cigars, whiskey, wine, a memento from your hometown, or flowers.
Do: Know where you’re going and wonder with a purpose. Many places in both Cape Town and Johannesburg have ‘safe neighbourhoods’ that are only a block away from the ‘unsafe’ ones.
Do: Keep your eyes and heart open to South African culture. It is important to keep in mind that South Africa is an exceptionally diverse nation, which was appropriately dubbed the ‘Rainbow Nation’. Therefore, one should remain alert, and try to understand the nuances of the many lifestyles without judgement.
Do: Tip. South Africa has a tipping culture which usually includes anywhere from 10% of the service cost up. It is customary to tip in restaurants, cafes, bars, and even when getting other services such as washing your hair or getting a pedicure.
Don’t: Call South Africans “Dutchmen” and do not refer to Afrikaans as “Kitchen Dutch”.
Don’t: Leave food on your plate. Try to finish your meal as best as possible in order to not offend your host. The opposite rule applies if travelling to Nigeria where you should make sure to leave a bit of food on the plate after finishing.
Don’t: Drive with the doors unlocked and or windows down, especially when in a major city and at night.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask questions or dig deep. As long as you ask meaningful questions in a respectful way there will always be people willing to open up and have a conversation. Curious about how life was under apartheid? Just ask!
Don’t: Be impatient. There is a such thing as ‘African Time’. So, slow down and enjoy it.
Cuisine delights (3 best dishes)
In order to have a true South African dining experience you must eat a traditional braai. Braai is different than an average BBQ because it is more than an act of cooking meat, it is somewhat of a ritual. Braai or shisa nyama ('burn the meat' in Zulu) is an eating experience that usually consists of food sharing and music. Vegetarians be warned, this is not the outing for you!
Chakalaka and pap are very popular in South African cuisine, and are considered staples. Chakalaka is a vegetable dish that consists of onions, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans and spices, which is usually served cold. Pap which means 'porridge' is like American style grits. Pap is a starch-based dish that is made from white corn maize. Chakalaka and pap are served together and accompanied with braaied meat.
Bunny chow is a popular street food made from hollowed out loaves of bread that are then stuffed with spicy curry. Bunny chow can have a chicken, pork, or vegetarian filling made from lentils and beans. This dish was originally served by Indian Immigrants to city workers but is now enjoyed by most people who live in South Africa.
CHATTING CORNER – SURVIVAL GUIDE - Afrikaans
English is widely spoken throughout South Africa. Because the country has 11 languages we decided to translate some words and terms into Afrikaans which is one of the most common languages used.
- Hello – Hallo
- How are you? - Hoe gaan dit?
- What is your name? - Wat is jou naam?
My name is …. – My naam is…
- Where are you from? - Waar kom jy vandaan?
I am from …. - Ek is van ….
- How much is it? - Hoeveel is dit?
- Where is …? - Waar is …?
You will notice the Nguni languages (Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi, Phuthi, and Northern Ndebele) as they use the characteristic click of their tongue to pronounce ‘Xh’. This is especially noticeable with locations name and we encourage you to have a try in pronouncing them the ‘local’ way.
- Do you speak English? - Praat jy Engels?
- Thank you - Dankie
- Please - Asseblief
- Nice to meet you - Aangename kennis
- Cheers! – Gesondheid!
- Beautiful - Pragtige
- Delicious - Heerlike