Forming an inverted triangle bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east, with the aptly named Cape of Good Hope so feared by seafarers as its southernmost point, this wonderful country is framed at its north western borders by the hot deserts of Namibia and by sub-tropical Mozambique to the north east with the expansive veld lying magnificently between.
With such powerful natural frontiers one might expect the lands within these confines to be equally harsh but the climate and landscape have conspired to create temperate regions between the margins of the shore and the hills, mountains and savanna that lie inland of the coastal plains. On the Atlantic south west the Winelands grow some of the finest grapes while on the opposite coast the Indian Ocean’s influence has helped propagate the verdant Garden Route.
The names of those regions might lead one to suspect that the lands have been tamed but inland and north the country broadens into the African bush where the wildlife abounds. The vastly expansive National Parks provide the opportunity to see ‘The Big Five’ close up, not confined singly or in pairs, but roaming free in all their untamed glory. The meeting of the cool and warmer ocean waters means that the seas are also host to abundant sea life and offer an opportunity for whale watching, while, perhaps surprisingly, penguin may ply the rocks and beaches.
As Africa’s most popular tourist destination, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Cape Town, perched at the foot of the colossal Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a floral paradise containing more than 7,000 colourful plant species. It’s incredibly beautiful and rightly named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also take a short boat journey out to Robben Island to see and learn more of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration. Alternatively, simply explore Cape Town’s famous V&A Waterfront before grabbing some downtime on one of the city’s beautiful white-sanded beaches.
South Africa produces more than 250 million gallons of wine every year, putting it firmly among the world’s top ten producers. The majority is produced in and around Cape Town and many of the vineyards are open for tours and tasting sessions. As for what to sip with your evening meal, the reds of Stellenbosch and the full, fruity whites of Franschhoek Valley are highly recommended.
South Africa’s past has been at times turbulent but which cannot be ignored, having witnessed immense cruelties challenged and overcome by acts of the utmost courage. From the early days of its formation almost up to the present, the country's history is well-documented and there are ample opportunities to learn more.
Today, the inland remains sparsely populated, the coastal regions more so with the cities offering exciting contrasts; their differing colonial histories giving each an entirely unique identity, suffusing the influences of those of African ancestry with the customs and culture of the settlers from Europe, India, China and beyond who people this exhilarating country.
‘The Rainbow Nation’ is a fitting description of the Republic of South Africa but perhaps sells this bold country short as there are so many more colours on this nation’s palette than even that phrase might suggest. Not just colours, but the South Africa’s entire make-up which will evoke and enliven all the senses. Lekka!