25 reasons to visit South Africa right now
1. It’s never been cheaper
Sterling is at an all-time high against the rand, with £1 currently worth more than R20 – up from less than R17 at the start of the year and around R10 five years ago.
|Year||Post Office exchange rate on November 11||Per cent variation|
|2014||16.83||+22.4 per cent|
|2013||14.87||+38.6 per cent|
|2010||10.38||+98 per cent|
What exactly does that mean in terms of savings? Inflation has lessened the impact somewhat, but things will still feel far cheaper.
According to the Post Office’s annual holiday costs barometer, which compares the price of essential items in various destinations, actual prices on the ground have fallen by around 15 per cent since 2014, and by almost 50 per cent since 2010. An average three-course evening meal at a restaurant in Cape Town this weekend will set you back £24.27 – down from £28.22 last year, and £57.80 in 2010. A refreshing glass of crisp Chenin blanc will cost £1.46 – 17p less than in 2014 and 95p less than five years ago.
|Cup of coffee (cafe)||87p||98p||£1.21||£1.25|
|Bottle of beer (bar)||97p||£1.19||£1.35||£1.54|
|Soft drink (bar)||49p||56p||£1.08||77p|
|Glass of wine (bar)||£1.46||£1.63||£1.68||£2.41|
|Bottle of water (supermarket)||58p||71p||61p||£1.44|
|Insect repellent (supermarket)||£3.88||£4.75||£2.56||£1.93|
|Percentage variation||n/a||+15.1 per cent||+20.2 per cent||+49.4 per cent|
2. The weather is fantastic right now
As Britain prepares for winter – with predictions this week that we’re facing three months of storms – the southern hemisphere is enjoying the start of summer. The weather forecast predicts Cape Town will be basking in 25C sunshine next week.
3. Because Cape Town is the world’s best city
So say Telegraph Travel readers. “You really can’t overstate the case for visiting Cape Town,” says Pippa de Bruyn, a resident of the city and author of our expert guide. “First, there’s the in-your-face beauty of a craggy mountain range that drops precipitously into a glittering sea, its flanks carpeted in green. Then there’s the pristine white beaches lapped by – it must be said – a chilly Atlantic, their curves defined by giant granite boulders to bake on, and burbling mountain streams in dappled forests.” That’s quite enough Pippa, you’re making us jealous.
Cape Town. It’s quite pretty Photo: AP
4. They’ve got the Big Five
That’s lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino, in case you weren’t sure. And then there’s hippo, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, meerkats, wild dogs, kudu, hyena and ostrich (including ones you can ride at Outsdhorrn)
5. You might even have a wildlife encounter like one of these
6. It’s heaven for whale watching
Even if you stay on shore. Mark Cawardine, the wildlife expert, explains: “This is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to watch whales from coastal footpaths, restaurants, cafés and even from the comfort of your hotel bed. Hermanus, especially, has some of the best land-based whale watching in the world.”
7. It hosts one of the greatest migrations on Earth – the sardine run
Monty Halls, who wrote about the run for Telegraph Travel earlier this year, says: “First reported in the Natal Mercury paper on August 4, 1853, this is one of the great global events of the marine calendar. It involves vast shoals of sardines moving north along the coast of the Eastern Cape and Natal, with numbers immeasurable to man. They are pursued by anything with teeth, a beak – or a camera.”
The sardine run
8. You can’t escape the proximity of nature – even in Cape Town
“Whether it is spotting zebra on the slopes of Table Mountain or being halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point,” says Pippa de Bruyn. Yes, but do you have urban foxes? Thought not.
9. It’s got one of the best luxury train trips in the world
Got £800 to spare? The luxurious Blue Train route covers the 994 miles between Cape Town and Pretoria in 27 hours, with one stop in each direction – the fashionable old town of Matjiesfontein in the Karoo on the northbound journey, and the historic diamond-mining town of Kimberley on the journey back. Mark Smith, the Man in Seat 61, says: “Meals and drinks (and even Montecristo Havana cigars) are included in the fare, and there is an extensive list of South African wines available. You probably won’t be able to drink £800-worth before you reach Pretoria, but you can have a damn good try…”
Rovos Rail tackles the same route in similar luxury but at a far more leisurely pace.
But there is a budget alternative…
“You can also travel from Cape Town to Jo’burg on the weekly Premier Classe train for R2,840 (£132) or on the four-times-per-week Shosholoza Meyl Sleeper for an incredible R630 – about £30,” says Mark Smith. “Premier Classe passengers enjoy cosy private sleepers with three-course meals included in the elegant restaurant car and the day spent scenery-gazing in a spacious lounge with piano-bar – luxury on a budget.”
The Blue Train. More than just a name
10. It has one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world
That’s Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town Photo: GETTY
As well as the world’s most extreme golf hole, the 400-yard par three “extreme 19th” at the Legends Golf Course, where you hit your tee shot from a clifftop that can only be reached by helicopter. Naturally, Telegraph Travel’s Charles Starmer-Smith bagged a par.
11. The wine
Lisa Grainger, author of our essential guide to South Africa, writes: “There are more than 200 cellars within a couple of hours’ drive of Cape Town, and four main wine regions – Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Wellington – in which to explore art galleries, sip wine and sample local dishes in gracious Cape Dutch estates.”
12. There some incredible landscapes
Like the Valley of Desolation:
Landscapes like this are ten a penny Photo: AP/FOTOLIA
And Bourke’s Luck, a rock formation in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve:
Bourke’s Luck Photo: AP/FOTOLIA
13. You can stay in Nelson Mandela’s former home
Earlier this year the private residence built for the great leader opened to the public as a luxury holiday retreat. It’s located on the Shambala Private Game Reserve, around 160 miles north of Johannesburg. Prices start at R70,000 (£3,248) per night. While this might seem expensive, the property can sleep up to 12 people.
A holiday home with history
14. Or in what might be the coolest treehouse in the world
This incredible accommodation is found at the Lion Sands Game Reserve in the Kruger National Park. Guests are taken to the ‘Chalkey Treehouse’ at sunset for a picnic supper and then left to spend a luxurious night in the bush. After dark, the night air is filled with the chatter of hyenas and the occasional roar of a lion. Campers are left armed with mosquito repellent and a two-way radio.
“Lions can’t climb trees, can they?”
15. You can watch two oceans meet at Cape Agulhas
Where else can you see this? Photo: ALAMY
16. There are pristine beaches
Some of the best are found in Plettenberg Bay, in the Western Cape, along the popular Garden Route.
Great whites are common to the area, however… Photo: ALAMY
17. They drive on the left
And signposts are generally clear and in English.
18. It’s (almost) in the same time zone as Britain
So no jet lag.
Boulders Beach is know for its waddling visitors. Or go to see the seals on nearby Seal Island.
One very cute reason to visit Photo: AP
20. There’s some seriously good hiking
“Ukhahlamba Drakensberg is southern Africa’s highest mountain chain, a 907-sq-mile park with spectacular views and some of the finest examples of Bushman art on the continent,” says Lisa Grainger.
21. And historic battlefields
She adds: “For those with even a passing interest in history, the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift in the northern KwaZulu-Natal interior are worth stopping at.”
22. It’s great for shopping
Pippa de Bruyn says: “Cape Town has a cool urban edge, with excellent art galleries, hip bars, world-rated restaurants, design-savvy shops, and home to Africa’s innovative artists and designers, drawn by the city’s innate beauty.”
In Johannesburg, “hip fashion boutiques and weekend markets are springing up in formerly derelict inner-city factories, particularly around Main Street,” according to Lisa Grainger.
23. It has eight World Heritage Sites
In addition to the aforementioned Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, there is Robben Island, the Richtersveld desert, Mapungubwe, the Cape Floristic Region, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Vredefort Dome and the “Cradle of Humankind”, known for its unique wealth of humanoid fossils.
A croc in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Photo: ALAMY
24. There is the world’s fastest “zip slide”
Which tops out at 75mph. It’s found in Sun City.
25. And the largest cave system in Africa
The Cango Caves.
Photo: ALAMY Adapted article written By Oliver Smith, digital travel editor at The Telegraph.co.uk
11 NOVEMBER 2015 • 12:00AM
That’s 25 good reasons– now start planning a trip with iGO Africa – click here to book your dream South Africa holiday