The rainbow nation has lived through the struggle and pain of many oppressed cultures and destructive colonial invasions. Despite it's battled lands and oppressed communities, this country is one of the most diverse and rich cultural melting pots we have ever come across.
It is no surprise that this is the case when you look at how varied their natural environment is. Prepare to explore the most incredible landscapes and people inhabiting them.
With 11 different languages spoken and specific cultures linked to most of them, South Africa has everything you need to experience the diverse cultural interaction. Despite the variety of languages, English is commonly spoken by the majority of the people, so communication is rarely an issue. People are always happy to help, even if it's by sign language.
One of the things that characterises SA is it's people; charming, happy, helpful and humble. They will always want to hear your story and become your friends. Maintain an open mind and you will see how they rapidly steal your heart and not your wallet, as your prejudices may warn you.
Cape Town and Johannesburg: two very different sides of the same coin. Each with its own semi-unique history of slavery, riches, apartheid and freedom, but also with its big differences..
Cape Town, the picturesque western hub for South Africans, tourists and foreign nationals has drawn people from all over the world to live amongst its natural and man made wonders.
Compare this to Johannesburg, commotion in the streets, shops set up wherever they will fit, where everyone is an entrepreneur for the day. Welcome to the commercial capital of South Africa, if you want to make a career for yourself, this is the place to do it.
Transport is great inside the cities; taxis, combis and cabs fill the busy streets of city centres beeping and manoeuvring to pick up and drop-off passengers. Robots (how locals call traffic lights) are not entirely respected, but pedestrians and other cars are. To move around the country it gets a little bit more complicated, so the Baz bus or renting a car is your best option. They are both good options, but renting a car gives you an incredible advantage: freedom.
When you are cruising through the deserted main roads that may turn to dirt with no previous notice or that do not even appear in google maps, you will notice something very particular. Drivers are more polite here than anywhere in the world we have ever been to. Not only do the slow vehicles drift to the side of the road to let you overtake, but they signal to say: "thank you" (hazard lights) and "you're welcome" (main beams). Always so thoughtful!
As you leave Cape Town on the N2 (the countries most scenic motorway), you pass regions home to the Xhosa tribe all the way up to the Zulu-Land border with Mozambique. Each culture has their differences and has adapted to their environment in a sustainable way - something us westerners could learn from! However, there are some constants; the traditional Sotho hut is very similar to that of the Xhosa tribe, the languages of Zulu and Xhosa only differ very slightly, the 'dowry' of cows paid when a man has found a woman he would like to wed is another constant. It becomes obvious that these tribes form an interconnected web of dependents who develop as a whole despite their differences. These are all incredibly interesting cultures with a lot to share. Start speaking to the locals and you will find that true cultural immersion is only a conversation away.
But beautiful people are here for a reason - for a beautiful life. Most people dream of a sustainable hut overlooking white sandy beaches with turquoise blue water washing over them, all of this in front of vast game reserves where elephants peacefully wander alongside the other big 4. For a South African living on the coast, this is reality. Their normality is hippos, crocodiles and bull sharks all living in the same river. The Rastas from the neighbouring communities join these dangerous ecosystems, taking their rowing boats for a paddle when they are feeling brave!
Across the whole of South Africa you will see landscapes morph from the bushland of Kruger national park, over the mountains and snowy peaks of the Drakensbergs, through the arid desert of the greater Karoo, past the luscious wine lands via the big metropolitan cities to the enchanting coastal regions. There are VERY FEW countries with this scale of topographical diversity per unit area. As you would expect, each environment hosts a totally different set of ecosystems which means a huge variety of plants, animals and lifestyles!
Obviously we can't write about every animal we saw, but to give you a taste, you can see about 70 species of antelope, the Big 5, the dussie (the elephants closest relative despite looking like a hamster), coral reef ecosystems, ostriches and their desert companions, crocodiles, hippos, sharks and much much more! If you have even the faintest interest in animals, this is the country for you.
Accommodation is generally between 250 and 400 rand a night for a double room and 100 to 180 for a dorm. In high season (December 1 to January) the prices will rise and we strongly recommend you to book hostels and certain activities at least two days in advance. You don't want to be left to sleep in the car; we learned this the hard way, don't follow our example!
In summary, this is our experience in South Africa. An experience filed with unforgettable landscapes, incredible experiences, lovely people and authentic cultural immersions. Countries like this can take a lifetime to be traveled, but we did our best to cover the most relevant parts of it! We have individual blogs for each area of the county so you can see in more detail what to do:
We hope you enjoy all of this blogs and find them useful to guide your own adventures!
Our aim is to inspire you to travel and explore this beautiful place, and to realize that you don't actually need too much money to experience your trip to the fullest!!!
If you have comments, suggestions or questions don't hesitate to write below!