Mzansi, as the locals call South Africa, is a fusion of diverse cultures and vibrant people. Born out of a painful past of racial segregation under an apartheid government, the rainbow nation – fondly named so by Archbishop Desmond Tutu post-apartheid – is a beautiful African country.
It successfully transitioned to democracy from a system of apartheid that divided people according to their race, favouring white people and oppressing other racial groups. After historic elections in 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected and first black president of South Africa.
South Africa has 11 official languages, representing the different cultural groups and regions of the country. It is known for its great weather – there is year-round sunshine in most parts of the country, making it a great tourism destination. It also boasts amazing views, and there is plenty to do on the southern tip of Africa. From safari adventures on which you can see the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo) to charming coastal getaways filled with a variety of activities, you won't be short of a good experience in Mzansi.
There are nine provinces in the country, each offering unique attractions.
The Eastern Cape has two major cities, East London and Port Elizabeth, both of which offer stunning beaches. The Addo Elephant National Park, near Port Elizabeth, is one of the key attractions of this province, and is home to more than 600 elephants. There is also the rare opportunity to spot the Big Seven at this national park – elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, southern right whale and great white shark.
The picturesque Golden Gate Highlands National Park is one of the main tourist attractions of the central Free State province. Other notable attractions in the province are the Gariep Dam Nature Reserve and the small town of Clarens, known as the Jewel of the Free State, which offers adventure and outdoor activities, art, relaxation and good restaurants.
Gauteng, the country’s smallest province by size, is the economic hub of South Africa. With a rich history, this province has a lot to offer, including visiting historical sites in the main cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg; sampling the cuisine and nightlife of Johannesburg (known as the City of Gold because of its gold-mining history); and enjoying a scenic picnic in the province’s beautiful parks, or a game drive in the Big Five Dinokeng Game Reserve.
KwaZulu-Natal is a popular tourist hub, and offers beaches, game reserves, the scenic KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and the Drakensberg Mountains. The coastal city of Durban has a great coastline and visitors can enjoy incredible beaches, water adventures at uShaka Marine World and cultural experiences.
Limpopo is an outdoor-lover’s paradise, and is known for its wildlife and many game farms (part of the Kruger National Park falls in Limpopo). The beautiful Waterberg Biosphere is definitely worth visiting, and the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour is a must-do for adrenaline junkies.
Mpumalanga (which means “the land of the rising sun” in the local siSwati and Zulu languages) is home to the world-famous Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa and a popular destination for local and international tourists. Visitors can also go on a self-drive along the Panorama Route, which includes the Blyde River Canyon, one of the largest canyons on Earth. There are a number of waterfalls along this route, including the Sabie Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Mac Mac Falls.
In the North West province you will find the Sun City entertainment resort and casino, which offers everything from a fun water park and golf, to live events, top restaurants and gaming. Sun City also hosts the popular Nedbank Golf Challenge, which attracts the world’s top golfers. The Pilanesberg Game Reserve is a key tourist attraction in this province.
The Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest, and least densely populated, province, and boasts vast open plains and clear night skies. At the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which straddles South Africa and Botswana, visitors will find predators such as lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyenas, as well as herds of wildebeest, springbok, eland and red hartebeest.
The Western Cape is where you will find the world-famous Mother City of Cape Town, home to the wondrous Table Mountain that overlooks the city. The province boasts beautiful beaches and the scenic Cape Winelands. The Garden Route is a popular journey for visitors to the province, with many natural attractions, beaches and good restaurants. For a memorable experience, visitors can take a trip to Robben Island, just off Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners were held during apartheid.
In 2010 South Africa hosted the first FIFA World Cup to be held in Africa. With amazing locations, friendly people and great development in infrastructure, the country showcased itself to the world, rewriting its story of a nation divided by its past, to that of a united country that hosted the world under the African sun, and staged a great tournament of the beautiful game.