Saturday , 15 December 2018
South Africa Blog / Attractions and Places

Attractions and Places

Animal Sanctuaries In Johannesburg

Animal Sanctuaries In Johannesburg

South Africa is known for its wildlife, and families that are visiting Gauteng won’t be disappointed. Zoos, parks and animal sanctuaries in Johannesburg, Pretoria and the surrounding areas are a must for anyone that wants to experience some of Africa’s wildest animals up close.

Animal Sanctuaries in Johannesburg and its Surrounds

Bird Gardens at MonteCasino

These enchanted gardens are nestled in the heart of glitzy Sandton and are home to more than 60 species of beautiful birds, reptiles, and little mammals. They wander around freely and are fantastic for a quick family trip between shopping sprees.

Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg Zoo in Parkview is home to wild dog, hyena, hippo, zebra, bear (brown, polar, and spectacled), lion, cheetah, puma, gorilla, panda, and even Siberian tiger; along with loads more incredible species. The walk-through aviary means that visitors can get up close to colourful feathered friends, while the medicinal and herb gardens are exquisite to explore. Little ones love the farmyard, where they can pet sheep, ponies and horses or play on the jungle gyms. There are a number of tours on offer at the Jo’Burg Zoo.

Pretoria Zoo (also known as The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa)

With more than 9 500 animals, this is one of the world’s top zoos. See rhino, lion, cheetah, hippo, elephant, and gorilla in gorgeous habitats. Explore it in a golf cart, on the Zoo Choo-Choo Train, or from the cableway that takes you soaring above the zoo. It’s also home to South Africa’s biggest inland marine aquarium. Ragged-tooth sharks and endangered Komodo dragons are just some of the aquarium’s most popular residents.

Hartbeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park

Against the gorgeous setting of the Magaliesberg Mountains and the Hartbeespoort Dam, live reptile shows and tours of the park are irresistible for families visiting Gauteng. More than slithering snakes, the park is also home to chimpanzees, tigers, vultures, and other wild cats. Some of the animals enjoy human interaction, and guests are invited to touch and feed them. There is also a tea garden here.

Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary

Visit the primates in their natural forest habitat in the Magaliesberg. The animals; which include spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and capuchins; have been rescued from the pet trade or previously raised as domestic pets. Their rehabilitation into the wild has the main aim of allowing them to live happily wild lives again, within the protection of the sanctuary.

Elephant Sanctuary

Also on the Hartbeespoort Dam, this sanctuary offers visitors the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk with, touch and feed the mighty African elephant. This is one of the very special animal sanctuaries in Johannesburg.

Croc City Crocodile and Reptile Park

This is in Lanseria, less than an hour from Johannesburg, and promises a real thrill for the family. The braver visitors can even hold baby crocodiles, a tarantula, and a few of the resident snakes. Round off a formal tour of the park with a hot cuppa at the tea garden. There’s a shaded play area, where the little ones love to burn some energy.

Hunyani Snake City

See anacondas, rattlesnakes, mambas, pythons, cobras, and crocodiles in this Edenvale attraction. There are live snake shows too, for those that want to learn more about these animals and get even closer to them.

The Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary

In the Midrand, between Johannesburg and Pretoria, is this gorgeous natural retreat, where families can spot some beautiful animals. Dubbed a boutique zoo, this sanctuary is home to many different species; including cheetahs, lions and a variety of snakes.

Visiting Johannesburg

Also known as the City of Gold, Johannesburg is a hotspot for world-class shopping and entertainment. There is plenty of accommodation here, and the convenience of the OR Tambo International Airport.

The Eastern Cape Versus the Western Cape – What’s the Difference?

The Eastern Cape Versus the Western Cape – What’s the Difference?

First-time visitors to South Africa can’t be blamed for not knowing their eastern from their western when it comes to the capes. They’re relatively near to one another, and have many similarities. So, what’s the difference between the laid-back Eastern Cape and the slightly-busier-but-still-very-chilled Western Cape?

The Lowdown on the Eastern Cape

 

The Eastern Cape is a massive, but quieter province. It stretches from Storms River to the area previously known as the Transkei (which borders KwaZulu-Natal), and inland to include gorgeous mountains. The Eastern Cape is characterised by some large cities, like Port Elizabeth and East London, but mainly by its rural Xhosa villages, which freckle the landscape. Cattle roam the grassy plains and there is an undeniable sense of space and solitude.

 

The Eastern Cape is also home to some magnificent game reserves and national parks, thanks to all of the space available for the wildlife to roam. A few of the best known of these are Addo Elephant National Park, Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, and the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. For this reason, the Eastern Cape is fantastic for safaris, bird watching, and game viewing. Look out for the Big 5 – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard.

 

This province has an extensive coastline, and the waters are fairly warm and safe for swimming. There are also loads of rivers that lead to the sea, particularly between Port Elizabeth and East London. These create pretty holiday retreats along the coast. It is an awesome destination for anyone that loves watersports and, because of the consistent winds, it has become a world-class kiting destination.

The Lowdown on the Western Cape

 

A little more cosmopolitan than its eastern counterpart, the Western Cape tends be more about shopping, winelands, and entertainment. Of course, there are many spectacular natural areas here too; with its impressive mountain ranges, verdant valleys, exquisite white-sand beaches, and endless stretches of vineyards.

 

In fact, the Western Cape is known the world over for its wines. So, it is not surprising that, around the main city centre of Cape Town, there are many wine farms. Here, visitors can taste some excellent wines (or pair them with delicious meals).

 

More than just the metropolis, the Western Cape is home to unique little towns and villages that give it its character. These include Franschhoek, Swellendam, Robertson, Paternoster and Hermanus. A little further away from Cape Town, there is the Garden Route. This is home to Knysna, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay, amongst other gems.

 

Cape Town itself is home to some of the world’s best-known attractions. These include Table Mountain, Robben Island, the V & A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, and the Two Oceans Aquarium.

 

Adventure sports like shark cage diving, bungy jumping, abseiling, kloofing and mountain climbing are a must here, because the landscape lends itself to exploring. The ocean waters are significantly cooler in the Western Cape than the Eastern Cape.

EC vs WC

Well, it’s almost impossible to choose between the two. They both have incredible natural areas, plenty of history and lashings of culture. The Western Cape offers great shopping, plenty of history, world-class wines, and first-class entertainment. The Eastern Cape is hard to beat in terms of its game reserves, stunning warm sea water, pristine beaches, friendly folk, and tranquillity. They both have loads of charming historical towns and lashings of culture. In addition, they both have plenty of accommodation – ranging from guesthouses and B&B’s to game lodges, resorts, hotels, and apartments. Find a full range of establishments on SA-Venues.com.

 

Six Underrated Attractions in South Africa

Six Underrated Attractions in South Africa

South Africa is a country of extraordinary variety. Whether you’re after beaches, mountains, forests, valleys, or busy city centres, this is the place to find them. And, as a destination, there is no shortage of world-renowned attractions in South Africa. But, there are also loads of gems that may not be as well known but are every bit as beautiful and exciting to explore. These have the advantage of (often) being quieter and easier on the budget.

Six Underrated Attractions in South Africa

1. The Klein Karoo

There’s an ethereal kind of beauty about the Klein Karoo. It’s different, unassuming, and a little mysterious. A little town like Graaff-Reinet has loads of history (it’s the oldest town in the Eastern Cape), friendly people, and plenty of character. It’s surrounded by the Camdeboo Park, which has incredible populations of plants and animals and is home to the breathtaking Valley of Desolation. Other Klein Karoo towns with unique appeal include Nieu Bethesda and Cradock.

2. The Bavianskloof Mega-Reserve

More than being a World Heritage Site, the Baviaanskloof is spectacularly beautiful. Walk, hike, cycle and 4 x 4 your way through the rugged terrain to get the most out of it. This is all about steep mountain passes, deep gorges, incredible rock formations, lush greenery, and unspoilt plains. Animals that call this home include the leopard, baboon, vervet monkey, zebra, eland, kudu, and buffalo. There are also loads of raptors and other exciting bird species.

3. Mossel Bay

This seaside Garden Route town is another gem. Although tourists sometimes pass through it en route to or from Cape Town, it remains fairly quiet. But, it has so much to see and do. This is a hotspot for shark cage diving, fishing, surfing, swimming, whale watching, SCUBA diving, cycling, shopping, and sampling some excellent seafood. Mossel Bay has a stunning climate, and is only 1.5 hours from Knysna and about  4.5 hours from Cape Town.

4. The Lake District of Mpumalanga

Seeing the glimmering blue of the Mpumalanga lakes is soothing to your soul. Around Lake Chrissie, which is the main lake of the district, there are 320 more lakes and pans of different sizes and shapes. And, where there’s water, there’s life. Find an amazing variety of birds, frogs, and butterflies. Or, just relax while you drink in the views, which are nothing short of humbling.

5. Tulbagh

Tulbagh stirs up all kinds of nostalgia with its old farmhouses, views of the mountain behind a haze of summer heat (or, very rarely, topped with snow in the winter), and quirky locals. Go on wine tastings, visit the museums, cycle through vineyards, hike through mountain fynbos, or explore the orchards on the back of a horse. This little town in the Cape Winelands is a very special retreat, just 1.5 hours from Cape Town.

6. Tsitsikamma

This part of the Garden Route is lush, green, and filled to the brim with adventure. When visiting Tsitsikamma, you can choose from ziplining over the spectacular forests, ziplining over tannin-stained waterfalls, segwaying through the Storms River village and forests, horse riding along the streets and country trails, and tubing down Storms River. This is one of the most awesome holiday attractions in South Africa for the family.

Accommodation

These attractions may be quieter than the mainstream South African hotspots, but they offer all of the necessary facilities, including accommodation to suit your budget and needs. Have a look at SA-Venues.com to book guesthouses, lodges, B&B’s, or hotels on one easy platform.

Drakensberg on a Budget

Drakensberg on a Budget

The Drakensberg has some stunning (and uber luxurious) lodges and resorts, which show off KwaZulu-Natal to perfection. But, just because your budget won’t allow for five stars, spa baths, and signature dishes that are nothing short of art sculptures doesn’t mean that you can’t get the most out of this magnificent area. In fact, the Drakensberg and its surrounds have plenty in the way of affordable things to do, see and enjoy while you’re in KZN.

Some budget-friendly attractions in the Drakensberg:

Fishing

Can you picture the scene? Sitting on the banks of the dam, surrounded by the breath-taking grandeur of the mountains, with only the warm sunshine as your company, and the birds as your backing track.  Penwarn has five trout dams and two bass dams, and they supply the boats and rods to make your fishing excursion that much easier. The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park also offers excellent fishing. There is a small entrance fee to the park (R40 at the time of publishing) and fly-fishermen will need a permit (R100 in 2018).

Hiking and Walking

You’re going to battle to find places with more beautiful hiking and walking trails than the Drakensberg. It’s kind of its thing. These trails range from short, easy walks for the whole family, to much more challenging trails for more experienced hikers. This is an absolutely stunning way to experience the unspoilt beauty of KwaZulu-Natal.

The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is awesome for travellers on a budget. In 2018, it cost only R40 per adult to enter. It is famous for its ancient caves and their rock art, which are thousands of years old and magical to see up close. The park is also home to animals like rhebok and eland, as well as loads of bird species.

Mountain Biking

Places like Sani Spoors offer keen cyclists awesome places to test their skills and feed their biking bug. They wind through pine forests, follow the course of rivers, and take cyclists up steep ascents, only to plunge down the other side. This is all kinds of fun.

Bird-Watching

All over the Drakensberg, there are places to go bird-watching. And avian enthusiasts are spoilt for choice when it comes to the species they may see too. The ones that get most birders excited are the mountain pipit, Drakensberg siskin, Drakensberg rockjumper (aka the orange-breasted rockjumper), and the bearded vulture. But, there are also Cape parrots, blue swallows, secretary birds, and blue-crowned cranes.

Visit the Himeville Fort and Museum

This museum dates back to 1900 and is in the little town of Himeville, which is at the foot of the southern Drakensberg Mountains. Artefacts, fossils, remnants of the Boer War, and exhibits of World War I and II are all on display. This isn’t only an educational experience, but also a deeply touching one. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcomed.

Accommodation and Accessibility

The Drakensberg is only around 175 to 200 kilometres from Durban, making it really easy to access from this metropolis. There is loads of accommodation in Durban itself, as well as in and around the greater area of the Drakensberg. These include a massive variety of guest houses, B & B’s, lodges, hotels and apartments.

Rooi Cederberg Karoo Park

Rooi Cederberg Karoo Park

The Red Cederberg Karoo Park is known by few. It was formed in 2011 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding by seven farms (including parts of Cape Nature’s Matjiesrivier, Wildehondskloof and Vyfhoek).

The park lies in the eastern Red (Rooi) Cederberg – a name long used by the locals to distinguish the drier red rusted surfaces of the sandstone cliffs of the eastern Cederberg, from the greener western parts of the mountain range.

It describes the eastern escarpment of the Cederberg Wilderness, and is part of the Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site. Read More »

Amatigulu Nature Reserve

Amatigulu Nature Reserve

KwaZulu-Natal is a magnificent South African province that offers a particularly multifaceted experience for visitors from all over the world. It has busy metropolises, exciting cultural and historical attractions, adventure sports, beautiful landscapes and irresistible beaches. Its capital city is Durban, which boasts the King Shaka International Airport, and a plethora of malls, museums, galleries, restaurants, and other attractions.

KwaZulu Natal is also where the gorgeous Amatigulu Nature Reserve is found. This is a wonderfully peaceful, picturesque retreat that is nestled between two rivers mouths – the Tugela and the Amatikulu. This idyllic placement puts Amatigulu in the prime position for a huge array of animals, plants, sights, and sounds. Read More »

Where is Dwarskersbos?

Where is Dwarskersbos?

Along the western shores of South Africa, aptly called the West Coast, a myriad fishing villages lie sleepily as the Atlantic Ocean laps the sand and the breeze of the Cape blankets the settlements. This is the idyllic setting for the holiday resort of Dwarskersbos, a small fishing hub just 11 kilometres north of Laaiplek and about two hours outside Cape Town.

Dwarskersbos was once a farm, named after the candle bushes (Euclea polyandra) in the area and belonging to the Smit family. As it grew, a residential area was added onto the family farm, and this eventually evolved into the little town of today. Read More »

Exploring the Soutpansberg

Exploring the Soutpansberg

Limpopo Province is home to the beauty of the Soutpansberg, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that is situated in the far north of the country. These mountains are 130 kilometres long, utterly majestic in their expanses. The region’s name hails from the salt pans that have continued to be mined at the foot of the mountains since the 1800’s.

Being on the border of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, the Soutpansberg is central.

The Soutpansberg is the perfect retreat for visitors that crave the splendour of the outdoors. The mountains, forests and wide open spaces make for breath-taking vistas and plenty to do. The forests are home to more than 540 different bird species, making for some very rewarding bird watching.

These forests are Roodewal, Entanbeni and Hanglip. The mountains are, of course, fabulous to explore on foot, and there are a number of hiking and walking trails through the peaks and valleys.

The entire region has a lovely array of plant- and animal species. There are almost 100 mammal species and 23 amphibian species, amongst many others. There are even crocodiles in the Soutpansberg. Some visitors may not be happy to hear that the region is home to 66 different spider species, granting it the status of being the most diverse in terms of these arachnids.

The Soutpansberg region is also a cultural hotspot, being the site of the lost Mapungubwe Kingdom. Thulamela was a fortress during the period between 1 200 and 1 600 of our Common Era (CE). This is a significant archaeological site.

There are also a number of sites in which rock art and pottery remains can be discovered. In addition, tools (or parts thereof) that are estimated to be millions of years old can be found in the Soutpansberg area. This makes for fascinating exploration. Significant areas for art and remnants are the Dambale Hills, Domboni Hills and the area between the Mutale River and Limpopo River.

The Venda, Tsonga and Pedi people have age-old histories in the Soutpansberg region. Visitors to the area are invited to see the arts and crafts of these local ones, which represent their cultures and provide insights into their customs.

There are a number of rural villages on the cliff sides that are open to visitors. Touring these villages is a fantastic way to get to know more about the people and heritage of the area. The products on offer and the tours of the villages not only give visitors a unique opportunity, but also uplift the community, enabling them to support themselves and their families through sustainability.

Significant towns of the Soutpansberg include Elim, Louis Trichardt, Mapungubwe, and Musina.

 

Explore Kaapsehoop

Explore Kaapsehoop

Kaapsehoop is situated 25km southwest of Nelspruit on a buttress of the Mpumalanga escarpment. Kaapsehoop is a well looked after and protected area that has a wide array of endangered bird species to be seen. This is one of Kaapsehoop’s biggest attractions and it draws 1000’s of bird lovers each year to come and explore.

If you read a little on the history of Kaapsehoop, you’re bound to find a mystical story or two about the wild horses that roam around the area. Approximately 160 to 200 feral horses roam the 17 000 hectares of Kaapsehoop and surrounds. Herds range in size from bachelor herds of around 3 to larger more structured herds of 15 to 20 horses.

They are enjoyed by visitors and locals alike and share a protective interest by the residents of Kaapsehoop. Visitors can be seen staring at the horses for hours in amazement just watching them wild and free, roaming around. One of the most popular activities as you can imagine is horse riding and many horse riding trails are available including some lengthy 7 day trails.

Kaapsehoop is most popular during the summer months when morning and evening temperatures range from 18 to 20 degrees and midday temperatures around 28 to 30 degrees. Summer rainfalls are typical either late afternoon or during the evenings and are ideal for the family to get together and spend quality time together. Winter seasons are chilly yet comfortable during the day with temperatures around 20 degrees midday.

Kaapsehoop is a beautiful quiet place to visit and the wild horses will definitely amaze you. If you’re an animal lover and enjoy horse riding then this will be a wonderful holiday destination for you when you visit South Africa.

Pigeon Valley Park

Pigeon Valley Park

In the heart of the balmy east coast city of Durban, South Africa, is a verdant retreat from the commotion of the city centre, the exquisite Pigeon Valley Park. This has been proclaimed a Natural Heritage Park and a municipal nature reserve, thanks to its natural diversity and its aesthetic loveliness, all within an otherwise urban setting.

Pigeon Valley Park was originally set up in an effort to provide a safe habitat for coastal forest trees, particularly (but not exclusively) the Natal elm and the Natal loquat. The slopes that benefit from their south-facing orientation are covered in canopy forest, while those facing the north are bedecked in thorny brush. This unique positioning, therefore, gives the park so much natural value and lends it an extraordinary biodiversity.

Because it is so diverse, the 11 hectare extent of Pigeon Valley Park is the home of choice to a number of bird species, including rather rare finds. Avid bird watchers love to visit the park and look out for some of the more than 150 recorded species in the area. These include the Narina trogon, spotted thrush, Cape white-eye, African paradise flycatcher, European nightjar, black-throated wattle-eye, buffspotted flufftail and the green twinspot. The spotted ground-thrush is an endangered species that can regularly be found here during the cooler winter months (June to August). Of course, birds are not the only wildlife to make this their home. Visitors should keep an eye out for the red and blue duikers, banded mongooses and water mongooses.

There is a walking or running trail called the Natal Elm Trail, which takes visitors around the reserve. The trail is only some 400 metres long, but promises gorgeous views and plenty of photo-perfect moments. The picnic area and public toilets make this the ideal spot at which to enjoy a day with friends and family during your time in KwaZulu-Natal.

Website Link: Pigeon Valley Nature Reserve
Contact: 031 205 1919
Overnight: See hundreds of options.

A Visit to La Mercy

A Visit to La Mercy

Say ‘La Mercy’ and the obvious connection will be ‘airport’. Anyone who lives in and around Durban knows that La Mercy Airport, known as King Shaka International Airport, lies just north of Umhlanga close to Tongaat. The airport is confusing for those of us who used to live in Durban and caught flights in and out of Durban International Airport, south of Durban. Now we have to remember that it has been replaced, by La Mercy. And it has a different name.

It makes absolute sense to have Durban’s airport so close to Umhlanga, given that this is the new hub of the city. Comparitively, it is rather like having an airport close to Sandton in Johannesburg – good for business.

Despite the airport and the ease it brings visitors to the seaside city, La Mercy is also a little seaside village with a strong Indian heritage. This is a rather obvious link, given its proximity to the large sugar town of Tongaat, the oldest Indian community in South Africa. During the 1860s indentured Indian labourers arrived on our shores to work in the sugar plantations. And stayed.

As its immediate neighbour, La Mercy has a very similar flavour. It is also close to a number of attractions. Surfers regard the beach. The waves break on sandbars and reefs and provide a pretty big swell and a long wave. It’s thus fairly popular as a surfing spot.

But when not on the beach, head a little further north up the coast to favourite seaside villages like Ballito, Salt Rock and Zinkwazi Beach. En route stop off at the Lithuli Museum in Groutville on the R102, dedicated to a man who fought for human rights in this country. Also include a visit to the market in Verulam for spices, fresh produce and a colourful atmosphere.

Church Square and the Slave Lodge

Church Square and the Slave Lodge

The Slave Lodge, now part of the Iziko Musuem Collective, was first constructed in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company with the purpose of housing large numbers (in the thousands) of slaves. When Jan Van Riebeeck came to the Cape in 1652, the Groote Kerk was built as the first Christian place of worship.  Church Square, just outside Groote Kerk, is the place where slaves waited for their owners to return from church. Read More »

Exploring Pietermaritzburg

Exploring Pietermaritzburg

The Natal Midlands of South Africa are unrivalled in their beauty. They are characterised by deep valleys that are blanketed by gorgeous jade-coloured vegetation, dense forests of towering trees, and rolling hills adorned by flowers and greenery. In the heart of this idyll is the city of Pietermaritzburg, where these beautiful surrounds are complemented by an undeniable sense of history and heritage.

The history of Pietermaritzburg dates back to 1837, when the first Voortrekkers arrived in the area and defeated the Zulu king, Dingane, in the Battle of Blood River. It is believed that the city was named after two of the Voortrekker leaders, Piet Retief and Gerrit Maritz. Pietermaritzburg also earned its place on the historical ‘map’ for being the spot at which Mahatma Ghandi was thrown off a train for sitting in the first-class carriage, despite his having a first-class ticket. This was as a result of opposition from a white passenger during the apartheid regime. It was at this train station that a freezing Ghandi decided to stay in South Africa and fight this racial oppression. Read More »

Explore Vosburg

Explore Vosburg

Haven’t heard of Vosberg? No, nor had we. And if it weren’t for the recently tarred R384 that links Carnarvon and Britstown to Vosburg (the peaceful village is also linked by gravel to Prieska and Victoria West) it probably would not have featured on our list of dorpies you should consider visiting. Its former highly corrugated, gravel section of road was fit for the 4×4 community and farmers’ bakkies, not townies’ neat sedans.

Now tar has changed things, placing Vosburg firmly on the Namaqualand flower route and bringing greater tourism to the pretty little Karoo town. Read More »

Explore Pennington

Explore Pennington

The eastern shores of South Africa are not only aesthetically near-perfect, they are also fantastic destinations for summer holidays when families, friends and honeymooning couples want to escape city life and retreat to golden sands and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. On the face of the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal, with sprawling views of this vast ocean, is the little resort of Pennington.

This was established as a farming community in the latter part of the 1800’s, when an English family (with the surname Pennington) settled here. Later, the sugar magnate, Sir Frank Reynolds, bought a country home here and then built inviting accommodation on the coast for the prime ministers of South Africa. Read More »