Read an Excerpt
Frommer's South Africa
By Pippa de Bruyn
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-3890-X
Chapter OneThe Best of South Africa, Zimbabwe & Botswana
People come to southern Africa for its natural beauty, wildlife, and sunshine, and few leave disappointed. This immensely varied terrain supports a rich diversity of animals, birds, and plants, and offers a correspondingly diverse range of experiences. Whether you're here on safari or to enjoy the beaches, breathtaking drives, or unspoiled wilderness, this chapter will help you experience the very best southern Africa has to offer.
1 Unique Southern African Moments
Jiving with Jo'burg Jollers to the Sounds of Kwaito (Gauteng): The best place to experience the melting pot of Rainbow Nation culture, and to celebrate the emergence of a cohesive national identity, is on the dance floors grooving to kwaito, South Africa's own homegrown version of house. Look out for performances by TKZee, Arthur, Bongo Maffin, and Boom Shaka. See chapter 6.
Freezing Your Butt Off on an Early-Morning Game Drive (Limpopo Province, North-West, Mpumalanga, and Botswana): In winter (May-Aug), considered to be the best time of the year to go on safari (when animals are the most visible), rangers set off in their open-topped vehicles before dawn. See chapters 6, 7, and 10.
Getting Caught Up in the Cape Minstrels Carnival (Cape Town): Every New Year, brightly dressed troupes of "coloured" men dance through thestreets of Cape Town, singing to the quick-paced strum of banjos and the thump of drums. This tradition was inspired by American minstrels who came to the Cape in the late 1800s, but the celebration actually dates back to 1834 when slaves took to the streets to celebrate their liberation. See chapter 2.
Spotting Zebra from the Highway (Cape Town): Zebra, wildebeest, and various antelope graze on Table Mountain's slopes literally minutes from the city center. Look out for them from the highway as you drive in from the airport. See chapter 3.
Enjoying the Sunset from Table Mountain (Cape Town): From this great vantage point, you can watch the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean, turning the Twelve Apostles a deep pink; then walk across the tabletop to the lip and watch the city lights start to twinkle and the dusky outline of the hinterland mountains under a moonlit sky. See chapter 3.
Feeling Humbled at Mandela's Prison Cell (Cape Town): Tours of Robben Island are pretty restrictive, but looking into the tiny cell where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his time in prison leaves few unmoved. Further insight into the years spent here is provided by guides who were incarcerated at the same time as Mandela, in what came to be known as the "University of Robben Island." See chapter 3.
Watching Whales from White Dunes (Western Cape): At De Hoop Nature Reserve's Koppie Alleen, the white dunes stretch deep beneath the sea, turning its blue hue into a hypnotic turquoise. This is the perfect place to watch the Southern Right Whales who come to breed off the Overberg Coast-said to offer the best land-based whale-watching in the world. See chapter 4.
Walking Through Carpets of Flowers (Northern Cape): In this annual miracle of spiritual proportions, the semi-arid and seemingly barren West Coast bursts into life after the first spring rains. More than 2,600 species of flowers literally carpet the Namaqualand plains for a few weeks before subsiding back into the soil for another yearlong wait. See chapter 4.
Visiting the World's Largest Open-Air Gallery (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal): Created by the San hunter-gatherers, an ancient civilization all but destroyed by the migrating Nguni and white settlers, these rock-art paintings date back between 100 and 20,000 years, and document the history and spiritual beliefs of these gentle people. More than 15,000 sites are scattered throughout the country. See chapters 4, 5, and 8.
Seeing the Zulu Kings Reed Dance (Kwazulu-Natal): Experience a scene that has been enacted for hundreds of years as you join some 15,000 Zulus, many dressed in tribal gear, to watch the virgin maidens dance for the Zulu Prince Gideon, who would traditionally pick a wife here. See chapter 8.
Soaking Up Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe): The sight of more than 500 million liters of water a minute thundering into the Batoka Gorge, creating soaring rainbows and a mist of drenching spray, will never leave you. Enjoy the view with a champagne breakfast on Livingstone Island. See chapter 9.
Rafting the Churning Waters of the Zambezi (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe): There is absolutely nothing like hearing this mighty river pound past, drowning the guides' last-minute instructions as you plunge into such vividly named white waters as "the Muncher." See chapter 9.
Drinking the Waters of the Delta (Okavango Delta, Botswana): As you're poled along in your mokoro (dugout canoe), past palm-fringed islands and aquatic game, sample the life-giving waters of the delta. Simply scoop up a handful (keeping an eye out for crocs!) and sip. See chapter 10.
2 The Wildest Animal Encounters
Staring Down a Roaring Lion (private game reserves in Mpumalanga, Limpopo Province, North-West, and Botswana): Tourists are notoriously hungry for shots of big cats, and if you spend 2 nights at one of the top private game reserves you will certainly get close to lions and leopards, often on the first drive. If you're lucky enough to get close enough to have your vehicle shuddering from the powerful noise that erupts from the king of the jungle's gut, you are talking a truly wild animal encounter. See chapters 3, 4, and 10.
Waiting for a Leopard to Finish Its Dinner (private game reserves, North-West, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal): Holing up in your room while a leopard gnaws its dinner outside your door might happen at any of the private game reserve lodges that are set in the bush. Animals roam freely in this environment, and if dinner happens to be on your patio, celebrate the fact that you're not it and plunder the minibar. See chapters 4, 7, and 8.
Taking a Bush Bath with Elephants (Limpopo Province): You will find outdoor showers in most of the reserves and some coastal resorts, but very few alfresco baths, and only one where you could be disturbed by elephants. Garonga's bush bath, which is elevated on a hill, is best experienced at night, with candles, oils, champagne, and a guard walking the broad perimeter below. See chapter 7.
Stalking a Rhino on Foot (Kruger National Park, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Reserve): You will almost definitely track white rhino on the Bushman, Wolhuter, and Napi trails run by Kruger National Park, as well as on the Umfolozi trails run by the KwaZulu-Natal Nature Conservation Service (KN NCS) in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi, the Zululand reserve that boasts the highest concentration of rhino in the world. Despite their prehistoric appearance, white rhino are relatively shy, docile animals; it is the black rhino that is dangerous. See chapters 7 and 8.
Swimming with Penguins (Boulders Beach, Cape Town): This is a beautiful place to swim; large boulders create natural swimming pools shared by the only land-breeding colony of jackass penguins. Watch them waddle and dive through the crystal-clear waters, which are slightly warmer than the Atlantic seaboard side-cold comfort considering how icy that is. See chapter 3.
Baiting Great White Sharks (Hermanus & Mossel Bay, Western Cape): Descend in a steel cage to meet Jaws up close and personal. Specialist tour operators offer controversial cage diving off Dyer Island in "Shark Alley," where Great Whites hunt the resident seal population. Sharks swim within spitting distance of cages-not that there's much to spit when your mouth is dry with fear. See chapter 4.
Watching Rare Turtles Nest (Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal): In November and December the female leatherback and loggerhead turtles leave the safety of the sea at night to lay their eggs above the high-tide mark on the northern beaches of KwaZulu-Natal. Two months later, hatchlings scramble out of their nests and make a run for the ocean. Only one or two out of every thousand make it to maturity; those that do, return to the same beach to produce the next generation. See chapter 8.
Avoiding a Territorial Hippo (Victoria Falls, Okavango Delta): The upper reaches of the Zambezi and the Okavango Delta's watery channels are best explored by gliding along in a canoe, or mokoro, but you're also more than likely to meet a hippo this way. Always treat them with respect-despite a relatively docile appearance they are one of Africa's most dangerous mammals, and responsible for more deaths than the crocodile. See chapter 10.
3 The Best Private Game Lodges & Camps
Singita (Sabi Sands Reserve, Mpumalanga): This is quite simply the best game lodge in South Africa. Modern design, organic materials, wraparound views of the Sand River, private timber decks and pools, a roving masseuse, exquisite food, and a choice of more than 12,000 bottles of wine (hand-picked by the well-known vintner Vaughn Johnson) ensure a fantastic stay-and top rangers and a traversing area second only to MalaMala ensure excellent sightings. See chapter 7.
Londolozi Bateleur & Tree Camps (Sabi Sands Reserve, Mpumalanga): Londolozi is the flagship lodge of safari operator CCAfrica, known for setting the standard in luxury bush accommodations (they also established Singita, Makalali, and Phinda). Facilities are similar to Singita, though not as grand, or as exclusive. Londolozi is famed for its leopard, the most elusive of the Big 5. See chapter 7.
Honeyguide Tented Safari Camp (Manyeleti Reserve, Mpumalanga): If the thought of a luxury hotel in the bush leaves you cold, Honeyguide's tented camp delivers a more authentically Out of Africa experience-right down to the tin baths and cheeky local elephants. The lack of commercial activity in the Manyeleti Reserve and the relatively low rate are also extra pluses. See chapter 7.
Royal Malewane (Thornybush Reserve, Limpopo Province): With only 12 guests accommodated in privately situated suites that offer every luxury, this relative newcomer is set to become the name to bandy about in knowing circles. If you can bear to leave your private rim-flow pool and large viewing deck (or fireplace if it's winter), the game viewing is good, with an abundance of lion and elephant. See chapter 7.
Phinda Lodges (Phinda Reserve, Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal): This is Africa's most diverse wilderness experience: You can dive with tropical fish or go big-game fishing in the morning, visit a Zulu village in the afternoon, and follow a pride of lions in the evening. Phinda has four distinctly different camps, of which the ultra-luxurious Phinda Vlei offers the most glorious setting. See chapter 8.
Ndumo Wilderness Camp (Ndumo Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal): Not only is this one of the top birding destinations in Africa (others are Mkhuze, Okavango, and Kruger), it is also an incredibly beautiful reserve. More than 420 bird species are attracted to its diverse and lush vegetation-almost as many species as in Kruger, which is 190 times its size. The 6km (almost 4-mile) long Nyamithi Pan is considered by many to be one of the finest game drives in Africa. See chapter 8.
Jao Camp (Okavango Delta, Botswana): Not only is this camp located in one of the finest concessions in the delta, but it is also one of the most gorgeous camps in Africa, with only eight privately located suites, each the epitome of understated elegance. See chapter 10.
Mombo Camp (Moremi, Okavango, Botswana): At the confluence of two river systems, Mombo has long been regarded as one of the best game-viewing spots in Africa, attracting large numbers of plains game and their attendant predators-leopard, wild dog, and lion are frequently sighted here. See chapter 10.
Jack's & San Camp (Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana): Situated under palm trees on the fringe of the pans, and beautifully decorated to resemble a classic 1940s safari camp, this is one of the most unusual experiences in Africa. See chapter 10.
Excerpted from Frommer's South Africa by Pippa de Bruyn Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.