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Since its sudden birth in 1886 when a hapless Aussie discovered
gold on the Highveld, Johannesburg has dominated the country,
morphing from a rough frontier town into a financial metropolis
and the largest city in Africa south of Cairo. Although in the past,
Joburg has suffered from much-publicized high crime rates, it is
now successfully dusting off its dodgy reputation and drawing back
visitors in droves. Crime-busting regeneration programmes have seen
formerly run-down areas transformed into places to visit, live in and
enjoy, while recent additions to tourism attractions include some of
South Africa’s finest cutting-edge museums, such as the celebrated
Apartheid Museum or the Cradle of Humankind. There are numerous
other historical and cultural attractions, as well as mega-shopping
malls, excellent restaurants and sophisticated nightlife.
Just 50 km to the north, South Africa’s recently renamed capital,
Tshwane (Pretoria) couldn’t be more different. Unlike Joberg,
Tshwane is staid and conservative, with wide streets lined with
jacaranda trees which bloom a regal purple in spring.
To the east, Mpumalanga state is home to the magnificent
Kruger National Park, one of the best places in Africa for game
viewing. While it’s entirely possible to see the Big Five in one
afternoon, a longer stay allows visitors to fully appreciate the
wilderness of the park. West of the park, the Panorama Region
is well worth a detour. This mountainous area is dotted with quiet
agricultural towns, clustered along the top of the spectacular
Blyde River Canyon, and a handful of viewpoints open up
stunning vistas to the Lowveld shimmering to the horizon.
North West Province is known first and foremost as the home of
Sun City, a huge entertainment complex and one-time gambling
haven which was once the most visited site in South Africa.
Gambling aside, a good reason for visiting is the Pilanesberg
Game Reserve, which offers the chance of seeing the Big Five at
a malaria-free altitude and just a few hours from Johannesburg
or Tshwane (Pretoria).