South Africa — Attractions
Best explored on foot, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in the historic quarter of Cape Town is the most visited attraction in South Africa. Boat cruises to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for most of his 27-year prison term, depart from here. The waterfront also provides excellent views of Table Mountain, the summit of which is accessible via cable-car or hiking paths. The Garden Route, Wilderness National Park and its Tsitsikamma section are most easily reached by rented vehicle, although public buses and steam-train are alternate options.
The Western Cape’s provincial capital should be on your itinerary for at least a day or two before heading off to the national parks. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront’s wonderful shopping, entertainment and historic sites, as well as museums such as the Iziko South African and the Bo-Kaap, provide tantalizing glimpses of South Africa’s heritage. Cape Dutch architectural gems on Long Street and in Constantia further cement these images. Trips up Table Mountain and ferries to Robben Island, Simon’s Town and Seal and Duiker islands’ fur seal colonies are other activities popular with visitors.
Address: Cape Town
Robben Island was the location of an infamous jail from the time the original Dutch pioneers arrived in the 17th century until the latter years of the 20th century. Along with Nelson Mandela, the jail housed Robert Sobukwe and various other political luminaries and soldiers during its history. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a living reminder of the evils of apartheid. Ferries depart from Nelson Mandela Gateway on Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. They are often full so pre-booking is recommended.
Address: Robben Island, Cape Town
The Vredefort Dome is accessible from the town of Parys in Free State and is a massive crater from when a meteorite hit the Earth millions of years ago. It is 186 miles (300 kms) across at its widest point and another of the nation’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. The dome is a magnet for adventure-seekers, with peak climbing, hiking, mine tunnel explorations, and whitewater canoeing on the Vaal River among the available activities. Monuments and sites from the Iron and Stone ages, and curio shops in Parys complement the regional attractions.
Address: 75 miles (120kms) southwest of Johannesburg
Constitution Hill is located in the Braamfontein precinct of Johannesburg and has played an important role in South Africa’s evolution. It is home to the country’s Constitutional Court and the Old Fort Prison Complex. The jail is known to all South Africans as Number Four, which held Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. Before this, it served as a defensive fort during the Boer War. The Women’s Gaol is a regal Victorian edifice which hid the horrors inflicted on its occupants. As well as political prisoners, the cells housed people imprisoned for trivial offenses such as illegally brewing beer or liquor.
Address: Constitution Hill Visitor Centre, PO Box 31005, Braamfontein, 2017
Gold Reef City
Gold Reef City is an entertainment complex constructed on old gold-mine workings that is a 10 minute drive from central Johannesburg. The on-site amusement park is based on the Witwatersrand Goldrush and boasts rides including the Golden Loop, the River Rapids and the Jozi Express, which are guaranteed to thrill old and young alike. A casino, a 1,100-seat theater, varied dining options, and an elegant four-star hotel ensure that every visitors’ wish is catered to.
Address: Gold Reef City Theme Park, Northern Park Way, Johannesburg South, 2091
The former home of the most noteworthy person in the recent South African history has been restored and offers an archival history and rare photographs of the great man. The site was Nelson Mandela and his family’s home from 1946 until he was forced into hiding in 1961, and for a few days following his release from jail in 1990. It is open daily between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Address: 8115 Ngakane Street, Orlando West, Soweto, Johannesburg, 1804
Phone: +27 11-936-7754
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park was established in the 1890’s to protect various creatures of the Lowveld. Today, the two-million hectare expanse is the flagship of South Africa’s national parks and boasts 800 species of animals along with more than 300 types of flora. Kruger is the place to see the Big Five along with other wildlife including zebras, wildebeest, bush pigs, baboons, aardvarks, and warthogs. The camps and lodges are good bases for safaris or self-drive adventures.
Address: Northeastern Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces