By Nikki van Coller
Despite predictions to the contrary, South Africa shone in June and July last year as host country to the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, with some even saying that the vibe, hospitality and sheer excitement of the event far outweighed the quality of football played.
The world was left with the image of a happy, friendly and cohesive nation of people and it seemed South Africa was set to benefit enormously from the positive publicity generated by the event. Sadly though, a few short months later, a British tourist was killed in a Cape township and once again the country’s crime rate was in the spotlight. Whether the hijacking proves to have been a set-up or not, it doesn’t show SA in a favourable light.
But should South Africa be overlooked as a top holiday destination?
This writer thinks not.
- Food and Wine
South Africa is still a very reasonably priced tourist destination, with abundant accommodation in every price range. A night in a backpackers can still be found for under R100, while good hotel rooms start from around R400/night right up to thousands for a 5-star option.
A good steak in a restaurant is around R100, car rental starts at around R150/day and a fantastic bottle of wine can be found for under R70. A holiday in South Africa is not dirt cheap, but it certainly is good value for money, and there’s something to suit every budget.
As a South African I’m probably biased, but South Africans are nice people! No matter what their language or race or age or gender, the majority of South Africans are friendly, hospitable and interesting.
Take a drive up the West Coast and spend a few nights in Tieties Baai or Darling; visit any of a number of small towns in the Karoo; or get involved with an uplifting township project to get a feel for the different cultures that exist in South Africa.
South Africans love socialising and you should try to savour as much of the local life as possible.
Yes, crime is an issue, but there are measures you can take: stay out of dangerous areas and guard yourself against petty crime. Always know where you’re going – standing in a dodgy area looking confused with a cumbersome map flapping around in the wind makes you a soft target for opportunists.
Always ask locals’ advice when it comes to your safety. Instead of carrying cash, use a Rand Travel Money Card, which ensures your safety and saves you money because you’re paying like a local.
Can you say “La Motte Chardonnay”? South Africa has some of the best wines available in the world today, with many parts of the Western Cape providing the perfect winemaking conditions. If you do a little research with locals, you can also find incredible food at establishments ranging from cheap and cheerful cafes to expensive, world-class restaurants with top chefs.
Food is a big part of SA culture, so there is a huge variety of foods to sample. Traditional African food is available at specialist restaurants in main cities and in Townships, and is hearty and flavourful. Braaing (like a barbecue, but better) is a favourite pastime and if you have the opportunity to attend a genuine South African braai, do so.
Expect to drink a lot of beer and eat quite late into the occasion – the burning of the firewood to make coals is half the fun! The meat in South Africa is tender, tasty, abundant and relatively inexpensive.
If you’re a vegetarian, you will not go hungry in South Africa. Meat is not the only farming in the country. The butter, cream, cheese, fruit and vegetables are simply divine!
South Africa is a cosmopolitan country with many cultures gradually blending to create a unique and colourful culture.
If you enjoy music, theatre, art and architecture, you will find something of interest in South Africa. We have brilliant authors, artists, sports people and musicians. Depending on your tastes, you could go to a 10 000-strong, 3-day outdoor trance party or see the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra while tucking into a picnic at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens or a wine farm a short drive from the city.
You could spend the day on a Game Drive or volunteer at an animal shelter. You could attend a slam poetry event or an extreme sporting challenge. We are vibrant, energetic, expressive people who love the outdoors and appreciate our beautiful piece of the world!
Talking of which: South Africa is B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l! Deserts, forests, beaches, canyons, mountains, rivers, waterfalls… we have it all! If you’re planning to visit South Africa, make sure you have a decent camera – the disposables don’t do the landscape justice!
From the rugged Eastern Cape coastline to the forests of the Garden Route; the West Coast beaches to the picturesque Kalahari, you are never short of beautiful views and enchanting places… If you plan your route carefully, with the help of a local or a travel agent who knows South Africa, you can see many different landscapes.
There are also a huge number of outdoor activities to enjoy: surfing, golf, game viewing, soccer, rugby, hiking, fishing and 4×4 trails are popular. Sports like slacklining and sandboarding are also gaining in popularity.
If this sounds like your kind of place, why not investigate further and consider a South African holiday? And if you’ve been to South Africa before and this article simply reminded you of how awesome it is, why not speak to a 1st Contact visa consultant about your options for living and working in South Africa?