Southern Africa Safari Tours
Cultures, cuisines and landscapes – Cape Town
CAPE TOWN AND SURROUNDS
- Table Mountain’s flat top was formed about 300 million years ago. The mountain was at sea level during an ice age and ice sheets flattened the layers of sandstone to form the famous landmark.
- Hand axes made by Homo Erectus, dating back 750 000 years, have been found near Cape Town.
- The San and the Khoikhoi are the first recorded peoples of the Cape. The San were hunter-gatherers while the Khoikhoi were mainly herders. In later years, the Khoisan generation called the area Hoerikwaggo, meaning “mountain that rises from the sea”.
- Cape Town is situated on an underground river called Camissa, meaning “place of sweet waters”.
- In the 1500s, Portuguese sailors encountered storms as they sailed around the Cape Peninsula and dubbed it “the Bay of Storms”.
- Jan Van Riebeeck and Dutch East India Company settlers landed at the Cape on April 6, 1652. They had been sent to the Cape to establish a supply station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies.
- Asian immigration to South Africa started in 1654 when slaves from Malaysia were brought to the Cape, in turn encouraging the spread of the Islamic faith and culture in the Cape. They are known today as Cape Malays – a unique mixture of African and Asian culture. Their cooking is exotic and a ’must try’ during a visit to the Cape.
- Cape Town celebrates Tweede Nuwe Jaar, meaning “Second New Year”, in the form of a parade of singing and dancing ‘Kaapse Klopse’ minstrels. This tradition has its origins in the Cape Malay slaves who celebrated the ringing in of a New Year on the only day they were offered leave from work each year – 2 January. This tradition has carried on for almost two hundred years.
- Cape Town has its own unique mix of indigenous music called Ghoema, closely associated with the Cape Malay culture having its origins linked to the musical culture of the original Malay slaves brought to the Cape by the Dutch in the 1600’s.
- Great Britain took possession of the Cape during the Napoleonic wars (the Dutch were French allies) and stopped the importation of slaves in 1801. Britain gave the Cape back to the Dutch after hostilities ceased in 1802 and later purchased it from the Dutch in 1814. Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire on 1 August 1834.
- Cape Town has the oldest wine industry outside Europe and the Mediterranean, dating back to 2 February 1659 when Jan van Riebeeck produced the first wine recorded in South Africa.
- On 31 May 1836 Darwin’s HMS Beagle arrived at Simon’s Bay, near Cape Town, on its way home to South America. Darwin trailed through the Cape for 18 days while doing research here.
- The original Table Mountain Cableway opened for business on 4 October 1929, transporting millions of visitors, as well as the current Queen of England, Elizabeth ll, to its smooth summit.
- The oldest living tradition in Cape Town is the firing of the Noon Day Gun at Lion Battery on Signal Hill. The Noon Day cannons are also two of the oldest cannons in the world still in daily use.
- Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant in the world in 1967 in Cape Town at Groote Schuur Hospital.
- District Six is an inner city residential area made famous by the forced removal of more than 60 000 inhabitants during the 1970s. The District Six Museum was established in 1994.
- Cape Town’s City Hall was built in 1905. On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela made his first public speech after his release from Robben Island, on the balcony of the City Hall.
- South Africa hosts some of the largest, by number of entrants, sporting events in the world with three being the largest of their type. The Cape Argus is one and the other two are the world’s largest ultra-marathon running event, the Comrades Marathon, and the world’s largest open water swim, the Midmar Mile.
Southern Africa Safari Tours
THE CITY AND THE PENINSULA
Cultures, cuisines and landscapes – Cape Town
Take the cableway up one of the 7 Wonders of the new world, Table Mountain.
Spend the day shopping, eating and relaxing at the most visited attraction in Africa, the V&A Waterfront. (V&A stands for Victoria and Albert)
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison.
Take a walking tour or ride the ‘Red Bus’ and discover the heritage, architecture and hidden gems of the city where the colonisation of Africa began.
Stroll along the Sea Point Promenade, 11km of ocean shore walkway.
Ride or if you’ve got the time and energy, hike up Lion’s Head to experience one of the most picturesque routes in the world and enjoy stunning 360 degree views from the summit.
Feel the African vibe in Greenmarket Square, with street cafés and arts & craft markets in a cobbled-stone square.
Party at one of the vibrant clubs or restaurants in Long Street at night or browse its many quirky shops during the day.
At Camps Bay you can have a lazy day on the Blue Flag graded beach or enjoy a cocktail on the famous sundowner strip.
Take your picture outside one of the colourful houses in Bo-Kaap, the home of the historic Cape Malay community.
The Scenic Penninsula
Chapman’s Peak Drive: This is truly one of the most scenic seaside roads in the world. Absolutely stunning views of the coastline.
View or even swim with African Penguins who are permanent residents on Boulders Beach
See spectacular natural scenery and catch a ride on the funicular at the most south westerly tip of Africa, Cape Point.
Ride on horseback across the uninterrupted 8km stretch of white sand at Noordhoek Beach.
Enjoy traditional fish and chips from a box at Hout Bay Harbour or visit the Bay Harbour Market over the weekend.
Simon’s Town is the historic naval centre of South Africa. If you visit, take a pic with the statue of ‘Just Nuisance’ the only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy, who served during WWII.
The Cape is dotted with bay after picturesque bay. Browse the quaint, arty shops or drink and dine at one of the many sea view restaurants or coffee shops in Kalk Bay.
In Muizenberg bay you can stroll along the beach and feel the cool Benguela current as it collides with the African continent before it heads north along Africa’s west coast. Take a picture of the brightly coloured wash houses on the beach or for the more adventurous, try surfing
Have an incredible personal encounter with a Seal on a guided snorkelling trip or go cage diving with Great White Sharks. Bookings can be made at most seaside towns and bays.
The Peninsula is ideal for road bike cycling and every March it hosts The Cape Town Cycle Tour called The Argus, the worlds largest cycle race.
Cultures, cuisines and landscapes – Cape Town
CULTURE AND CUISINE
The most notable effect the Cape Malay culture has had on the South African lifestyle is in the kitchen. Cape Malay samosas are a Cape Malay traditional dish with a South Asian influence. Adaptations of traditional foods such as bredie, bobotie, sosaties and koeksisters are staples in many South African homes.
The founders of this community were the first to bring Islam to South Africa. The Muslim community in Cape Town remains large and vibrant. The Indian influence in the Cape Malay culture is a result of generations of widespread intermarriage and union between the two communities.
People in the Cape Malay community generally speak Afrikaans but also English, or local dialects of the two. They no longer speak the Malay languages and other languages which their ancestors used, although various Malay words and phrases are still employed in daily usage.
Take a walk down Long Street or visit the V&A Waterfront to sample the various unique South African cuisines available. From world class wines to spicy curries to mouthwatering desserts, here you will find so many to choose from.
Cultures, cuisines and landscapes – Cape Town
TOUR THE PENINSULA
CAPE TOWN CYCLE TOUR – THE ANNUAL ARGUS
Cape Town Cycle Tour is the largest cycle race, based on number of entrants, in the world. It is traditionally staged on the second Sunday of March and has attracted well known competitors such as Miguel Indurain, Jan Ulrich and Lance Armstrong. South Africa hosts some of the largest sporting events in the world with three being the largest of their type. Besides the Cape Argus cycle race, the other two are the world’s largest ultra-marathon running event, the Comrades Marathon, and the world’s largest open water swim, the Midmar Mile. Officially known as the Cape Town Cycle Tour, it is an annual cycle race hosted in Cape Town, South Africa and is usually 109 km (68 mi) long. It is the first event outside Europe to be included in the Union Cycliste Internationale’s Golden Bike Series. The Cycle Tour forms the last leg of the Giro del Capo, a multi-stage race for professional and leading registered riders.
Southern Africa Safari Tours
Cultures, cuisines and landscapes – Cape Town
JOHANNESBURG AND SURROUNDS
Located in the province of Gauteng and known as the City of Gold, Johannesburg and it’s surrounding suburbs is a vast metropolitan area with a population of approx. 12 million. It is still considered the financial center of Africa and the tourism gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. Although not considered a tourism hotspot itself, there are a few locations of interest to see while here. The city has a vibrant nightlife geared towards the younger generation with many clubs and bars that will give you a genuine taste of modern Africa. Dotted around greater Johannesburg are casinos and one in particular is of interest as it includes a theme park as well as being situated on a former gold mine that now operates as a tourist attraction. The Gold Reef Casino and Theme park is definitely worth a visit. There are museums and historical sites in the township of Soweto that may be of interest as well. If you are an amateur anthropologist or archaeologist than do not miss The Cradle of Humankind. This world heritage site spans about 100km across the north of the city and features a museum with a functioning science laboratory. Here you can observe technicians in lab-coats with microscope headgear delicately remove 2 million year old hominin fossils from solid rock. You can also view the caves from where these fossils were retrieved although it does require some physical exertion so bare that in mind should you decide to visit the caves.
Although Gauteng is not a large province, it does still boast one ‘Big 5’ game reserve, Dinokeng. Not only can you see most of the wildlife found in South Africa here but you can stay in comfort at your choice of accommodation, from backpacker to 5 star. The park features professional game drives with fully qualified rangers and hot air balloon rides over the reserve.
So, if you are short on time or do not want to travel greater distances, then Johannesburg and it’s surrounds can offer a great taste of Africa at bargain prices and at nearby locations.
Archaeological findings suggest the area, which Sandton comprises today, had originally been occupied by various indigenous groups, before European settlement, most notably the Tswana and, to a lesser extent, Sotho people. The remains of an Iron Age smelter was discovered in Lone Hill, a suburb of northern Sandton. One of the first Voortrekker parties to settle in the area were the Esterhuysen family on the farm Zandfontein (Afrikaans and Dutch for Sandy Spring or Sand Fountain). A monument to commemorate them may be found just off Adrienne Street in Sandown where the family cemetery is located.
In the 1960’s, Nelson Mandela was captured by South African police in the area. Tried for treason in what became known as the ‘Rivonia Trial’, which derives its name from the locality of Rivonia and includes Liliesleaf Farm, home of the conspirators. Nelson and his co-conspirators were captured at or near Liliesleaf Farm, privately owned by Arthur Goldreich, on 11 July 1963. The farm had been used as a hideout for the African National Congress and others. Among others, Nelson Mandela had moved onto the farm in October 1961 and evaded security police while masquerading as a gardener and cook called David Motsamayi (meaning “the walker”). The trial was memorable for Nelson Mandela’s speech in which he stated -‘During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’- and for the verdict in which the presiding judge Dr. Quartus de Wet gave the defendants life sentences instead of the death penalty as was anticipated by many. Image the difference in the world today if the judge had decided to impose the death penalty.
In 1969 the Johannesburg Town Council proclaimed a new municipality, which they called “Sandton”, a name derived from suburbs Sandown and Bryanston, and it was rezoned in recognition of the need for another town centre in Johannesburg.One of the main attractions in Sandton is Sandton City, which ranks among the largest shopping centres in Africa. Together with Nelson Mandela Square, the centre, with some 144,000 m2 of shopping space, is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Much of Johannesburg’s business tourism is centred on Sandton, which has a string of 5-star hotels.
It was recently announced by Liberty Properties that Sandton City will receive a R1,77-billion upgrade. Liberty Properties chief executive Samuel Ogbu has envisaged the complex as South Africa’s very own Wall Street “Africa is not for sissies, but we have a bold vision, which is to see the Sandton City precinct as our own Wall Street.” The redevelopment will include the construction of a 60-storey office tower, a new hotel, new retail and office space and residential apartments. The 60-storey office tower will be the tallest building in Africa, replacing the Carlton Centre in Johannesburg CBD. The extension will stretch to 30 000 m2 and the total complex will have a gross lettable area of 158 000 m2. London-based RTKL Associates have been chosen to design the complex.
Nelson Mandela Square, formerly known as Sandton Square, was renamed in March 2004, after the unveiling of a 6-metre bronze statue of the former South African president. Perhaps ironically, Liliesleaf Farm, where Nelson Mandela lived in the early 1960s and where many leading political activists were arrested in 1963 and tried as part of the now infamous Rivonia Trial, is just north of Nelson Mandela Square, close to the N1 Highway, off Rivonia Road.
Some of the other tourist attractions in Sandton include Liliesleaf Farm which is now a museum with guides and video presentations. For more information, visit http://www.liliesleaf.co.za/ If you are interested in South African flora then perhaps a visit to Johannesburg Botanical Gardens would be an enjoyable excursion. Learn more at http://www.jhbcityparks.com/index.php/conservation-contents-95/botanical-gardens-contents-96 Perhaps you have an interest in birds or maybe enjoy the glitz and glamour of a casino or both. If so then a trip to Monte Casino is recommended. You will find an aviary with over 60 species of bird as well as small mammals and antelope. For more info visit https://www.tsogosun.com/montecasino/entertainment/bird-gardens In addition, Monte Casino boasts 30 restaurants, a piazza, a live theatre, movies, a 10 pin bowling alley and much more.
THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
The Cradle of Humankind is one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa. Here, the landscape is dotted with subterranean limestone caves that have turned up a rich fossil record for human evolutionary studies, which lend credence to the ‘Out of Africa’ theory of where our ancestors came from. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxgnlSbYLSc
Archaeological finds within the Cradle of Humankind include two-million-year-old stone tools. About 50km north-west of Johannesburg is the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, an area of undulating grassland, rocky outcrops and river courses typical of the Highveld before it was overtaken by urban sprawl.
It’s a place that draws visitors from around the world for the fossil record that lies in the network of limestone caves beneath the surface.
Here you’ll find the Sterkfontein Caves, Swartkrans and Kromdraai, among other fossil sites, all places that tell the story of what the world was like when our human ancestors were evolving some two to three million years ago.
At the Sterkfontein Caves alone, the remains of more than 500 hominids (the hominid family includes modern-day humans and their direct ancestors) have been uncovered, lending credence to the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, which is that humans and their ancestors evolved in Africa first. So rich is this hominid fossil record that the area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, one of eight in South Africa.
Fossils were first unearthed here in the 1890s when the caves were blasted open for lime needed for the extraction of gold discovered on the Witwatersrand in 1886.
But it was only from the 1930s that serious scientific work started to take place.
One of the first major discoveries was that of ‘Mrs Ples’ (read more below), a pre-human skull dating back more than 2-million years (Australopithecus africanus) unearthed by Professor Robert Broom and his assistant, John Robinson, in 1947 at the Sterkfontein Caves.
The skull was originally classified as Plesianthropus transvaalensis (hence the name) and was an adult version of the same species as the Taung Child, the tiny fossilised skull of a child about three years old that had been found at the Taung limeworks in what is now the North West province, and identified by Professor Raymond Dart in 1924.
Although smaller than us, Australopithecus africanus is regarded as one of our early ancestors because it walked upright. In 1997, a complete hominid skeleton called ‘Little Foot’, also found in the Sterkfontein Caves, was introduced to the world and is still in the process of being described.
In 2005, two more areas of significance were added to this World Heritage Site, bringing the number of official fossil sites in the Cradle of Humanking to 13. These were Makapan (in Limpopo) and Taung (in the North West province). Together all these areas are now known as the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs, recognised by UNESCO for their significance in human evolutionary studies.
You’ll find a small but good exhibition centre at the Sterkfontein Caves and a much larger, more interactive one at Maropeng.
WHO WAS MRS. PLES?
Mrs. Ples is the popular nickname for the most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus ever found. Many Australopithecus fossils have been found near Sterkfontein, about 40 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, in a region of Guateng now designated as the Cradle of HumankindWorld Heritage Site. Mrs. Ples was discovered by Robert Broom and John T. Robinson on April 18, 1947. Because of Broom’s use of dynamite and pickaxe while excavating, Mrs. Ples’ skull was blown into two pieces and some fragments are missing. Nonetheless, Mrs./Mr. Ples is one of the most perfect pre-human skulls ever found. Why was this find so significant? Because it supported the hypothesis proposed by Dr. Raymond Dart that Australopithecus africanus was a hominid species – a possible human ancestor. He discovered the ‘Taung Child’in 1924 and suggested that the skull indicated that it’s owner had walked upright due to the placement of foramen magnum (a void in the cranium where the spinal cord is continuous with the brain) as it was located beneath the cranium, showing that the creature stood upright. The scientific world shunned Raymond Dart, disagreeing with his suggestions that the Taung Child was a possible early human ancestor and Robert Broom had been the only supporter of Dart’s hypothesis for years. The Taung Child probably was killed by an eagle or other large predatory bird, judging by the similarity of damage to the skull and eye sockets of the Taung Child to that seen in modern primates known to have been killed by eagles. Entrance Cradle of humankind 2 2 The nickname ″Mrs. Ples″ was coined by Broom’s young co-workers. It derives from the scientific designation Plesianthropus transvaalensis (near-man from the Transvaal), that Broom initially gave the skull, later subsumed into the species Australopithecus africanus. In scientific publications the specimen is referred to by its catalogue number, STS 5 The genus Australopithecus, of which there are several species, is considered the likely precursor of the genus Homo, to which all humanity belongs. Though its cranium is comparable to a chimpanzee’s, Australopithecus walked upright, as humans do. This was a surprise to anthropologists at the time, because it had been assumed that the big brain of Homo had preceded, or at least evolved in tandem with our upright gait. Mrs. Ples, whose cranial capacity is only about 485 cubic centimeters, was one of the first fossils to reveal that upright walking had evolved well before any significant growth in brain size.
The sex of the specimen is not completely certain and so Mrs. Ples may in fact be Mr. Ples. Moreover, X-ray analysis of the specimen’s teeth (see below) has suggested it was an adolescent. Hence a designation of Miss Ples or Master Ples is also possible.
The paleoanthropologist, Prof. Federick E. Grine, has studied the dental morphology of Mrs./Mr. Ples with a view to finally establishing Mrs./Ms. Ples’ sex. Using the Computed Tomography (CT) scans of STS 5 from the experiments of Weber et. al., they compared them to CT scans of more recently discovered A. africanus skulls from Sterkfontein. These scans allowed Grine to reconstruct images of the roots of the teeth, in order to see how the molar and canine teeth developed. This study concluded that Mrs./Mr. Ples was indeed a middle-aged female. However, the question is not entirely settled, since other studies have come to the opposite conclusion.
Some experts have suggested that a partial skeleton, known only by its catalogue number of STS 14, which was discovered in the same year, in the same geological deposit and in proximity to Mrs. Ples, may belong to this skull. If correct, this would make Mrs. Ples the South African counterpart to the famous Lucy fossil. This skull, along with others discovered at Taung, Sterkfontein, and Makapangsgat offered compelling evidence in favour of Charles Darwin’s hypothesis that humanity’s origin lay in Africa.
The fossil has been dated by a combination of palaeomagnetism and uranium-lead techniques to around 2.05 million years.
DINOKENG GAME RESERVE
Located just an hours drive north of Johannesburg is Gauteng’s only ‘Big 5’ game reserve, Dinokeng. This reserve is new, only established in 2004 and small in comparison to Kruger National Park but still large enough and established enough to provide visitors with a genuine African experience. It features professional game drives with qualified rangers that are equal to drives experienced in larger, more famous game reserves. It has several choices of accommodation and activities, ranging from hot air balloon flights over the reserve to tours to the Cullen Diamond mine. There is also an animal rehabilitation center with animals from all over Africa located within the reserve.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK AND SURROUNDS
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometres (7,523 sq mi) in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in northeastern South Africa, and extends 360 kilometres (220 mi) from north to south and 65 kilometres (40 mi) from east to west. The administrative headquarters are in Skukuza. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African Republic in 1898, and it became South Africa’s first national park in 1926.
To the west and south of the Kruger National Park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a peace park that links Kruger National Park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique.
The park is part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere an area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve.
The park has nine main gates allowing entrance to the different camps
ABOUT SKUKUZA AND JAMES STEVENSON-HAMILTON
Skukuza is situated on the banks of the Sabie River in the south of the park and was originally a Tsonga chiefdom under the authority of Chief Ngomane and his people. The Tsonga people of this area were great big game hunters, hunting Africa’s big five as well as smaller animals. In addition, they used the Sabie River for fishing. The land where the Skukuza camp is situated was chief Ngomane’s palace (eHubyeni) and he used to conduct tribal meetings there. When the government decided to establish a national park during the late 1800s and early 1900s, Skukuza was identified as a potential site because of the Sabie River flowing nearby, and the abundance of leopard, lion, buffalo, rhino and elephant in the immediate area. The government relocated the Tsonga people to villages around Bushbuckridge and Hazyview, and established the largest game reserve camp in South Africa, Skukuza rest camp
Skukuza has a number of historical sites including 3 museums and a library. The camp center consists of shops and restaurants with the Selati Train restaurant situated on an old train platform east of the center. There is a main reception where it is possible to book game drives, bush braais or guided walks in Kruger. Skukuza also has 2 swimming pools, a golf course, garage, police station, post office and a bank. The camp is spotted with huts, guest houses and basic camping facilities. Nearby the camp is a nursery where plants native to the region can be viewed and purchased. There is an airport 5 km away, called Skukuza Airport, with direct flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg on a daily basis. SAA Express operates two daily from Cape Town and OR Tambo, as well as two daily flight from Skukuza to both OR Tambo and Cape Town International.
POACHERS AND LAND RIGHTS
On 30 April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the Kruger Park, James Stevenson- Hamilton retired and was replaced by Colonel J. A. B. Sandenbergh of the South African Air Force. During 1959, work commenced to completely fence the park boundaries with the purpose of curbing the spread of diseases, facilitate border patrolling and inhibit the movement of poachers. Work started on the southern boundary along the Crocodile River and in 1960 the western and northern boundaries were fenced, followed by the eastern boundary with Mozambique.
The Makuleke area in the northern part of the park was forcibly taken from the Makuleke people by the government in 1969 and about 1500 of them were relocated to land to the South so that their original tribal areas could be integrated into the greater Kruger National Park. In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19,842 hectares (198.42 km2) in the northern part of the Kruger National Park and the land was given back to the Makuleke people. However, they chose not to resettle on the land but rather to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges.
In the late 1990s, the fences between the Kruger Park and Klaserie Game Reserve, Olifants Game Reserve and Balule Game Reserve were removed and these parks were incorporated into the Greater Kruger Park adding 40 000 hectares to the reserve.
Finally, in 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
As of 2013, the park’s anti-poaching unit consisted of 650 SANParksgame rangers, assisted by the SAPS and the SANDF (including the SAAF). In addition, the park is equipped with two drones borrowed from Denel Dynamics, South Africa and two Aérospatiale Gazelle helicopters, donated by the RAF to augment its air space presence. Automated movement sensors relay intrusions along the Mozambique border to a control center, and a specialist dog unit has been introduced. Buffer zones have been established along the border with Mozambique, from where many poachers have infiltrated the park, as an alternative to costly new fences. The original 150 km long fences were dropped in 2002 to establish the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The national anti-poaching committee oversees all activities and coordinates interested parties.
Kruger’s big game poachers have sophisticated equipment and operate with night vision instruments and large caliber rifles that are fitted with suppressors and high tech telescopes. They are mostly Mozambique citizens that initiate their carefully planned incursions from the Mozambique border region. In 2012 some 200 poachers were apprehended, while about 30 were killed in skirmishes.
In July 2012, a Kruger game ranger and policeman were the first to die in an anti-poaching operation, while other employees reported intimidation by poachers. Rangers in and around the park have been pressured or blackmailed by poaching syndicates to provide intelligence on the whereabouts of rhinos and anti-poaching operations. In December 2012, the park started using a Denel Dynamics Seeker II drone against rhino poachers.
The Panorama Route is a popular road-route along the Great Escarpment in the north eastern corner of South Africa, exploring several cultural and natural points of interest. Traveling through Mpumalanga province, the route is dotted with historical sites as well as some of the most amazing views of the African landscape including the world’s third largest canyon, Blyde River Canyon. In addition it features numerous waterfalls, large areas of Pine forest and natural landmarks such as ‘Bourkes Luck Potholes’, the ‘Three Rondavels’ and ‘God’s Window’. Depending on your point of entry the starting point may vary although it is generally accepted to begin at the foot of the Long Tom Pass just outside Lydenburg and ends at the border of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces near the Echo Caves. Many visitors enter at Hazyview and travel northwest along the Kruger National Park border, slowly climbing up into the Drakensberg Mountains and through the Blyde River Canyon. Regardless of where you start and end, the scenery is stunning and history is fascinating.
HARTBEESPOORT DAMHartbeespoort, nicknamed “Harties”, is a dam, lake and resort area in the North West Province of South Africa. Situated on slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range the name is Afrikaans and means “gateway of the hartebeest”, a species of antelope. It was built on a farm owned by Hendrik Schoeman and the town Schoemansville is named after him. Other towns in the area include Hartbeespoort, Meerhof, Ifafi, Melodie, and Kosmos. The dam is fed by the Crocodile River and was built primarily to provide irrigation for numerous farms in the area although the water has been tainted by pollution over recent years making it unsuitable for most farms today. The dam lake also struggles with water Hyacinth, covering large sections with the large green leaves of the plant. Despite these problems it is still very picturesque. The region is scattered with holiday homes, resorts, game reserves and attractions as it is a popular getaway location for residents of Johannesburg as well as tourists from abroad.
Some of the main tourist attractions in or around Hartbeespoort Dam are:
- The Hartbeespoort Dam wall and tunnel
- The Hartbeespoort Dam Snake Park
- The Hartbeespoort Dam Aquarium
- Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway
- Transvaal Yacht Club
- Oberon Leisure Resort
- Welwitchia Country Market
- The Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort Dam
- Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary
- Harties horse trail safaris
- Chameleon Village
THE HARTBEESPOORT AERIAL CABLEWAY
The Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway or Harties Cableway, originally constructed in 1973, extends to the top of the Magaliesberg and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. It is situated 1km to the east of the town of Hartbeespoort in the North West Province, and is the longest mono-cableway in Africa. In 2010 the cableway was completely revamped and modernised by Swiss company Zargodox (Pty) Ltd, and officially reopened on 14 August 2010 by the then Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk. The aerial cableway is open 7 days a week.
THE ELEPHANT SANCTUARY
The Elephant Sanctuary Hartbeespoort Dam provide safe haven for African Elephants as well as fully guided interactive elephant educational programs covering elephant habits, dynamics, behavior and anatomy. Visitors have the opportunity to touch, feed, walk trunk-in-hand, and to experience short elephant-back rides conducted under professional supervision with experienced guides. The Elephant Sanctuary is open 7 days a week
BUSH BABIES MONKEY SANCTUARY
Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary is a privately owned multi-species primate rehabilitation centre. The sanctuary takes in donated and rescued primates that may have been orphaned, raised as household pets, previously confined to captivity, abused, injured, or recovered from the illegal pet trade. Primates are rehabilitated for free-release within the natural forested environment of the sanctuary, where they are given a new lease of life in a wild environment and encouraged to search and hunt for food themselves. The sanctuary is one of only eight free-release primate sanctuaries in the world, and home to over 90 indigenous and exotic primates from around the world. A number of primates have also been born wild at the sanctuary. The sanctuary is non-subsidised, and supported by funding generated from guided tours and sales of curios. It is open to the public 7 days a week year round
PILANESBERG AND GAME RESERVE
The Pilanesberg Mountain, also known in geographical terms as ‘Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex’, is a vast ring dike of a very ancient extinct volcano that last erupted some 1,200 million years ago in the North West Province of South Africa. The mountain is a circular structure that rises from flat surrounding plains and consists of three concentric ridges or rings of hills, of which the outermost has a diameter of about 24 km. Pilanesberg, named after a Tswana chief, Pilane, is for the greater part enclosed in a protected area known as the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve borders with the entertainment complex Sun City and is currently administered by the North West Parks and Tourism Board. The creation of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in the 1970’s is considered one of the most ambitious programmes of its kind to be undertaken anywhere in the world and ‘Operation Genesis’ is still the largest game translocation ever undertaken.
The park has a rich array of southern African wildlife including the Big Five, the five most dangerous game animals in Africa. The Pilanesberg is not in a location which the Big Five animals would naturally inhabit, however they have been relocated to the park with great success.
Aside from the wonderful wildlife within the reserve, scattered throughout the park are various sites that originate from the Iron Age and Stone Age and show the presence of early man. The park has an area of 572 square kilometres (221 sq mi). One can travel through in a standard road vehicle as although most of the 188 kilometres of track are not surfaced, they are well maintained. There are three main tarred roads named Kgabo, Kubu and Tswene providing several stops where there are bars and gift shops. Within the park there are several lodges providing excellent overnight accommodation. Towards the centre of the park there is an artificially constructed lake at Mankwe Dam as well as Thabayadiotso which means “the Proud Mountain”
SUN CITYSun City is a luxury resort and casino, situated in the North West Province of South Africa along the borders of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, near the city of Rustenburg.
Created in the late 70’s, Sun City was developed by the hotel magnate Sol Kerzner as part of his Sun International group of properties. It was officially opened on 7 December 1979; at the time it was located in the Bantustan of Bophuthatswana.
As Bophuthatswana had been declared an independent state by South Africa’s apartheid government (although unrecognized as such by any other country), it could provide entertainment such as gambling and topless revue shows which were banned in South Africa. These factors, as well as its relatively close location to the large metropolitan areas of Pretoria and Johannesburg, ensured that Sun City soon became a popular holiday and weekend destination.
Sun City became a part of South Africa when Bophutatswana was re-incorporated in the new South Africa in 1994.
- Soho Hotel (Formerly known as Sun City Hotel or The Main Hotel)
- Cascades Hotel
- The Cabanas
- The Palace of the Lost City
Notable facilities at Sun City:
- The Valley Of Waves
- The Gary Player Country Club
- Zip 2000
- Sun Central
- The Maze Of The Lost City
- Sun City Casino
- South African Hall Of Fame
- Motseng Cultural Village
- Animal World and Bird Sanctuary
- Mankwe Gametrackers & Pilanesberg Game Reserve
- Kwena Gardens
GARDEN ROUTEThe Garden Route is a 300-kilometre stretch of coast located along the south-west of South Africa, extending from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The name is inspired by the lush vegetation set amongst the lagoons and lakes that perforate the coastline. It features quaint towns such as Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Mossel Bay, Little Brak River and Nature’s Valley while the City of George is the administrative hub.
Boasting one of the mildest climates in the world, temperatures seldom fall below 10 °C in winter and rarely climb beyond 28 °C in summer. Nestled between the Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma Mountains and the coast, it is fed by the humid Indian Ocean, allowing year-round precipitation and creating an ideal climate for flora and fauna. On the leeward side of the mountain range is an area known as the Little Karoo, a semi desert area.
The many bays provide sanctuary for Southern Right Whales to breed here as well as being home to seals and dolphins. In addition there are numerous wildlife reserves in the region featuring excellent game viewing experiences including the ‘Big 5’
Imagine a remote and pristine African coastline, rugged and virtually untouched by human hands and you will have an image of the Wild Coast. With no coastal road but spotted with small communities and the only road out is the road in. It is hard to believe that on a continent with a population of 1.1 billion that you could find an area so sparsely peopled, yet here it is. A true naturalist’s paradise.
Located in the Eastern Cape, the Wild Coast runs from Port Edward on KwaZulu-Natal border down to East London. With countless bays and small towns with names like Coffee Bay, Wavecrest and Haga Haga, the region echoes adventure and wilderness.
VICTORIA FALLSVictoria Falls (Tokaleya Tonga: Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders”) is a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Frequently described as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls is classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1,708m and height of 108m resulting in the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls.
David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, is believed to have been the first European to view Victoria Falls on 16 November 1855, from what is now known as Livingstone Island, one of two land masses in the middle of the river, immediately upstream from the falls near the Zambian shore. Livingstone named his discovery in honour of Queen Victoria of Britain.
There are two islands on the crest of the falls that are large enough to divide the curtain of water even at full flood: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank and Livingstone Island near the middle—the point from which Livingstone first viewed the falls. At less than full flood, additional islets divide the curtain of water into separate parallel streams. The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Devil’s Cataract (called Leaping Water by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.
Archaeological sites around the falls have yielded Homo habilis stone artifacts from 3 million years ago, 50,000-year-old Middle Stone Age tools and Late Stone Age (10,000 and 2,000 years ago) weapons, adornments and digging tools. Iron-using Khoisan hunter-gatherers displaced these Stone Age people and in turn were displaced by Bantu tribes such as the southern Tonga people known as the Batoka/Tokalea, who called the falls Shungu na mutitima. The Matabele, later arrivals, named them aManz’ aThunqayo, and the Batswana and Makololo (whose language is used by the Lozi people) call them Mosi-o-Tunya. All these names mean essentially “the smoke that thunders”.
European settlement of the Victoria Falls area started around 1900 in response to the desire of Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company for mineral rights and British colonial expansion north of the Zambezi. Before 1905, the river was crossed above the falls at the Old Drift by dugout canoe or a barge towed across with a steel cable. Rhodes’ vision of a Cape-Cairo railway drove plans for the first bridge across the Zambezi and he insisted it be built where the spray from the falls would fall on passing trains, so the site at the Second Gorge was chosen. From 1905 the railway offered accessible travel from as far as the Cape in the south and from 1909, as far as the Belgian Congo in the north. In 1904 the Victoria Falls Hotel was opened to accommodate visitors arriving on the new railway. The falls became an increasingly popular attraction during British colonial rule of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), with the town of Victoria Falls becoming the main tourist center.
The national parks contain abundant wildlife including sizable populations of elephant, buffalo, giraffe, Grant’s zebra, and a variety of antelope. Katanga lions, African leopards and South African cheetahs are only occasionally seen. Vervet monkeys and baboons are common. The river above the falls contains large populations of hippopotamus and crocodile. African bush elephants cross the river in the dry season at particular crossing points. Klipspringers, honey badgers, lizards and clawless otters can be glimpsed in the gorges but they are mainly known for 35 species of raptors including Taita falcon, Black eagle, Peregrine falcon and Augur buzzard that breed there. Above the falls, herons, fish eagles and numerous kinds of waterfowl are common.
Interesting facts about Victoria Falls
- The spray from the falls means that the Rain Forest at Victoria Falls is the only place on earth that it rains 24 hours a day – 7 days a week.
- Moonbow – During a full moon you can see a moonbow also known as a Lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls.
- When the river is at a lower level during the months of September to December, it is possible to swim in a naturally formed pool known as the ‘Devil’s Swimming Pool’ right on the edge of the falls. This pool is accessed from Livingstone Island. There is a natural rock wall just below the water on the edge of the falls which prevents swimmers from being washed over by the current.
- Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. The others are the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Harbour of Rio de Janeiro, Mount Everest, Polar Aurora, Paricutin volcano.
- Victoria Falls is the world’s largest curtain of falling water. The 1,700m wide water cataract drops through 110 m and the flow exits through a series of zigzagging gorges a 100m wide.
- The Victoria Falls Bridge was the dream and brainchild of Cecil John Rhodes, but he died before the bridge was completed.
- Queen Elizabeth the Queen of England visited the Victoria Falls in 1947… and stayed at the famous Victoria Falls Hotel in the royal suite.
- The falling water crashing into the bottom of the falls is eroding all the time. The pool beneath the falls is 70m deep.
- In 1910 two people named Mrs Moss and Mr Orchard’s bodies were found in the second gorge of Victoria Falls. They had been swept over the falls after their two canoes were capsized by a hippo at Long Island above the falls
- During the high water level in April of 2013, four elephants trying to swim across the Zambezi River were swept by the currents down the river and over the falls.
- The falls were once illuminated at night but the lighting was removed by The National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC).
- The Zambezi River is the fourth largest African River after River Nile, River Congo and River Niger and transverses six countries that include; Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and is 1677 miles long.
There are many game reserves, vast lakes (including Lake Tanganyika), major rivers and waterfalls to visit in Zambia. For more information, visit https://www.zambiatourism.com/
CHOBE NATIONAL PARKChobe National Park, in northern Botswana, has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. It is Botswana’s first national park and is 11,700 km², the third largest park in the country after the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and the Gemsbok National Park and is the most biologically diverse. The Chobe Game Reserve was officially created in 1960, and in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park. The park is widely known for its spectacular elephant population. It contains an estimated 50,000 elephants, perhaps the highest elephant concentration of Africa.
The park receives many visitors because of its proximity to the Victoria Falls. The town of Kasane, situated just downstream, is the most important town of the region and serves as the northern entrance to the park.
Bordered by the Chobe River in the north, the landscape varies from swamp to semi desert and vegetation that changes from woodlands to savannah. The depression in southwestern corner where the Savuti Marsh is located is believed to be the remains of an ancient super lake.
Wildlife viewing include Rhinoceros, Warthog, Kudu, Impala, Zebra, Wildebeest, Elephant Lion, Leopard, African wild dog, Roan antelope, Sable antelope, Hippopotamus. Crocodiles and occasionally Cheetah.
The Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a swampy inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough at an altitude of 930–1,000 m in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. All the water reaching the delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year, about 11 cubic kilometres (2.6 cu mi) of water spread over the 6,000–15,000 km2 (2,300–5,800 sq mi) area. Some flood waters drain into Lake Ngami. The area was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that had mostly dried up by the early Holocene.
The Okavango is produced by seasonal flooding. The Okavango River drains the summer (January–February) rainfall from the Angola highlands and the surge flows 1,200 km (750 mi) in around one month. The waters then spread over the 250 by 150 km (155 by 93 mi) area of the delta over the next four months (March–June). The high temperature of the delta causes rapid transpiration and evaporation, resulting in 3 cycles of rising and falling water level that was not fully understood until the early 20th century. The flood peaks between June and August, during Botswana’s dry winter months, when the delta swells to three times its permanent size, attracting animals from kilometres around and creating one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wildlife.
The delta is very flat, with less than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) variation in height across its 15,000 km2 (5,800 sq mi), while the water drops about 60 m from Mohembo to Maun
Most nationalities do not require a visa to visit Botswana, including Australia, Canada. USA and Great Britain.
Granted independence in 1990, this former German colony still echoes the past in towns such as Swakopmund and the city of Windhoek. The European heritage can been seen in many old buildings and is sometimes referred to as the Bavaria of the South.
The greatest wildlife sanctuary in Namibia is the Etosha National Park. When rain falls during the wet season in Angola, the water winds it’s way south via the Ekuma River, one of the three rivers that supply a majority of water to the pan. The other two rivers are the Oshigambo River and Omurambo Ovambo River. Ekumo is an ephemeral river that occasionally flows, or forms pools, during the rainy season. It originates from the southern shores of Lake Oponono and is 250 kilometres long.
There is an abundance of game in Etosha National Park, showcasing some of the most common and rarest wildlife species. Home to some of the largest Elephant in Africa due to the vitamins and nutrients found in the ground, the endangered black rhino, lion, giraffe and even leopard. Birders will love the rainy season in Etosha. After good rains the salt pan fills with water attracting a cloud of flamingos. More than 340 bird species have been counted in Etosha National Park. Among the migratory species, is the European bee-eater. The game reserve is also home to the world’s largest bird, the Ostrich, and the heaviest flying bird, the Kori bustard.
As an Australian, you can visit Namibia for tourism purposes for up to 3 months a year without a visa. For other visits you’ll need to get a visa in advance.