Aug 222009
Cape Town - South Africa
Image by nicholas macgowan via Flickr

Africa is perhaps one of the most alluring destinations on your travel itinerary. While there are 43 countries on the African continent, this article is geared towards preparation for traveling to South Africa.

Prior to leaving for South Africa, it’s important you obtain a visa, with most nationalities receiving up to 3 months entry on arrival. Be sure to check with your travel agent if you need to pre-arrange a visa. South Africa’s international airports are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and many major cities offer direct flights to these airports.

Be sure you have 2 back-to-back blank pages in your passport which should be valid for at least 6 months. If not, you may be sent back. You may also be sent back for not having a return ticket. In the case that you need to pick up a ticket at the airport, have your details, such as flight number, handy so that you will not be met with increased suspicion. Damaged passports raise suspicion and may hinder your entry.

Now that you’re aware of the necessary preparations, the next step is learning about your travel destination. South Africa is on Africa’s southern tip, and is surrounded by Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe. An interesting fact is that South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans border this country, providing many beach areas for tourists. A wide variety of hotels offer beach services for you, and there are tons of camps and outings that you can plan on the beach.

On South Africa’s eastern shores, you’ll find many fishing and diving opportunities. The western coast holds some interesting surprises, as you may find penguins, whales, and seals frolicking in the waters. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can be lowered in a cage by the water, and look at great white sharks up close and personal.

South Africa’s terrain is mostly mountainous or scrubland. The Kalahari Desert lies in this country’s northwestern region and traveling from the most remote parts to the more populated regions are beautiful. Within the south alone, you’ll find different climate types accompanied by flora and fauna unique to each region. In the southeast, for example, you’ll find a tropical climate; while in the southwest, you’ll find a Mediterranean climate. If you’re traveling to the southwest, be prepared for wet winter months and dry summer months. You may need a windbreaker or rain gear depending on when you choose to travel.

While in South Africa, be sure to see the Kaapval Craton, a rock formation that is dated at about 2.6 billion years old. This rock contains some of the world’s richest minerals, such as gold, platinum and diamonds.

A hiking trip up to Table Mountain is a great experience if you visit Capetown. The hike takes about two and a half hours. There are also several paths that are easier than the hike up Table Mountain, that can reward you with great views as well. Then there is always the ever-popular cable-car that avoids the hiking and walking altogether. I know my choice.

Another place to visit is Table Mountain, which has a hiking trail that lasts 2½ hours hike. There are a number of paths ranging in difficulty on this mountain allowing you access to some of South Africa’s best views. On the other side of Table Mountain is the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which has many lovely plants and flowers. This is one of the world’s most beautiful gardens as well as some very unique plant species.

History buffs will be particularly thrilled by the information available here, and will witness the sites were some people had to live under the Apartheid. It is advisable to take a tour through these townships as driving through them alone can be dangerous.

Adventuring to all these places will work up an appetite, and you’ll have tons to eat, especially if you like meat. Meat is the primary ingredient in many of the dishes here. To accompany your dishes are fine South African wines.

Speaking the language is an important part of your traveling experience. The languages spoken here are Afikaans, Xhosa, zulu, venda, swati, Tswana, Nedebele, Tsonga, southern and northern Sotho, and of course, English. You may get confused while traveling here, as each language has a unique name for South America.

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