Thursday, March 13, 2008

Beautiful South Africa

The USA might have the longest mountain range, the deepest canyon, the tallest tree, the hugest plain. There is snow, desert and sea. But these attractions are several days journey apart, unmanageably large and difficult to get to. In South Africa we have all of these things, and you can see several of them in one day.

Scotland has castles, Germany has beer, England has countryside, Italy has ruins, France has, well, frogs, Austria has hills, India has curry, Thailand has beaches, Greece has islands, Australia has reefs, Kenya has animals. South Africa has all of these – and usually in the same place.

And often we overlook just how beautiful these attractions are. It is only when you look at a topographical map that you realise that the southern Cape coastline is actually a series of delicate mountain ranges marching along the coast and trailing their tails in the sea. The road between Port Elizabeth and Plettenberg Bay goes over the top of a number of river gorges of deep mysterious grey rock with shy ferns at the bottom. All you ever see of them is a gap on the side of the road, a glimpse of stone, and a patch of bridge. From the bottom, however, they are so gorgeous that – if they were anywhere else on earth – they would be international beauty spots with hot dog stands, postcard kiosks and curio shops selling tins of air.

Then there is the amazing Karoo. My most enduring travel memory is driving to Grahamstown from Kimberley on an early winter misty morning. The sun was rising and as we came over a hill just after Smithfield, the huge flat plain in front of us was a sea of pale pink mist, shot through with gold, with koppies rising out like enchanted islands, stretching off into the unimaginable distance. We were all so captivated by the sight that our driver narrowly avoided leaving the road to wipe out the Karoo’s only tree.

Of course, this is just on the surface. The country underground is writhing with undiscovered fossils, which very few people know about but which get palaeontologists into an ecstatic froth. And where there are fossils, there are thick and abundant seams of precious metals, stones and other Aladdin’s-cave-type goodies.

On the fauna and flora front, we have the flowers and the fluffies. And I’m not talking about the large obvious ones, I’m talking about the ones you have to get down on your hands and knees to see. Usually you have to be nimble and quick because whatever you are getting close to is likely to slither off if you take too long.

Our natural features are just wonderful. They are not as big as the Rockies (thank goodness) and they are not as tiny as the European lakes (which always make me nervous when I cruise on them in case I inadvertently pull out the plug). The best, of course, are the lesser known ones: the unexpected little waterfall, the beautifully-decorated Ndebele hut in the middle of nowhere, the strange knuckles of rock that don’t appear to have a name.
Story by: Niki Moore

What is there to do in Jozi?

Johannesburg, affectionately known as Jozi or Joburg has always been a vibrant place since its inception more than a hundred years ago. The City of gold is not normally the number one South African tourist attraction, but it is the number port of entry!
Most of people use it as a transit venue en-route to a Safari or Cape Town trip. People are often ''trapped'' in Jozi while waiting for local and International connecting flights.

What do you do in Jozi during this time do you ask?Well there are quite a few places to visit in this supposed concrete jungle (Psst....this is the city in the world with the highest number of trees per area of measurement)! Personally I love Johannesburg pulsating beat and lifestyle.

Start with a trip to Soweto to see the biggest township (what african areas were called during apartheid rule) ; visit Gold Reef city and go down this old mine to see how gold was mined here decades back.
The Cradle of Human Kind is situated in the North Western area of Gauteng near Sterkfontein caves, where you can trace the origin of our early human ancestors. See the skull of Mrs. Pless at Maropeng.
The Magalies Meander is a ''locals'' route that can keep one occupied for a whole day, but added to the visit to Maropeng, there will be ample time to try the cheese board at Van Gaalen's original Dutch Cheese Farm.
The Rhino & Lion Park will provide enough of a thrill for those with a few hours to spare, wishing to escape busy airports and city areas.Top the day off with a visit to Lesedi traditional village for a dose of African culture, food and dancing. Visit the sample Basotho, Ndebele, Pedi, Xhosa and Zulu villages. Do try the tribal dances!

Alternatively start the morning drifting high above the Magaliesburg area in one of Bill Harrop's original balloon Safaris.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tourism Growth in South Africa

International tourism to South Africa has surged since the end of apartheid. In 1994, the year of South Africa's first democratic elections, only 3.9-million foreign visitors arrived in the country.
By 2004, international arrivals had more than doubled to 6.7-million. In 2005 they grew to 7.5-million (+10.3%), in 2006 to 8.4-million (+13.9%), and in 2007 to 9.07-million (+8.3%).
Tourism is also one of the fastest growing sectors of South Africa's economy, its contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) increasing from 4.6% back in 1993 to 8.3% in 2006. Directly and indirectly, tourism constitutes approximately 7% of employment in South Africa.
And the outlook for the industry is extremely positive, particularly with the exposure the country will receive in the lead-up to the world's biggest sporting event, the Fifa World Cup, taking place in South Africa in 2010.

South Africa attracted over 22 000 more travellers from the US in 2007 - an 8.7% increase over 2006.
Arrivals from Asia and Australasia also grew strongly in 2007 compared to 2006, with a 16.9% increase from India, 12.9% increase from China, and 6.9% increase in visitors from Australasia