South Africa is one of those places that just sticks in my head — it’s big, dramatic, and complex. It’s also an awesome place for a road trip. I’d love to rent a car and spend a month or two exploring.
Until that day, I can revisit virtually through my pictures.
Exploring South Africa
South Africa is a big place with dramatic landscapes -- it's a great place for a road trip!
South African tour
This slide show covers areas I visited on my 2011 South Africa trip. My trip bounced around a bit, but I’m going to take you around the country clockwise, beginning in Johannesburg.
Johannesburg is South Africa's big and busy business center.
Soweto's repurposed power plant towers (now home to various extreme sport options) is a fitting symbol for this community.
Mandela Home in Soweto
The tiny house where Nelson Mandela lived in this humble house in Soweto before being imprisoned for his opposition to apartheid.
Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum
Soweto's Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum tells the story of apartheid, beginning with the killing of a 12 year old student.
Blyde River Canyon along the Panorama Route
Touring the Blyde River Canyon along the Panorama Route includes plenty of striking mountain scenery and contorted canyons.
Along the Panorama Route
The Panorama Route is a lovely drive.
Small towns in the area include Pilgrim’s Rest – a restored 1870s gold mining village.
Potholes and waterfalls at Bourke’s Luck.
Afternoon in the mountains
We visited on a hazy day and didn’t get striking views of the area’s most famous mountain features – but it was still beautiful.
South African Game parks
While there are game parks across South Africa, the best and most famous are located on the eastern side of the country.
Kruger National Park
Kruger is the biggest (it’s roughly the size of New Jersey) and most famous of South Africa's game parks.
Slide14 Kudu in the road
Kudu traffic jams are a common sight in Kruger.
Hornbills at Kruger
There are always plenty of birds at Kruger, including red-billed hornbills, southern ground hornbills, and southern yellow-billed hornbills.
Elephant at Kruger
It is was very dry when we visited and the elephants looked pretty stressed.
There are also people moving around in Kruger. Here a worker harvests thatch for new park building roofs.
Animals at Kruger
We saw a lot of kudu, warthogs, and giraffe.
Spotted hyena cubs are cute, but will grow up to be deadly hunters.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Park
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi was covered with blindingly green meadows when we visited. Those meadows attracted a lot of wildlife, including a herd of cape buffalo.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is famous for its rhino conservation program.
Rhinos in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi
It seemsfrom the number of rhinos at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi that the rhino conservation program is pretty successful.
Zebra and rhino
Zebra and rhino graze peacefully in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park.
Wildlife in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi
Wildlife in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi includes cape buffalo, warthogs, and zebra.
Grazing kudu are common in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi park.
Road in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi
The scenery at Hluhluwe-Imfolozi is gorgeous too.
Giraffe on the road
You never know who you’ll meet on the road in Africa!
iSimangalso Wetland Park
iSimangalso (St. Lucia) Wetland Park is well-known for its large number of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.
Touring the estuary
A boat tour provides plenty of opportunities to check out the hippos.
Touring by boat helped us keep a safe distance from the (very large) crocodiles.
Birds at iSimangalso
We also saw lots and lots of birds, including egrets, herons, and Egyptian geese.
Birds and more birds
Other birds that can be seen at iSimangalso wetlands include the African jacana (also called a Jesus bird), squacco heron, and Cape weaver.
Indian Ocean beaches
We visited the Indian Ocean beaches north of Durban on a cold and cloudy day.
Fishing on the beach
There are likely to be a few people out on the beach even on a cold and windy day.
The Southern Coast
The coast to the east of Cape Town is a dramatic mix of windswept beaches, rocky cliffs, and rugged mountains.
Knysna is noted for its long lagoon, but we were drawn to the tide pools below Knysa Head.
Exploring Knysna Head
The rocky shore below Knysna Head is perfect for exploring.
Tide pool treasures
The tide pools at Knysna Head protect a wealth of natural treasures.
Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point of Africa and the place where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic.
Meeting of the seas
The meeting of the seas at Cape Agulhas is a rough and tumble activity.
Hermanus is a former whaling port. Today it is a popular spot for whale watching.
Visitors come in droves during the fall to watch whales frolic in the harbor just beyond the city’s seaside walking paths. There were only a few whales around when we visited, but they were there!
The Harold Porter Botanical Garden celebrates native fynbos plants, including the King Protea.
A mountain garden
Harold Porter Botanical Garden sits at the base of the mountains and across the road from the sea.
Brilliant orange protea brightens up the gardens.
With their finely cut leaves, some plants her look as if they are made of feathers!
Large and dramatic, King Protea in bloom is a sight to remember.
Cape Town (seen from Table Mountain) sprawls along the coast.
St. George's Cathedral
St George’s Cathedral is located in the heart of Cape Town. Under the leadership of Reverend Desmond Tutu (the first black archbishop of South Africa), the Anglican church was a base for resistance against apartheid.
V & A Waterfront
This bustling waterfront development along the edge of the City Bowl offers loads of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options – most with a view of the harbor.
Colorful Bo-Kaap is the traditional home of the Cape Muslims; descendents of workers brought to South Africa by the Dutch East India Company beginning in the 1650s.
Bo-Kaap is small in size, but big in color.
Hardy hikers can follow a variety of trails to the top of Table Mountain, but on calm days a a cable car system whisks visitors to the top.
View from Table Mountain
The cable car station at the top of Table Mountain provides views of Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula.
Fog on Table Mountain
The top of Table Mountain is often obscured by clouds – even when the weather below is beautiful.
Fynbos on Table Mountain
The top of Table Mountain protects native fynbos plants.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden protects and shows-off South Africa's native plants.
Colorful landscape at Kirstenbosch
The landscape explodes with color at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
Protea and native Namaqualand daisies at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
Yellow protea glow in the sun at Kirstenbosch gardens.
Chapman’s Peak Drive winds through a stunning section of the Cape Peninsula. It’s one of the world’s great drives.
Cape Peninsula scenery
The Cape Peninsula is a stunning mix of mountains, cliffs, and beaches.
Hout Bay has been a fishing center since the 1940s; today it is also a popular resort area.
Dunes along Noorhoek Beach
Noordhoek beach is back there somewhere! The ocean here is unsafe for swimming, but popular with surfers.
Old Cape Point Lighthouse
The old Cape Point Lighthouse provides great views of the sea, but wasn’t very effective as a lighthouse.
Ostrich at the Cape of Good Hope
Visitors to the Cape of Good Hope may see small antelope, Cape zebra, baboons, ostrich, and other creatures along the beach.
Cape Point Beach
Cape point is the Most South-Western Point of the African Continent – NOT the southernmost!
Boulders Beach has cool rocks, but no one comes here for the rocks.
Boulders Beach is all about the penguins.
City life on the Peninsula
There are touristy towns all the way around the peninsula, making it easy to spend a day or a week. There is even a winery on a historic farm for those wanting to end the day on a really relaxing note.
The Cape Peninsula has a string of gorgeous beaches.
Western Coastal Terrace
The Cape Columbine Lighthouse is located along the Western Coastal Terrace, an area of windswept beaches, rugged mountains, and vast plains. In the spring it is all carpeted with wildflowers.
West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park includes dunes, lagoons, beaches, and more.
Great views (and more wildflowers) can be found on the rocky outcrops at the West Coasst National Park.
Fields of flowers can be seen above the rolling dunes along the sea.
One of the many orange flowers that brighten the meadows.
Paternoster is an old fishing village that has become a popular vacation spot, with many of the historic cottages converted into simple rentals.
Colorful fishing boats
Paternoster still has lots of fisherman and their colorful boats.
Local fisherman rely on small, colorful wooden boats to haul their livelihood from the sea.
We only had time to travel along the edge of the Cedarberg Wildnesss, but the rock formations we were fabulous.
There is a big view from Pakhuis Pass.
Edge of Cedarberg
This looks like paradise for hikers and rock climbers!
Namaqualand is famous for the large number of rare plants that are found here and nowhere else in the world. In spring the landscape is carpeted with brilliant blossoms.
Namaqualand's landscape is big and rugged.
We spent most of our time outside the seemingly lost-in-time town of Nieuwoudtville.
This area is famous for its spring wildflower season, but the owner of our cottage was adamant: I had missed flower season (“the flowers are done!”) so there wasn’t much to see.
I think there are plenty of flowers!
Flowers in the fog
We awoke to morning fog, which was pure magic.
We drove a lot of miles on unpaved roads, but it was worth it because the scenery and flowers were so beautiful.
The Cape Winelands
The heart of the Winelands is just north of Cape Town, where major vineyards are centered around the charming towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl.
Mountains in the winelands
The Cape Winelands has a dramatic setting.
In the vineyard
South African vintners grow a variety of grapes, but pinotage was developed in Stellenbosch and, until recently was unique to South Africa.
Vineyard tours provide an up-close look at the winemaking process.
The best part of a vineyard tour is the opportunity to taste the finished wines.
Du Toit’s Koof Pass
Du Toit’s Koof Pass separates the main part of the winelands from those to the east.
Wine country continues
Once over the mountains, there are more vineyards, like these near Robertson
Wine country continues on to Montagu, a charming town nestled below the mountains where we had a spectacular meal with wines grown specifically to go with the food!
Classic home in Montagu
Montagu is a pleasant place to stay awhile, with lovely older homes, good food, and lovely wines.
Thank you for traveling with me!
Photos and text by Cindy Carlsson at ExplorationVacation.net
I hope you enjoy the tour!
South Africa 2011