Since I moved to Arizona from South Africa 2.5 years ago, I have been asked very many times: “just how long does it take to travel from Phoenix to Cape Town?”. Well, it does take some time – 20 hours if you fly via London. Take my word for it though, its worth every minute of the journey for what you will see, eat and experience once you get there.
Since you may feel that I am a little biased (this is my homeland we are talking about here), I have compiled a short-list of 10 very good, very “Google-able” reasons to make the journey, and put a visit to the incredible South Africa as number 1 on your “bucket list”.
Reason 1: As a “rainbow nation” that has embraced its eclectic mix of Africans and immigrants, South Africa is extremely diverse and offers a unique mix of culture, wildlife, and beautiful landscape. It is one of the more developed countries in Africa, yet it passionately retains a traditional African flavor in its food, music and vibrant culture despite the modern and Western influences. This, coupled with the wild African bush, and an abundance of untamed wildlife; makes South Africa and its people truly special.
Reason 2: South Africans are extremely friendly, and proud of their nation and how far it has come in its struggle to freedom over the years. We are very hospitable, and love to talk about our history and variety of cultures. Just ask us!
Reason 3: Bobotie, Amarula Cream, Pap en Sous, and Koeksisters. Good food is high on the list of priorities in South Africa, and a very important part of the social culture. Bobotie is often named as the national dish, but this demonstrates how integrated the cultures have become given that this is in fact a Malay dish (more than a traditional African one). There are many delicious, exotic and interesting foods to try while you are there, but make sure these are also on your list. P.S. The sushi in coastal Cape Town is outstanding too!
Reason 4: Kruger National Park in South Africa is one of the absolute best places in the world for viewing African wildlife. It is one of the biggest in Africa at 7,523 sq miles (about the size of New Jersey) and has an astonishing variety of species including 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 520 birds and 147 mammals, including the famous ‘big 5’ – the lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.
Heed this warning – watching wildlife is highly addictive! I can’t even count on my hands and feet how many safaris I have been on, and I still never get tired of watching a herd of elephants grazing, or hippos wallowing, or feeling the excitement of witnessing a lioness or a leopard stalking its prey, right to the moment of the kill as it happens.
Reason 5: South Africa has a fantastic climate, most especially in Spring and Fall when the weather is temperate. Remember that because its in the Southern Hemisphere, its seasons are opposite to the US. So just as Arizonans are coming out of the blazing hot summer in September, its cool spring with some rainfall in Cape Town (imagine how wonderful that would be!)
Reason 6: This is the home of Nelson Mandela – a man who suffered and sacrificed greatly for his people and then led South Africa into a peaceful democracy. He is the man who said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I love that! Some of the most moving sites relive the historical change from the old ways to the new.
Reason 7: Cape Town is an extraordinary city, but the provincial countryside also produces some of the best wines in the world. If you like that sort of thing, there are colonial-style vineyards aplenty, and even if you aren’t a lover of wines – the wine regions themselves are both beautiful and rich with the history of early modern South Africa.
Reason 8: South Africa has 8 World Heritage sites, including the largest, oldest and most deeply eroded meteor crater found on Earth, dating back more than 2 billion years and measuring 120 miles in diameter.
Reason 9: There is no language barrier for American visitors. Yes, there are 11 official spoken languages in South Africa, but English is one of them and most everyone speaks it.
Reason 10: The South African Rand is weak compared to the US Dollar – currently at 10:1. Whilst this is bad for South Africans visiting the US, its wonderful for Americans visiting South Africa as it gives you so much more spending power! Trust me, you will definitely want to pack light so that you have plenty of space in your bag for all the memorabilia and gifts you will want to buy.
There are so many more reasons to visit, but hopefully these 10 will encourage you to seriously consider making the trip.