Pieter Erasmus, Johannesburg
South Africa is home to a wide array of vibrant, rich cultures, each with their own deep history. The South African landscape is as beautiful as it is diverse. It has an endless abundance of natural wonders – mountains, forests, rock formations, beaches, deserts and various other geological features.
One little-known fact/trivia that everyone should know about when travelling to South Africa?
People sometimes forget that after many years of isolation it is only in the last 20 years or so that tourism has become a viable industry in South Africa. With this South Africans are still fascinated by people from other countries and there is a real interest to talk to people and find out about their cultures and countries. This makes South Africa a very warm and welcoming place to visit.
What is a must buy when in this region?
If I had to narrow it down, then I would say wine. We produce world class quality wine and at a very affordable price. Wine culture in South Africa is very accessible and not “snobbish” so it’s easy to buy good quality wine.
What is your advice to first-time travellers?
Hmmm. Come hungry! We are notorious for our food portions so you will probably leave the country a couple of kilograms heavier.
One thing to definitely pack when travelling to this region?
Sunglasses. South Africa has one of the highest percentages of sunny days per annum of any country in the world.
One activity anyone travelling to this region should not miss.
Africa = safari. So a good safari experience is not too be missed. There are many options but a proper 48-hour stay at a good private game lodge is not too be missed. Unlike some of the other African countries, safari in South Africa is accessible and the infrastructure around the lodges is excellent.
Where should anyone, travelling to this region, definitely get their picture taken?
Difficult one because there are so many spots. Most people, however, will take a picture at the Cape of Good Hope and specifically the most South-Westerly point of the African continent.
Which is the best place to get a panoramic photo?
On a clear day from the top of Table Mountain!
The best place to enjoy sunset/sunrise?
Nothing beats the sunset/sunrise in the African bush. Luckily staying at a safari lodge you will be out on safari during both these events so you won’t miss out!
The most romantic place to take a special someone to.
Franschhoek in the Cape Winelands is a beautiful small town that oozes romance. Lovely small boutique hotels and guesthouses and some of the best restaurants in the country to enjoy a romantic dinner.
The best place to have local food?
I love the African dinner experience at Gold Restaurant in Cape Town. More than just dinner it is an evening of African music, storytelling and food.
Your favourite local dish and drink that you would recommend.
For the sweet tooth, a local delegacy is called a Koeksister. Knotted dough deep fried and soaked in syrup. South Africans can have a 10-minute conversation about their favourite type of koeksister!
A favourite non-alcoholic drink is Appetizer, a sparkling apple juice which most people enjoy.
One place only the locals would know.
There are many tourist towns along the Garden Route along the main road like Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay etc. However, there are some little gems which the locals keep to themselves. Nature’s Valley is a good example, a small coastal enclave with beautiful beaches, mountains and forests.
The best pub and best place to catch up for a drink.
There are some excellent pubs in the city of Cape Town. A personal favourite is called The Village Idiot in Loop Street.
For the non-drinkers, Truth Coffee in Buitenkant Street in Cape Town is widely acclaimed to be the best coffee shop in the world! Try the flat white it’s superb.
A local festival you feel more travellers should come and see.
The annual Knysna Oyster Festival normally takes place at the end of June, beginning of July in Knysna which is outside traditional tourism season for Knysna which is towards the end of the year. Great festival with art, food and some sporting events to participate in.
The things guidebooks will not tell anyone about.
The big turnaround in downtown city of Johannesburg. For years Johannesburg City had a bad reputation around safety, but there are some amazing pockets that are re-developing at an amazing rate like the Maboneng Precinct, Braamfontein etc.
Guidebooks might tell you to avoid Johannesburg City but this is no longer the case!
Is there any particular month you would not recommend travel to this region and what would that reason be?
Not really, South Africa really is all year round destination. Weather is temperate so we don’t have extreme weather or temperature fluctuations.
How would you describe South Africa in one word?
In one sentence, South Africa is Africa “Lite”. Let me explain, South Africa provides a great introduction into the continent of Africa, offering all the experiences people come to Africa for i.e. wildlife, culture etc. but wrapped up in modern, convenient travel experience.
Like a “Lite Beer”, all of the taste, less of the calories…
I am 42 years old and have been in the Tourism Trade for my entire work life.
I love South Africa and I am passionate about sharing this country with the world.