India was the eighth largest international market for South African tourism prior to the pandemic; and continues to remain a promising one even now. From sun-soaked coasts to breathtaking wildlife and from vibrant culture to adrenaline thumping adventures, the Rainbow Nation gives us all the right reasons on why it belongs on top of our travel bucket list.
Currently, the destination is open to all international tourists. Travellers intending to visit South Africa are required to produce a negative RT-PCR test, not older than 72 hours from the time of departure from the country of origin.
So, if South Africa is where your next holiday is, and ‘something local and offbeat’ is your travel motto, here are a few recommendations you can consider.
Exploring new regions
Go beyond Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban to traverse the “new regions” of South Africa that include the relatively unexplored Port Elizabeth, West Coast and Drakensberg and indulge in experiences of a lifetime.
KwaZulu-Natal is home to the Drakensberg mountains (the Zulus call them the “Barrier of Spears”) in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a natural and cultural World Heritage site. The mountains hold cultural significance as they contain works of San rock art that date back to the late Stone Age. Tourists can partake in outdoor activities like hiking, biking, hot air ballooning, helicopter rides and horseback riding into the mountains.
Ostriches in Oudtshoorn
Head to Oudtshoorn, popularly known as the ostrich capital of the world. The town boasts many interesting attractions like Cango Caves and Cango Wildlife Ranch, which offers crocodile-cage dives. It is also one of the few places in the world where you can enjoy a meerkat safari.
Wildlife galore in Limpopo
Limpopo is undoubtedly one of the most abundant provinces in South Africa where you will find vast open spaces with stunning wildlife and majestic mountainous landscapes. The region is blessed with a number of game and nature reserves, housing one of the country’s highest population of rhinos and elegant antelope species. The largest national park in Africa, Kruger National Park is situated here.
Unwind in East London
For the seasoned travellers who are looking for places untouched by tourist commercialisation, the East London is where they should be. The place adorns a modern setting with a laid-back charm. The place is ideal for leisurely vacations and adventure experiences amidst natural settings. East London is also one of the few places where you can see the white lion at the Inkwenkwezi National Park.
A slice of history at Port Elizabeth
Port Elizabeth has the Nelson Mandela Bay where one can find Route 67 – a collection of 67 art pieces celebrating the years Nelson Mandela dedicated to public life. The region also houses South Africa’s third largest national reserve – Addo National Park where you can watch hundreds of African elephants roam around freely. The national park features a thriving marine life and rich flora and offers the only Big 7 safari options in the world.
Fun at Coffee Bay
The coastal town of Coffee Bay is nestled within the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape Province. It is known for its serene beaches and rich, traditional Xhosa lifestyle. Coffee Bay is also popular for the geographical marvel – Hole in the Wall. It is an offshore stack of rock through which the elements have eroded a hole. This hole amplifies the sound of the waves onto the rock, inspiring the local Xhosa people to name it esiKhaleni which means “place of sound”.
Water sports at Sodwana Bay
Located on the East Coast of South Africa, Sodwana Bay is a must visit for marine life enthusiasts. Sodwana’s spectacular coral reefs in a national marine protected area are among the southernmost in the world, and are a scuba diving and snorkelling haven.
Picturesque West Coast
West Coast is a 90-minute drive from Cape Town, and is a favourite among locals for a weekend getaway. Visitors can hike, explore bike trails through fynbos (small belts of natural shrub land), or visit the icy waters of Langebaan Lagoon for kayaking and sailing. West Coast National Park is great for spring wildflowers (between August and September when the blooms are at their peak). Southern right whales can be spotted between August and November.
Drive along the Panorama Route
Drive along the surreal Panorama route, replete with breathtaking scenery. The highlight of the route is the Blyde River Canyon, one of the longest chasms in the world, consisting of spectacular geological shapes and scenic views of the country.
Let’s talk wine
The discussion on South Africa’s tourism is incomplete without the mention of its wine industry. One of the most exciting wine regions across the globe, South Africa create wines of exceptional quality by infusing old winemaking methods combined with new ones.
Experience and learn about their wine culture by visiting farms such Steenberg Vineyards, Mullineux and Leeu, Beau Constantia, Vergelegen, Glen Carlou, Delaire Graff, Babylonstoren, De Grendel, Rupert and Rothschild Vignerons, Morgenster, Creation Wines, Spier, and Cape Point Vineyards.
Sip, savour and shop for wines at shops and wine bars around Cape Town such as the Publik Wine Bar, Wine Concepts, Openwine and Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar.
A Sustainable approach
Pandemic has made us rethink the way we travel. Travellers are now prioritising sustainability, thereby paving way for an eco-conscious tourism revival.
Expressing views on this, Neliswa Nkani, hub head – MEISEA, South African Tourism says, “We anticipate that the immersive travel trend will continue in a post-Covid world, with a greater focus on sustainability. This means that travellers will be more conscious of where they spend their money, what kind of accommodation they choose, where they dine, and how they travel locally. Responsible travellers will ensure that they are injecting money directly into the local economy. Besides creating a more authentic travel experience, they can also help someone create a better life for themselves. Travellers can also choose to hire local guides or workers from nearby villages.”
South Africa as a renowned global tourist destination is ensuring that environment-friendly and sustainable practices are being implemented across all facets of travel and tourism. It is doing so by encouraging its partners down the supply chain to conduct paperless business and digitise their processes and by recommending travellers to opt for a slower pace and live like locals.
Elaborate efforts are being taken to maintain and protect the country’s cultural and natural heritage. There are eight world heritage sites in South Africa that are funded by the government. The South African tourism board also refrains from promoting wildlife interactions.
Another key objective of the destination is to support and grow the local economy. The tourism board is promoting and backing SMMEs, which play a major role in the travel ecosystem. They have also expanded their tourist offerings geographically to ensure that there is no over tourism, while making sure that rural local communities are positively impacted by tourism.
“At South African tourism, we are enhancing efforts to make our itineraries, properties and transport facilities more sustainable. We also intend to showcase our sustainable product offerings and ecotourism experiences, like cycling tours, nature safaris, conservation projects and rural experiences, to the Indian traveller,” added Neliswa Nkani.
Events to check out
The Sardine Run
Head to KwaZulu Natal East Coast to witness the annual migration of millions of sardines. It is indeed a sight to behold as hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sharks, whales and seabirds follow the impressive body of sardines as they move along the coast. In addition, travellers can also enjoy a programme of entertainment, including cultural activities and music shows.
(Can be viewed through August)
The Namaqualand Flower Route
The Namaqualand Flower Route lies approximately five hours north of Cape Town. The evidence of flowers can be seen in Cape Town, and Postberg, a small section of the West Coast National Park close to Langebaan, gets the juices flowing. However, the real flower show belongs to a series of drives that centre on the towns of Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth, way up the N7.
(Best experienced in August and September)
Klein Karoo Klassique
This is highly recommended for lovers of music, great food, fine wine and quality art. Take a trip to Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo in August for the Klein Karoo Klassique festival of classical music complemented by Klein Karoo cuisine, regional wines and art.
- At present, India does not have direct flight connections to South Africa. Passengers can travel to the destination via Qatar Airways or Ethiopian Airlines with stopovers at Doha and Addis Ababa respectively.
- South African visa application forms can be downloaded from visa.vfsglobal.com. Travellers are required to submit the completed visa application form in-person at the nearest VFS visa application centre listed on the website.
- There is no visa fee for Indian nationals. However, the VFS logistics fee to process visas from Mumbai and Delhi is `2,040, and `2,301 to process visas from Gurugram, Jaipur, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru, and Goa.
- Efforts are also being taken to introduce e-visas for the Indian market as soon as possible.
Where to stay
Our picks for a business or leisure stay in South Africa
Taj Cape Town
Situated in the centre of the old city, Taj Cape Town is close to several popular tourist attractions and an array of shops, galleries and restaurant. Spread across two heritage buildings, all 176 rooms open to sweeping views of the city or the iconic Table Mountain. Head to Bombay Brasserie to enjoy Indian cuisine blended with the Cape Town flair. Unwind at The Lobby Lounge and Bar with a cup of coffee, tea, cake or an evening aperitif. The hotel is well-equipped to host business and social gatherings. tajhotels.com
The Silo Hotel
This premium Cape Town address towers over the V&A Waterfront. The hotel is a “celebration of art, style, architecture and design”. There are 28 rooms, including a lavish one-bedroom penthouse. Savour an expansive breakfast or a Sunday Brunch at The Granary Café, enjoy cocktails and fine wines at The Willaston Bar or head to The Silo Rooftop for sundowners. theroyalportfolio.com
One&Only Cape Town
This waterfront retreat is in the heart of South Africa’s bustling capital city. The hotel’s rooms and suites are said to be the largest in the city. Choose from their exquisite dining venues that include Nobu, Vista Bar & Lounge and Isola. Spend some leisurely time by the pool or de-stress with a spa therapy. oneandonlyresorts.com
The hotel is within two kilometers of Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton City Mall, and Sandton Gautrain Station. The rooms adorn elegant settings with plush amenities. The F&B venues include Faces Lounge & Bar, perfect for business meets over coffee; Lotus Teppanyaki and Sushi Bar; Tradewinds Restaurant serving international cuisine and Pool Gazebo bar for cocktails. Recreational amenities include a family-friendly outdoor pool, floodlit tennis courts and fitness centre. hilton.com
Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg
High up on the rocky Witwatersrand is where the picturesque property lies. Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg gives the vibe of a “chic hillside village”. The accommodations feature a blend of contemporary and local elements; and offer spectacular views. Take a ride up the glass elevator for an exquisite dining comprising seasonally inspired dishes at Flames. Indulge in a nature-inspired treatment at the hotel’s spa. fourseasons.com