Under the radar South Africa

It’s understood that South Africa is an expensive long haul destination. However, it’s currently an excellent value for money destination. Perfectly illustrated by a recent UK Golf visitor who made the succinct 19th Hole observation that, “this country’s amazing. It’s a question of buy one, get five free!”

We prefer to keep visitors away from the bog standard Tourist trail whereby Table Mountain is getting flatter by the day, and concentrate more on those lesser visited areas, where quite often mass tourism either can’t access, or is not even aware of.

The following are randomly selected examples of different experiences which are by no means comprehensive, but hopefully indicate that there is more diversity in South Africa than just Kruger Park & Table Mountain.  

Meerkats For wide open spaces, and a non intrusive people environment, then the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest Province, with the smallest population, the potential for escapism is virtually endless. The Diamond Fields of Kimberley, and the Orange River offer various experiences that showcase this unique environment, and high profile industry. Unlock the secrets of the African Bush in the company of the country’s oldest human inhabitants – the Khomani San.

The lesser visited Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park bordering Botswana provides a wildlife experience totally different to the high profile commercial Reserves, and their environmentally unfriendly Tourist buses.

The Traveller is active. He searches for people, adventure, experience.
The Tourist is passive. He expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes sightseeing!

Road to Die Hel! - Swartberg Pass If you’ve never heard of ‘Die Hel’ and why Die Hel would you? Then a visit to this remote, but extremely beautiful, remote valley, buried deep in the Swartberg Mountains of the Little Karoo, is an experience never to be forgotten. Home to a community who isolated themselves from the real world for some 130 years is a story in itself, and well worth experiencing.

Around the Mother City of Cape Town, ignore the Tourist Guide rhetoric that indicates the ‘Two Oceans’ meet at Cape Point, together with a million different nationalities all elbowing each other out the way for that twee photo which seemingly tells them so.

Cape Agulhas - where the two oceans really meet! Rather opt for the real thing, and take the time to visit Cape Agulhas, southern most tip of Africa, and where the Indian and Atlantic oceans actually DO meet. An off beat activity, if the timing is right, would be to help the local lady feed the Manta Rays in the nearby harbour of Struis Bay.

‘Settler Country’ of the Eastern Cape has many historical bonds with the UK. It’s well worth spending some time in this often overlooked corner of South Africa. Conned by politicians – really ? – the story of the resilience, and persistence of the 1820 Settlers should be part of South Africa and English folk lore – but isn’t!

Elephants Addo National Park, Eastern Cape This English heritage, together with some excellent Settler descendant’s Big 5 Game Reserves, combine very well with the Garden Route, and Cape Town, providing endless opportunities for an overview of South Africa without the need to substitute quantity for quality.

South Africa believes it may be the undisputed cradle of Human Kind, and a visit to the extremely interesting Points of Human Origin - Mossel Bay ‘Points of Origin’ archaeological site in Mossel Bay certainly seems to justify this claim. A private, strictly controlled few hours in the company of the Head Archaeologist is mind bending indeed.

Culture, History, Politics, all inextricably intertwined with each other, can be experienced in many different ways, depending on the depth of information required.

Elim historical Misssion Village - Overberg Tracing the heritage of the early Slaves via historic early Mission Stations, and farming villages, with personal stories being told by community members is a much more genuine, and heart warming experience than the canned version of Township Touring designed somewhat disrespectfully of the locals, and shallowly for the mass tourist.

Other UK links are undoubtedly through the many ugly wars that have taken place on South African soil. Anglo Boer War, Zulu Wars, there is much to be reminded of, either as a themed focus, or passing interest within a more general schedule. Whether suffering the impediment of being a Liverpool FC supporter or not, a visit to Spionkop Battlefield site, or the Women & Childrens Memorial in Bloemfontein are poignant reminders of why wars should never happen. Both, providing a different perspective on South Africa.

The magic of new life - Outdshoorn A creatively designed schedule can strike a balance for Families with children that appeals to each generation, although not necessarily separately. Whether taking part in a children’s environmental educational program on a Game Reserve, holding baby ostriches, horse riding, or taking the opportunity to ‘accidentally’ drench Grandpa during a casual canoeing excursion on the tranquil Breede River, there are excellent facilities available for a memorable holiday.

On the sensitive issue of ‘personal safety’, all that’s required is basic common sense, supplemented by some local knowledge, and South Africa is as safe as anywhere.

The importance to ‘Visit SA’ of facilitating a personal, genuinely different, and locally interactive experience, whilst also being sensitive to our social responsibility role, cannot be under stated. That many clients over the years have left South Africa as our own best Ambassadors, quite often involving referrals, and return visits, keeps us humble in the knowledge that we are presumably doing something right.

More about Mervyn

Mervyn Sparks, the owner of Visit SA, is a dual citizen of the UK and South Africa.

Mervyn left England in 1970, and the corporate field of financial management in 1995 to devote himself full time to helping visitors explore his adopted Country, and home of Cape Town.

Since then he has gained extensive experience of South Africa’s diverse peoples and environments during a period of historic, and often turbulent transformation. He particularly enjoys introducing visitors to off the beaten track areas, and local communities, against the backdrop of modern-day life in South Africa, and the history behind it.

During the early days of an emerging Tourism South African Industry Mervyn has been involved in assisting the development of the local Tourist Guiding infrastructure, including input to national legislation, and improving educational standards, as well as serving on Regional and National Tourist Guide Committees, including being a founder member, and Chairman of the Cape Tourist Guides Association.

From a business perspective Visit SA has developed strong markets in both the UK, and the USA, with the latter being through the prestigious Road Scholar Organisation, who specialise in ongoing adult learning travel, and who have provided a growing client base over the years.


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