Johannesburg Unanchor Travel Guide - Johannesburg/Pretoria: A 4-Day South Africa Tour Itinerary

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Human Origins in South Africa

Enjoy a wine tasting at Vergenoeg Wine Estate, followed by lunch at Die Werf Restaurant, located at the impressive Boschendal Wine Estate with its exceptionally well-maintained gardens and Manor House. Return to our hotel in late afternoon for the balance of the day at leisure. Pippa Haarhoff, paleontologist and manager of the Park. See the site of Langebaanweg that preserves fossils from some five million years ago, among them African bear, saber-toothed cat, and short-necked giraffe. Excavations have exposed more than square feet of the fossil bone bed for viewing by visitors.

Return to Cape Town after lunch. Stop to visit the small but significant Blombos Museum of Archaeology, dedicated to presenting the prehistory of the area and specifically the findings from Blombos Cave, inhabited by early modern humans between , and 70, years ago. Continue on to Mossel Bay and check-in to our hotel in the afternoon. Overnight at the 4-star Protea Hotel Mossel Bay for two nights. Peter Nillssen, who explains why it is believed that these caves contain some of the earliest evidence for modern human behavior.

Please note that the only access to Cave 13B is via a series of steep wooden stairways and boardwalks, with some steps in each direction. We depart for Oudtshoorn, surrounded by majestic mountain ranges, and explore the spectacular Cango Caves, a subterranean wonderland of stalactite and stalagmite rock formations that extends more than a mile into the Swartberg Mountains.

A guided tour takes us through narrow passageways and on steep stairways that link the massive caverns. Return to our hotel in the afternoon. Gather this evening for a farewell dinner.

Connect with independent homeward flights. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference. All Rights Reserved. Check out of the hotel and fly to Johannesburg for your return flight to the U. Arrive in the U.

Request a Brochure. Smithsonian surpasses any organized trip we have taken in the past several decades. Overview Full Screen Print. Itinerary Day 1 — Depart the U. Fairlawns Boutique Hotel and Spa. Check into MalaMala Main Camp and enjoy dinner in the lodge. B Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. Days — Chobe River Safari Visit a Namibian village along the river to experience the local culture firsthand, including a dance performance and artisan crafts. Enjoy the farewell dinner in the hotel. To some extent, then, you could argue every visitor to South Africa is returning home.


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The background of how this country and society arrived at its current state is both intricately complex and well documented elsewhere. But there is a general level of political and historical awareness that you should have as a backpacker visiting the country. Most of the cultural divisions within South Africa date back to colonialism and apartheid.

White European settlers arrived in the 17 th Century and tried to dominate the indigenous tribal communities, leading to centuries of tension and conflict. British involvement peaked at the turn of the 20 th Century with the Anglo-Boer War, a bitter and bloody confrontation that still leaves a bad taste in the mouth of some Afrikaners to this day. If you are British, it is not unusual to experience some mild hostility from the odd Afrikaner or two.

The word most people would associate with South Africa is apartheid. From very early in the 20 th Century to near the end of it, the country was oppressively governed by a white minority population who viewed themselves as the logical political rulers. Effectively, black South Africans — be they Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa or any of the other varied cultural ethnicities that existed — were treated as second-class citizens.

Eventually a combination of international sanctions and political pressure together with the domestic will to move towards a more united and equal society resulted in the end of this racist system. The end of Apartheid was symbolised by the release from prison and subsequent election as President of Nelson Mandela. Mandela — or Madiba, as he was affectionately known by many in South Africa — was one of the genuine icons of the last century, a political heavyweight whose counsel and endorsement was sought well after he retired from politics.

Sadly, South Africa has not developed into the multicultural utopia some Mandela-acolytes had hoped for. The country has experienced an economic boom, seen the growth of a black middle-class and built towards a more equal, tolerant society, for sure. But with the undeniable positives has come worrying negatives. The gap between rich and poor has widened, not narrowed. Crime and HIV are endemic, and corruption has been suggested by credible voices to be a concern of similar proportion. Nevertheless Zuma was reelected in This is a broadly subjective and absurdly abridged version of the South African story.

The executive capital is Pretoria, the judicial is Bloemfontein and the legislative is Cape Town. This is a confusing, but grade-A, pub quiz knowledge. As is the fact that there are 11 official languages — and you will genuinely find some people who can speak half of them fluently. Personally, I feel the country is divided into numerous sub-cultures, with each naturally comprising their own belief systems and way of life. These sub-cultures can vaguely be generally grouped by ethnic backgrounds. Spending time with some black locals in, say, a busy shebeen a bar of fuzzy legality , is usually a completely different proposition.

Typically talk will be of the fortunes of the local soccer team, politics and the plotlines of popular soap operas, all soundtracked to relentlessly rhythmic Afro-pop. When hunger strikes, a trip out to the nearby street vendor beckons, for a tasty meal of pap maize meal and chicken.

Both these examples are broad, and arguably a little lazy and misleading — of course there is cross-over — but I think the point that from one home to the next can feel like a diametrically opposed culture is valid. Ideally, get a job or find a volunteer project. This will give you a totally different perspective on life in South Africa. When I worked in a school during my gap year, I stayed with five other gappers on the school grounds.

We lived and socialised with the teachers and students, which just gives you a completely different insight into the lifestyle of a place than if you were just passing through seeing some sights. I love meeting and hanging out with other backpackers, and I have no problem seeking out a bar or restaurant straight out of a guidebook, but when you feel brave, just engage the locals.

A Guide to South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho

Ask about the local hangouts. Get the local taxis. You might even be invited home for a beer and a bite to eat. Whereas perhaps 20 years ago you would have only seen black families living below the bread line, it is a increasingly common sight to see a new class of poor white families shopping in dirt-cheap areas and hawking their wares by the side of the road. It would be wise to be sensitive to this, and to arrive in SA with an open mind free of prejudice and presumptions as much as possible. Homosexuality is largely unacceptable in both white and black society, so LGBT travellers should avoid being too forthcoming about their sexual preferences.

Something pretty much all South Africans are united on is their love of a good feed and something nice to wash it down. A South African foodstuff that is slightly less transcendent is pap. This is a thick, fluffy mixture of maize flour and water. It looks like mashed potato, but sadly never tastes like it. It can be made pretty delicious by constructing it like a lasagne, building up layers of bacon, onions and vegetables between the stodge and pouring cream over the top.

Dining out in South Africa is a popular and pretty laid-back affair. The concept behind South African restaurant cooking seems to be simple cooking, done well. Usually revolving around big bloody steaks, curries and seafood. In terms of casual eating and drinking, South Africa has a surprisingly decent cafe culture, especially in malls and small coastal towns. Imagine Starbucks, but immeasurably better. Unlike most cafes, they do really, really nice food and their milkshakes are out of this world.

I love them so much I demanded to buy one of their mugs to take home. I can see it on my mug tree in the kitchen even now. Regarding snackage, top nibbles in South Africa are biltong and rusks.

Tour Reviews

Biltong comes in packets a little like the ones you get jelly sweets in, and consist of long, dry cured strips of spiced and flavoured beef. Buy a bag and give it a chance. Rusks are basically just hard rocks of dried bread; filling and tasteless, and for use in hunger emergencies only. Drinking is huge in South Africa. Black or white, everyone loves a beer. They make several, with Castle and Carling Black Label being two of the biggest brands. My favourite beer when I was travelling, however, was a lager called Windhoek. Also, I probably went off Castle after way too many hangovers.

Windhoek is an export and slightly pricier, so easier to not drink as much of. Stellenbosch is the most well known wine-making region, and trips will take you to some top vineyards both here as well as other notable appellations like Franshoek, Paarl and Robertson. Trips are good value, and you can get picked up from hostels in Stellenbosch. Tip: Do not buy bottles of posh wine as presents and try and carry them in your backpack for the next three weeks.

One last word on booze: the most well-known spirit of choice in South Africa is Stroh Rum. Be careful with this stuff. First time I tried it I threw it down and threw it back up pretty much straight away. You have been warned…. The mix of nature and animals to see and experience in South Africa is eclectic. Like cool, mountainous heights?

Cape Town Hotels and Places to Stay

Try the Drakensberg mountains. Like warm, sandy beaches? Check out, like, the entire coast. Like lush forests and waterfalls? Well, you get the idea. Yeah, I thought giraffe or hippo should have been in there, too.

Travel Vlog: Johannesburg South Africa and Afro Punk

The buffalo is totally punching above its weight, in my opinion. South Africa is home to some top national parks teeming with wildlife and people trying to take photos of it. Addo is a specialist elephant park, with over of the big guys, plus some buffalos and other smaller critters. I would highly recommend visiting at least one park to check out some wildlife in a natural environment. Which is cool. Which is harsh, but true.

Accessibility Navigation

Please note, yellow fever certificates are required if the journey starts or entails passing through the yellow fever belt of Africa or South America. As for money, the currency in South Africa is the Rand. Despite this, South Africa is reasonably good value for backpackers — not as cheap as South East Asia, but not as expensive as Australia. Air fares are always going to vary, and nothing dates a guide like putting down dollars and pound signs in print.

In fact, as a rule of thumb you should generally try and avoid as much time-sensitive information as possible when writing any guide. Anyhow, I digress. If you find anything a lot cheaper than that let me know. And check the plane has wings on. The most popular method for backpackers to get around South Africa is to use the Baz Bus. The Baz Bus started out in , when it essentially became okay to travel in South Africa again. These guys have a fleet of semi-luxury mini-buses, complete with air-con, TV and trailer for luggage, surfboards and bikes.

The Baz Bus is cool, fun, a great way to meet other backpackers and a safe way to get around. They do a range of tickets and deals. The most expensive ticket you can buy is a return from Joburg to Cape Town, which will set you back R4, approx. Obviously, there are various fixed tickets covering shorter distances that cost less, and you can also buy seven, 14 and day Travel Passes from between R1, approx.

You can check out their website for full ticket information and prices. The Baz Bus offer a great service, and if you are an inexperienced or just not a super confident backpacker and want to stick to slightly safer, reasonably hassle-free transport, then it may be a good idea to just work with the Baz Bus.

Cape Town Full Day Safari

We all have a limit to how far we want to leave our comfort zone. When I went to Brazil, I was not confident enough to do that. And I was pretty much fine with that. The second reason is that on the South Africa backpacking trail you can spend a lot of time with other backpackers. Travelling on public buses can help you mix with South Africans and get a richer experience of travelling in their country.