Backpacking at South Africa

For those seeking adventure and some adrenaline rush, then a backpack trip to South Africa is suited for you. It is would be a fantastic, exciting and thrilling escapade. So get your backpacks ready, and explore South Africa.

What You Need to Know About South Africa

The country on the southern tip of Africa is the Republic of South Africa also known as South Africa. Another name for this country is Mzansi which means “south.” There are three cities that hold power: Pretoria for the executive branch, Bloemfontein for the judicial, and Cape Town for the legislative. Johannesburg is the largest city.

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Boundaries
South Africa is bounded on the north by the countries Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. To its east are the countries Mozambique and Swaziland. Located within South African territory is the nation Lesotho.  South Atlantic and Indian Oceans surround the west and southern borders. It ranks as the 25th largest country in the world.

People
It is also the 25th most populous country. 80 percent of the populations are descendants of black Africans which composes different ethnic communities. The remaining 20 percent is composed of Europeans and Asians. Because of the various ethnic communities living here, the country was dubbed as the “rainbow nation.”

Transportation
The main mode of transportation to get to South Africa is by plane. There are international flights from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The main airports are located at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International or Cape Town.

Travelling within the country is easy because of the organized public transportation. Public transportation includes buses, minibus taxis, trains, and domestic flights. For those who could afford, there are also car and bike rentals.

What you need to know and bring in your travel

Make sure to have your return flight ticket, passport and temporary visitor’s permit ready when travelling to South Africa. The temporary visitor’s permit is valid for 90 days. If you wish to stay longer, you could apply a visa at the Department of Home Affairs.

Before travelling to South Africa, you should learn their language. There are a total of 11 official languages. English is the fourth most-spoken language and is used is public and commercial life. But if you want to converse with people in deeper parts of the country knowing another language would help.

The monetary unit is rand (R) which is also called “buck.” You can have your local currency changed at the airport upon arrival, banks, and hotels. Credit and debit cards are accepted at major cities and hotels. However, in remote areas, cash is needed.

You should also need to know that there are extreme weather conditions. The weather is mostly sunny. But during the months of June and July, temperature drops to zero. It is advised to do some research on the current weather conditions before travelling.

Electric supply here is 220/ 230V, 50Hz AC and the sockets are round-pinned plugs. Make sure to bring an adaptor to charge your gadgets.

Places of interest

There are a total of nine provinces in South Africa. Each of these provinces has its own uniqueness and beauty; something you must visit and see. It is a big country with a lot of fascinating places. The best way to explore everything is planning your visit. You could divide your itinerary between the different provinces.

Cape Town
Cape Town is the capital and largest city at Western Province. This town is a combination of stunning beaches and breathtaking views. Here are four attractions that you should not miss at Cape Town.

•    Robben Island

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(Left) Aerial view of Robben Island. (Right) Prison cell at Robben Island

Robben Island is known to be a penal colony for 400 years. It is situated just off the coast of Cape Town and surrounded by sharks. It was also the prison cell of Nelson Mandela for 18 years. In 1997, it was declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site and museum. A tour to the island lasts 4 hours; this includes the ferry ride, a visit to the prison building, and a bus tour.

•    The Township

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If you want to meet and share an experience with the community, then a trip to Township is recommended. It was built as settlement area for non-whites during the old political system. Currently it is home to majority of Cape Town’s citizen. When you visit this place do not miss the pub or shebeen, school, orphanage, community venter and the traditional healer. It would give you an insight to the life of a South African. Despite their status in life, the people perform the best music.

•    Cape Town’s beaches

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The best time to see the beaches is during summer – that is from December to February. There are a lot of different beach to choose from. There are also different watersports like surfing, diving, sailing, kayaking, and kite-surfing. There are designated beaches for young people showing off their bodies, family beaches, and nude beach. There are also beaches wherein you could see penguins and whales.

•    Table Mountain

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The famous table mountain a large slab of sandstone located at the heart of the town. It stands at 1086m and a length of 3km. It is covered with clouds that dubbed as the mountain’s “tablecloth.” It is admired not only because of its beauty but also because of its diversity. It is the habitat of at least 1400 different plants and animals. For those brave and adventurous enough to climb the mountain for 3 hours, a spectacular view awaits. Or you could try using the cable cars installed. From atop you could see the coastline, the beaches and Robben Island. One way to get down from the top is by paragliding.

Knysna

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Knysna was voted twice to be South Africa’s favorite town. There are a lot of reasons for this nomination. Because of its location, between Outeniqua Mountains and Indian Ocean, it has a spectacular view. There is also a lagoon which water sports are hosted. The luscious forest serves as a nice trail for walking. Here are a few things you could do here:

•    Have fun along the beach. Build sand castles, have a barbeque with family and friends, talk a walk, and go swimming in the beach.
•    Walk into the forest. There is a trail path for walking within the forest. If you are lucky, you could also see birds and some animals.
•    Do not forget the Township tours.
•    Take a dip into the lagoon.
•    Spare some time to enjoy the view from the Featherbed. This is a private nature reserve. The trip starts with a boat trip, followed by a drive up to the lookout point. There are two ways to get down, by driving down or hiking through the forest or alongside the lagoon.

Drakensburg Mountains

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This mountain range is about 600 miles long forms the KwaZulu-Natal’s western border. There are a lot of different things you could do here: hiking, bird watching, guided tours, 4 x 4 trails, bikes, golfing, fishing, white water rafting, and a lot more. It is indeed a sight for those adventure lovers. If you plan to visit this area, make sure to do the following:

•    The Karkloof Canopy Tour

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This tour is an eco-wilderness adventure. You would get to see the birds and plants from above. It is an exciting educational tour because there are professional tour guides to give fascinating facts. The whole tour would last around three hours.

•    Bushman Rock Art

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The first settlers of the Drakensburg Mountains were San Bushmen. They narrated their day to day life through paintings found in caves. Those painting became popular because of its unique beauty. These works of art are showcased at Kamberg National Park.

•    Royal Natal National Park

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Tugela Falls

Mont-aux-Sources is known to be one of the highest mountains; and it could be found within the park. This high mountain is the source of five rivers and the famous Tugela Falls. Tugela Falls is 3000ft tall and the water flows to five different tiers. This is also the perfect place to go rock climbing and horseback riding.

Kristine Capanzana

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