February 2004: South Africa

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South Africa is a bargain. Safaris, vineyards and beaches won’t come any cheaper than you will find here. The world class attractions are one thing, the luxurious resorts at accessible prices is another.

South Africa’s best known attraction is the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, an area the size of Munster. It provides one of the best chances of seeing the big five – elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino – and pulls people from all over the world.

The park features a wide range of accomodation from camping in fenced enclosures to keep lions out to self catering huts and cottages. Surrounding the park in a series of linked game reserves are numerous private concessions, less crowded but a little more expensive.

Sabi-Sabi, on the edge of the Kruger, is lit by oil lamps, the huts are stunning, you eat tender delicacies on a veranda overlooking a water hole and there is a fleet of open-top Jeeps that seat five before driving off road, deep into the bush. For best value of all self-drive from the Kruger headquarters at Skukuza, with its simple huts and a picnic area on the banks of a river where crocodiles doze.

Most of the camps provided vehicles and guides, and offer facilities such as walks, night drives and off road game spotting.

With the rand such good value, the message from South Africa in 2004 is that you should treat yourself.

 

Attractions  A country of  41m people noted for its natural beauty, South Africa’s attractions include Cape Town and Table Mountain, the beaches and nightlife of Durban, the wildlife of Kruger National Park, the forests and wildflowers of the Garden Route along the south coast and the parks, waterfalls and trails of Drakensberg, on the border with Lesotho. Activities include diving, whale watching, wine-tasting and wildlife-spotting. When travelling in Johannesburg, extreme caution should still be exercised.

Health Malaria exists in some areas, including Kruger national park. Immunisation against hepatitis A, typhoid, hepatitis B and rabies may be necessary for those at risk. HIV/Aids risk is high. Routine immunisations for tetanus-diptheria, polio and measles should be up-to-date.

Food A cosmopolian cuisine can be found in the tourist areas with Chinese, Portuguese, Italian and Indian available in most places. Along the coast, seafood is plentiful so enjoy the fresh fish and guzzle several bottles of fine South African wine. Afrikaner-devised ‘farmer’s food’ is much the same draw from less exciting antecedents, layered in fat and rich sauces. African food is surprisingly hard to get.

Events Ostrich racing at the Klein Karoo Festival in March. Arts festivals in Cape Town and Johannesburg in September.

What to read Disgrace by JM Coetzee A fiftysomething college professor recounts the affair which lost him his job, and tries to relate to his daughter in this Booker prize-winning novel set in post-apartheid South Africa. Burger’s Daughter by Nadine Gordimer. The story of a young white South African, the child of ant-apartheid parents. Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. The inside story, by the architect of modern South Africa.

 

South Africa is a beautiful and diverse country featuring unmatched scenic beauty, wildlife and richly authentic cultural experiences. From the lush forests of the Garden Route to the sand dunes of Kalahari desert, to the magnificent Drakensberg Mountains, winelands and the bustling cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, South Africa offers everything you could possibly wish for in a holiday.

Not only do you get a fantastic range of options but you get it at a great price.  Recently voted as top value for money destination by Conde Nast Traveller, the favourable exchange rate at roughly 8 Rand to the Euro – coupled with extremely reasonable prices – means South Africa continues to offer  top-notch  value for money as a preferred tourist destination of choice.

The country, serviced by a weekly 13-hour ‘no jet-lag’ flight from Dublin, offers world-class infrastructure including highways, transport and state-of-the-art medical facilities – and driving is on the left. If you don’t fancy driving, then take a nostalgically romantic journey by luxury steam train or travel around the country using some of the many modern domestic fleets of aircraft.

Sun-kissed

You will always be able to find sun somewhere in the country year-round, South Africa’s temperate climate providing one of the highest average number of sunshine hours per day in the world. Winters are mild and clear, with little rain, making it the ideal time for game viewing as the sparser vegetation makes it easier to spot animals. The perfect holiday getaway from which to escape the rigours of the European winter.

A wildlife wonderland, many of the hundreds of game reserves throughout the country are home to the ‘Big Five’ – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. National Parks, such as the world famous Kruger National Park, allow visitors to experience nature in its most unspoilt and wild state.

With a coastline stretching some 2,000 miles from the Atlantic in the west to the Indian Ocean in the east, South Africa is also a great place for a beach holiday. There’s a host of watersport options to indulge in – from diving through coral reefs, to surfing, windsurfing, fishing or simply soaking up the sun.  Alternatively, sample the great outdoors through activities such as hiking, ballooning, horse-riding, white-river rafting, sailing, windsurfing and whale and bird-watching.

Accommodation standards are high, from international award-winning five-star luxury to a host of quality bed & breakfast establishments, benchmarked against the best in the world by the Star-grading system administered by the Tourism Grading Council of SA.

Food

A tremendous range of cuisine, influenced by the country’s many cultures and featuring an exotic variety of fresh produce, is another highly enjoyable part of the SA holiday experience. Try typical South African ‘farmhouse’ or ‘Cape Malay’ cooking, fresh seafood, African cuisine or sample a barbeque known as a ‘braai’, accompanied by South African wines, rated amongst the best in the world.

South Africa is experiencing an ‘African Renaissance’ and is proudly celebrating 10 years of freedom this year. You can experience this world in one nation by taking a township tour to gain an insight into the life of modern, urban Africans or rub shoulders with local communities on some of the many new cultural routes where you will experience for yourself the warmth of genuine South African hospitality.

To help you discover all that the ‘Rainbow Nation’ has to offer with its 11 official languages and European and African influences, South African Tourism has launched a destination specialist course called ‘Fundi’, aimed at international travel agents and tour operators, who play a critical role in selling South Africa as a preferred tourist destination of choice.

Fundi Project

Taken from the Zulu word for ‘expert’, Fundi offers a comprehensive print and Web-based curriculum, designed to provide the travel trade with all the information they need to sell South Africa with ease and confidence.

The coursework consists of eight modules and one supplementary information guide, covering a wide spectrum of subjects. These include basic facts about South Africa, a comprehensive overview of South Africa’s tourism products, general infrastructure, detailed coverage of provinces, towns and cities, essential travel and itinerary planning information as well as extremely useful marketing information about the major tourist experiences in South Africa and the country’s main tourism icons and attractions.

So if you are thinking of booking a trip to South Africa, make sure you get the best out of your holiday and look for the Fundi expert at your local travel agency.  For more information on the Fundi programme please log onto www.safundi.net.

 

Aer Lingus looked seriously at it, South African Airways considered it, but in the end it was a visionary tour operator from Kerry who launched the first direct flights from Ireland to Cape Town.

David Slattery of Tralee-based Slattery Sun launched the weekly South African charter service in December and will carry 5,000 passengers to South Africa before the season ends in May. Flights depart from Dublin at 16.50 on Saturdays. The inbound Sunday flight departs Cape Town 10.15 and arrives in Dublin at 20.30.

David Slattery, Chief Executive, Slattery’s Sun expects that the South African holiday market from Ireland, north and south, will grow by 30pc in the next year, helped considerably by the new direct flight and the favourable exchange rate.

“Reducing travelling time by up to four hours in each direction will make a trip to Cape Town and onwards, more attractive, and with excellent fares and holiday deals, there has never been a better time to discover South Africa with Slattery’s Sun.”

Slattery’s have utilised their experience in the travel industry to create an extensive range of exciting holiday options to suit a wide range of tastes, interests and budgets.

Contact your travel agent or book directly on www slatterys.com or by calling 066-7186230 or, from the north, 0845-3004309.

 

 

NEW The landrover Lebombo Eco-trail has been given the green light by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism to run as permanent activity. This is the first motorised eco-trail in South Africa undertaken by 4×4 vehicles only and runs for 500km along the eastern boundary of the park.

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