South Africa is often described as a ‘World in One Country’ due to its diverse range of landscapes. From the Drakensberg Mountains to the beaches surrounding Cape Town or the Kalahari Desert - this is a country which is as varied as it is vast. We sat down with Nikki, one of our local partners in South Africa, to find out more about her favourite parts of the country, what she enjoys most about her job and what exactly is a bunny chow…?
What is your favourite thing about South Africa?
The diversity - it really is a ‘World in One Country’. Each province is so different in landscapes and weather, and the food and the cultures change too. You can keep coming back and not see the same things.
Do you have any off-the-beaten-track places you think people should visit?
I would recommend the Northern Cape region. This province has a similar feel to Namibia as it’s very dry and arid with big sand dunes which you can board down. You can visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is a large national park spread across South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The Northern Cape also has the largest wine cooperative in the Southern Hemisphere, making it a great place to do some wine tasting.
Limpopo is also a great off-the beaten track destination. This area has not yet been influenced by mass tourism, so it feels more authentically African, and there is also brilliant safari here as the northern part of Kruger National Park is in Limpopo.
What does South Africa offer out of season?
Low season is typically May - August, but we sometimes refer to this time as the 'secret season’. This is because there are fewer tourists, prices are lower and aside from Cape Town (which can be rainy), the rest of the country is dry in our wintertime. This is the best time to go on safari as the animals are forced to come out to only one or two watering holes. You can also see the migrating whales in Hermanus in June to September and our beautiful wildflowers arrive around the end of August.
How would you describe South African culture?
The two ‘V’s - vibrant and varied! It is a melting pot with so many different influences and cultures. For example, Kwazulu-Natal has a strong Indian influence whereas the Western Cape has more of a Cape Malay feel. So a curry in Durban will be hot and spicy whereas a curry in Cape Town will be milder and similar to one you might try in Southeast Asia.
Speaking of food, what is your favourite South African dish?
I like many different South African foods. We’re most famous for our Braai (a South African barbecue) and boerewors, which are sausages you would put on the grill. In Durban one of the most popular dishes is a bunny chow - an unsliced loaf of bread with a hole cut out of it, which is then filled with curry. In Cape Town you can get bobotjie, which is a spiced mince dish with a creamy egg topping, and for dessert I would recommend trying a coeksister - a delicious, syrupy sweet doughnut.
South Africa is also well-known for its amazing wines, and we have roughly 800 different wine estates in the Cape Town area alone! Many of these estates run unique food and wine pairings, such as cheese and wine, ice-cream and wine, and chocolate and wine tasting.
And your favourite restaurant in Cape Town?
You can visit the Test Kitchen, which is run by Luke Dale Roberts and is featured on the ‘World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list, but you will need to book well in advance. Or, if you’re looking for a real local’s favourite, try Kalkies in Kalk Bay. They do amazing fish and chips which are really fresh and there’s often live music on a Saturday and Sunday.
For my favourite wineries, I would recommend Vergenoegd and Delaire Graff. At Vergenoegd they have an enormous flock of ducks which roam free around the vineyard, keeping it clean by eating the bugs. Everyday they have a ‘duck parade’ where they line-up to be let out into the vineyard! On the other hand, Delaire Graaf is great if you’re looking for something with a more luxurious feel. They have an amazing art collection on display, including the famous ‘Chinese Girl’ by Tretchikoff, along with brilliant red wines and beautiful views.
Before we go, in your opinion is there anything travellers should avoid doing on a trip to South Africa?
Don’t always think of Kruger when you want to do safari, be open to other destinations as there are so many. Also, if you do decide to go to Kruger, be open to the idea of staying outside the park’s boundaries. Often the accommodation outside the park is nicer than the accommodation inside!
What is your favourite thing about your job?
Selling our country and letting other people know the amazing things on offer is definitely the best part. Always looking for new places to stay or visit is also interesting.
Make it happen
If you're keen to find out more about South Africa's amazing variety of highlights, then take a look at our destination page. Alternatively, you can start planning your dream trip right now by submitting an enquiry with our South African local experts. If you'd like to speak to someone in the TravelLocal office then please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.