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South Africa

Every region in the world boasts of some kind of diversity. For some, it is cultural and ethnic, for others, it is linguistic and aesthetic. Some countries seduce you with their rich and historical heritage, while others entice you with their modern and trailblazing infrastructural prowess. But one country prefers to stir your imagination with jaw-dropping natural diversity, an enviable topography and a remarkably story-book landscape: South Africa.

The best part about South Africa is that everything Disney and story books have helped you imagine about this enigmatic region – the savannah teeming with diverse wildlife, the kaleidoscopic floral kingdom, the vast stretches of wild beaches and craggy cliffs or the sand dunes of the Kalahari – is actually true. No surprise then that South Africa is referred to as the Rainbow Nation. Here is a quick glance at the best that the country has to offer.

What’s the brouhaha all about?

Amidst a troubled and politically turbulent history, South Africa has, against all odds, emerged as a top destination for travellers. It is undoubtedly one of the most naturally diverse regions in the world not just in terms of its topography and ecosystem but also in terms of its culture, architecture, cuisine and way of life. Along with the quaint and colourful countrysides, the country boasts of several buzzing urban hotspots with a metropolitan vibe.

In addition, the country is also home to spectacular, award-winning wine regions producing some of the world’s finest reds. Whether you are a honeymooner, a backpacker, a luxury traveller or a wildlife junkie, South Africa has it all and some more. A couple of things to make your expedition genuinely rewarding: a high-quality camera to capture the prismatic surroundings and a decent understanding of the country’s past.

What to look out for?

Heading the long list of attractions are the wildlife safaris at the Kruger national park and Kgalagadi transfrontier park, among others. The Kruger park, in particular, is home to the renowned ‘big five’ including the African elephants, black and white rhinoceros, lions, leopards and cape buffaloes. If adventure is your thing, hike your way up the 3500-feet high Table Mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town.

To justify the purchase of your wide lens camera, head to the Drakensberg mountains to capture the majestic ranges in full panorama. For a more relaxed holiday, chart a course to the sun-drenched beaches of Durban, Cape Town and Mossel Bay. Don’t forget to satiate the wine connoisseur in you by visiting the wine farms in Stellenbosch, Wellington and Paarl. For a glimpse of the country’s history, visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and the Robben Island near Cape Town, which is also a world heritage site.

What about food cravings?

The braai, South Africa’s version of barbecue, is practically a tradition. Look for braai facilities regardless of where you are staying. Boerewors and sosatie are your absolute braai essentials. Other food essentials include the cape malay curry, bunny chow and bobotie.

The sweet-tooth specialists can order the Malva pudding or Koeksisters. Make sure you have done your research on South African wines and wrap your lips around a glass of South Africa’s finest Forrester and Flagstone wines.

How do I get there?

The OR Tambo international airport in Johannesburg and the Cape Town international airport are your best gateways when it comes to air travel. You can also dock into Cape Town or Durban with cruise liners. For travelling within the country, several airlines operate domestic routes. Roads between major cities are well-maintained, those in the countryside are not. Find some information about the Baz Bus, which will take you from one major city to another.

Any other tips?

English is usually the go-to language for communication but that does not mean it does not have its own South African flavour. Add bru (brother) at the end of your sentences and punctuate your appreciation with lekker (with a rolling R). Other than that, although most regions in South Africa are malaria-free zones, consider taking malaria pills if you’re headed north to the Kruger Park.

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Anoop Deshpande - Senior French & Italian-English translator, BITS Private Limited With a terrible weakness for interesting conversations, Anoop, a political science graduate, entered the world of languages unintentionally but now cannot get it out of his life. Always willing to connect with people, he is a fanatical travel aficionado and irritatingly systematic. He is a sports enthusiast, a chef at heart and will work to watch films. He also wishes he could charge people for his patience.