Tourism & Communications
Third deepest canyon, second highest waterfall in the world
South Africa is renowned for its stunning landscapes. With ochre-coloured deserts and large savannahs, verdant rainforests and wetlands and long stretches of rugged coastline and beaches, visitors are drawn by the country’s natural beauty.
Natural areas of particular interest include the Limpopo bushveld with its iconic baobab trees, the Blyde River Canyon (the planet’s third deepest – see photo), Table Mountain which overlooks Cape Town and Tugela Falls (the second highest waterfall in the world).
Tourism to suit all tastesTourism is important to South Africa’s economy, with eco- and sports tourism increasingly popular. Villages which provide learning about Africa’s traditional cultures also prove an attraction.
UNESCO World Heritage sites include Robben Island, the location of a penal colony and infamous prison (where Nelson Mandela was kept for 18 years) and Mapungubwe, which was home to an important settlement area from the Iron Age (third century CE) onwards.
Celebrations and festivals
A wide range of celebrations and festivals also draw large numbers of visitors each year. These are often linked to the harvesting of food, such as the Prickly Pear and Cherry Festival, or to the country’s flowers (the Hibiscus and Wildflower Festivals) and wildlife.
Considered the best land-based spot in the world for seeing the ocean’s largest creatures, there is also a good chance of spotting humpback, minke, Bryde’s and even killer whales.
One of the most impressive wildlife spectacles is celebrated in September with the Whale Festival at Hermanus on the southern coast. Here, Southern Right whales and their calves swim close to shore in and around Walker Bay.
Roads and railways
South Africa’s road and railway networks (the most extensive on the continent) provide reliable links between the towns and cities. Many rural areas have unpaved roads, but driving to popular tourist destinations is usually straightforward.
River water levels are highly seasonal and with mainly shallow beds, South Africa’s rivers are only navigable for a few miles from the sea.
Telecommunications systems are well-developed, if uneven with regards to landline services. However, several phone companies run mobile networks which provide coverage over many parts. Internet connection is available in all the major towns and cities.