If you’ve had just about enough of the dreary, damp and rainy conditions over here in the UK this winter and you’re suffering from a touch of the January blues, then you may well be thinking of where you can escape to for some winter sun, be it to the currently very snowy Alps, which are enjoying record snow conditions this season or to a warm sunny beach on the other side of world where our winter is their summer.
Whilst I read that Sydney basked in record temperatures on 6th January, their hottest day in fact since 1939, South Africa is also enjoying a hot summer with some parts even facing drought conditions.
Aside from the lovely weather at this time of the year, South Africa has a lot to offer visitors, from the fabulous wine regions of Stellenbosch and boutique hotels to game reserves and the chance to go on a safari.
The town of Stellenbosch is located in the Western Cape just over 30 miles east of Cape Town at the foot of the Stellenbosch Mountain and dates back to 1679 when the first vineyards were planted. The Stellenbosch Wine Route is a network of some 150 wineries and offers visitors to the region and wine lovers the opportunity to enjoy a quite unique cellar-door experience. The region is world-renowned for its award-winning wines and is the second oldest wine producing region in South Africa. You might to check out their website for more things to see and do in the region.
Cape Town and Table Mountain
When planning your visit to South Africa, you should most certainly plan to spend a few days at the very least in beautiful Cape Town, which sits in the shadow of the imposing and iconic Table Mountain. You should also make sure you visit Table Mountain itself, a popular tourist destination in its own right. One of the best way to get to the top and enjoy the views is by taking the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, as the views from the summit are breathtaking and should not be missed. And if you are feeling really energetic you might like to hike up to the top!
January is the month that music also dominates the city, with the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival which is taking place throughout this month in the city centre. Every January, thousands of singers, musicians and dancers paint their faces and wear costumes to take part in and enjoy what is traditionally known as the ‘Kaapse klopse’ or ‘Coon carnival’. The event itself has its origins in the time of slavery in the city and dates back to the 19th century, when the original citizens of District Six were allowed one day off on 1st January each year.
The Sun Met
If horse racing is your thing, then a visit to Kenilworth Racecourse is a must for the Sun Met held at the end of January and now in its 134th year. On 27th January 2018 horse racing enthusiasts and fashionistas will get together to watch 13 races on Africa’s Richest Race Day in a spectacularly entertaining show.
National Parks and Game Reserves
South Africa has some of the most beautiful national parks and game reserves in the world. Perhaps the best known is Kruger National Park, closely followed by Mala Mala GR (Greater Kruger), Phinda Game Reserve, Sabi Sand GR, Hluhuwe-Imfolozi GR and Kgalagadi TP.
At Kruger National Park you can enjoy a classic safari and will get to see the Big 5 – the buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino. Whilst the Big 5 are also in Addo Elephant National Park, you are only likely to see elephants. Augrabies Falls National Park is the place to visit for fantastic scenery, and you may get to see some antelopes, leopards and giraffes if you are lucky. Camdeboo National Park is a great place to go hiking and also enjoy a classic safari where you will most likely see some antelope and buffalo. You will find all the big cats in Kgalagadi TP, which is a transfrontier park with Botswana and you may well be lucky and spot a white rhino in Spioenkop Game Reserve along with giraffes and antelopes.
Whatever you choose to do on your visit to South Africa, you are sure to have a most memorable holiday and come back with some fantastic photographs to cherish your time in this beautiful country.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.