25 Jan

South Africa Part II - The Kruger National Park and the Karoo

Each year, we pick 12 'Destinations to Watch' for our Travel Trends report. In this blog series ABTA staff talk through their personal highlights and experiences of the destinations they've been to. In this blog, Vicki Wolf shares her experience of South Africa, read the second part of her blog below on The Kruger National Park and the The Karoo, and the first part of her blog here.

Explore all our 12 ‘Destinations to watch’ here.

The Kruger National Park and surrounding game farms are always popular with visitors, and for good reason. There is nothing quite like seeing the big five roaming free in their natural habitat. The breath taking Baobab and Marula Trees are also key to the Kruger experience. Sipping on some of South Africa’s wonderful Amarula Cream liquour (made from the Marula fruit) after a day out on game drives is recommended (it’s a bit like Bailey’s but better)! The best time to visit is from May to September when it’s drier and you are likely to see more game.

Many people bypass Johannesburg on their way to Kruger or only stay for a night. It’s really worth staying for an extra few days to see a little of this African gem. Johannesburg is a buzzing city full of culture and fantastic cuisine. It has a completely different feel to Cape Town but it is also a melting pot of creativity. A visit to the Apartheid Museum in Braamfontein is highly recommended, as is the African Craft Market in Rosebank – you won’t leave empty handed. The past few years have seen the Joburg CBD rejuvenate with the development of the Maboneng Precinct. This area is rich in art, retail stores selling original wares and an array of restaurants, bars and studio space. Johannesburg has a thriving theatre and arts scene and many world-class restaurants which represent really good value for British travellers.

There are some eclectic places to visit in the semi desert Karoo area of South Africa. The Karoo is increasingly known as a mecca for artists and bohemians. The Owl House created by artist Helen Martins in Nieu Bethesda is a must see. Lovers of satire will enjoy a visit to Pieter-Dirk Uys’s theatre, Evita’s Se Perron, in Darling which showcases his alter ego – Tannie (Auntie) Evita Bezuidenhout.

It is often said that South Africa is the Rainbow Nation as the people are such a mix of cultures and diversity. But their welcoming hospitality and friendliness is something that unites all the cultures in this beautiful country. Every time I meet someone who has recently visited South Africa they always say the same thing – “what wonderful, friendly people”. And, to me, that’s top of my list of reasons to visit – repeatedly!

If you want get a sense of the history of South Africa before you visit, Allister Spark’s “The Mind of South Africa” is worth a read as is the seminal work of Es'kia Mphahlele’s “Down Second Avenue”.