Just earlier today I was chatting to a well-travelled lady who in her passport could count the stamps of Vietnam, Dubai, America, Cambodia and the Republic of the Maldives. But in answer to my broad, unimaginative yet serious question: “Which is the most beautiful place you have visited?” she replied “South Africa- dangerous but so beautiful”. Her head, with piston deep nods, suggested it was so by quite some margin. UNESCO would support this claim as they have listed eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa alone.
Blyde River Canyon
A writer feels insignificant introducing this precious ore buried in nature’s rich mine. The magisterial voice of David Attenborough should take over: Blyde River Canyon is 16 miles in length and around 2,500 metres deep. The rock suspends the pictured adventurer 800m above the riverbed. To look out onto this vista, any human, would be dwarfed by wonder.
Kruger National Park
It’s estimated to be the size of Wales. It is Africa’s largest game reserve. 517 species of bird fly through, some settle down others pop en-route to their migrant destination; cantankerous elephants scythe grass with trunk and foot, while lions and leopards act as nature’s aristocrats cutting down the weak and ruling vast acres with indiscriminate brutality. It offers the visitor an unregulated beauty: despite the far off fences that map the park, intrusion to their habitat is minimal, and while the low hum of a jeep engine may twitch the ear of a gazelle, Kruger National Park reserves, conserves and preserves an environment that few countries can boast of.
If your quads are strong, and you packed a good pair of walking shoes, the best way to visit Table Mountain is by hiking. There is a cable car for the more economic explorer, but it is after plodding up the mountain, gripping his big features, that you deserve this reward: the whole expanse of Cape Town, on a summer evening, surrounded by the biodiversity of sum 2,285 plant species. Take a seat at one of the finest galleries in the world: it is here, outdoors, at the edge of a continent.
Hermanus was once a small fishing village. Fortunately the town still retains this parochial charm. No train tracks. It’s no seat of industry, encased by a sheet of fumes. Industrialization is kept out. The only thing kept at bay are the fishing boats which rock at the docks, transport sumptuous prawns to the plates of hungry guests and better still, take diners to watch the whales fluke in nearby waters. Though quaint, its beauty is found in the bolder form of festivals- large crowds, sport, alcohol, and a beach as the venue.
Beauty isn’t always found on a sun-scorched plane or an oxygen starved mountain-top. Something must be said for the urbane. Durban is jostling with cosmopolitanism, a postcolonial metropolis- it was bound to happen. It has all the hallmarks of a great city: promenades, restaurants, shops, skyscrapers, arts, sport and leisure. It’s not just another city. It is the perfect mix of the new, manufactured, organised city one sees in Florida, USA, with the subtropical climate and beaches, but unlike Florida, Durban has a bit more going on and a richer history. It is a major landmark of British colonial rule, Zulu and Dutch settlements. The beauty in Durban is both obvious and discreet. But the rules in finding it are no different: it can be found in the vastness of the sea or the intricate needlework of a native garment, and as ever, it’s the viewer’s decision which one is preferable.
This article was supplied by Joe Shervell for www.capeportfolios.co.uk, specialists in South African holiday rentals