- Role players
- Requirements for entering South Africa
- Tourism in the provinces
South Africa's status as a premier global leisure destination is firmly established. The country has the capability and the means, the welcoming culture, the diversity and the scenic beauty that the world's travellers are looking for when they choose a destination.
International tourist arrivals in South Africa grew by 10,2% year-on-year to almost 9,2 million in 2012, more than double the global average of around 4%. The biggest growth in 2012 came from Asia and South America, driven by large increases in arrivals from South Africa's BRICS partners Brazil, India and China.
From an African continental perspective, Nigeria and Tanzania were two of the continent's biggest growth markets during the past financial year, with tourist arrivals from these two countries growing by 37,5% and 45,8%, respectively.
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South African Tourism (SAT)
South African Tourism (SAT) is mandated to market South Africa internationally as a preferred tourism destination, to maximise the economic potential of tourism for the country and its people.
Tourism Enterprise Partnership (TEP)
The Touism Enterprise Partnership (TEP) is a non-profit company that facilitates the growth, development and sustainability of small tourism businesses.
The Tourism Indaba is an annual event that takes place in Durban. It is one of the largest tourism marketing events in Africa and one of the top three events of its kind in the world. The event showcases a wide variety of Southern Africa's best tourism products, and attracts thousands of local as well as international visitors and media from across the world.
Meetings Africa is an annual exhibition that serves as SAT's marketing platform to expose local and international buyers to the range of services and products in southern Africa's MICE (meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions) industry. It is the biggest business-to-business tourism exhibition on the African continent.
Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA)
In June 2012, the Minister of Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, announced the appointment of the new awards committee of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA). About 1 160 properties have entered the tourism sector as lodges, guest houses or hotels after complying with TGCSA standards.
To visit South Africa, visitors must have:
- a valid passport or travel document that covers the period of intended stay
- a valid visa, if required
- sufficient funds to cover all expenses
- a return or onward ticket
- at least one blank page in the passport for endorsements
- yellow fever certificates are required if the journey starts or entails passing through the yellow-fever belt of Africa or South America.
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The Western Cape's unmatched natural beauty, famous hospitality, cultural diversity, excellent wine and rich cuisine make it one of the world's greatest tourist attractions
- The top of the majestic Table Mountain, which greets visitors to the vibrant and friendly “Mother City”, can be reached by a modern cable way.
- The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, the Company’s Gardens, the District Six Museum, the houses of Parliament and the South African National Gallery.
- A boat trip to Robben Island, the place where former President Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in jail.
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
- Cape Point, part of the Table Mountain National Park, offers many drives, walks, picnic spots and a licensed restaurant. The park has a marine protected area encompassing almost 1 000 km2.
- Hout Bay is well known for its colourful working harbour, seafood outlets, round-the-bay trips to the nearby seal island, and a harbour-front emporium that attracts many visitors.
- The wine routes outside Cape Town offer the chance to taste first-class wines in some of the most beautiful winelands in the world.
- Superb accommodation is available in historic towns such as Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, as well as on many estates and farms.
The popular Garden Route spans roughly 200 km of South Africa's southern coast, incorporating the picturesque stretch of coastline. It includes the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay and Nature's Valley – each with its own charm and attractions.
Named for its lush greenery and the vast Tsitsikamma Forest, the Garden Route is the most biodiverse region in the world.
- The Big Tree at Woodville, an Outeniqua Yellowwood, is estimated to be around 850 years old. It is located about 40 km outside of George in the direction of Knysna.
- Whale-watching attracts tourists at Witsand and Port Beaufort from June to November.
- At the historical Strandveld Architectural Heritage Site at Still Bay, visitors can watch tame eels being fed.
The Central Karoo, a fascinating semi-desert area, lies in the heart of one of the world's most unique and interesting arid zones. This ancient, fossil-rich land, which is five times the size of Great Britain, is also home to the richest desert flora in the world. In the Central Karoo, visitors will find the largest variety of succulents found anywhere on Earth.
- A township route introduces visitors to the Xhosa culture in the area.
- The Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert offers interesting cultural-history displays, a fossil room and an exhibit of gold-mining activities in the 19th century. The museum has a licence to distil and sell “witblits” (white lightning).
- The museum in Beaufort West, birthplace of heart surgeon Prof. Chris Barnard.
- The Karoo National Park on the outskirts of the town is also worth a visit.
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Characterised by its vast expanses of space and silence, a warm sunny climate, friendly people and hospitality, the Northern Cape is a province with a rich cultural heritage and a fascinating variety of landscapes.
- The Kimberley Mine Museum is South Africa's largest full-scale open-air museum. Underground mine tours are a big attraction.
- The Freddy Tate Golf Museum at the Kimberley Golf Club was the first golfing museum in Africa.
- The Kimberley Ghost Trail has become a popular tourist attraction.
- The Robert Sobukwe House in Galeshewe was once the residence of Robert Sobukwe, an important figure in South African history and a major role player in the rise of African political consciousness.
- The Augrabies Falls National Park, with its magnificent falls pressing through a narrow rock ravine, remains the main attraction of the Northern Cape. Game drives reveal a variety of birdlife and animals such as klipspringer, steenbok, wild cats and otters.
- The Orange River Wine Cellars Coop in Upington offers wine-tastings and cellar tours. The South African Dried Fruit Cooperative is the second-largest in the world.
- Moffat's Mission in Kuruman is a tranquil place, featuring the house of missionary Robert Moffat, whose son-in-law was explorer David Livingstone.
- Namaqualand, the land of the Nama and San people, puts on a spectacular show in spring when its floral splendour covers vast tracts of desert in a riot of colour.
- A cultural centre at Wildebeestkuil outside Kimberley features !Xun and Khwe artwork for sale and a tour of rock engravings by these indigenous people.
- The 100-m high, 9-km long and 2-km wide white sand dune at the Witsand Nature Reserve near Postmasburg should not be missed.
Read more on Northern Cape tourism.
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The Free State, a mainly rural province, is well-known for its rolling landscapes, friendly people and warm traditional hospitality. The province lies in the heart of South Africa, with Lesotho nestling in its bean-like shape.
- Clarens is surrounded by spectacular scenery and boasts many art galleries.
- The Golden Gate Highlands National Park outside Clarens has beautiful sandstone rock formations.
- The King's Park Rose Garden in Bloemfontein boasts more than 4 000 rose bushes.
- The Vredefort Dome, a world heritage site, is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world. It was formed about two billion years ago when a giant meteorite hit Earth.
- In the capital, Bloemfontein, the Eerste Raadsaal (First Parliament Building) was built in 1849 as a school and is the city's oldest surviving building that is still in its original condition. It is still used as the seat of the Provincial Legislature.
- The National Women's Memorial commemorates the women and children who died in concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer/South African War.
Read more on the Free State tourism.
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The Eastern Cape is a region of great natural beauty, particularly the rugged cliffs, rough seas and dense green bush of the stretch known as the Wild Coast.
- The Owl House in Nieu-Bethesda displays the creative talent of the late Helen Martins. Statues of mermaids, wise men, camels, owls and churches create a wonderland in the garden. All the artworks were created with broken bottles, bits of mirror and cement.
- The Mountain Zebra National Park is a haven for the Cape mountain zebra species, which at one time inhabited most of the Cape. Other game parks include the Addo Elephant Park and the Mkambati Park.
- The Red Location Museum of the People's Struggle in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth – winner of several international awards.
- The Tsitsikamma National Park (now part of the Garden Route Park), and forests and rivers in the area.
- East London, South Africa's only river port, originally established as a supply port to serve the British military headquarters at King William's Town.
- The village of Qunu, where former President Mandela grew up and which now features the Nelson Mandela Museum.
- The world's highest bungee jump (216 m) at the Bloukrans Bridge over the Storms River.
- Since Portuguese mariners first pioneered the sea route around the Cape to India, the notorious Wild Coast has claimed countless ships. Southern right and humpback whales and their calves are regularly spotted from the high dunes, while common and bottlenose dolphins are often seen close to shore.
Read more on Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism.
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South Africa's northernmost province shares borders with Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, making it the ideal gateway to Africa. Steeped in history, Limpopo has a rich cultural heritage, and at many archaeological sites the mysteries of the past and ancient peoples are still being unearthed.
- The Mokopane vicinity has several nature reserves. The Arend Dieperink Museum offers a fine cultural-historical collection, while the Makapan caves are famous for their fossils. The Makapan Valley is the only cultural-heritage site of its kind. It reflects the history of the Ndebele people and resistance wars dating back 151 years. The fossil hominid sites of Sterkfontein include Makapan Valley.
- Bela-Bela is well known among South Africans, and increasingly foreigners, for its hot-water springs, fun water slides and scenery.
- The Modjadji Nature Reserve, north of Tzaneen, is named after the legendary Rain Queen, Modjadji, who inspired Rider Haggard's She.
- The Schoemansdal Voortrekker Town and Museum, a short drive west of Makhado, are built on the site of an original Voortrekker village and depict their lifestyle in the mid-18th century.
- The Big Tree in the Mutale district is one of the largest known baobabs in southern Africa.
Read more on Limpopo tourism and parks.
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North West boasts several cultural villages and other attractions such as excellent game reserves and lodges that draw visitors from all over the world.The province's famous Sun City and Lost City resorts, offer, among other things, gambling, golf, an artificial beach and sea, dining, theatres and game viewing.
- The Historic Route of Mafikeng includes the town of Mafikeng, which was besieged by the Boers during the Anglo-Boer/South African War.
- The Groot Marico region, mampoer (moonshine) country, is associated with author Herman Charles Bosman.
- The Hartbeespoort Dam and surrounds are popular for weekend outings, yachting and golf.
- The Pilanesberg National Park supports over 7 000 head of game, including the Big Five, and 350 bird species. It has an area of approximately 550 km², making it the fourth largest park in South Africa.
- The Taung Skull Fossil Site is an extension of the Sterkfontein hominid sites. The site marks the place where the celebrated Taung skull – a specimen of the species Australopithecus africanus – was found in 1924.
- Madikwe Game Reserve, one of South Africa's largest game reserves, is home to 66 large mammal species, including the Big Five, and about 300 resident and migrant bird species.
More on North West tourism.
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Mpumalanga lies in the north-eastern part of South Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the east and the Kingdom of Swaziland to the south-east.
Attractions range from game viewing and birdwatching to scenic drives across the valleys and peaks of the vast Drakensberg escarpment, and include adventure tourism and cultural experiences.
- The town of Pilgrim's Rest is a living monument reflecting the region's gold-fever period.
- Within the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, the Bourke's Luck potholes were formed by river erosion and the action of flood water. The spectacular Blyde River Canyon is a 26-km long gorge carved out of the face of the escarpment. It is the world's third-largest canyon and the only green canyon.
- The region includes the southern section of the Kruger National Park, which draws a million visitors yearly.
- An annual frog-watching festival is held at Chrissiesmeer, South Africa's largest freshwater lake.
- Kaapsehoop, a small village situated 25 km southwest of Nelspruit on a buttress of the Mpumalanga escarpment, is famous for the wild horses that roam the area.
- Dullstroom is a popular trout- and fly-fishing destination.
Read more on Mpumalanga tourism.
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Although Gauteng is the smallest of the nine provinces, it is the economic hub of South Africa and the continent. However, the province not only offers a vibrant business environment, it also boasts some popular tourist attractions such museums and historical sites, theatres, restaurants and a rainbow of ecological and cultural diversity.
- The Vaal Dam covers some 300 km2 and is a popular venue for water sport. Numerous resorts line the shore. The dam is also popular with birders and anglers.
- The Sterkfontein caves near Krugersdorp are the site of the discovery of the skull of the famous Mrs Ples, an estimated 2,5-million-year-old hominid fossil; and Little Foot, an almost complete hominid skeleton of more than 3,3 million years old.
- The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden has a 70-m high waterfall, stunning indigenous plant displays and a breeding pair of black eagles.
- A ring of hills a kilometre in diameter and 100 m high just 40 km north of Pretoria are the walls of the Tswaing Meteorite Crater, left by an asteroid 200 000 years ago.
- The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria is considered one of the 10 best in the world.
- The Constitution Hill Precinct is set to become one of South Africa's most popular landmarks.
- The old mining town of Cullinan is where the world's biggest diamond, the 3 106-carat Cullinan diamond, was found.
- A guided tour of Soweto leaves a lasting impression of this vast community's life and struggle against apartheid.
- The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg tells the story of the legacy of apartheid through photographs, film and artefacts.
- The Union Buildings celebrates its centenary in 2013. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1910 and was completed in 1913. It has since been the setting for presidential inaugurations and many national celebrations, including Women's Day, and Freedom Day.
Read more on Gauteng tourism.
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The garden province of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal is a subtropical region of lush and well-watered valleys, washed by the warm Indian Ocean. One of the country's most popular tourist destinations, the province stretches from Port Edward in the south to the borders of Swaziland and Mozambique to the north.
- The uShaka Marine World theme park comprises an oceanarium, dolphinarium and oceanographic research institute situated on Durban's Point.
- Durban's Golden Mile skirts the main beaches of the Indian Ocean. Drawcards include an amusement centre, paddling pools, paved walkways and fountains.
- Spot dolphins or laze the days away on the coastline between the Umdloti and Tugela rivers – the Dolphin Coast.
- The Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, one of the largest game parks in South Africa, is home to the Big Five, as well as cheetah and wild dogs.
- The eMakhosini Valley, birthplace of King Shaka, and the Valley of Zulu Kings give visitors insight into the Zulu nation's history and culture.
- The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is one of the highest forested dunes in the world, and has an abundance of fish and birds.
- The Royal Natal National Park offers many scenic highlights, including the Amphitheatre, Mont-aux-Sources and the Tugela falls.
- The Battlefields Route in northern KwaZulu-Natal has the highest concentration of battlefields and related military sites in South Africa.
- Every year around June or July, millions of sardines leave their home on the Agulhas banks and move up to the coast of Mozambique. Thousands of dolphins, Cape gannets, sharks and game fish follow the "sardine run" northwards.
Read more about KwaZulu-Natal tourism
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