Interior Regions of South Africa
Karoo, South Africa
The Great Karoo makes up the heart of the Eastern Cape Province and many of the towns here are perfect for adventure travelers and those that just want to relax.
One such town that offers so much is Middelburg. This town is very strategic in that it lies exactly halfway between Cape Town and Johannesburg and it also lies halfway between Bloemfontein in the Free State and Port Elizabeth. You can enjoy cocktails while watching the sunset, enjoy the bird and animal life here, see table mountain from the Karoo, have a braai in an old Anglo Boer War blockhouse, take a donkey and cart ride and much more.
Some other amazing sports and activities to take part in, in the Karoo includes hang gliding, 4×4 trails, hiking, netball, soccer, tennis, golf, quad biking, horse riding, white water tubing, archery, clay pigeon shooting, and abseiling to name a few. In fact this area is fast becoming the premier global hang gliding destination. In the heart of the Karoo near the town of Graaf Reniet (the oldest town in the Eastern Cape) lies a geographical phenomenon known as the Valley of Desolation. This sheer cliff face is a national monument within the oasis of the Camdeboo National Park. The cliff faces are vertical pillars of dolomite that can reach staggering heights of 120 meters above the valley.
South African Game Parks
Part of what makes the Eastern Cape so memorable and exciting is the diversity of scenery and attractions. In very short distances from each other you will find lush forests, the ocean, arid desert, and an abundance of wildlife in the many game reserves that are located here. The Big 5 (Buffalo, Leopard, Lion, Elephant and Rhino) can be seen in some of the parks and the great thing is that you can view game in completely malaria free area.
One of the most well known and attended reserves is the Addo Elephant National Park. There are over 450 elephants in this park as well as zebra, rhino, buck, buffalo, and various other types of game and wildlife. There are also plans to expand this 164 000 hectare park to include a marine reserve, therefore turning into a mega park. Another popular game reserve is the Mountain Zebra National Park. Here you will see the once almost extinct Mountain Zebra in its ideal habitat of valleys and plains. There are also rhino, buffalo, many bird and insect species as well as the national bird of South Africa, the majestic Blue Crane. Shamwari Game Reserve is a private lodge where one can relax in style while enjoying the African bushveld. Game drives are offered here every day.
The Drakensberg Mountain Range is one of the most amazing sights in the country. You will find interesting hiking trails, exquisite bird and plant life, and for those more adventurous types there is a ski resort. That’s right! Tiffendell Ski Resort is the first and only of its kind in South Africa, located in the southern region of the Drakensberg on the slopes of the highest Cape Mountain, Ben McDhui. Here you can take part in more than just skiing and even if there is no snow, grass skiing is just as exciting. You can go hiking, rock climbing, abseiling, fly fishing, horse riding, mountain biking, mountain boarding, and much more. The evenings provide visitors with a sense of fun as well and you can enjoy drinks at the highest pub in South Africa called Ice Station 2720. You can also gaze at the clear starry skies every night or sip on cocktails at sundown.
Another great place to visit on the slopes of the Eastern Cape Drakenberg is Barkley East. It has been dubbed the Switzerland of South Africa with its rolling green hills, waterfalls, and often snowcapped peaks towering over the village. There is plenty of history here from Cecil John Rhodes to the Cape Governor Sir Henry Barkley after whom the town is named. There are interesting stone buildings, bridges and monuments to be seen here.
One of the most interesting pieces of history is the dinosaur tracks at Oakleigh Farm. This formation of four footed creatures is one of the most unique and important as it is proof that dinosaurs existed on the sub continent over 180 million years ago. Another attraction that many people love to visit is the Hot Sulphur Springs at Aliwal North. There are many retreats, country lodges and bed and breakfasts that will offer you wonderful services including entrance to the healing hot springs. Some of the best places to stay when you visit the Eastern Cape Drakensberg region are Umtali Country Inn, Balmoral Guest Lodge, Woodcliffe Farmhouse and Cottage, Rhodes Hotel, Clarendon Guest House.
Grahamstown is one of the most historic towns in South Africa and is considered a frontier town. It consists of stunning landscapes, great buildings, monuments and museums, a rich arts and culture as well as great sports facilities. The many museums that you can visit include the History Museum, Natural Science Museum, Albany Museum Complex, National English Literary Museum, Observatory Museum where one of the only 2 Victorian Cameras Obscuras in the world is located.
The arts and culture community of South African descend upon this historic town every year for the fantastic Grahamstown National Arts Festival.
This week long event celebrates drama, dance, theater, music, artists and much more. The streets are filled and theatres jam packed. It is the premier event and platform for performers from all over the country. If you are more of an outdoors person, then here you can also find great activities to occupy you such as sky diving, game viewing at the various private reserves in the area, hunting, hang gliding, fly fishing, mountaineering, abseiling and river rafting to name a few of the most popular ones. If golf is your game, then the Grahamstown Golf Club is available for you with its stunning internationally recognized course.
Education is also a large part of the appeal of Grahamstown with Rhodes University taking center stage as one of the best institutions in the country. Accommodation in Grahamstown ranges from budget to luxury five start hotel and some of the highly recommended ones include the Bushman Sands Hotel, Hotel Victoria Mews, Colonel Graham Guest House, Protea Hotel Evelyn House, Frontier Country Hotel and Wolfe Lodge on Holm Farm. Some of the suggested reserves to stay at include the Bushman’s River Conservancy at Amakhala Game Reserve, the Great Fish River Reserve, Kwantu Game Reserve and Pumba Private Game Reserve. Grahamstown also boasts the Makana Botanical Gardens which is linked to Rhodes University. It was founded on Gun Fire Hill in 1853 and provides a sanctuary for rare birds and a diverse plant life.