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December 11, 2018

Sub-Saharan Africa: An Undiscovered World Within South Africa

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Photo by Andrea Willmore/Getty Images

South Africa is jam packed with hidden destinations, beautiful nooks, and breath-taking experiences just waiting to be explored. These range from incredible natural attractions and scenic getaways, to adrenalin-filled adventures, safaris of all kinds, and city breaks with delectable cuisine and unforgettable memories waiting to happen. We take a stroll off the beaten path to discover some of these gems that are worth getting to know.

Irresistible Event Venues

South Africa has an extraordinary number of venues, from the very large to those that host just ten delegates at a time. Aside from the handful who receive regular mention in the media, there are a host of incredible event spaces ready and willing to host functions, conferences, exhibitions and team builds with great versatility and creativity.

One such venue is Cathedral Peak, which, as its name suggests, is perched amongst the Drakensberg’s breath-taking mountain range. With picturesque views to boot, this gorgeous destination is an ideal getaway for special events, corporate retreats and conferences for up to 200 pax and a choice of five venues. Since 1987, as the first Drakensberg events and conference venue, the hotel has offered business clients an extraordinary experience with luxurious accommodation, exceptional service, sumptuous buffet meals and an extensive range of on-site facilities and activities. Most recently, Cathedral Peak hosted an awards ceremony for 180 people held outdoors on their bowling green. “For this we hired a transparent roofed marque,” says Samantha van der Riet, Assistant Operations Manager. “Drinks and canapes were served whilst delegates relaxed on couches on the lawn overlooking the Umlambonja river valley. A buffet style banquet was provided by our Top Chef and a dancefloor and stage were setup for a live band and DJ to party the night away under the stars.” Cathedral Peak hosts between 35 and 45 conferences a year, and also offers a range of teambuilding and other engaging experiences tailored to guests’ needs. Delegates can enjoy a host of sports activities, including tennis, squash, trout fishing, bowls, floodlit mini-golf, volleyball, quad bikes, mountain bike trails and gym with steam room. “Our real differential is not our venues and technology but how we can assist you to get the most out of our incredibly beautiful and rich surroundings,” she adds.

Another beautiful venue just a few kilometres outside the city of Cape Town is Aquila Private Game Reserve. Not only is this getaway ideal for an array of visitors who wish to have a safari experience – full day, half day, overnight or fly in safaris are offered – but the facilities also include a conference centre for up to 80 pax, a spa, infinity pool, cigar lounge, wet bar, and children’s entertainment area. Aquila has invested over R1 million in building a large outdoor sanctuary where once doomed ‘canned lions’ can live out their lives. It is also home to rescued leopard and cheetah breeding pair and many other species from time to time. Their ‘Saving Private Rhino’ initiative hopes to provide the most comprehensive integrated anti-poaching solution available to every private game reserve I Africa. Aquila is the first game reserve to re-introduce the Big 5 for the first time in 250 years to the Western Cape.

Soak up the Natural Beauty

A settlement that forms the gateway to the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park, St Lucia is part of SA’s first World Heritage Site. Unparalleled wildlife experiences await the intrepid traveller to these parts – humongous hippos, bush and boat safaris, roaring lions and even turtle tours await. Half or full-day game drives are a must in order to take in the sheer magnitude and splendour of the flora and fauna of these parts.

Hole in the Wall in Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape, is untouched natural beauty at its best. An unspoilt heaven for fishermen, Hole in the Wall offers visitors a quiet getaway that promises the most breath-taking of sunrises and sunsets, complete with clear, starlit nights. Although getting there is a bit of a mission – the roads can be rough – most explorers say it’s worth the effort. The place has a hotel of the same name with a comfortable bar, restaurant and wellness spa. In the surrounds one will find attractions such as abseiling, fishing, and horse-riding.

For Local History and Culture Buffs

South Africa is known for its fascinating history, and places like Qunu or Robben Island – Nelson Mandela’s birth place and place of imprisonment – are often on visitors’ to do lists. One of the lesser known places worth exploring is the Slave Lodge in Cape Town. Built in 1970, it is the second oldest existing colonial structure of the Cape Colony. Although it is steeped in sordid history, it is now managed by Iziko Museums and audio-guided tours can be rented for a nominal fee. The upper galleries of the Slave Lodge are open to the public, and showcase the likes of ceramics, silverware and Egyptology collections that draw links to SA’s heritage and history.

Another place worth a visit is the !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre in Yzerfontein. With sweeping views, tracks through nature, and delicious home-cooked meals, this place is an underrated gem for visitors to explore. A unique San Heritage Centre, it has San guided tours, a guest house and tented camps, conferencing facilities, and game and bird-watching options – not to mention the only heritage centre in the world dedicated to the San. Those who pop in can expect a friendly welcome and an organisation with a strong ethos founded on responsible tourism and giving back to the local community.

Epic Experiences

South Africa has any number of unforgettable adventures to take on, from bungee jumping and surfing, to shark-cage diving and hot air balloon trips. One of the lesser known activities is the sidecar tour. Feel the wind whip through your hair without the drama of focussing on the road! Take in all the scenery, from the Winelands to Cape Point with companies like Cape Sidecar Adventures or Ural Sidecar Tours.

Surprisingly segway tours are a great way to take everything in without the hassle of walking, and in SA, this form of transportation is taking flight. Spier Farm offers an hour-long tour, a two-hour vineyard tour, and a sunset tour, while Tsitsikamma Forest in the Garden Route offer fully guided tours exploring the local flora and village. Other places one can find Segway tours are Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Sun City in the North West, and along the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast.

For those in search of even more thrills, Cape Town Tandem Paragliding is worth a try. Paraglide from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill with highly experienced tandem flight instructors to give you an experience that lasts up to 30 minutes. An added bonus is that the company captures the moment with GoPro cameras – and offers them as an optional extra in a convenient 4GB SD card with an adapter and plastic housing.

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