Tag Archives: South Africa

Pretoria, South Africa

Name: Tshwane/Pretoria
Province: Gauteng Province
Map: Google Map
Population: 2,2 million
Altitude: 1214m
Geography: Situated between rocky ridges in the north eastern part of the country. The city is in the transitional area between tropical savannah (Bushveld) and the Highveld plateau.
Climate: Dry winters with temperatures averaging 20 °C during the day, dropping to about 5 °C at night. Hot summers with occasional thunderstorms, daytime average temperatures 25 to 30 °C.
Key Economic Sectors: Services, Commerce, Industry
Professional Football Clubs: Mamelodi Sundowns, Supersport United (Premier) Pretoria University (1st Division)
Stadium: Loftus Versfeld Stadium

Place to See

African Window – Concentrating on the archaeological and anthropological records of Southern Africa, African Window focuses on the tribes of Gauteng, incorporating some San engravings, a traditional restaurant and regular dance and art exhibitions.

Church Square – It lies in the heart of Pretoria and is surrounded by many imposing public buildings including the Palace of Justice on the northern side, where the Rivonia Trial that sentenced Nelson Mandela to life imprisonment was held. In the centre of the square the ‘Old Lion’, Paul Kruger, looks disapprovingly at office workers lounging on the grass. The bronze figures of Kruger and the sentries, also by Van Wouw, were cast in Italy at the turn of the century, but lay in storage until 1954.

Freedom Park – One of the most exciting undertakings in Gauteng is Freedom Park. The site chosen for this massive project, on a kopje (hill) facing the Vootrekker Monument, provoked an outcry from those who saw this as politically motivated. This is hardly a self-important ode to nationalism however, rather, it’s a sombre memorial to those people, local and international, who have sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.

Heroes’ Acre Cemetery – Around 1.5km west of Church Square you’ll find Heroes’ Acre Cemetery, the burial place of a number of historical figures including Andries Pretorius, Paul Kruger and Hendrik Verwoerd. Henry H ‘Breaker’ Morant, the Australian Boer War antihero executed by the British for war crimes, is also buried here – look for the low sign pointing to the gravestone from one of the north-south avenues. If you miss this, you’ll never find it.

Melrose House – This neobaroque mansion, a national monument, was built in 1886 for George Heys, and it’s a somewhat fanciful cross between English Victorian and Cape Dutch styles. During the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War, Lords Roberts and Kitchener (both British commanders) lived here. On 31 May 1902 the Treaty of Vereeniging, which marked the end of the war, was signed in the dining room.

Pretoria National Zoological Gardens – About 1km north of the city centre are the Pretoria National Zoological Gardens. The national zoo is an impressive and pleasant enough spot to while away an afternoon. There is an aquarium here, as well as a decent cafeteria and some areas of lawn. The highlight is probably the cable car that runs up to the top of a hill that overlooks the city. There are regular guided evening trips (around R30 per person).

Union Buildings -They are the headquarters of government. The impressive red sandstone structures – with a self-conscious imperial grandeur – are surrounded by expansive gardens and are home to the presidential offices. There are no tours here, but access to the expansive grounds and public areas of the building is free and self-guided seven days per week.

Voortrekker Monument & Museum – The looming Voortrekker Monument & Museum is hallowed turf for many Afrikaners. Built between 1938 and 1949 to commemorate the achievements of the Voortrekkers, who trekked north over the Cape’s coastal mountains into the heart of the African veld. The structure remains a testament to the Boers’ pioneering and independent spirit, and commemorates the Battle of Blood River on 16 December 1838 during which 470 Boers, under the command of Andries Pretorius, defeated approximately 12,000 Zulus.

Polokwane, South Africa

Name: Polokwane, place of safety
Province: Limpopo
Map: Google Map
Population: 508 272
Altitude: 1310m
Geography: 60 kilometers south of the Tropic of Capricorn. The landscape is mainly grassland interspersed with rocky granite hills, referred to as ‘koppies’ in South African English.
Climate: Tropical climate with winter temperatures 20°- 4° Centigrade and summer temperatures between 28-16° Centigrade.
Key Economic Sectors: Agriculture, mining, manufacturing
Professional Football Clubs: Black Leopards, Dynamos, Winners Park  (1st Division)
Stadium: Peter Mokaba Stadium

Place to See

Makapan’s Cave – One of the major tourist attractions in the area is Makapan’s Cave, which is located in Mokopane in Limpopo Province. Visitors should not miss the opportunity to visit the caves where extensive cultural deposits have played a crucial role in furthering our understanding of human evolution and the appearance of modern man. The Cave of Hearths is one of only two Stone Age sites in the world that contain an unbroken sequence of artefacts from the Earlier Stone Age to the Later Stone Age. The Cave of Gwasa, one of the historic caves in Limpopo, was a site of repeated refuge from conflicts, and was later renamed as Makapan’s Cave after the great chief Makapan. Visits to the fascinating Makapan’s Valley must be arranged in advance by contacting the Mogalakwena Bushveld Community Tourism Association.

Meropa Casino and Enterntainment – Meropa Casino and Entertainment World is situated in the Limpopo Province, only five kilometres from Polokwane. The Meropa Casino and Entertainment world has a separate conference centre, which caters for a wide range of events ranging from fashion shows, product launches and conferences and a cinema. The casino is of upmarket design, with modern technology employed throughout.

Jembe Tavern – Made popular during the apartheid regime in the townships, taverns are some of the most popular places in the townships of South Africa. And, when you are in Polokwane, the Jembe Tarven is certainly the place to be. After a long day of working hard or travelling, you need a place to relax and unwind. Jembe Tavern is popular with young and old alike and hosts popular bands, karaoke evenings and comedians for those socialists looking for fun-filled, foot-tapping evenings. Join hands with the locals and spoil yourself!

Ndebele Village – The Ndebele culture is one of the most fascinating in South Africa. And, if you visit Polokwane, this will be an ideal time to make your way to the Ndebele village. Ndebele (isiNdebele) is one of the 11 official languages in South Africa. Ndebele women traditionally adorn themselves with a variety of ornaments, each symbolising their status in society. After marriage dresses became more elaborate. The Ndebele have always been known for their artistic skills. Apart from its aesthetic appeal, it has a cultural significance that serves to reinforce the distinctive Ndebele identity. The skill of the Ndebele has always resided in their ability to combine exterior sources of stimulation with traditional design concepts taken from their ancestors.
Although painting was done freehand, without prior layouts, the art always displayed a linear quality reflective of their environment. Ndebele women were responsible for painting the colourful and intricate patterns on the walls of their houses. This presented the traditionally subordinate wife with an opportunity to express her individuality and self-worth. The Ndebele are further characterised by their intricate beadwork – a time-consuming craft which requires a deft hand and good eyesight.

Lake Funduzi and Thathe Vondo Forest – Locals refer to Lake Funduzi as a place of ‘peace and tranquillity’. And, once you are there, it does not take long before you realise why people from around the area give rave ratings. Lake Funduzi is a magical place that is steeped in Venda mythology and legend. Its condition changes seasonally, but it is always worth the visit from a cultural perspective. From Lake Funduzi you will drive along the very top of the Soutpansberg.

Thathe is an indigenous forest which is sacred to the Venda people. Here look out for forest species such as Chorister Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Knysna Turaco, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and Orange Ground-Thrush.

Nelspruit, South Africa

Name: Nelspruit. The city’s name has Dutch origins and means Nel’s stream.
Map: Google Map
Population: 21541
Altitude: 660m
Geography: Located on a low-lying plateau, known as the Lowveld, in the fertile Crocodile River valley in the north eastern part of South Africa.
Climate: Sub-tropical with temperatures around 23°C during winter and warming up to 29°C during summer.
Key Economic Sectors: Agriculture, Mining
Football Clubs: Mpumalanga Black Aces, Witbank Spurs (1st Division)
Stadium: Mbombela Stadium

Place to See

Kruger National Park – It is the largest game reserve in South Africa covering a total of 18,989 square km and extending 350km from north to south, and 60km from east to west. The two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga lie to the west and south of the Kruger National Park. The park has eight main gates that allow entrance to a variety of camps. The climate of the Kruger National Park and Lowveld is subtropical. Summer days are humid and hot with temperatures often soaring to above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The rainy season is from September until May and the dry winter season is the ideal time to visit this region for a variety of reasons.

Shangana cultural village – Home to the Shangana people who speak isiTsonga, one of the official 11 languages in South Africa. The Village, which was built by locals, is situated midway between the Blyde River Canyon and the southern Kruger National Park. The picturesque villages are set in the shade of ancient trees in a reserve of forest and grassland, and are open every day. A bustling African market village forms the centre of Shangana, where local craftspeople make and trade their craft. From here, trained guides lead guests to villages on daytime tours, midday tours with lunch, and the famed Evening Festival in the Chief’s Kraal.

Sudwala caves – The oldest known caves in the world, and as such, are a `must-see’ on the itinerary of any visitor to the Mpumalanga Province. These incredible caverns lie in the Drakensberg escarpment which separates the Highveld from the lowlands of Mpumalanga. The caves are situated in Pre-cumbrian dolomite rocks of the Malmani Group, formed over a period of some 3000 million years, capturing in stone a time when the area was covered by warm shallow in-land seas. These are amongst the second oldest known sedimentary rocks on earth, and represented in the cave are fossils of the first oxygen producing plants on the earth, Collenia. One can clearly see in the different layers and textures of the rock, a reflection of the results of the various weather patterns which take place in the building of an ancient seabed. Besides the awesome rock displays, the caverns also boast an array of calcium formations, aged but active, anciently and patiently still growing.

Mac-mac falls – One of the envisaged places in Nelspruit is the Mac mac Falls, and while not much is known about the falls in South Africa, they are certainly one of the most artistic and innovative sites in the country. Mac Mac Falls is the perfect place to catch a glimpse of the delicate charms of South Africa . It boasts a rich blend of beauty and nostalgia – stunning African beauty steeped in, and sometimes moulded by, the country’s fascinating history. The second highest falls in the Mpumalanga tour route, its shimmering waters plunge to a depth of 65m. Listen to the babbling waters of the turbulent falls and explore the natural beauty that nature has to offer. This is the best place to rejuvenate and bond with nature.

Lowveld National Botanical Gardens – Situated at the heart of Mpumalanga. They also have a Visitor’s Centre which contains a restaurant, shops and information centre.