As we head ever closer towards the proverbial eleventh hour of 2019 and look ahead towards 2020, a sense of reflection commands my thoughts. Perhaps this state of mind is brought on by the extra time I find myself blessed with during the month of December: resplendant in its lack of deadlines and people who want things done, well, yesterday. Maybe it’s even more significant as we prepare for a new decade. My mind wonders once again to untold possibilities, the chance to achieve things that didn’t quite make the To-Do List of 2019.
I decided a great way to wrap up 2019 and kick off 2020, would be to tap into the thoughts, hopes and dreams of friends. What lessons have they learnt from the year that was 2019; what drives them when they think of 2020? Where do we stand as South Africans, with our unique set of challenges?
And so I present the first of two guest posts in this vein. The first written by the 2019 New Generation Best Individual Influencer Marketer of 2019, Tara Turkington. As CEO of Flow Communications and Flow Travel, Tara is obsessed with travel, and all things South African. Incidently, all images contained in her post below, are as a result of her photographic handiwork. For more awesome images, be sure to check out Tara’s Twitter feed.
Tara’s post is really encouraging and reminded me just what a treasure trove we live in here, on the southern end of the globe. Encouragement is something most South Africans will appreciate at this particular juncture.
Enjoy the read!
20 Reasons to Love South Arica in 2020 and Beyond
by Tara Turkington
Here are just 20 of the reasons I love South Africa, which will hopefully help to inspire you to come and visit if you haven’t before, or if you are South African, perhaps there are some ideas in the list to tickle your travel feet to do or see something you haven’t before.
#1 South Africa is one of the richest places on Earth for Hominid Fossils – hence the declaration of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Visit Maropeng, the official visitor centre of the Cradle of Humankind, and the nearby Sterkfontein Caves, where some of the most famous hominid fossils were discovered, including the 2.1-million-year-old “Mrs Ples” (now thought to probably have been “Mr Ples”) and the 3.6-million-year-old “Little Foot”, which is a complete skeleton of an Austrolopithecus hominid and the oldest hominid to date found in the Cradle of Humankind.
#2 South Africa is Culturally Rich and Diverse
We have 11 official languages, and are renowned for our music, dance and art. Have a look at a selection of books, movies and music to introduce you to South Africa for some ideas about our modern cultural diversity. But cultural richness is nothing new – some of the earliest evidence of human culture has been found in South Africa. Check out the new Cradle of Human Culture Route in the Western Cape for more on our earliest cultural activities as humans, including creating ornately decorated ostrich eggshell beads and rock art.
#3 South Africa is home to some of the world’s best wildlife destinations, including our largest National Park, the Kruger National Park
First proclaimed as the Sabie Game Reserve in 1898, the Kruger is one of the world’s largest game reserves – at about 20,000 km2, it’s about the same size as Israel and a bit smaller than Belgium, or if you want to compare to the United States of America, about the size of New Jersey. In the vast expanses of African bushveld, you never know what you’ll see around each corner – perhaps a wild dog pack on the move, an owl in a tree, a pride of lions with cubs or elephants playing in a riverbed. I go to the Kruger with my family every August for a week and never, ever get tired of visiting.
#4 There are many other National, Provincial and Municipal Parks and Nature Reserves, apart from Kruger.
Another of my favourite reserves is the Madikwe Game Reserve, 3.5 hours’ drive north of Johannesburg, in the North West province and on the Botswana border. Madikwe was created out of reclaimed farmland. One of the world’s greatest animal relocation projects, dubbed “Operation Phoenix”, saw over 8000 animals of 28 species relocated to the reserve. Today, Madikwe is home to the Big 5, as well as cheetahs and wild dogs, and it’s totally transformed – only a few clues will give away that it was once farmland (an out-of-place palm tree in the dry bushveld, a few ruins from what was once a farmhouse…).
Unlike Kruger, where you can drive yourself, you can only travel with a guide and on a safari vehicle at Madikwe. This means you can get excellent sightings close-up. There are many lodges to choose from – some of my favourites include the 5-star Rhulani Safari Lodge, which has won many global awards, Mosetlha Bushcamp and Eco Lodge, with simple, eco-friendly amenities, and where you are arguably most close to the bush, and Jaci’s Lodges, which has a wildlife hide in the middle of a dam, allowing you to get close to elephants that often enjoy a swim on a hot day.
#5 South Africans are some of the friendliest people in the world
Studies of tourists leaving South Africa reveal what often surprises people most about South Africa is how friendly we are.
#6 The South African Flag
The South African flag, designed by Frederick Brownell, is a striking and unusual, six-coloured flag. It was officially hoisted for the first time at midnight on April 26 1994. The first democratic elections began on 27 April 1994 – the date that is now celebrated as Freedom Day in South Africa.
#7 Sunshine and a great Climate
Our temperatures are mostly moderate all year round, and most areas in South Africa average more than 2 500 hours of sunshine per year (about seven hours a day on average). That’s hard to beat!
#8 A Huge diversity in Landscapes
We have it all in South Africa – deserts, tropical forests, mountains, beaches and bushveld. We have seven biomes: Savannah, Thicket, Grassland, Forest, Fynbos, Nama Karoo, Succulent Karoo and Desert. We also have about 2800 kilometres of coastline, from the western border with Namibia in the desert, around the tip of Africa, and up to the north-eastern border with tropical Mozambique. And we are bordered by two different oceans – the Atlantic Ocean in the east and the Indian Ocean in the west.
#9 South Africa is a Sporting Paradise
Probably largely to do with our great climate and diverse landscapes, South Africans generally love sport – anything from road running (with the ultimate being the 90-kilometre Comrades Marathon) to cycling (both road and mountain cycling), to team sports such as soccer, rugby and cricket. Watersports including swimming, surfing, kitesurfing and diving are also popular.
#10 South Africa overcame Apartheid
While racism still exists, South Africa transformed from the repressive Apartheid regime into a democracy where freedom is cherished. Visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg to understand more about the cruelty of Apartheid, and to help you appreciate how much we have overcome as a nation. South Africa is an infinitely better country than it was in 1994, at the dawn of democracy. Though we still have many problems and challenges, far more people have houses, access to electricity, education, and freedom.
#11 Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Jailed for 27 years for resisting Apartheid, he came to be synonymous with humility, justice and compassion. Visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg to see his post-presidential office, kept exactly as it was when he retired (by appointment only), the famous Robben Island off Cape Town, where he was incarcerated for most of his time in prison, or the Nelson Mandela Capture Site near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal, where he was captured by the Apartheid Police in 1962, before being sentenced to life in prison.
#12 South Africa has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the World
Thanks in no small part to Mandela and South Africa’s other freedom fighters including Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and many others, South Africa adopted one of the world’s most progressive constitutions and Bill of Rights in 1996.
Human rights embedded in the Constitution include the rights to equality, human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person, freedom from slavery, servitude and forced labour, the right to privacy, freedom of religion, belief and opinion, and freedom of expression. Visit Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, once a prison and now the seat of South Africa’s highest court, the Constitutional Court. They do excellent tours on the hour, every hour, that will help you see how far our country has come. Read the full South African Constitution here.
#13 Table Mountain and the Cape Floral Region
Table Mountain is a much-loved South African icon and was declared one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2013, after a global vote. It is one of world’s oldest mountains, at around 600-million years old. Go to the top via cable car (it’s free on your birthday!) and enjoy exceptional views of Cape Town.
Table Mountain lies within the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004, primarily for its faunal diversity: it alone forms one of the world’s six floral kingdoms, and is the smallest and most diverse.
According to the Unesco inscription, “It is one of the world’s great centres of terrestrial biodiversity. The extended property includes national parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas, State forests and mountain catchment areas. These elements add a significant number of endemic species associated with the Fynbos vegetation, a fine-leaved sclerophyllic shrubland adapted to both a Mediterranean climate and periodic fires, which is unique to the Cape Floral Region.” Prime places to experience the Cape Floral Kingdom include Table Mountain and the spectacular Cape Point.
#14 South Africa is home to fabulous Ancient and Modern Art
From spectacular and ancient rock art in places like the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, to modern-day galleries, South Africa has loads to offer art lovers. A new gallery on the art scene well worth a visit is the Javett Art Centre in Pretoria, which houses a wide range of contemporary art of Africa, but also the famous Mapungubwe Collection dating to the 13th century, the centrepiece of which is a finely crafted golden rhino. The collection was found in the 1930s in what was once the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, in the extreme northern tip of the Limpopo province.
#15 South Africa has a cool Coat of Arms
South Africa’s coat of arms was designed by Ian Bekker and launched on 27 April 2000, Freedom Day.
The coat of arms is underpinned by the motto !ke e: /Xarra //ke, which means “Diverse people unite” in the language of the /Xam San/Bushman people, who were South Africa’s first people. The ears of wheat symbolise fertility, growth and nourishment, and the elephant tusks denote wisdom, strength and eternity. The shield is a display of identity, while the human figures in the style of San/Bushman rock art are depicted in an attitude of greeting and unity. The crossed spear and knobkierrie (a traditional South African weapon) are symbols of defence and authority, but are lain down peacefully. The protea, our national flower, symbolises the beauty of our land and our potential to flower as a nation. The secretary bird with outstretched wings symbolises protection of the nation against its enemies. The rising sun is an emblem of brightness, rebirth and the source of life.
#16 Wine and Winelands
South Africa produces some of the world’s finest wines, from wine regions so breathtakingly beautiful they will leave lasting memories. Our wine-making culture dates back to the 1650s, when the first Dutch settlers produced their first harvest of grapes. While there are now many wine regions in South Africa, most are in the Western Cape, with the Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek wine routes the country’s most popular.
We are well-known for our white wines, including Sauvignon Blancs, Semillons, Rieslings and Chardonnays, as well as for red wines, including Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Shirazes. There are a large number of experiences on offer in the winelands, from wine tasting to food and wine pairing, to taking Segways or mountain biking through the vineyards.
#17 Penguins and Whales
South Africa is famous for both penguins and whales.
African penguins, which are endemic to South Africa and Namibia and are present all year round, are increasingly endangered due to overfishing and loss of habitat along the shores where they nest. Some great places to see them include Boulders Beach near Cape Town and the Stony Point penguin colony at Betty’s Bay near Hermanus, or at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.
The most common whale species spotted off South Africa are southern right and humpback whales, though in total there are approximately 40 whale and dolphin species that frequent our eastern shores. You’ll typically see whales from about May to December, when they migrate each year from Antarctica, often giving birth to their calves along the South African coastline. You can often see whales all the way from Cape Town up our eastern shores from land, or can do whale-watching trips by boat. In Knysna, Ocean Odyssey offers a great whale-watching experience.
#18 The Garden Route
The Garden Route, one of South Africa’s most scenic and well-known routes, lies in a 300-kilometre stretch along the eastern seaboard, between the towns of Storms River in the east and Mossel Bay in the west, with Knysna in the middle. Other towns in the Garden Route include Plettenberg Bay, George, Wilderness, Sedgefield and Nature’s Valley. Along the route you’ll encounter spectacular coastline, massive indigenous forests and quaint villages. People often choose to drive between the bigger cities of Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, a journey of about 750 kilometres.
#19 The Birds
South Africa has an amazing variety of birds – we have about 850 recorded species, from the giant ostrich down to tiny sunbirds and waxbills. Fifty of these are endemic species, occurring only in South Africa.
#20 Sunsets and Sunrises
South Africa is home to spectacular sunsets and sunrises. Nothing beats a “sundowner” (a drink at sunset) in the African bush! (Other than a sunrise, of course…)
Tara Turkington is CEO of Flow Communications, a marketing company with a wide travel portfolio, and Flow Travel, which specialises in creating authentic, customised trips in Africa and beyond. She is also a registered tour guide.