Thanks to various horror stories and an extremely high crime rate, South Africa is often perceived around the world as nothing more than a country of crime, and the "label" the country has been given is not one that will be shed any time soon. So how is the country now? And has the situation improved in a country where apartheid – the dark ages – ruled for many years? Let's fight the myths and stereotypes! South Africa is not just a country where a thief lurks around every corner. You'll also find natural beauty that will literally take your breath away.
All you have to do is let the plane take you a few thousand kilometers across the African continent, the third-largest in the world after Asia and America, and land in Johannesburg, a city built on gold far below the equator.
And if you spend the best part of three weeks here, traversing the country from north to south, including the entire southern coastline and the popular Garden Route in the Western Cape, the rewards will be more than sweet. And more important than outdated dusty statistics, is what the visitor can find in Africa's southernmost tip, and there is certainly no shortage of it. And then you can make up your own mind.
Around six million people live in Johannesburg, which the locals call Jozi or Jo'burg. One third of these are crowded in the centre. State support is virtually non-existent here, so sixty percent of the people who find it hard to find work "make a living" from crime, says driver and guide Charles, adding: "I'm twenty-eight years old. I've lived here for sixteen years and I'm not doing very well. Although the situation has improved considerably since apartheid, people are still divided into poor, poorer and the poorest. Acts of violence are widespread, yet it begs the question, is the situation significantly better elsewhere in the world? Just look at countries in Asia or on the other side of the globe and compare, and perhaps South Africa is not so much worse. And one wonders, why the name South Africa? After all, there are a lot of countries in Africa, each with their own name and not called East Africa, West Africa or Central Africa."
If you want to choose from a large selection of parks, you first need to decide whether you want to see wildlife, mountain and desert reserves, or natural areas of the peninsula. In Kruger National Park you can explore the dirt roads, either in your own car or in a rented car with a guide. Not far from the park is the third largest canyon in the world, the Blyde River. Being able to see the three most famous viewpoints, God's Window, Happy Burke's Pits and the Three Rondavels with the aircraft carrier in the background, will enchant anyone.
It is not for nothing that this city is considered one of the most beautiful in both Africa and the world. Along with its inseparable Table Mountain, it is not only the most romantic but, like all cities in South Africa, incredibly clean. You won't find discarded cigarette butts, trampled chewing gum on the pavements, no sweet wrappers and certainly no plastic bottles or other litter strewn about.
On the treacherous Table Mountain, which is almost always foggy and windy, you can choose from an incredible three hundred and fifty quite difficult routes, including climbing ones. The cable car, which has a revolving floor, takes just a few minutes, and is quite an experience. Once at the top you’ll have the city in the palm of your hand, as well as Signal Mountain and Lion's Head, along with a view of the rock towers – the Twelve Apostles.
The pointed promontory, the Cape of Good Hope, is often mistaken by visitors as the southernmost point and described as an unsightly rock. But one could beg to differ. Cape of Good Hope is certainly not a Cape of Disappointment. In False Bay, the main attraction is Simon's Town with its colony of spectacled penguins. In Hout Bay, there's a small island of lazy seals.
In the suburb of Constantia, wine lovers will be in their element. The local wine farms offer excellent wines, but they are also rather pricey.
Not far from the village of Agulhas stands an old lighthouse and a short distance beyond it lies the southernmost point of Africa – Cape Agulhas, where the waters of the two oceans, the Indian and Atlantic, meet and mix. Two hundred and fifty kilometres away lies Antarctica. The peaceful and beautiful village is growing with more beautiful houses. A place nearby where many shipwrecks have occurred is called the shipwreck graveyard.
If you follow the Garden Route all the way to Port Elizabeth, you'll find a spectacular sight! Everywhere you look, you will see splendour. The unparalleled beauty can take your breath away for a few seconds. The places to see here are countless and capturing them all in one post is almost impossible.
From Mossel Bay to the town of George, where you can find the 'post tree' and underneath it an old shoe where sailors once left their messages. From the town it's not far to Oudtshorn, the ostrich capital of the world. Outside the town of Port Elizabeth in the Seaview Lion Park, you will see white lions and you can even have your photo taken with the little cubs. Then visit Addo NP, which is a paradise especially for elephants.
This park is one of the biggest pearls on the Garden Route. The canyon, waterfalls and the Storms River will all convince you of that. In addition, here you can see a number of suspension bridges and also the longest bridge in the whole of Africa, 254 meters long. If you're brave enough, you can jump to a depth of 216 metres. For seven seconds of fear, you'll pay 62€ and get your adrenaline pumping at full speed.
So go, experience paradise on earth for yourself and then make up your own mind about the country. And? Do you still think of South Africa as just a country full of crime?