Spotting Zebra Grazing on the Mountain from the Highway (Cape Town)
Zebra, wildebeest, and various antelope graze on Table Mountain's slopes, literally minutes from the city center. Look out for them from the highway as you drive in from the airport.
Enjoying the Sunset from Table Mountain (Cape Town)
From this great vantage point, you can watch the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean, turning the Twelve Apostles a deep pink; then walk across the tabletop to the lip and watch the city lights start to twinkle and take in the dusky outline of the hinterland mountains under a moonlit sky.
Feeling Humbled at Mandela's Prison Cell (Cape Town)
Tours of Robben Island are pretty restrictive, but looking into the tiny cell where Nelson Mandela spent most of his time in prison leaves few unmoved. Further insights are provided by guides, some of whom were incarcerated at the same time as Mandela, in what came to be known as the "University of Robben Island."
Getting Caught Up in the Cape Minstrel Carnival (Cape Town)
Every new year, brightly dressed troops of "coloured" (mixed-race) men and children dance through the streets of Cape Town, singing to the quick-paced strum of banjos and the thump of drums. This tradition was inspired by American minstrels who came to the Cape in the late 1800s, but the celebration dates to 1834, when slaves took to the streets to celebrate their liberation.
Watching Whales from White Sand Dunes (Western Cape)
At De Hoop Nature Reserve's Koppie Alleen, the massive white dunes stretch deep beneath the sea, turning its blue hue into a hypnotic turquoise. This is the perfect place to watch the Southern Right whales that come to breed off the Overberg Coast -- said to offer the best land-based whale-watching in the world.
Walking through Carpets of Flowers (Northern Cape)
In this annual miracle of almost spiritual proportions, the semi-arid and seemingly barren West Coast bursts into life after the first spring rains. More than 2,600 species of flowers literally carpet the Namaqualand plains for a few weeks before subsiding back into the soil for another yearlong wait.
Visiting the World's Largest Open-Air Galleries (Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal)
The bushman (or San) paintings are one of South Africa's greatest cultural treasures and shed light on the lives, pressures, and trance experiences of Bushman shamans. Some 20,000 individual rock paintings have been recorded at 500 different cave and overhang sites between Royal Natal National Park and Bushman's Neck; one of them, Sebaayeni Cave, contains 1,146 individual paintings. Other prime sites include the main caves in Giant's Castle game reserve and Battle Cave in the Injasuti Valley. The Cederberg in the Western Cape is another treasure trove of paintings, easily accessed by overnighting at Bushmans Kloof reserve.
Jiving with Jo'burg Jollers to the Sounds of Kwaito (Gauteng)
The best place to experience the melting pot of rainbow-nation culture, and to celebrate the emergence of a cohesive national identity, is on the dance floors, grooving to kwaito, South Africa's own homegrown version of house. Look for performances (or recordings) by Brothers of Peace (B.O.P.), Mandoza, Mafikizolo, Zola, M'Du, Mzekezeke, Kabelo, Mapaputsi, Bongo Maffin, or Mzambiya.
Experiencing the Pure Exhilaration of Your First Early-Morning Game Drive (Limpopo Province, the North-West, Mpumalanga, and Botswana)
Winter (May-Aug) is considered to be the best time of the year to go on safari, as animals are the most visible. But be prepared: Rangers set off in their open-topped vehicles before dawn, when temperatures are barely above zero.
Seeing Virgin Maidens Dance the Zulu King's Reed Dance (KwaZulu-Natal)
Experience a centuries-old tradition as you join some 15,000 Zulus, many dressed in tribal gear, to watch the virgin maidens dance for the Zulu prince Gideon, who would traditionally pick a wife here.
Soaking Up Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe)
You'll never forget the sight of more than 500 million liters (130 million gallons) of water a minute thundering into the Batoka Gorge, creating soaring rainbows and a mist of drenching spray. Enjoy the view with a champagne breakfast on Livingstone Island.
Rafting the Churning Waters of the Zambezi (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)
There is absolutely nothing like hearing this mighty river pound past, drowning the guides' last-minute instructions as you plunge into swirling white waters, with such fitting names as The Muncher and Boiling Pot.
Drinking the Waters of the Delta (Okavango Delta, Botswana)
As you're poled along in your mokoro (dugout canoe), past palm-fringed islands and aquatic game, sample the life-giving waters of the delta. Scoop up a handful (keeping an eye out for crocs!) and take a sip.
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