As a former inhabitant of Cape Town, I looked on with interest as I observed the South African Rand depreciate over the past few years. This has meant that the exchange rate is now 18 Rand to the Euro. Only 5 years ago, the rate hovered just below 10 Rand to the Euro – meaning that every Euro can buy you almost twice what it could a few years ago!
South Africa is a fantastic country to visit, full of natural beauty and diverse landscapes. It has a great food and wine culture, with eating out and eating outdoors part of the fabric of everyday life. In addition, it has a rich and diverse history and culture, as well as remarkable wildlife, making safari one of the big draws.
Cape Town is the perfect base from which to explore South Africa, the Rainbow Nation, named to capture the new multi-culturalism of post-apartheid Africa and the coming-together of the differing backgrounds of the South African people. It boasts Table Mountain and Robben Island as its two big attractions but also acts as a gateway to Stellenbosch and the wine region nearby, and onwards to the spectacular Garden Route, which stretches along the South Eastern Coast of the country.
Given all of the above, I thought I’d explain some of the really great reasons why you might want to visit South Africa in 2017…
1. No Jet Lag
While South Africa is quite far from Ireland, it’s only an hour ahead in its time zone, similar to Paris as it lies on the same longitude. This means that when you get there, your circadian rhythms or ‘body clock’ isn’t messed up as you’re keeping similar sleeping and waking patterns. The added benefits here are being able to appreciate the culture and scenery from the first day on arrival and also not having difficulties sleeping when you return home!
2. Easy to Travel Around
While South Africa is part of the enormous African continent, much of which is not well developed, the infrastructure here is first-rate. It’s a massive country too, but efficient and frequent flights together with plenty of low cost airlines, as well as well-maintained road infrastructure, means it’s easy to zip around from one end of the country to another, and get to all the remote and scenic parts quickly and effortlessly.
3. Big Five Game Animals
The Big Five game animals are all available to encounter on wildlife safaris in South Africa. The term Big Five is so called because these are the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot, and the most dangerous! They are the Cape buffalo, the African leopard, the White and Black Rhinoceros, the African Lion and the African elephant. From the massive Kruger International Park near Johannesburg to the smaller safari parks and game reserves around the country, there are plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse of these striking but dangerous creatures.
4. Value for Money
As mentioned above, the exchange rate really is fantastic for Europeans at the moment. A 500ml bottle of water costs about 8 Rand or roughly 50 cents (€). A coffee or cappuccino in a bar or restaurant will cost you about 18 Rand or roughly €1.15. A half-litre of domestic beer (which I can vouch is pretty tasty!) will cost about 20 Rand in a bar, just over €1! The popular local fast food chain called Steers (a bit like Burger King) will charge you 50 Rand for a Steers Combo Meal , the equivalent of €3. A meal for 2 in an average restaurant will cost about 380 Rand, about €23, and a bottle of wine in a restaurant will vary on average between R90 and R120, between €5.50-€7.34. South Africa produces lots of great wine locally so the prices are very reasonable.
A great example of the fantastic value for money South Africa can provide is the recent comparison of a similar meal at Nobu London with that of its sister restaurant in Cape Town. The multi-course Omakase menu Dinner at Nobu London costs about €125 whereas the Chef’s Special Omakase 6 course tasting menu (includes dessert) at Nobu Cape Town costs R495 – about €30!
5. Year Round Destination
While South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, it doesn’t get nearly as cold as Ireland during the winter. South Africa experiences its winter during our summer-time and vice versa but it’s a fantastic place to visit any time of the year. The country has a nice temperate climate with lots of dry, sunny days. The average maximum temperature is about 23 degrees Celsius in the winter and 30 degrees Celsius in the summer with rain falling least during the winter. Because of this, beaches are a very popular recreational ground for South Africans and tourists alike, and outdoor and adventure activities are very popular. Barbecues in South Africa are very popular and colloquially known as the ‘braai’, with local sausage or worst being a staple serving. South Africans even spend Christmas on the beach!
If you’d like to travel to South Africa, check out our popular Travel Department holiday to Cape Town, the Garden Route and Kruger Park.