Meet South Africa with Michaela Strachan

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ichaela Strachan knows a thing or two about cinematic scenery and bucket-list wildlife. In her career as a wildlife presenter, she has travelled the globe, filming animals and conservation projects. She is also a long-time South African resident, calling the country home for 20 years.

So, who better than Michaela to show you around South Africa, highlighting five unmissable regions and their feathered and four-legged locals? This is your pocket-sized guide, packed with insider tips. Want to see Michaela in action? Watch our five mini films, shot in South Africa’s most amazing locations, from the comfort of your sofa. Enjoy!

WELCOME TO JO’BURG South African adventures begin in vibrant Johannesburg, an 11-hour direct flight from the UK. The beating heart of South Africa is famous for its thriving food and drinks scene, arty vibes and rich heritage. Pause a while to soak up the city’s unique spirit before adventuring further afield: Johannesburg is a great stepping-stone for safari thrills, cultural lures and wild encounters. If it’s incredible views you’re after, get up early for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over majestic Magaliesberg Mountain, the second-oldest mountain range in the world.











Where the wild things are.


ollow in Michaela’s footsteps and swap the Kruger National Park for something lesser known, but equally rewarding: Madikwe, South Africa’s 680km2 ‘diamond in the rough’.


thriving population of 86 mammals, 350 bird species and 104 varieties of trees all exist in a completely malaria-free environment.

This rugged gem, one of the country’s biggest game reserves, stretches north from the small town of Groot-Marico up to the Botswana border, about a 3.5-hour drive from Jo’burg. Formerly farming land, this national park (and conservation success story) encompasses vast, open plains of grasslands, woodlands, rocky outcrops and mountains. Madikwe Game Reserve’s

Yep, the Big Five are here, but Madikwe is particularly famous for its wild, ‘painted’ dogs, named for their distinctive, mottled markings. Cheetahs, bachelor impalas, elephants and lions can also be sighted – and don’t forget the Little 5, including the tiny leopard tortoise. There’s no need to head home when your safari ends: spend the night at one of Madikwe’s lodges, with options for all budgets. Admire the diverse local wildlife and plant life – with added mod cons.


WIld dogs





MICHAELA’S TOP TIPS ‘To make the most of Cape Town, get up early! Table Mountain dominates the landscape – and you’ve got to get to the top! For the fit and adventurous, I recommend hiking up; Platteklip Gorge is the most straightforward way to do it. There are many different routes to get to the top; for the longer ones, I recommend going with a guide. Of course, you don’t have to hike; weatherpermitting, you can let the cable car whisk you right up.’

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CAPE TOWN Meet the Mother City.


ape Town is the pearl in the crown of the Western Cape. The Mother City is perched on a peninsula beneath gargantuan Table Mountain, South Africa’s most-photographed landscape. After your morning hike up the Table, enjoy a hearty breakfast at Bay Harbour Market, packed with food and craft stalls, and abuzz with live music at lunchtime. A city with penguins? Cape Town never ceases to amaze. Admire African penguins at beautiful Boulders Beach or the Stony Point Nature Reserve on Betty’s Bay. The wildlife thrills continue on Duiker Island, nicknamed Seal Island for obvious reasons. Hop on a boat cruise from nearby Hout Bay to see the fur seals and seabirds up close.

Immersed in culture and history, Cape Town is one of the country’s three capital cities. Its history is inextricably linked to the struggle of apartheid in South Africa, with many visible reminders throughout the city. Visit Robben Island in Table Bay and see Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in incarceration. Take a walk to District Six and the Company’s Garden to see the scars that remain.

Penguins at Boulders Beach


From political history to adrenaline… Cape Town is the word’s adventure capital, so visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to heart-quickening pursuits. Try zip-lining, gliding, abseiling, sandboarding, windsurfing and more. For something a little more grounded, relax in the restaurants, cafés and bars, many of which also offer live music and traditional dancing performances. Toast your South African adventures with some world-class wine – Michaela’s favourite chardonnay, perhaps? Cheers – or ‘gesondheid!’ in Afrikaans!



KWAZULU -NATAL Welcome to the Zulu Kingdom.


waZulu-Natal (KZN for short) is in the country’s southeast, with a long, Indian Ocean shoreline and beaches that lure surfers and sunbathers alike. This is the proud Zulu Kingdom and the birthplace of many notable figures in South Africa’s history. Spend some time in Durban, the province’s largest city, absorbing the rich cultural mix. Close to Durban, visit the historic Battlefields, where the Zulus fought the Boers and the Brits, and enjoy a cultural tour at Ghost Mountain, with Zulu dancing and traditional stick-fighting. Natural highs abound: KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s most ecologically diverse province. Discover two Unesco World Heritage Sites: the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The Drakensberg is South |

Africa’s highest mountain range, offering prime hiking, nature reserves with waterfalls and diverse wildlife, and ancient rock art sites. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a protected marine area, home to some of South Africa’s best birdlife. Visit Sodwana Bay for world-class diving and snorkelling. Between November and January, watch leatherbacks and loggerheads laying their precious eggs on the sun-warmed sand at night…


MICHAELA’S TOP TIPS ‘A tour of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline is an easy trip and it’s so full of variety, from the choices of safaris to the birding, to the lakes, to the culture and fabulous lodges. If you come to the lakes, don’t miss a boat trip on Lake St. Lucia to see the famous hippos. A thousand of them live in family groups known as pods. At nighttime they’re active, munching the grass, but by day, they do what hippos do best, wallowing in the shallows. As well as hippos, the lake is home to crocodiles and more than 360 species of birds.’

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MICHAELA’S TOP TIPS ‘Lace up your hiking boots for the magnificent Otter Trail, the oldest and most iconic hiking route in South Africa. Opened in 1968, the trail runs along the remarkable coastline between the Storms River mouth and Nature’s Valley. The route is named after the shy and elusive Cape Clawless otter, which inhabits the streams and estuaries of the South African coast.’ ‘Tsitsikamma National Park takes in deep gorges and a marine reserve and is a paradise for those who like gentle activity, whether that’s biking, kayaking or hiking.’

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GARDEN ROUTE Colour-packed coastal adventures.


outh Africa’s cinematic Garden Route takes its name from the Garden Route National Park that it covers – as well as its diverse flora, fauna and landscapes. The route stretches all the way from Storms River to Mossel Bay, flanked by the Indian Ocean and the cloud-poking mountain ranges of Tsitsikamma and Outeniqua. In addition to jaw-dropping scenery, this epic coastal drive offers outdoor adventures galore, from hiking thrills and whale-watching tours to labyrinthine caves and unspoiled sandy beaches.

National Park. Hike along the well-known otter trail, or try canopy tours, biking, blackwater rafting, tubing, kloofing, bungeejumping and Segway tours. If it’s R&R you’re after, take a catamaran trip at Knysna to admire the Knysna Heads: impressive sandstone headlands. Explore Plettenberg’s beaches and enjoy the Garden Route’s famous hospitality at the region’s excellent restaurants and bars, many offering ravishing views. Speaking of views, scale Swartberg Pass to lord it over the surrounding landscapes. On your way back ‘down’, explore the Cango Caves, whose rock formations date back 20-million years. Last but not least, include a night in Oudtshoorn and embark on South Africa’s ‘secret safari’, starring… meerkats! Look out for the meerkat’s arch nemesis: the juvenile chanting goshawk.


Dust off your surfboard for Jeffreys Bay and St. Francis Bay, where the classic Sixties surf film Endless Summer was filmed. Continue the liquid thrills by kayaking on Storms River, which winds through rugged Tsitsikamma




Peak satisfaction.


ordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Atlantic to the west, the Western Cape is renowned for its astonishing natural beauty. You’ll find more mountains here than in any other province, alongside windswept beaches, emerald winelands (this is one of South Africa’s largest and most exciting wine regions), ancient woodlands and heritage cities. Paternoster, one of the oldest fishing villages along the west coast, is famous for its picturesque, sugar-cube-white fishing cottages. Go exploring on an e-bike, whose motors and fat tyres make cycling on sand easy. Join a bike tour that takes in beaches and wildlife at the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, pausing to admire the Cape fur seals. For a closer look, kayak |

towards them; if you time things right, you might spot dolphins and whales. You’ll certainly clap eyes on the Cape Columbine lighthouse, the first sighted by ships sailing the seas from South America and Europe. Discover the West Coast National Park, a pristine nature reserve that stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan. Enjoy biking, birdwatching, game-spotting and whale-watching surrounded by platinum sand dunes, rare fynbos, green wetlands and crystalline waves.

Western Cape Beaches


Cederberg Mountain

Wine Tasting

‘Visit the dramatic Cederberg mountains for their wind-carved rock formations, iconic red sandstone, endless scenes of wilderness and utter tranquility. Spend the night here: pick from a range of options, from hip hostels to incredible hotels such as Kagga Kamma, whose Cave Suites are set in the rocks. Admire ancient rock art in the local caves; by night, enjoy dazzling star-gazing.’ ‘For something a little stronger, swing south towards the towns of Tulbagh, Wellington, Ceres, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, which form the backbone of the Cape Winelands, the centre of South Africa’s wine industry.’

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Know before you go... Essential tips and info for your trip, courtesy of Trailfinders, the travel experts. Time Zone GMT+2 (one hour in our summer; two hours in our winter). No jet lag! Currency The Pound and the Euro remain strong against the Rand (local currency). Dine out in style (including wine) for less than £20 per person! ATM’s are frequently available, cards are accepted widely, but always carry cash for tipping and small purchases. Language South Africa has 11 official languages – however, English is widely spoken. Best time to visit South Africa is a year-round destination, with the climate varying all over the country. Summer is from December to March, making the south-west hot and dry. Winter brings mild, dry temperatures to the tropical north coast and prime gameviewing in the Kruger. Tipping South Africa is similar to the UK: tip 10–15% in restaurants and for tour guides. Flight Time Approximately 11 hours from the UK to Johannesburg on direct flights with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. For indirect flights, try Emirates, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Luftansa, Air France, Swiss International and TAP. Visa Information British and Irish citizens don’t need to obtain a visa for South Africa for stays of up to 90 days. Requirements for children travelling through South Africa ports might apply, check full information at

Getting Around Fly Drive South Africa drives on the left side of the road, just like in the UK, making self-drive a popular option for British visitors. It’s one of the most affordable options and one of the best ways to experience the ever-changing scenery. Transfers Pre-booked transfers are a relaxing way of seeing the country. Taxis Popular taxi apps - such as Uber - are great for getting around the cities at a low cost. Escorted Tour or Small Group Adventure Ask your Trailfinders travel consultant for more details. Responsible travel • If travelling to a game reserve or national park, book a walking safari • Include a guided visit to local communities within your itinerary • Stop by local craft stalls, shebeens and foods stands • Stay in a traditional homestead or dine with locals • Tip your guides directly • Bring a reusable water bottle; tap water is safe to drink • Avoid experiences that offer human interaction with wildlife • Sightsee the area you are visiting on an eco-bike



APRIL 2022