Visiting South Africa: The Cheetah Experience

South Africa is a country very well known for its strong protection of her wildlife and endangered species with dozens of specialised parks and nature reserves across the country to protect these amazing animals who find themselves on the brink of extinction due to human activities such as poaching and land encroachment.

Most of these protected and specialised areas are properties of government, founded by the state and run by the country’s body in charge of tourism. However, there are a few run by private organisations and also non-governmental bodies.

The Cheetah Experience, found in Bloemfontein is one of such centres, founded and run as a Non-governmental organisation that seeks to protect the Cheetah population of Bloemfontein as well as other wildlife belonging to the cat family.

Among the animal population at the park include the Lions, wildcats, a Siberian tiger, leopards, meerkats and cheetahs with the cheetah’s population dominating at the centre.

While it may be categorised as a tourist centre due to the high number of visitors and tourists the centre receives regularly, Cheetah Experience is also considered a learning centre. Tourists who visit the centre are usually taken around the facility to see the animals and take some memorable pictures for their memory albums, but beyond that, the tourists are taken through a series of lessons regarding wildlife protection.

Touring South Africa: National Women’s Monument

During the Second Boer War in South Africa, an estimated 27,000 women were reported to have died in British concentration camps. Some historians and researchers put the estimated figure much higher than the official 27,000 stated by public records. This is the foundation of the famous National Women’s Monument in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Construction of the monument began in the early 1900s a few years after the Boer War had ended in 1902, and was completed and commissioned in 1913 precisely on the 16th of December that year.

The monument aims to commemorate and remember the 27,000 women and children who lost their lives while being kept in British concentration camps at the peak of the war. The standout monument at the grounds is a sculptured bronze statue depicting women and a dying child in one of the concentration camps designed by Emily Hobhouse who herself had been held in one of the concentration camps during the war.

There are also several other smaller statues and monument at the grounds and tourists are usually taken on a tour by tour guides who even double as historians and tell the history behind every monument to the visiting tourists.

The monument is free to visit grounds and is usually frequented by tourists who visit Bloemfontein for the first time.

Polokwane Art Museum: Home of South Africa’s Art

Polokwane is regarded as the home of art in South Africa, boasting of the highest number of public sculptures in the country and home to more than a thousand collections of amazing sculptures, painting and portraits.

And there is no better place to tell this story and see this works of art than the iconic Polokwane Art Museum, located in Polokwane.

Sculptors and artists make most of the artworks found in the museum in and around the city, as well as those from far away including Johannesburg and Pretoria.

While most of the artwork are modern creations compared to other artefacts in other museums which are ancient with some lasting over a hundred years, sculptures and artworks in the museum still have telling histories behind them, mostly centred on tradition and culture.

Of the artworks that abound in the museum, traditional Venda, Pedi and Tsonga craft dominate and are showcased to visiting tourists, with tour guides on standby to give historical account and meaning of each painting, sculpture or piece of art.

More exciting, the museum also puts on sale small pieces of artworks made by local craftsmen enabling visiting tourists to take home some of the craftworks after paying a small fee.

Johannesburg Zoo – South Africa

The Johannesburg Zoo was established in 1904 to serve as a natural reserve and habitat and for rare and endangered wildlife species such as elephants, lions, deer, and bushbucks while also playing an important role of enhancing tourism in the country at a time when tourism was not seen as a major economy impacting sector in South Africa.

The center currently has a land size of 200 hectares, a great expansion on the original size when it was established in 1904, making it one of South Africa’s biggest wildlife centers with a grand animal population of 2000, involving 320 different species.

Statistically, the Johannesburg Zoo has one of the most impressive visitor populations, receiving an average of 500,000 tourists annually from different parts of the world and other parts of South Africa.

Note to Tourists

Johannesburg Zoo like most tourists attractions has no breaks and works all year round including holidays, with visiting time ranging between 8:30 am to 5:30 pm even though it is advisable to visit in the morning or at noon and at worse around 3pm if you do not intend to spend the night at the reserve.

Tourists are not allowed to tour the zoo on their own and must do so under the guidance of a tour guide; this is to ensure the safety of visitors and keep them from harm’s way as some sections of the zoo are deemed a No-Go area.

For tourists who would like to spend the night at the zoo, there are accommodation facilities in the park, readily available for rent at small fees.

Current Animal Statistics

As of 2017, the zoo had precisely 2096 animals made up of 5 species of spiders, 25 fish species, 128 bird species, 47 species of reptiles and 20 species of frogs, making it one of the most densely populated reserves in South Africa.

Marakele National Park – South Africa

The Marakele National Park was established in 1994 in the Limpopo Province as an eco-friendly site where humans and animals can interact on a daily basis in one close environment..

Historically, prior to the establishment of the park, the area was known to be home to several tribes during the iron-age settlement era. Archaeological excavations have been taken place in some sections of the park to learn more about the history of these early settlers, making some sections of the part inaccessible as research activities take place.

Originally the park was named as Kransberg National Park, before the change of name to Marakele National Park a year later in 1995. Its current land size of 670 square kilometres is almost four times the original size it had begun with in 1994 when the park size stood at 150 square kilometre.

Ostriches (Struthio camelus) in early morning light, Marakele National Park, South Africa
Ostriches (Struthio camelus) in early morning light, Marakele National Park, South Africa
Protea Caffra, the Common Suger Bush, a small tree growing on the mountains in the Marakele National Park, Limpopo, South Africa
Protea Caffra, the Common Suger Bush, a small tree growing on the mountains in the Marakele National Park, Limpopo, South Africa

In terms of animal population, Marakele National Park is not one of the most populated parks in South Africa and boasts of relatively smaller animal population when compared to other national parks and reserves like the Kruger National Park and     National Park.

A handful of buffalos and about sixteen species of antelopes are found in the park, together with some 250 species of birds with the most popular of them being the Cape griffon vultures.

Tourists who usually visit the park do so for camping purposes with animal watching usually being a secondary purpose. There are dozens of tents built in a special section of the park reserved for camping purposes, and as expected thousands of people throng to these camps to enjoy some quiet natural scenic environment away from the everyday city life.

While Marakele may not be the exotic national park filled with some incredible animal population, it offers families, friends, couples and colleagues an opportunity to camping in a serene natural environment.

Mapungubwe National Park – South Africa

The Mapungubwe National Park is one of the many animal reserved parks in South Africa, located in the province of Limpopo, close to the Kolope River and about 16 km from the famous Venetia Diamond Mine.

Established in 1995, the iconic animal reserved park covers an area of 70 hectares and is among the most visited and documented attractions in Limpopo boasting of a rich and complex history that dates back to as far as the 15th century.

The park forms part of the bigger area known as the Greater Manpungubwe Transfontier Conservation Area; a cultural geographic area well known for its ancestral history with evidence of human settlement in the area dating back to some 1500 years ago.

Close to the park is another historical attraction, the Mapungubwe Hill which according to historians and archaeologists was the capital of the ancient Mapungubwe kingdom and home to the King of the tribe.

Unlike reserve parks where attractions are solely based on wildlife, the Mapungubwe National Park offers a different and unique experience to visitors as they can also make their way to the historical Hill town and see for themselves what ancient civilization was like.

The animal population within the park itself is also very impressive, with over 380 bird species taking residence in the dense forest section of the park where tall trees of different species abound.  Animals like Lions, Leopards, baboon, zebra, hyena, cheetah, giraffe, hippopotamus, rhinos and elephants can also be found in the park in large numbers while reptiles like agama, rock monitor lizard, gecko, cobra, crocodiles and python are also found in their numbers.

Most of the mammals roam from the park to neighbouring Botswana and Zimbabwe along the popular Limpopo River which lies close to the park. This is especially common when the river isn’t flooded and crossing is easy for the mammals.

The park and the entire area comprising of the river and Mapungubwe Hill have been listed by the United Nations (UN) as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

The Lion Park and Safari Walk – South Africa

The Lion Park and Safari Walk is located in the Northwest part of South Africa, precisely Johannesburg in the Gauteng province and is situated on a new 600 hectares land in the Cradle of Humankind (a paleoanthropological site).

The park is home to several wildlife animals in the canidae and cat family including Lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs and antelope. Prior to this, the reserve was solely dedicated to the housing of only Lions until a decision was taken in 2015 to introduce other Wildlife species and also relocated the animals to the Cradle of Humankind, their current location.

As of 2017, the park had an estimated 80 lions including the very rare white lion which is almost on the brink of extinction. Like most wildlife parks, the animals in the park inhabit different sections of the reserve without mingling and tourists who seek to tour the facility would have to tour these different sections if they want to catch glimpses of all the animals.

For instance, antelopes in the park are found in a section called the Antelope area where they live with other animals like zebra, impala, blesbok and warthog but are very much far away from the more dangerous carnivorous animals like the Lions and Cheetahs.

As a park that prides itself as being a modern reserve that offers great services to tourists, Lion Park boasts of some world standard and amazing facilities within the park including  restaurants, children’s playgrounds and conference centres.

With regards to interactions with animals in the park, authorities banned visitors from cub interaction in 2015 due to the dangers that came with it as spontaneous attacks by mother lionesses were recorded. This was however reintroduced a year later but under very strict supervision after it was realized that the ban on cub interaction had led to a drop in the number of visitors to the park.

Tourists are however allowed to freely have interactions with herbivorous animals like Giraffes and Zebras and even handfeed them with they so wish as these animals pose no danger to visitors while being very friendly towards humans in general.

Top things to do at the incredible V & A Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa

You can’t list the most beautiful places in South Africa and leave out the incredible and amazing Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town, there is no worse crime against humanity than that literally.

The iconic V & A Waterfront situated just below the Signal Hill and surrounded by the waters of the Table Bay defines South Africa’s exquisite tourism sector and ranks among the best places to visit in the world, with the ability to go head to head with famed destinations like the Sentosa in Singapore.

On a normal day at the V & A Waterfront, thousands of people from all walks of life fill the venue to share memorable moments with families and enjoy some amazing dishes at the restaurants found at the venue. There are also a host of shopping centres and pubs at the venue for those who want to enjoy some memorable shopping experience or grab a drink with a stranger or a pal.

Two Oceans Aquarium

This is perhaps the most loved attraction at the V & A Waterfront, with more than half of visitors making their way to the Two Oceans Aquarium before leaving the venue. The attraction is sited under the waters which surrounds the V & A Waterfront and is home to aquatic animals. Built with the highest technological and architectural standard, the aquatic animals are carefully caged within a special zone made under the water to create some sort of underwater tourist attraction. Visitors visit this iocnic aquarium through a special tunnel which safely carries them from the surface to below the water where the animals. While in the tunnel, tourists watch these beautiful creatures swim and play in their enclosed cage.

Harbour Cruise

For the lovers of Luxury, there is always something for you at V & A waterfront and one of such treat is the Harbour Cruise offered by cruising companies at the venue. The companies offer visitors a wide range of cruising offers to choose from, depending on taste and how much one has to spend. For instance, the Peroni catamaran’s harbor cruise is touted to be the most expensive and comes with extra luxury such as expensive champagnes which other cruises do not offer. Whichever offer you settle on, the cruise will take you on an unforgettable safari around of the location and could go as far as close to Robben Island and the Blouberg Beach.

Cape Town Diamond Museums

Another historical attraction at the V & A Waterfront which is a favourite for most tourists and among the most visited attractions at the facility.  The Cape Town Diamond Museums keeps historical artefacts related to the mining of diamond South Africa. These artefacts range from the first set of mining gears that were used when diamonds were first discovered in South Africa in 1867. Aside that you will also learn into details the history of Diamond mining in South Africa, right from the 19th century when the precious mineral was discovered to the present day and how the mineral continues to change the fortunes and history of South Africa. For the curious mind, and those always looking forward to learn something new with regards to history, there is no better attraction at the V & A than the Cape Town Diamond Museum.

Watershed

This is the art and cultural hub of V & A Waterfront, where beautiful works of South African art and crafts can be purchased, albeit at a very high cost.  With over 150 individual shopping spaces and centres available within the Watershed, one is sure to fins whatever art and craft piece of work he or she is looking for.  Visiting tourists who come from other countries usually patronize the Watershed to purchase some traditional South African artworks to take back home to their people. And oh, the Watershed is not all about purchasing artwork, there is also the live entertainment shows and exhibitions which take place at the watershed’s Jubilee Exhibition Hall and is open to all visiting tourists.

The Incredible Helicopter Tour

Okay, I know this may not exactly qualify as an attraction, but the incredible helicopter tour is one of the most memorable activities to engage in at the V & A Waterfront. Two helicopter ride service providers, the NAC Helicopters and Cape Town Helicopters offer visitors an opportunity to take a 15-minute flight tour of the city in helicopters and view the entire landscape of Cape Town and admire the beauty of the city. Tourists can also opt for the 50 minutes tour which goes as far as the Cape Peninsula and the Cape of Good Hope. Usually described by tourists as the best and most unforgettable experience at the V & A Waterfront, the helicopter ride is something you definitely wouldn’t want to miss out when you visit the venue.

 

Visiting South Africa: Kruger National Park

South Africa is statistically Africa’s most visited country in terms of tourism and entertainment, hosting well over a million tourists every year.

This feat however did not come on a silver platter for the Southern African country, it took them decades of conscious and sturdy effort to achieve the feat and today ranks among the best destinations for tourists.

With so many attractions to pick from, visiting S.A as a tourist as a dream for many especially those living in other parts of the African continent. One such attraction tourist can choose to visit among the lot is he iconic Kruger national park.

The Kruger National Park stretches across the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces of South Africa and is recognized as one of the largest wildlife parks in Africa covering a land size of 19,485 kilometre square.

The park was first established in 1926 as South Africa’s first national park during the Apartheid era to serve as a special reserved area for endangered species that were at the risk of extinction if not protected.

Since then the park has grown in popularity to become Africa’s prime animal reserve, receiving millions of visitors every year. The popularity of the park reached its peak in 2004 when it received an estimated 1.3million visitors in the course of the year, but has since then managed to maintain and improve upon the number.

The animal population in the park is also among the most impressive in Africa, with over 300 different species of animals, mostly endangered species living harmoniously in the park, most common among them being the lions, zebras, Girrafe, Deer, Cheetahs, Leopards and elephants.

Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii) ewe near Kruger National Park
Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii) ewe near Kruger National Park
Leopard on the rocks in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Leopard on the rocks in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Zebra with a baby in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Zebra with a baby in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Kruger National park aside its animal population is also home to about 300 archaeological sites which gives credence to the fact that before modern civilization and the area’s conversion to a reserve, it used to be home to a group of people in the primitive era. Visiting tourists are given access to visit these historical archaeological sites and learn a thing or two about history related to the park.

In fact it is very rare to see rare for tourists to visit South Africa and not make a trip to the Kruger National Park, showing just how important the reserve is to the South African tourism sector.

The reserve is opened to all and sundry  but strictly protected from activities such as poaching with the South African government taken stringent measures such as jail time for people found to be engaging in such activities in the park.

Inside South Africa: The Infamous Robben Island

Perhaps the most iconic Island and place in Africa, Robben Island is a place of history which many would like to forget.  Place that reminds the people of South Africa of its dark past and reminds the world of the atrocities committed by humans against fellow humans, and most importantly also teaches us the art of persevering and never giving up no matter the odds against you.

Robben Island’s history is perhaps already well known b most people on the continent as it was where South Africa’s first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela was held a prisoner for twenty seven years as a punishment for fighting against the established Apartheid system.

The Island during the infamous White Apartheid system of governance was used to keep political prisoners captive. Leaders of the ANC who were responsible for fighting against the system were arrested and taken to the small Island to rot away in dungeons and cells.

Some of the most popular political figures who spent time behind bar on the island included Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma, with the latter going ahead to become president in recent memory.

After the fall OF apartheid IN 1994, and the eventual release of all the political prisoners held on the island, the place has been converted into a historical site with the Island’s prison serving as a museum where visiting tourists can familiarize themselves with the history of South Africa.

The Island is accessible to all and sundry and is mostly visited by foreigners who travel to Cape Town for tourism and site seeing. It is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

Transportation to the Island is through a ferry from the shores of Cape Town and takes an average of  five hours to reach the Island. On the coast of Cape Town, ferry trips to the Island abounds as thousands of tourist visit the Island every day.