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South Africa

 
 
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Author elsslots
Admin
#1 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 06:05 
Though being a fairly accessible country with 8 WHS, not many WH Travellers posting on this website seem to have visited South Africa.

I'll go there for 2 weeks in October, and will share my itinerary and findings here.

Itinerary
The South African WHS can roughly be divided into two clusters: 5 around Johannesburg, 3 around Cape Town (with Richtersveld being a bit of a stretch). I had planned 2 weeks for this South Africa trip, and there was a difficult choice to make: would I go for Johannesburg + Cape Town, or only Johannesburg? I choose the latter: a combination would be more hurried and only cover 7 of the WHS (Richtersveld would be too far away anyway). I decided to leave the 3 around Cape Town to combine with a future trip to Namibia, to which Cape Town is the best access from Europe.

Day 1: Flight Amsterdam - Johannesburg
Day 2: Drive to Mokopane, visit Makapansgat (part of Fossil Hominid Sites WHS)
Day 3-4: Drive to Mapungubwe, visit WHS
Day 5: Long drive southeast with overnight stop in Ermelo
Day 6-8: Drive to St. Lucia, spend two days/three nights near isimangaliso WHS
Day 9-10: Drive to Southern Drakensberg (WHS), stay in Himeville & visit Lesotho via Sani Pass tour
Day 11-12: Drive to Northern Drakensberg, stay in secluded lodge for 2 nights
Day 13: Drive northeast again to Parys
Day 14: Do a private Vredefort Dome Tour (WHS), and later in the day drive back to Johannesburg Airport

Did I miss out on any (future) TWHS?
I choose Makapansgat to cover the Fossil Hominid WHS, because of the disappointing things I had read of Sterkfontein (not that there is much to see at any hominid site around the world). Anybody been there by chance?
Have been looking into Vredefort Dome Tours. Any recommendations?

Author Colvin
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 11:19 
I've been to South Africa, but not to any inscribed World Heritage Sites. I don't know if you've been to Jo'burg before, but if you haven't, you might consider a guided tour to Kliptown in Soweto, where the Freedom Charter was signed. That site is included in the Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites TWHS. South Africa already has Robben Island as a WHS recognizing the struggles against apartheid, so I'm not sure if this TWHS nomination would be successful as a separate nomination, or whether it would be recommended as an extension to Robben Island (i.e. Hadrian's Wall being expanded to Frontiers of the Roman Empire), but I like the components of the TWHS.

Incidentally, I thought the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg was also very worthwhile, though it does not feature on any World Heritage list. I visited the day after President Obama was elected for his first term as president of the US, and everyone at the museum was very excited; I'm not sure any future visit would be quite as electric, but it made for a memorable visit. I'd highly recommend a visit to the Apartheid Museum for anyone wanting a better understanding of South African history.

Author elsslots
Admin
#3 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 11:43 | Edited by: elsslots 
Thanks, Colvin. I actually had not planned to visit the city of Johannesburg, but I still am open to juggle things around to get the best (most varied) itinerary.

People may also wonder why I drive (almost) past Kruger NP, but somehow a 'general' wildlife park doesn't appeal too much to me. I'd rather spend my time in isimangaliso & drakensberg.

Author Colvin
Partaker
#4 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 13:03 
I've been to Kruger National Park and thoroughly enjoyed the two days I spent there (including the night safari and the opportunity to see all of the Big Five). However, although Kruger is a fascinating park to visit, the same wildlife can be seen across the continent. I'm not sanguine about Kruger's chances to ever be inscribed as a WHS given the number of other great national parks across Africa that are already inscribed. It makes sense to me that you'd want to spend more time at less-frequented parks that are already WHS, and I look forward to seeing your reviews of iSimangaliso and Maloti Drakensberg.

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#5 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 13:18 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
People may also wonder why I drive (almost) past Kruger NP, but somehow a 'general' wildlife park doesn't appeal too much to me. I'd rather spend my time in isimangaliso & drakensberg.

We have visited Kruger 3 times as well as Isimangaliso (Once. It was called St Lucia in those days!). Kruger is ENORMOUS and you really need 3 days (plus)! to take in where the game is showing best across both the Northern and Southern areas - it is not a place to nip in and out of on a day trip other than simply to have "seen" it!. We always camped with our own tent which gave flexibility and placed us well inside the park at both dawn and dusk to maximize time on the trail (getting out onto the road the instant the rest camp gates open is important) and be away from the crowds. You would need to use a rest camp rondeval etc rather than a hotel outside or you would waste a lot of time if you kept going in and out. So, given your general timescale and priorities it is probably best to give it the miss.

There were of course no WHS for any of those visits (RSA's first was as late as 1999) and a lot of the Veldt area really has very little to attract apart from those so I agree it is best to reduce time spent on them to the minimum required to tick them off!

I don't know how "interested" you are in birds (or how well equipped you are to see them!) but, in all honesty, they are Isimangaliso's main attraction - Kruger of course lacks the water-based habitat. It used to be said that nearly every South African (and, in those days they meant "white" South African) home would have a copy of Roberts "Birds of Southern Africa". It is a very special bird book and could be a nice souvenir. It is cheaper in RSA than outside unless you could get a 2nd hand one in NL. Reasonably good binoculars are well worth having for viewing mammals but are really essential for birds.

RSA has been trying to "beef up" Isimangaliso in recent years to provide a more "general" wildlife experience and have re-introduced Lion and Elephant, so, in theory, all the big game is viewable even if a bit "zoo like" (We particularly felt that nearby Hluhluwe sufered from that impression). See - http://isimangaliso.com/newsflash/lion-king-returns-44-years/

Our last trip to RSA was in 1998 and no doubt the wildlife experience in all of the parks will have changed beyond recognition with vastly increased numbers of visitors which can't be good news for game viewing - but, as everywhere, you can only take in what is available nowadays! If WHS wasn't a factor and birding wasn't also a major objective then Kruger would certainly have provided the more "authentic" big game viewing. (Though we found Kgalagadi wilder still)

On an earlier trip (1986!!) we also did the jeep ride up the Sani Pass and into Lesotho - and also stayed at Himeville - the Sani Pass Hotel in a cottage for R49 pppd FULL BOARD!! (We remember it as a very pleasant experience but, as an indication of "how things were" in those days, I have just looked at the brochure which states "Servants (Non European) R9.00 daily. Own bedding required" ). The excursion was quite spectacular and provides a new country "tick" although it didn't really provide much of a "Lesotho" experience apart from the local horses and blanket sellers! (we went into the centre of Lesotho from the other side on a different visit). The road was VERY rough in those days and really needed the jeep .

There is a lot of good walking in the Drakensbergs and I think it is wise to give time to both the northern and southern areas separately. On my very first visit to RSA in 1979 I remember doing a walk up to the Tugela Falls - a treasured, if fading, memory!

Other things to see in your chosen area?
a The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria is well worth a visit to get a feel for "Afrikanerdom".
b. Pilgrims Rest and Barberton. Both tied in with RSA's mining history. Rather strangely, the Barberton area is only on RSA's T List for natural aspects - including its gold. If you had time the direct road over the mountains from Barberton across to Swaziland would get you another country and also show you the modern reality of mining. Then carry on south to Mbabane and on to the Drakensbergs?

Author elsslots
Admin
#6 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 13:59 
Colvin:
the same wildlife can be seen across the continent

That was my impression also: I've been to Serengeti and Ngorongoro already (among the highest ranked African wildlife parks), I think I have the zebra's, lions, hyena's etc covered. Also as recent as 6 months ago I was in QENP in Uganda (I know, no match, but a day was enough to see some big mammals lazing around). Somehow I find jungle more exciting

Solivagant:
Reasonably good binoculars are well worth having

I'll put them on the pack list. I just exchanged my high zoom camera for a better camera with less zoom. I'm afraid that good bird pictures are not an option anymore, and birding all-day would bore me. iSimangaliso also has whale watching, maybe I'll give a shot at that. But I still have to look really well which part of the park I'd like to visit.

Solivagant:
Swaziland would get you another country

I had looked into it, but was put off a bit as there seems not much more to see than "cultural villages". So it would be just additional driving for a country 'tick'. At the moment it doesn't seem worth it to me.

.
Solivagant:
The Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria

Seems like an easy stop on day 2, goes into the spreadsheet.

Author clyde
Partaker
#7 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 16:01 
Will you drive yourself or you'll have a driver?

Author Colvin
Partaker
#8 | Posted: 9 Jul 2016 18:05 
elsslots:
Seems like an easy stop on day 2

I never made it to Pretoria, but some of its major sites, such as the Union Buildings and Freedom Park, as well as the Palace of Justice are also included in the Human Rights, Liberation Struggle and Reconciliation: Nelson Mandela Legacy Sites TWHS. I'd still recommend a visit to Soweto and the Apartheid Museum in Jo'burg for some of the historical context, but the sites in Pretoria are also part of the story.

I'm not sure if October will be too early, but when I visited South Africa in November, the jacarandas were in bloom all across the countryside, and there are supposed to be quite a few in Pretoria. Hopefully you'll see some. Also, I don't know if you have time to read many books that take place in locales where you travel, but I very much enjoyed the South African classic Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton, which I read before my trip.

Author elsslots
Admin
#9 | Posted: 10 Jul 2016 02:10 | Edited by: elsslots 
clyde:
Will you drive yourself or you'll have a driver?

Drive myself. (except for the Sani Pass, that's an organized tour)

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#10 | Posted: 10 Jul 2016 03:25 | Edited by: Solivagant 
elsslots:
Solivagant:
Swaziland would get you another country

I had looked into it, but was put off a bit as there seems not much more to see than "cultural villages". So it would be just additional driving for a country 'tick'.

You could also pick up Swaziland's only T List site at Ngwenya! The road over to Piggs Peak from Barberton is a bit long and hard (but interesting). A much quicker way would be to enter via the main road to Mbabane from Ermelo. Ngwenya is just a few kms in. Agree - avoid "cultural villages" like the plague!!!
Roads in RSA are pretty good - but not the driving! .Vast numbers of minibuses speeding and stopping without notice. I would miss as much of Joburg as posible other, as Colvin suggests, than Soweto if that interests you. Parking is often acompanied by the un or semi official "car minding" payment threat. Things may have changed but what amazed us was the diference between town and rural security. The former a bit oppressive with high walls, wire and guards etc and the latter, where places we stayed at didn't even lock their doors!

Author elsslots
Admin
#11 | Posted: 10 Jul 2016 04:11 | Edited by: elsslots 
Solivagant:
You could also pick up Swaziland's only T List site at Ngwenya!

Ah, that's a much better reason than a country tick. Looks pretty accessible as well, and not a big detour from Ermelo.

Author Colvin
Partaker
#12 | Posted: 10 Jul 2016 09:08 
Solivagant:
Parking is often acompanied by the un or semi official "car minding" payment threat.

As of eight years ago, that was still true at many places around Jo'burg. Maybe someone who has been there more recently has more current information.

elsslots:
Looks pretty accessible as well

The MR3 between the Swaziland border and Mbabane was one of the best roads I'd ever traveled on worldwide (U.S. included) when I visited eight years ago.

Author barabanov
Partaker
#13 | Posted: 10 Jul 2016 14:24 
Dear Els,

A must-see place in Drakensberg - is Kamberg Game Pass Shelter, which is a rock shelter with very beautiful and colourful images of animals and people. It was highlight of our trip to the region in February 2015. A picture from the shelter is present in the gallery of the official WH Unesco site. This place is one of the cultural oustanding features of this site.

You will find more detailed planning information on their official website:
http://www.kznwildlife.com/kamberg-rock-art-centre.html

They have several chalets and Rock Art Center with some basic information; souvenirs and booking information for the Shelter. The Shelter itself is achieved after 3 hour hiking tour with a guide (who has the keys from the fence surrounding the shelter). The views during this walk are amazing and in you will also pass through a waterfall on the way. Rock art is very bright and beautiful. We like the place very much.

Our experience of Sani pass as of February 2015 - still very dirt and basic road, only passable with a reliable 4WD vehicle, but the overall experience is fabulous and the views from Sani Top Pub (demand a rewarding Maluti beer!!) are amazing.

Author elsslots
Admin
#14 | Posted: 11 Jul 2016 02:10 
Thanks, barabanov. I had already been looking into this and other rock art places in Drakensberg. The place (starting point for the hike) must be accessible with a 2WD car, it seems that Kamberg is?

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#15 | Posted: 11 Jul 2016 06:47 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Solivagant:
Swaziland's only T List site at Ngwenya

Normally one would expect that a small country like Swaziland with no inscribed and only 1 T List site might expect to be given a pretty "fair wind" with that first nomination. In particular the OUV is likely to be "flexibly" evaluated without too much comparison - I think of e.g San Marino and Luxembourg.
On the other hand management plans etc are still going to have to "measure up" but, generally, UNESCO seems to be trying hard to get every country to have at least 1 inscribed site

I have had a look back on the Web to try to find the latest comments about Ngwenya in a WHS context to see if any work is being done to bring it forward. In fact the opposite seems to be the case with Swaziland's monarchy and commercial interests pushing ahead with mining activities which must inevitably prevent Ngwenya gaining an inscription despite what would seem to be strong claims based on the age of its iron making remains - 42000 years

This is the most recent article I can find (Aug 2012) - http://mg.co.za/article/2012-08-31-00-swazilands-ngwenya-mine-extracts-its-ore-and-ex acts-its-price
The whole situation seems very "murky" and the implication is that it could be many years, if ever, before the mining would be finished and the site be suitable for putting forward

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