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South Africa

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Author GaryArndt
#16 | Posted: 11 Jul 2016 10:09 
I have been to all the World Heritage Sites in South Africa save for one.

The Vredefort Dome is very underwhelming. I was there on my own in a car. The visitor center was shut down (permanently) and most everything around it was private land.

Author GaryArndt
#17 | Posted: 11 Jul 2016 10:12 
I've also been to the Swaziland tentative site. Not hard to get to, but also underwhelming. I don't forsee it being inscribed anytime soon.

FYI, if you are driving, watch your speed near the South African/Swaziland border.

Author elsslots
#18 | Posted: 28 Oct 2016 13:27 | Edited by: elsslots 
Tomorrow I'll publish my last blog post from my South Africa tour - "Vredefort in-depth".
Here are a few other thoughts about that trip:

- Driving was easy. I had brought my own SatNav (TomTom), but I could have managed without it.
- The high speed that is allowed on the minor roads took some time to get used to (120 km/h on B-roads), but after a while I was driving fast and overtaking trucks like a real South African.
- It's impossible to avoid unpaved roads: I've driven hundreds of km's on them during this trip, without a problem with my standard Toyota rental car.
- Gas stations are still all manned by pump assistants (one for each pump) - lots of cheap labour here.
Parking is often acompanied by the un or semi official "car minding" payment threat

I did not have the pleasure to experience this myself, although it surely still exists.
- And to beat Solivagant on his penny-pinching parking practices in Italy: I only paid 8 Rand (0.5 EUR) on parking fees during 2 weeks.

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!

Still completely true. My rooms in Mapungubwe and Northern Drakensberg did not even have locks. Most other places were fairly relaxed too, only my B&B in St. Lucia was in some kind of a fortress with 3 locked gates/doors to handle before one could reach your room. Don't know why that was, the town itself did not feel unsafe. I visited many remote locations on this trip without any incident or scary moments.

The country is very popular with German and Dutch tourists, also with people who have never been to Africa before or outside of Europe. It's "light" enough for that. They do travel on a very beaten track, in a kind of "white bubble". Luckily my WHS got me out of this zone, and to a site like Mapungubwe that even is not well-known with South-Africans. I met many of these tourists, and always had to explain why I skipped Kruger Park. They suggested Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park (near St. Lucia/iSimanagaliso) as an alternative: much greener than Kruger at this moment, and full of wildlife.

Author elsslots
#19 | Posted: 28 Oct 2016 13:35 | Edited by: elsslots 
None of the 5 WHS + 2 TWHS that I visited were really excellent. I liked Mapungubwe the best: the remote and quiet location, the giant baobabs, dramatic landscape, utter dryness and interesting piece of Southern African cultural history. Most of the others only have niche value - interesting enough for an educating visit but not with a "Wow"-factor.
Between those sites there isn't much else: like in Canada or Australia, you can easily spend a day driving without passing anything of interest. On one travel day for example I had to count seeing 1 ostrich and a sign to a place called 'Vlieland' (=namesake of an Island in the Dutch Wadden Sea) as the highlights of my day.

Author meltwaterfalls
#20 | Posted: 29 Oct 2016 14:26 | Edited by: meltwaterfalls 
Thanks for these post trip "wash ups" I really enjoy reading them even if they aren't of immediate practical use to me.

Likewise I've enjoyed the blog posts on South Africa, even though it has never really been high on my wish list.

Author christravelblog
#21 | Posted: 4 Jun 2022 10:15 
Quick question as I'm planning eSwatini and Lesotho (and also the few south africa sites in the area). But, my eye cought on: Mapungubwe

does it makes sense to drive north for that one? or should i visit it later from botswana? As they have a TWHS for it as well.
I'm not sure what is easier?
anyone can suggest? i can drive early from pretoria but it's 5-6 hours there and back again.
but I guess thats not worth it?

tnx in advance for any suggestions.

Author elsslots
#22 | Posted: 4 Jun 2022 10:52 | Edited by: elsslots 
does it makes sense to drive north for that one? or should i visit it later from botswana?

It's not that easy either from Botswana, it's just remote.
The charm of many of South Africa's WHS is that they are very spread out and not on the regular tourist trail.
I liked Mapungubwe and it is undoubtedly the best WHS in NE South Africa. A day trip from Pretoria with only an hour or 2 available at the site during the hottest hours of the day wouldn't do it justice.

Author christravelblog
#23 | Posted: 5 Jun 2022 01:32 
Pretoria with only an hour or 2 available at the site during the hottest hours of the day wouldn't do it justice.

Ok; so I schedule an overnight there then for sure. Tnx! I don't want to miss it as it's indeed remote and not planning soon again that area.

Author elsslots
#24 | Posted: 31 Aug 2022 22:13 
Good to have this here as well:
"The three new proposals received include Bushman's Kloof Rock Painting Landscape in the Western Cape (Cultural site), Phoenix Settlement in KwaZulu-Natal (Cultural site) and Rhodes Building in the Eastern Cape (Cultural site)."

Author Solivagant
#25 | Posted: 1 Sep 2022 02:44 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Rhodes Building in the Eastern Cape

I have been trying to confirm what this might be and, after many searches, have failed to find anything specifically called "Rhodes Building" in the Eastern Cape. This Web site describes the process adopted by RSA to update its T List - but I can't find a list of submissions actually made.

a. There is a "Mandela Rhodes Building" - once called "St Georges Hall" - in Capetown - wrong place and wrong name
b. There is a "Rhodes University" in Grahamstown - in the Eastern Cape. It is so named becuase it was funded by the Rhodes Trust. It dates from 1904 but is only the 6th oldest university in RSA and its buildings neither contain a single building titled "Rhodes Building" nor, as a whole seem particularly significant.
c. There is a village called "Rhodes" in the Eastern Cape. This village has been designated a "Heritage Area" and I have discovered this Web Site which discusses the village's OUV as a potential WHS - it has clearly taken part in the 2021/2 RSA T List update exercise. . However it also states "In August 2022, the South African World Heritage Convention Committee (SAWHCC) indicated that Rhodes Village did not meet the Unesco criteria for world heritage sites of global importance, and would not be considered for inscription on future Tentative Lists, South Africa. These pages remain on the blog as evidence of the application, and for general information."

Re-reading the widely (and exactly!) copied press release about the update conclusions, it states that "three new proposals and five existing sites were considered." followed by "only two of the seven were accepted for inclusion on the tentative list.". Well 3 + 5 = 8 in my arithmetic. But it does seem that RSA is going forward until its next review with a T List of only 2 sites and that the "Rhodes Building" proposal refers to the "Rhodes Village Conservation area".

RSA is being remarkably "abstemious" in having a T List of only 2 sites!!! Certain countries seem to pack their Lists as full as possible and even less "expansive" ones than e.g China, Iran and Turkey, aim to maintain a list of around 10 candidates replenished every 10 years One might have thought that the country would have had more "potential" - I wonder why all the others were rejected??? But this approach does at least permit a concentration on actually getting them inscribed.

I am particularly surprised (and disappointed) with the removal of the "Succulant Karoo" entry. This is one of the "priority" natural sites for inscription in Africa identified by IUCN in its report of April 2020. (see Site Q on page 51 of the report). Coincidentally I have just been digitizing my photos of the Namaqualand Flowers from a visit in Aug 1998 - a magnificent and worthy natural site. See here. But RSA seems to want to present just 2 aspects of itself - "Anti-Apartheid Struggle" and "Early Humans" - both of which categories are already represented on its inscribed list. One can understand that, perhaps, the very name of "Rhodes" - the arch coloniser - is too much for RSA to have on its inscribed list. But surely a "colonial" rural village/town somewhere in the country justifies inscription? Pilgrims Rest has already been discarded. And then why isn't RSA active with the transnational Moravian nomination - see this?? Among others I can't remember off hand, we have visited both Elim and Genadendal - either or both seem to tick plenty of boxes. African countries complain about under representation but even when they have an open goal in the form of the Succulant Karoo, for which IUCN would be likely to do everything it could to assist nomination and inscription - they fail to "score"!

Author elsslots
#26 | Posted: 1 Sep 2022 07:39 
Thanks for the research, Solivagant!
Just a small addition: the Succulent Karoo landscape is still on Namibia's T List (it was meant as a transnational site). Wonder how that will be impacted.

Author sveinh
#27 | Posted: 4 Sep 2022 03:59 | Edited by: sveinh 
Itinerary South Africa (with Eswatini, Lesotho and a the southeast corner of Namibia)

The third and final country in our African trip was a road trip (no helpers, extra drivers/guides). It was 23 days self-drive by 4x4 vehicle. The drive was a bit more than 7000 km. Very few stretches require a 4x4, but we've fallen in love with this way of travelling so whenever we feel it's necessary to rent this kind of vehicle, we use it for what it's worth. It's great fun! You should try it! It's our third time now (Namibia/Botswana, Iceland and now in South Africa). The first time I was a bit anxious (although Randi is less anxious than me), I didn't know what the vehicle was good for. Now I feel somewhat confident.
Focus was on all the 10 current sites in the country, but we also managed 5 tentative sites (although 2 of them are by now former tent).
The trip could have been done in less than 23 days (for instance like 20 days), but as we like to have the "freedom" of doing things as we go, we book the places to stay overnight as late as possible. The overnights in San Parks are different though. You must book up front. So those bookings roughly made our itinerary.
A South African sim card is recommended, but (as everybody knows) it doesn't work outside South Africa, meaning it doesn't work in Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia. In the north-western corner of South Africa, it's use also is very limited. There is simply no telephone reception at all some places. That made an impact on our "order as late as possible" attitude. We had a near-miss in a place to sleep in Richtersveld.

Day 1:
Morning flight Lilongwe Malawi - OR Tambo airport Jo'burg
Drive Jo'burg – Sterkfontain
Visit Fossil Homonoid Sites Sterkfontein WHS
Drive Sterkfontein – Parys and overnight in Mistique Guesthouse
Distance 210 km

Day 2:
Visit Vredefort Dome WHS (high clearance)
Drive Parys – Makopane
Visit Fossil Homonoid Sites Makapan WHS
Drive Makopane – Polokwane and overnight in Sasavona Hotel
Distance 518 km

Day 3:
Drive Polokwane - Mapungubwe National Park
Visit Mapungubwe National Park (4x4)
Overnight in Leokwe Camp - self-service cabin (bring your own food)
Distance 280

Day 4:
Visit Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape WHS
Visit Mapungubwe National Park (4x4)
Another overnight in Leokwe Camp
Distance 62 km

Day 5:
Drive Mapungubwe – Blyde River Canyon
Visit Blyde River Canyon
Drive to Graskop and overnight in Daramane Guesthouse
Distance 503 km

Day 6:
Drive Graskop – Barberton
Visit Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain WHS
Drive Barberton - Ngwenya Eswatini
Visit Ngwenya Mines
Drive to and overnight in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Eswatini
Distance 291 km

Day 7:
Drive Mlilwane - Mkuze
Visit Mkuze Game Reserve - iSimangaliso WHS
Drive Mkuze Game Reserve to KwaNibela and overnight in Nibela Lake Lodge
Distance 331 km

Day 8:
Boat trip Lake Saint Lucia - iSimangaliso WHS
Visit Sodwana Bay - iSimangaliso WHS
Another overnight in Nibela Lake Lodge
Distance 174 km

Day 9:
Drive KwaNibela - St Lucia
Visit St Lucia Game Reserve - iSimangaliso WHS
Drive St Lucia - Durban – Balgowan
Visit Nelson Mandela Legacy Capture Site TWHS
Overnight in Granny Mouse Country House
Distance 520 km

Day 10:
Drive Granny Mouse - Kamberg Rock Art Centre
Visit Maloti Drakensberg National Park WHS (Kamberg Game Pass Centre and HighMore)
Drive to Himerville and overnight in Moorcroft Manor
Distance 200 km

Day 11:
Drive Sani Pass (Drakensberg) WHS (4x4)
Drive through Lesotho on A1 - border crossing at Maputsoe-Ficksburg – Bloemfontein and overnight in Tuscan Rose (outside Bloemfontein)
Distance 515 km

Day 12:
Drive Bloemfontein – Kimberley
Visit Kimberley
Drive Kimberley – Upington and overnight in Villa Borghesi Guesthouse
Distance 573 km

Day 13:
Drive Upington - Kgalagadi Frontier Park
Visit Khomani Cultural Landscape WHS
Overnight in Twee Riveren Camp – self-service cabin
Distance 353 km

Day 14:
Visit Khomani Cultural Landscape WHS (high clearance)
Overnight in Nossob Rest Camp – self-service cabin
Distance 208 km

Day 15:
Drive through Khomani - to Mata Mata Rest Camp - border crossing to Namibia (hight clearance)
Drive Border – Koes - Keetmanshoop - Goibib
Overnight in Goibib Mountain Lodge
Distance 754 km

Day 16:
Drive Goibib - Fish River Canyon (hight clearance)
Visit Fish River Canyon TWHS
Drive to Aussenkehr - Oranjemund - Sendelingsdrift (4x4) and overnight in Sendelingsdrift – self-service cabin
Distance 556 km

Day 17:
Visit Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (4x4)
Another overnight in Sendelingsdrift
Distance 176 km

Day 18:
Drive along the border of Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape west side to Eksteensfontein
Visit Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape WHS (4x4)
Drive Vioolsdrift - Springbok and overnight in Springbok Inn Hotel
Distance 350 km – only a 100 paved/asphalt

Day 19:
A detour visit to Goegap Nature Reserve (4x4)
Drive Springbok – Clanwilliam and overnight in Yellow Aloe Guesthouse
Distance 392 km

Day 20:
Drive through Cederberg Wilderness Area - Cape Floral WHS (high clearance)
Drive to Ceres - Cape Town
Visit Cape Town and overnight in Dysart Boutique Hotel (Waterfront)
Distance 321 km

Day 21:
Boat ride to Robben Island WHS
Visit Table Mountain, Camps Bay and Cape Town
Another overnight in Dysart Boutique Hotel
Distance 0 km (but boat ride and bus ride)

Day 22:
Drive through Table Mountain National Park - Cape Floral WHS
Visit Cape Good Hope
Drive to Constanta
Visit Early Farmsteads TWHS
Drive to near Stellenbosch and overnight in Spier Wine Farm
Distance 187 km

Day 23:
Drive to Franschhoek
Drive to Matroosfontein - Cape Town Airport
Distance 123 km
Evening flight to Doha Qatar – Oslo

Enhanced vehicle
Strictly you can do this trip without a 4x4, but a high clearance is better than a domestic car. Some adjustments have to be done though.

Vredefort Dome
It's not necessary with a 4x4, but the visit includes driving in a field and some dirt roads. A high clearance vehicle should be enough, but you might leave this driving to your local guide (if you have one)

To visit the WHS of Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape a special vehicle is not necessary. You can join a guided tour and the guide will take you to the site (daily at 7 and 10). But if you are visiting the national park by self-driving it's "another ballgame". There are different tracks to follow and some of them are 4x4 tracks, heavy ones (heavy and fun).

Barberton - Ngwenya Eswatini
The road from Barberton town and uphill is paved (with asphalt) and it's easily done by a domestic car. From "the top" you can choose to go back to Barberton but entering Eswatini (as we wanted) is different. Because of the closed border gate at Bulembu (due to covid) we had to take the dirt road along the border southwest to the Oshoek Border Post which is the border post closest to the tentative site Ngwenya Mines so a good thing really, but this road was partially bad and a 4x4 was necessary.

Sani Pass
"Are you sure you are going to drive yourself" we heard from people, and yes, we were sure.
And this stretch is iconic, but very tough. It's a 8 km drive on a stony "dry riverbed like" track steep uphill. Towards the top it even started to get icy.
By crossing the border into Lesotho there are more challenges (at least mid-July). The border crossing is at 2800 meters above sea level, but soon you will go further up! There are three mountain passes above 3000 m (the highest 3240 m). At this altitude there are lots of snow and ice. This stretch is impossible with a domestic car and even a high clearance. Maybe we would have skipped it if we knew how it would be, mostly because of the icy downhill parts (the vehicle is heavy, and it could easy loose it's grip). Luckily the downhill parts had been warmed by the sun so there was practically no ice there. It's probably better another time of the year.
This drive I think is the toughest one I ever have done!
It's of course possible to omit this stretch and go around Lesotho.

Fish River Canyon
A high clearance vehicle is recommended here.

It's mostly a sandy and almost flat national park. A high clearance vehicle would probably do the job, but there are 4x4 tracks also (which were closed when we were there).

The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape (the WHS) is part of the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park which is an enormous barren desert (but still there are vegetation) and going there is driving mostly in sand. I wouldn't go there without an 4x4.
You could go to the east side of the site, at Vioolsdrift, and hire a car and a driver (but its much more fun doing it yourself).

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