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TThere are well-trodden tourism paths in South Africa – and deservedly so. But there are also the little-known back roads; less travelled routes exploring intriguing aspects of the country’s past and its astounding biodiversity. These are the trips you take in a self-drive car with an open mind. Let the Open Africa website, which offers dozens of interesting routes, be your guide and inspiration.
Perhaps a West Coast kayaking trip appeals to you? Or the Ribolla Open Africa route, which showcases some of the country’s best sculptors at their homes in the hills of the Limpopo province? You may be looking for a scenic and interesting road between Bloemfontein and Kimberley, in which case the Horizon Route will alert you to the attractions and guest houses en route.
Sometimes the names of the routes alone make you dream – the Land of Legends route, and the Route of Lost Kingdoms.
There are food and wine routes, ones that showcase species like blue cranes, and others that concentrate on rock art.
Open Africa was founded in the 1990s by Noel de Villiers, who also started one of South Africa’s best-known car-hire companies. He is passionate about Africa and how this continent touches the souls of so many people.
How best to showcase it? How best to alert people to its hidden corners and wonders? These kinds of questions are behind Open Africa, which has as its tagline: 'Life-enriching journeys.'
The way it works in practice is that Open Africa identifies a potential route and then works with everyone along it – tour operators, guest houses, artisans, guides, food outlets and entrepreneurs. You make up your own itinerary, contacting the operators via their contact numbers on the route.
Open Africa have recently partnered with a tour company and launched nine set tours in Limpopo and the Northern Cape, with plans to extend this to other regions in future.
The majority of routes, by far, are in South Africa, but Open Africa has also expanded across borders to include Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and even Zambia.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0) 21 683 9639
How to get here
Self-drive – so you can explore at your own pace and create your own itinerary.
Best time to visit
Depending on which region you want to visit and what activities you are planning, the following are guidelines to bear in mind: Cape Town and the Western Cape experiences winter rainfall (June to August) and a largely dry hot summer while much of the rest of the country, including the Kruger Park area, have heavy summer thundershowers (December to March) and a dry winter period from May to October. The Garden Route and Eastern Cape, on the other hand, can experience rain at any time of year.
Things to do
Choose from any of the 58 routes on offer.
What to pack
Since much of the country is very dry, pack for weather extremes if you are heading outdoors. The summer months can be very hot, requiring a hat and sunscreen. In winter, a jacket may be enough but dress in layers since even the winter days can become warm. For all seasons, you should pack long sleeves for the evenings to ward off mosquitoes.
Where to stay
Check the Open Africa website for accommodation options along the various routes.
What to eat
The various Open Africa routes list recommended places to eat.