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Lots more to see and do in Confed Cup's host cities

By unknown | May 12, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

An estimated 50000 overseas soccer lovers are expected to descend on South Africa in a few weeks time for the 8th Fifa Confederations Cup.

Looking forward to supporting their teams in the tournament, many will also be looking - probably for the first time - at experiencing some of the sights and sounds that our wonderful country has to offer.

Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg and Bloemfontein - the host cities - are definitely not everyone's idea of holiday destinations, but scratch beneath the surface and there is plenty to do in-between the action taking place on the pitches.

Let's take a look at it city by city - starting with Johannesburg which will be the entry point for most overseas supporters - and see what's happening to keep everyone happy.

Many foreigners associate South Africa with wildlife, and what better place to sample game in their natural environment than taking a drive to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve.

An easy 40-minute drive from central Joburg, the 1500 hectare reserve has some of the Big 5 and more than 200 varieties of birds. For those wishing to stay over, luxury chalets are available, but book early as the reserve is very popular.

To experience what Johannesburg was like from days-gone-by pop along to Gold Reef City.

For R180 you can join the Heritage Tour which includes an underground mine tour, watching gold being poured and a guided tour of the apartheid museum.

Throw in a theme park, restaurants, bars and a casino and you can see why a day at Gold Reef City might be too short to sample everything.

A fun night out - unless you are a vegetarian - is the Carnivore Restaurant situated at the Misty Hills resort in Muldersdrift.

Styled on the original Carnivore in Mombasa, Kenya, it has become a must-visit for those who enjoy red meat.

Masai tribal spears are used to hold delicacies such as pork, lamb, beef, chicken, crocodile, zebra, giraffe, impala, ostrich etc. The waiter will happily slice away to your heart's content and a range of salads, pap and potatoes are also on offer.

Dubbed "Africa's Greatest Eating Experience", it's something different. I mean, I can't imagine many Americans having eaten giraffe before!

A novel way of letting those at your table, as well as the waiters, know that you have had enough is to wave a little white flag in surrender!

Shopping will probably be high on the list of things to do for some visitors and Johannesburg has a wide selection. From malls to flea markets, from the upmarket to street vendors, it's all available.

The Oriental Plaza, within walking distance of Joburg's CBD, is an interesting place to start.

Consisting of over 300 stores - selling whatever you can think of - the Plaza has become a landmark in the predominantly Indian area of Fordsburg.

For an authentic curry, clothing, souvenirs, linen and lots, lots more, visit the Plaza.

But what's a visit to Johannesburg without a trip to Soweto!

South Africa's largest township is home to an estimated five million people and it would be a crime not to experience its unique soul.

Visit the Hector Pietersen Memorial, take a walk around Maponya Mall, dine at Wandies, have a cold beer in a shebeen and dance the night away at The Rock.

Constitution Hill in Hillbrow is another one of those must-see places of historical interest.

Previously known as the Old Fort Prison - where both former president Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi spent time - this national heritage site beautifully illustrates the painful transition from the dark days of apartheid to the new dawn of democracy. R20 gets you a guided tour of this historic site.

Whatever your choice, it's all on the doorstep of Johannesburg!

Founded in 1851, Rustenburg has the distinction of being home to the two largest platinum mines in the world, supplying an incredible 75percent of the world's demand.

But it's the Royal Bafokeng Stadium that will play host to three games during the tournament. And what a stadium it is! Seating 44000 fans, the alterations alone are estimated to have cost R350million.

After the game, why not pop along to the world-renowned Sun City for a meal and perhaps a spot of gambling in the casino.

Now 30 years old, the resort has built up a reputation over the years for fun-filled days and evenings of top-class entertainment and dining.

Adjoining Sun City is the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Covering 55000 hectares, the reserve is the fourth largest in South Africa.

Also home to the Big 5, part of the reserve is situated in a volcanic crater which dates back 1,300million years. For the adventurous, elephant rides in the wild are available along with the ultimate in thrills, a hot-air balloon ride floating over the reserve.

A visit to Art of Africa, which is situated 7km before hitting Rustenburg on the Krugersdorp road, is an ideal spot to do the tourist thing and stock up on some presents.

Soapstone carvings, wall hangings, necklaces, warthog tusks and beautifully hand-painted ostrich eggs are all on display and the prices are very reasonable ... especially if you are spending euros!

If a bit of exercise is what you are after, then a number of hiking trails - ranging from a couple of hours to five days - are available.

The daunting Magaliesberg mountain range provides the backdrop for most of the hikes and accommodation will be in self-catering chalets for those overnighting.

NEXT WEEK: We take a look at what's hot and happening in Pretoria and Bloemfontein during the Confederations Cup period.


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