Post-Apartheid South Africa is often referred to as "the rainbow nation" -- a nation, as Mandela proclaimed, "at peace with itself and the world." Don't let the name fool you: South Africa is far from touting universal peace, love, and harmony (as is the rest of the world, for that matter). Poverty, hunger, violence, and disease are rampant throughout villages and townships and South Africa is considered as one of the most protest-rich countries in the world. But, there is some truth to its colorful moniker.
South Africa is rich with biological, geographical, and cultural diversity, with 11 official, and 8, unofficial languages; the spectrum of ethnicities, landscapes, and wildlife is astounding. Kruger National Park, Africa's oldest wildlife park, boasts a greatest variety of wildlife on the continent and is home to the Big Five of African safaris: Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, and Cape Buffalo (along with hippos, cheetahs, giraffes, and the other usual suspects).
On the other end is Capetown, S.A's second largest city (Johannesburg being the first), where you can stroll through the Cape Dutch-style historic streets, rock-climb Table Mountain, sample fine wines in the Cape Winelands, and lay out on the city's many beautiful beaches. Take a step back 40,000 years and examine the Bushmen rock paintings in the Drakensberg caves or hop on an ostrich in Oudtshoorn, a town in the Karoo desert, and go for an unforgettable ride on the tallest living birds in the world. Visit a Zulu village (try Shakaland) in the province of Kwazulu Natal; during your stay in Kwazulu Natal, be sure to check in at Durban, a warm, beautiful, and busy port city with a "Golden Mile" of protected beaches, an exotic bird park (Umgeni River Bird Park) and a curiously vast Indian populatio leading to the bustling and delicious Victoria Indian Street Market.
South Africa's spectrum of diversity extends to its culinary offerings as well. If you are a traditionalist, head to the Northern Limpopo province and grab a bowl (or three) of porridge, Vhuswa, traditional VhaVenda maize porridge, and Baobob porridge, to be specific. If you're an adventurist, you can delight in some dried, fried, or stewed Mopane worms (also known as Mashonzha)! African immigrant food has exploded in popularity -- a mix of cultures and ingredients that result in tastes that only the South African melting pot (literally) can provide.
Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and the province of Gauteng all host a plethora of restaurants and food markets that specialize in the immigrant cooking style. Now, safaris, ostrich rides, culinary adventures--all of this will cost you, but very little. South Africa may not be as cheap as other destinations on the African continent, but compared to the costs of traveling in Europe or North America, it's more than affordable. And given the bounty of attractions and variety of cultures you'll witness, you're guaranteed to discover your pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.