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South African Springboks talk travel

Leave ordinary behind

South Africa is no ordinary place as Lalie Ngozi, who was born and bred in the Eastern Cape Province, will attest.

Speaking at a South African Tourism event in Sydney, Ms Ngozi, Australasian General Manager for South African Tourism, explained that she wasn't aware of the beauty and appeal of her own country until she had travelled abroad and returned home.

"It's taken a bit of time for me to realise how profound the experiences that you can have in South Africa are," Ms Ngozi told NineMSN.

"I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to showcase the things I have taken for granted for a long time because they have always been on my doorstep."

A trip to a game park is a must for any tourist in South Africa, with the country famous for its "Big Five" — the lion, leopard, African elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros. Luxury lodges and tent safaris are popular accommodation options in the game parks.

"We're very much known for having the best wildlife on the continent," Ngozi said.

"I never get tired of going out of the hustle and bustle of the city, getting into a beautiful game lodge and being able to wake up in the morning and see an elephant for no reason.

"To get into a cage and dive with the sharks, it's awesome. It gives you that adrenaline rush."

Many Australians have a love affair with the beach and the sea, with Ngozi suggesting avid surfers need travel no further than South Africa's south coast when in search of the perfect wave.

"Every good surfer will know that one of the best places to surf in South Africa is Jefferys Bay in the Eastern Cape," she said.

"It is a profound shore. Durban is also good, but I would recommend Jefferys Bay for that special touch."

Patrick Lambie, a rising star for the Springboks, has lived in Durban his whole life and plays for local Super Rugby team the Sharks. Lambie, who is expected to make his Rugby World Cup debut later this year, spoke highly of his birthplace.

"Durban is a beautiful city on the east coast in Kwa-Zulu Natal," Lambie explained.

"It has beautiful beaches and boasts one of the most popular waves for surfing in the world.

"The Drakensberg Mountains are within two-hours' drive, there are game reserves within three hours. It's got a lot to offer."

The lure of new and exotic food is becoming increasingly important in travellers' minds when visiting foreign destinations, with South Africa's multi-cultural and tribal history providing several options to please the palate.

"I recommend you go to a local shebeen which is a place where we do a barbecue, which we call a braai," Ngozi said.

"The way it's done in the townships is so good. We take tourists all the time because they get to interact with the locals and they have the meat the way we normally have it.

"It is an amazing experience."

Ruan Pienaar, who has played almost 50 Tests for the Springboks, was born in Bloemfontein, has lived in Durban, and selects Cape Town as his favourite South African holiday spot — mainly for the cheese and wine.

"Cape Town is always a great place to visit. You've got Table Mountain and a lot of wine farms in Stellenbosch," Pienaar said.

"All in all it is a great country to visit."

Safety and security have been concerns for prospective travellers to South Africa, but measures put in place during the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup have improved those factors. South Africa now welcomes almost nine million tourists to its shores per year.

"I would not allow that to be a barrier," Ngozi said of security concerns.

"You would have to exercise the same amount of caution in any country you go to."

"I don't think it is justified as a determining factor to travel to South Africa."

Ngozi said South Africa has so much to offer all year round.

"Honestly, any time you go there is something worth doing."

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