South Africa invariably wows visitors with its unique mix of improbable juxtapositions and beautiful contradictions. It starts with Nature’s beguiling spell. Stark mountain chains rise vertically from whale-ruled oceans; deserts and tropical rain forests are separated by slivers of rolling farmland; giant elephant herds wander through savanna that overlooks warm Indian Ocean rollers. South Africans themselves provide a marvelous celebration of individuality. This is a country with 11 official languages and a national anthem sung in four mother tongues. Meeting the locals is integral to the experience and it’s impossible not to be buoyed by their boundless resilience and laughter. Even the lion prides and rhinos seem to share this irrepressible enthusiasm.