A comprehensive list of events throughout South Africa can be found at www.sa-venues.com/events -- even the smallest of festivals, as well as the dates -- useful to know even if you don't want to participate in festival gatherings, as parking and accommodation can become more problematic. For a more broad-based yet specialist look at the South African calendar, take a look at the official website www.southafrica.net; choose the country "South Africa," then and click on any of the themed options (green season, beach, floral, adventure activities, and so on). For an exhaustive list of events beyond those listed here, check http://events.frommers.com, where you'll find a searchable, up-to-the-minute roster of what's happening in cities all over the world.
Cape Minstrels Carnival, Cape Town. Festive Cape Malay or "coloured" groups compete and parade, dressed in colorful outfits, through the city's streets, singing and jiving to banjo beats. Several days in January.
Spier Arts Festival, Spier Estate, Stellenbosch, Winelands. The Western Cape's premier arts festival features local and international opera, classical music, comedy, jazz, and drama at the Spier Amphitheatre. January to March.
Shakespeare Open Air Festival, Maynardville, Wynberg, Cape Town. Pack a picnic to enjoy this annual Shakespeare play performed in the Maynardville Gardens. Mid-January.
Duzi Canoe Race, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. The country's most prestigious canoeing event covers the 115km (71 miles) between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Late January.
J&B Metropolitan Horse Race, Kenilworth Race Course, Cape Town. The Western Cape's premier horse-racing event is Cape Town's excuse to party, and it attracts many of the city's socialites. Last Saturday in January or first in February.
South Africa Open, new venue every year. South Africa's golfing greats battle it out on one of the country's premier courses. Mid- or late January.
Sangoma Khekheke's Annual Snake Dance, Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal. Some 6,000 to 8,000 Zulus gather to slaughter cattle and dance under the auspices of Sangoma Khekheke. Late February.
Dance Umbrella, various venues, Johannesburg. A platform for the best contemporary choreography and dance in South Africa. Mid-February to mid-March.
Design Indaba Cape Town, Cape Town. At South Africa's premier design event, a host of international talent addresses the main conference (usually sold out), and South Africa's most talented designers hawk their wares at the Expo. It's a must for anyone looking for retail inspiration, or simply wanting to go home with a rare one-off design piece.
Cape Argus Cycle Tour, Cape Town. The largest of its kind in the world, this race attracts some 30,000 cyclists from around the world and covers 105km (65 miles) of Cape Town's most scenic routes. Second Sunday of March.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Cape Town. The best local jazz talent, joined by international greats (often including a great lineup from all over Africa), perform for enthusiastic audiences for 2 days; go to www.capetownjazzfest.com. Late March.
Klein Karoo National Arts Festival, Oudtshoorn, Western Cape. Showcases the country's best; many productions (often in Afrikaans) premier here. Predominantly drama, as well as excellent dance and music acts. End of March or early April.
Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town. This 56km (35-mile) scenic route attracts some 12,000 athletes. Easter Saturday.
Cape Times Waterfront Wine Festival, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Some 400 wines from 95 estates and wineries are represented, as well as a great selection of South Africa's finest cheeses -- this has got to be the easiest way to sample some of the culinary wonders of the Cape. Early May.
The Gourmet Festival, Cape Town. Sample the fare of the city's best chefs, with set menus aimed at the budget-conscious gourmand; take your pick from the participating restaurants on www.gourmetsa.com. Mid-May.
Prince Albert Olive Festival, Prince Albert. This 2-day festival in the rural hamlet of Prince Albert is a real treat -- a gathering of predominantly local people, unpretentious entertainment (care to join in the annual olive-pit-spitting championship?), and great food. May.
Franschhoek Literary Festival, Franschhoek. Thanks in part to the gorgeous surrounds -- Franschhoek is the Cape's most beautiful village, and the gourmet capital of the region -- this relative newcomer is already attracting some big names in literature.
Comrades Marathon, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. More than 13,000 runners participate in this 89km (55-mile) race, which started in 1921. Mid-June.
Standard Bank National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. The largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere features performances from cutting-edge to classical. Pack warm woolies. Late June to early July.
Knysna Oyster Festival, Knysna, Garden Route, Western Cape. The festival encompasses the Forest Marathon, a mountain-bike cycling tour, a regatta, a golf championship, and flea markets. First Friday to second Saturday of July.
S.A. Fashion Week, Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg. A great showcase of the abundance of new Afro-centric design talent. Late July.
Mr. Price Pro Surfing Classic, Durban beachfront. This world-class watersports- and beach-related tournament includes what is still referred to as the Gunston 500, one of the world's premier surfing events. Mid- or late July.
The Sardine Run, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Every year the east coast of South Africa is host to the greatest dive show in the world, when some three billion sardines, followed by hundreds of predators, move from the cold Atlantic to the subtropical waters of the Indian Ocean -- a migration to rival that of the Serengeti.
Namaqualand Wild Flower Season, Western and Northern Cape. From mid-August on (sometimes later, depending on rain), the semiarid West Coast is transformed into a floral paradise, with more than 2,600 species in bloom. August to October.
Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. A contemporary dance festival featuring the best of KwaZulu-Natal's considerable dance and choreography talent. Late August to early September.
Arts Alive International Festival, Johannesburg. This urban arts festival features local talent and international stars. Includes the Jazz on the Lake Concert held at Zoo Lake. Contact the Gauteng Tourism Authority (www.gauteng.net) for dates.
Whale Festival, Hermanus, Western Cape. The Whale Festival includes drama performances, an arts ramble, a crafts market, and whale-route lectures and tours. Late September to early October.
King Shaka Day Celebrations and the Zulu Kings Reed Dance, Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal. King Shaka Day sees all the Zulu heads, from Chief Buthelezi (leader of the IFP party) to Prince Gideon, dressed in full traditional gear, addressing their minions in a moving day celebrating Zulu traditions. Later in the month, some 15,000 Zulu maidens participate in the colorful Reed Dance, in which the king would traditionally choose a new wife. Prince Gideon, mindful of the AIDS crisis, uses the opportunity to address some of the issues affecting the nation today by abstaining from the tradition. Both events are highly recommended. Last week in September.
Out in Africa Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. A gay and lesbian film festival held each year in the major cities in South Africa covers the latest and best movies and documentaries available on the international circuit.
Shembe Celebrations, Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal. The prophet Shembe, the fourth successor of the first prophet, presides over a congregation of some 30,000 who gather to hear his words; Sunday, when Shembe leads the crowds into prayer-dancing, is the highlight. Last 3 weeks of October.
Turtle-tracking in Maputaland, Zululand, KwaZulu-Natal. Every year from November to January, the rare loggerhead and leatherback turtles return to the very beaches on which they were born, to nest and lay their eggs in the soft sands. The best place to witness this ancient ritual is at Rocktail Bay and Mabibi, both blessed with coral reefs and fabulous lodgings.
Mother City Queer Project, Cape Town. This masked costume ball features some 10 dance zones and costumed teams celebrating Cape Town's vibrant and creative gay culture. The best party of the year. Mid-December.
Million Dollar Golf Challenge, Sun City, North-West Province. This high-stakes tournament attracts the world's best golfers. Call Sun City at tel. 014/557-1544 for exact dates.
Appletiser Summer Sunset Concerts, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town. Start of the new season: Pack a picnic and get there by 4:30pm to grab a choice spot on the lawn before the concert starts at 5:30pm. Program runs to March.
Vortex New Year's Eve Rave Party, Grabouw, Cape Town surrounds. An almost weeklong nonstop camp-out party, where Cape Town's hippest hippies pay homage to the beat from dusk to dawn.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.