23 Of the Best Things to do in South Africa
South Africa, as our specialist, Anton, states, is a country that is brimming with exciting adventures and opportunities from experiencing a phenomenal safari in Kruger National Park to riding an ostrich and diving with Great White Sharks.
Here Are 23 of the Best Things to Do in South Africa
South Africa is a wonderfully diverse country, drawing visitors to its shores to experience stunning landscapes, safari adventures, pristine beaches, and vibrant cities full of friendly and welcoming locals. With 11 official languages, the melting pot of cultures present throughout the country creates a truly unique visitors’ experience. Plus, the variety of different options for food, accommodation and attractions means there’s something to suit all travel budgets and styles, including plenty for the luxury traveller. Read on for the best things to do on your trip to the Rainbow Nation.
1. Take a Big Five Safari
One of the biggest attractions in South Africa is its wildlife, thanks to the country containing the so-called big five – buffalo, lions, elephants, leopards and rhinos. Get up close and personal with these animals and more on a safari in any of the South African provinces.
A heavy favourite for safaris is Kruger National Park, widely considered one of the best wildlife reserves in the world. Kruger is home to all of the big five, along with many other iconic African animals, such as giraffes, zebras, hippos, hyenas, and cheetahs. You can either explore the region on your own or sign up for a guided tour.
2. Drive the Garden Route
One of the most popular driving itineraries in South Africa is the Garden Route, full of outstanding coastal vistas, rolling hills, forests, mountains and picturesque pools of water. The sheer amount of diversity in only 300km of landscape ensures a fascinating drive. The route stretches from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east, nestled between the Indian Ocean and the mountain ranges that sit just inland.
3. Visit Cape Town
Affectionately known as the Mother City, this vibrant, multicultural, bubbling metropolis is the most populated area in the country. Sitting at the base of the ever-impressive Table Mountain National Park, there’s a plethora of outdoor activities and natural wonders right at the city’s doorstep. Inside the city’s restaurants are an endless variety of flavours, brought to the fore by the melting pot of cultures that peacefully coexist in this beautiful port city.
4. Summit Table Mountain
Table Mountain is an icon of South Africa. Soaring above Cape Town, no trip to the city is complete without standing on the top and admiring the stunning views. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway offers a great solution to the arduous hike leading to the peak, but gives you plenty of time to enjoy the amazing views on the way up.
With a large number of different trails to choose for varying levels of fitness and countless different plant species along the way, hiking is an ideal option for nature lovers. Part of the larger Table Mountain National Park, the whole area contains unique flora and fauna that begs exploration.
5. Explore the Cape of Good Hope
Also known as Cape Point, this small section south of Cape Town in the Table Mountain National Park has amazing walking trails, taking you past secluded beaches and awesome coastline. It also offers some of the best birdwatching in the country.
6. Experience Long Street
In Cape Town, Long Street is the place to go for a bite to eat, coffee, bars, bookshops and craft markets. The street is full of old Victorian-style buildings that have long been protected by societies, architects and heritage groups. During the day, the street’s cafés are bustling with locals and travellers alike, then in the early evening the bars start to fill out before the whole street turns into a party district until the early morning.
7. Visit Boulders Penguin Colony
Also on Cape Point just south of Simons Town is Boulders Penguin Colony, named after the big boulders that separate the small coves these African penguins call home. You can watch these charming creatures strut around on the beach from the boardwalks and the viewing area. It’s not recommended to head onto the beach, as penguins have sharp beaks and will have no qualms nipping at you if they feel threatened.
8. Wander through the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Also located in Cape Town are the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, a must-see when visiting the city. Containing around 9,000 of South Africa’s 22,000 unique plants, the wide variety of flora on display here arguably makes these gardens one of the most beautiful in the world.
9. Visit the Wineries
Long, sunny summers coupled with mild, wet winters mean the mountain slopes and valleys of South Africa are prime wine country. These ideal viticulture conditions result in a rich, diverse wine culture. Route 62 is the world’s longest wine route, connecting the two port cities of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. It’s a prime target for wine lovers, who flock from across the world to sample offerings from the world-class vineyards along the way. Just keep your eyes peeled for those pesky trouble-making baboons!
10. Take a Tour to Robben Island
Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a preserved prison and memorial to the people who spent years in the cells here, including Nelson Mandela. Tours walk you through the prison where you can glance into the cells to see what life was like for Nelson Mandela and the other prisoners incarcerated here. You can also take a bus ride to various points of interest around the island, including the lime quarry where the prisoners slaved hard.
11. Delve into the Big Hole
The Big Hole is the world’s largest hand-dug hole. It gives a unique insight into what life was like for diamond miners in the town of Kimberley. Take the elevator down the shaft of the mine where the exhibition replicates the claustrophobic and scary conditions that existed for miners in the late 19th century. Don’t forget to check the outside exhibition and the guarded diamond vault, containing more than 3,500 diamonds.
12. Take a Luxury Train Ride
There’s nothing quite like idly watching the South African landscapes drift by from a luxury train, sipping on a South African red and sampling the fine cuisine served on board, especially if you’re in the divine comfort of your very own suite. Rovos Rail offers a wide range of journeys taking you all over the country in their exquisite, vintage trains. Another option for luxury train travel in South Africa is The Blue Train, famous for its 27-hour overnight journey between Pretoria and Cape Town.
13. Experience the Evolving Johannesburg
Also known as Jo’burg, or Jozi, the second biggest city in South Africa is a vibrant mix of cultures and has a thriving art, music and food scene. The city is rapidly evolving. What used to be perceived as a crime-riddled city has turned its reputation around with the younger generation reclaiming the city and developing the centre into something that’s both cool and creative – Maboneng is one such neighbourhood. Visit Jo’burg to experience the distinct undercurrents of rejuvenation and restoration that are pumping through the city and its population.
14. Dive with Great White Sharks
For the adrenaline junkies, book a tour to go diving with one of the ocean’s most infamous predators – great white sharks. Safe behind the bars of a cage as you’re lowered into the water, the sharks will be teeming around you as they feed on chowder thrown into the ocean by your guides to attract them, the recipes of which are a closely guarded industry secret. This is the closest you’ll ever get to these fearsome creatures and is an experience of a lifetime.
15. Ride an Ostrich
Not many people in this world can say that they’ve ridden an ostrich, but in South Africa it is a readily available activity for brave souls who wish to try something really unique. Learn about the biggest bird in the world at an Ostrich Show Farm, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can hop on one for a ride.
16. Take in the Country’s History at the Apartheid Museum
Travelling to South Africa, it’s almost impossible not to learn sobering details of the country’s all-too-recent past. The Apartheid Museum, located in Johannesburg, delves into the racial segregation and discrimination present in South Africa between 1948 and 1991, coming into law after an all-white National Party gained power in the government. Exhibits take you through the emotional journey, giving you an insight into what life was like and how the majority of people fought against the law.
17. Undertake a Wetlands Safari at St. Lucia
Take a river cruise in St. Lucia, where you’ll be able to spot crocodiles and hippos in the water. For the more adventurous, there’s an option to go kayaking down the river instead, which definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. Choose an overnight safari to experience the bush come alive in the dead of the night. As the park is on the coast, you can also go in search of turtles on the beach.
18. Experience a Zulu Cultural Ceremony
In February, September and October, you can organise a visit to Zululand in the east of South Africa to watch one of the ceremonies on their cultural calendar. It’s a true experience of African spirituality, involving old stories, snakes, reed dances and more. If you visit outside these ceremonial months, you can opt to attend a Zulu wedding or visit a local’s homestead instead.
19. Get Your Adrenaline Pumping
While a lot of people think of Queenstown in New Zealand as the adventure capital of the world, South Africa definitely deserves some consideration. Along the famed Garden Route are a number of different adventure companies, giving you the opportunity to fly over treetops on a swing or a zip line, go quad biking, canoeing, and much, much more. Don’t forget to swallow your fear and experience the Bloukrans Bungee, the world’s highest bungee jump.
20. Visit Durban for Curries and Seafood
South Africa’s third largest city, Durban is the biggest and busiest port in sub-Saharan Africa and home to the largest population of Indian people outside of India. Ever since the city’s redevelopment for the 2010 World Cup, it has gained a lot of attention for its beauty. The Golden Mile waterfront was renovated into something really special, and South Africans from all walks of life flock here to enjoy the golden beaches, jog along the waterfront, and kick back and relax with some sundowners. Durban is home to the uShaka Marine World, a water park and aquarium situated on the Golden Mile. And you can’t leave town without sampling some of the delicious local curries and seafood.
21. Learn to Surf
One of the best ways to take advantage of the stunning beaches along the coast of South Africa is by going out for a surf. Often devoid of people, you can be confident that no one is laughing at your efforts, but with some of the best conditions in the world for learning to surf you should be up and standing in no time. If you’re more advanced, there are plenty of more challenging swells to conquer along the picturesque coastline.
22. Experience the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountains
Lying on the boundary of South Africa and Lesotho are the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Mountains, providing some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Sweeping mountains soar into the sky, table-topped behemoths that hold dominion over deep valleys of lush green. The highest mountain ranges in South Africa, you can explore this World Heritage Site through hiking tours or by partaking in a number of different outdoor recreational activities, such as fishing, kayaking, four-wheel driving, swimming, and even balloon rides over hidden valleys.
23. Meet the Locals in Port Elizabeth
Another city famous for its proximity to stunning nature, beaches and African wildlife, Port Elizabeth has one thing over the other cities in the country: it’s inhabitants. Nicknamed the Friendly City, you’ll find the locals here to be some of the friendliest people you could wish to meet.
To book your luxury South African holiday and experience this wonderfully diverse destination, explore our website. With expert advice, a truly personal service and transparent pricing, we can advise you on your dream South African trip.
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