What to do in South Africa
South Africa, often dubbed ‘The World in One Country,’ beckons explorers with its remarkable diversity. This nation boasts a plethora of natural wonders – national parks, mountains, rivers, beaches, and vibrant cities – offering weeks of adventure. Adrenaline seekers find thrills in outdoor pursuits, including hiking, swimming, and biking. South Africa’s rich cultural tapestry, known as the ‘Rainbow Nation,’ is shaped by colonial history, indigenous tribes, apartheid’s legacy, and global migration. To delve into its heritage, consider guided tours that unveil the country’s cuisine, wine, and history, making it an enriching journey for all.
South Africa, a premier wildlife-watching destination, beckons visitors to experience safaris. Lodges typically offer morning and afternoon game drives in custom 4x4s with expert guides and trackers. Some reserves provide walking safaris for a unique, up-close encounter with wildlife.
South Africa, famous for the Big Five, is also a prime destination for whale watching. Hermanus, an hour from Cape Town, is the world’s whale-watching hub. View Southern Right whales from Walker Bay’s stunning clifftops. Explore our South Africa Whale Watching guide for details.
South Africa’s iconic Cape Winelands, an hour from Cape Town, boasts the country’s oldest wine route with nearly 150 wine farms and historic Cape Dutch-style estates. Franschhoek, a gastronomic haven, offers 50+ superb wineries and numerous dining options for delectable wine and gourmet cuisine pairings. Explore our SA Wine Guide for details.
Numerous lodges offer stargazing experiences. Guides lead you to elevated platforms in the park, featuring a bed and bathroom, for a night immersed in nature’s sounds and starry skies. Jaci’s Safari Lodge offers a remarkable star bed overlooking the river.
Sample Local South African Food
South Africa’s diverse population has shaped a rich, global-influenced cuisine. Explore it through fresh seafood, street food like bunny chow, and local craft brews, best experienced on a guided Cape Town food tour.
Walk with aardvarks
In the arid Northern Cape, unique desert-adapted wildlife, like the elusive aardvark, flourishes in contrast to traditional South African reserves. Some reserves allow rare, up-close encounters, often spotted in late afternoons during colder winters, offering wildlife enthusiasts a chance to walk alongside these remarkable creatures.
Meerkats are part of the so-called Shy 5 which also includes the bat-eared fox, the aardvark, porcupine and aardwolf. Near the town of Oudtshoorn, there is a family of meerkats who are wild but are habituated and are not scared of people. You can join a guide to go out in the morning to the burrow and watch them wake up and go about their lives.
Road Trip on the Garden Route
South Africa’s renowned Garden Route spans 186 miles, offering breathtaking coastal cliffs, lush forests, idyllic beaches, lagoons, and mountain vistas, connecting Cape Town and Eastern Cape game reserves.
Hike up Table Mountain
Ascending Table Mountain is a must for adventure seekers, offering diverse routes and rewarding panoramic vistas of Cape Town, V&A Waterfront, Table Bay, Robben Island, Cape Flats, and the Cape Peninsula from the summit.
Explore a different facet of South Africa in Cape Town and Johannesburg with township tours. Guides unravel apartheid’s history and its impact on these communities, showcasing impactful projects spanning animal welfare, education, children, the elderly, and the arts.
Kayak with penguins
Boulders Beach, near Cape Town, shelters a vital colony of African Penguins, an endangered species. A guided kayak journey from Simon’s Town allows you to observe these penguins, often accompanied by playful Cape Fur seals, as they swim past you, offering an intimate wildlife encounter.
Swim with Great White Sharks
The first country to declare the great white shark a protected species, most adventure travellers don’t consider their time here complete until they’ve seen one of the giant toothy predators. This is arguably the best place to swim with great whites with multiple outfitters offering the opportunity to go down in a cage and see them up close.
Hike the Drakensberg Mountains
A hiker’s paradise, the Drakensberg Mountain Range is part of the Great Escarpment, separating the high plateaus of the interior from the lower coastal lands. There are miles and miles of trails, from easy to strenuous climbs, bringing magnificent scenery and wildlife watching opportunities, from Rainbow Gorge, one of the top day hikes to the challenging Chain Ladders trek in Northern Drakensberg.
For several months a year, it is possible to go turtle tracking in the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park in KwaZulu Natal. Female loggerhead and leatherback turtles come onto the beach to nest and lay their eggs. Approximately 60 days later the eggs hatch and the baby turtles make their way to the sea. Guests are able to go down to the beach and watch this amazing process.
Visit Robben Island
Witness some of South Africa’s checkered past by visiting Robben Island, the country’s most well-known historic site and the former location of a remote prison that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years, although it was used by everyone from the 17th-century Dutch to the South African government in the 21st century. Today the historic landmark offers tours led by former political prisoners.
Enjoy a Sunset Ocean View
With its spectacular coastal setting, sunset hour in Cape Town brings one of Mother Nature’s best shows. There are many spots that provide a perfect place to end the day with a sunset and an ocean view, including one of the world-class restaurants at the V&A Waterfront. Other options include the popular sundowner sessions at Signal Hill, with incredible views of that paragliders that take off into a fiery orange, red sky, or from the top of iconic Table Mountain.
Stand in Nelson Mandela's Cell
Embark on a catamaran journey to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in a tiny cell. A former inmate guides you through this World Heritage Site, sharing the inmates’ experiences and the island’s multifaceted history as a prison, military base, leper colony, and mental institution.
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