South Africa is well-known for its stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife, award-winning wineries, beautiful beaches, and its own lively and cosmopolitan cities. I’ve gone to the united states twice and always leave wanting more. There’s something deeply special concerning this place.
Stretching over 2,800 kilometers (1,700 miles) and home to over 56 million people, you could easily spend months here but still not see everything. Heck, just driving in one end of the united states to the other would take several days.
Though there are a huge selection of what to see and do in South Africa, here’s a listing of what I think will be the must-see and must-do activities while you’re here:
1. Embark on a safari
A lot of people come to South Africa to be on a safari – and once and for all reason. It’s home for some of the greatest game drives on the planet and you’ll want to invest at least several nights in another of the a huge selection of national parks. There’s truly nothing beats it.
The most well-known safari destination is Kruger National Park, which includes incredible diversity and a great deal of amazing wildlife, like the “Big Five” (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceroses, and Cape buffalo).
I visited Kruger a couple of years back, and it had been everything I’d expected and more. Although you can drive yourself around the park, I actually recommend utilizing a guide because they’ll be far better at spotting animals and can also offer you heaps information on them, their habitat, and the park itself. Since that is among those “once in an eternity” experiences it’s worth spending the amount of money to obtain a knowledgeable guide.
While Kruger may be the most well-known safari destination, there are a large number of other options across South Africa. Below are a few I would recommend:
- Hluhluwe and iMfolozi National Park – Situated in the east of the united states and is known because of its rhino populations.
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – On the border with Botswana in the north, it’s known because of its black-maned lions.
- Addo Elephant National Park – Near Port Elizabeth on the south coast, that is a fantastic choice for self-drive safaris.
- Pilanesburg National Park & Game Reserve – Home to the Big 5 and is doable per day trip from Johannesburg if you’re short promptly.
Safaris are so common in South Africa that almost every price and budget is covered. Accommodation options range between budget-friendly campsites to upscale guesthouses and resorts.
2. Visit Cape Town
Cape Town may be the most popular destination in South Africa – and once and for all reason. It’s a captivating, multicultural city with lively bars, delicious food, great weather, plenty of nature and hiking nearby. As well as the city’s amazing beaches, the waterfront is bursting with things you can do aswell.
There’s too much to do in the town so have a look at this entire post I wrote on how to proceed when you are there!
3. Go Surfing
Both Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean coasts of South Africa offer world-class surfing. Jeffrey’s Bay on the south coast near Port Elizabeth may be the most well-known surfing destination in South Africa and will be offering big waves and multiple breaks.
Additionally, there are several good surfing locations near Cape Town, including Dungeons in Hout Bay and numerous others further south on the Western Cape, such as for example Long Beach.
If you’re a beginner, Durban is an excellent option for surfing lessons due to the reliable waves and tepid to warm water of the Indian Ocean. Be prepared to pay around 500 ZAR per person for a 2-3 hour lesson.
4. FIND OUT ABOUT Apartheid
You can’t visit South Africa without studying the horror of apartheid (something of institutionalized racial segregation), which cast its shadow over the united states from the 1940s completely in to the 1990s. Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg does a fantastic job of highlighting apartheid’s history and legacy.
While in Johannesburg, be go to the Constitutional Court. It stands on the webpage of a former political prison and you may tour a number of the prison ruins and find out about the countless political prisoners who were unjustly detained here.
Also, make sure you go to the District Six Museum in Cape Town. It’s a memorial to the individuals who lived in the region in the 1970s who were forced to relocate in order that white citizens could move around in. It’s both sobering and illuminating.
7. Visit Robben Island
In terms of studying apartheid, you’ll want to also plan a vacation to Robben Island. Located just four miles off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island was a maximum-security prison until 1996. Through the apartheid era, many political prisoners were delivered to Robben Island. This consists of Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years behind bars on Robben Island. The prison is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most important cultural sites in the united states.
Conditions at the prison were incredibly harsh, with many prisoners forced into hard labor in the limestone quarry. These were also designed to sleep on the stone floors of their cells with out a bed aswell.
Today, former prisoners are guides plus they reveal what life was like here during apartheid. You’ll manage to see Mandela’s cell and have a bus ride around the island to start to see the prisoner’s graveyard plus the quarry where Mandela and other prisoners were forced to work.
Ferries operate three times a day, starting at 9am (a 4th ferry operates through the summer months). Admission is 320 ZAR for adults and 200 ZAR for anybody under 18, which include the ferry ride. Be prepared to spend at least four hours here (like the tour and getting to/from the island).
5. Hike the Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg region close to the east coast houses the best mountain range in the united states, with rugged, green peaks, sandstone cliffs, and deep valleys. There are various trails, which range from casual walks to strenuous climbs and a lot of options for both day hikes and multi-day hikes. A number of the popular routes are the following:
- Rainbow Gorge: Easy and beautiful two-hour trail in the Cathedral Peak area.
- Ploughman’s Kop: A half-day trail with a steep climb, but beautiful rock pools on the way so you can cool-down with a dip.
- Chain Ladders Hike: A challenging one-day hike, including ladders mounted on the rock face.
- Cathedral Peak: Best climbed with helpful information, this hike could be split across two days with a night spent camping in a cave to split up the hikes.
- Giant’s Cup Trail: Typically done a five-day hike, however, not overly strenuous.
6. See African Penguins
Area of the Table Mountain National Park and a brief drive from Cape Town, the Boulders Penguin Colony houses thousands of African penguins. (Fun fact: they’re also referred to as jackass penguins, as the noises they make appear to be a donkey braying.)
Unfortunately, they’re an endangered species due to human impacts like pollution, oil spills, and habitat destruction. Because of this, you aren’t permitted to walk on the beach where in fact the penguins breed nevertheless, you can observe them from the nearby viewing platforms. Gleam raised boardwalk that starts at the Boulders Visitor Centre that will let you get right up near to the penguins. Just understand that they are wildlife and the beach is their house, not yours. Make sure you keep your distance and don’t make an effort to feed them or pet them. As cute because they are, they’re still wildlife.
8. Have a Road Trip
South Africa can be an awesome road trip destination. The most well-known route may be the Garden Route, which goes along coastal cliffs and through forests and mountain ranges. Stretching along the south-central coast from Mossel Bay in the west to Storms River in the east, the Garden Route is around 200km (125 miles) long but is filled with beaches, lakes, and lagoons.
Should you be feeling adventurous, you can visit Bloukrans Bridge, the best bridge in Africa, and go bungee jumping there. Be prepared to pay around 1,400 ZAR ($95 USD) per person.
The stunning beaches of Plettenberg Bay on the Indian Ocean are also an advisable Garden Route stop.
There are other popular road-trip routes in South Africa, like the Panorama Route in Mpumalanga, which winds around the Blyde River Canyon, or the Wild Coast route for exploring dramatic coastal landscapes. Also you can select a road-trip route that consumes several national parks, as there are several scattered around the united states where you could self-drive through the park to start to see the wildlife.
9. Go Wine Tasting
South Africa’s climate is ideal for grape growing and the united states produces award-winning white, red, and sparkling wines. Your wine industry here goes back to the seventeenth century and there are a huge selection of wineries found (and sampled of course).
In the Cape Winelands region not definately not Cape Town, Stellenbosch has over 150 wineries in an exceedingly small area while a bit further away, Franschhoek not merely has over 50 vineyards but also a few of South Africa’s best restaurants. That you can do a wine tour that may take you to many different or you can stay static in one for a night or two (many have guest accommodations).
In the event that you don’t have a car and want to have a tour, be prepared to pay at around 1,000 ZAR per person for a half-day tour of the spot and its own wineries. Many hostels run their own tours to the spot or have partnerships with local guides who may take you as well. Make sure you shop around to find the best deal!
10. Explore the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
A frequent stop on the path to or from Kruger, Blyde River Canyon may be the third largest canyon on earth. It’s particularly lush and green when compared to Grand Canyon and in addition has extremely deep, sheer cliffs. There are many natural rock formations and other natural features in this UNESCO-listed reserve, including Pinnacle Rock, God’s Window, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. There are also ancient rock art in the Echo Caves.
There are many hiking trails and also abseiling, mountain biking, and white-water rafting.
11. Go Whale Watching
South Africa is normally considered to be among the best places on the planet to go whale watching. If you’re visiting between June and November you’ll have a fantastic potential for spotting Southern right whales, Bryde’s whales, and orcas.
The city of Hermanus, located 120km southeast of Cape Town, may be the base for many of the greatest whale-watching companies in the united states. Some reputable companies to look at are:
- Southern Right Charters
- Hermanus Whale Cruises
- Xplora Tours
Be prepared to pay around 950 ZAR for a two-hour tour. Drinks and snacks are often included and discounts tend to be designed for students, seniors, and children. make sure you book beforehand as tours sell out fast since you will find a limited window.
13. Go SCUBA
If you value to dive (or want to understand), check out Cape Town. The diving here’s world-class because of the mixing of warm and cold ocean currents. Here you’ll find rocky shores, plenty of reefs, and kelp forests. Additionally, there are plenty of wrecks on both sides of the peninsula too.
Be prepared to pay around 1,450 ZAR for a one-tank dive (including equipment rental) and 6,600 ZAR for your PADI certification if you’re a fresh diver.
For more wrecks, check out Port Elizabeth (which is on the coast halfway between Cape Town and Durban). There are many interesting wrecks to explore here, like the Haerlem (a scuttled navy frigate) and the Doddington (which wrecked in the 18th century). It’s also an excellent area for diving with sharks.
For something more unique, visit Port St. Johns to witness the sardine migration. It occurs every June with four miles of water thick with sardines! You can book multi-day diving tours to start to see the sardines, with most lasting 5-6 days cand costing 30,000 ZAR per person.
Sodwana Bay (on the border with Mozambique) is another top location to see healthy coral reefs and also plenty of fish and marine life.
Using its perfect weather, incredible wildlife, award-winning wine, and culinary delights, South Africa can be an underrated destination that deserves your attention. It’s a country I never get sick and tired of visiting and is the most beautiful countries I’ve ever gone to. You merely can’t help but fall deeply in love with it – regardless of your interests.
Book Your Visit to South Africa: Logistical Guidelines
Book Your Flight Look for a cheap flight through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite se’s because they search websites and airlines around the world and that means you always know no stone has been left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld because they have the biggest inventory. If you would like to stay somewhere apart from a hostel, use Booking.com because they consistently return the least expensive rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
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Looking to find out more on visiting South Africa? Have a look at my in-depth destination guide to South Africa with an increase of tips on what things to see and do, costs