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75+ things to experience in South Africa

I am a South African and proud Afrikaner who proudly embraces our rich and diverse Rainbow Nation with stark contrasts. Travelling in a country with eleven official languages such as Afrikaans, English, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana, Swazi, Venda and Tsonga), four main religions (Hindu, Judaism, Christianity, and Muslim), and five distinctive races (Black, white, coloured, Indian), six climate regions over nine provinces, ensure that travellers are in for the unique experiences. Visit South Africa’s tourism page for more information.

A game ranger serving guests drinks at Sediba Safari Lodge
A game ranger serving guests drinks at Sediba Safari Lodge

South Africa - the world in one country

South Africa is often called the ‘World in One Country’ due to its unique blend of nature, culture, and ocean. For many tourists, South Africa is synonymous with extraordinary wildlife experiences and safaris. Still, there is so much more to this diverse country, as we share with you in this article.

What makes South Africa unique?

South Africa is estimated to have 890 scenic mountain passes, of which Chapmans Peak, Long Tom, Schoemanskloof, and Magoebaskloof Pass are among our most well-known. It has about 42 game reserves, of which Addo Elephant Park, the Kruger National Park, and Hluhluwe Umfolozi are the most well-known. Moreover, the country has 54 blue-flag pristine, soft, sandy beaches, of which the majority are in the Western Cape.

Tourists visiting South Africa for the first time often only enquire about highly popular places like Cape Town, the Garden Route and the Kruger National Park. Still, places like the Blyde River Canyon, iSimangaliso Westland Park, Madikwe and Welgevonden Game Reserve, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the Ai-Ais Richterveld Transfrontier Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park deserve just as much attention if not more.

Top 10 must-do things in South Africa - 75+ experiences

Visit a wine farm in South Africa.

Constantia Winelands near Cape Town
Constantia winelands

South Africa has a rich history of winemaking dating back to the 17th century. The country is known for producing some of the best wines in the World. For example, five South African vineyards are listed on the World’s top 100 rankings. Interestingly, South Africa has 23 wine routes within five wine-growing regions across three provinces. 

The most popular wine farms are in the Cape Winelands, with world-renowned wine regions like Paarl, Franschhoek, Constantia, Durbanville and Stellenbosch offering world-famous wine estates like:

Yet, there are also many lesser-known wine farms, such as: 

These wine farms offer visitors an unforgettable experience in the Durbanville region (only half an hour from Cape Town).

If you are looking for boutique wine farms in Durbanville, we highly recommend:

The Franschhoek wine farms have a very practical hop-on-hop-off wine tram that runs along several lines (green, pink, orange, red, blue and navy) that enable guests to visit as many farms as they want without worrying about drinking and driving.

Klein Roosboom wine farm with Jean restaurant near Durbanville in South Africa
Klein Roosboom wine farm with Jean restaurant near Durbanville in South Africa

Go on a safari in South Africa.

Travelbuddieslifestyle at Sediba Lodge on Safari in South Africa
Sediba Luxury Safari Lodge is very close to our hearts. The owners of the lodge have a European and German connection that made this collaboration extra special.

While Kruger is the most well-known of all safari destinations in South Africa, there are many other game reserves that appeal to connoisseur safari hoppers or first-time budget-conscious travellers. Travellers can choose from world-class game reserves like Ulusaba, Kapama, Sabi Sand, Mala Mala, and Timbavati. 

Read our article: “Top 10 lodges in the Kruger National Park”, where we list some of our favourite lodges in the Kruger National Park, like Jock Safari Lodge and Singita. 

Still, there are many other more affordable and exquisite game reserves like:

Within less than two hours from Cape Town, you can also enjoy a Big 5 safari at game reserves like Inverdoorn Game Reserve or Kuganha tented safari camp.

Many of the private game reserves do not allow private vehicles to traverse their roads, while the Kruger National Park is ideal for self-drive. Some game reserves like Madikwe, the Waterberg, and the Eastern Cape in South Africa are malaria-free areas, and some of them do not have the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo). 

Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape is a must-visit for Ellie lovers.

Elephant in the Kruger National Park
Elephant in the Kruger National Park

Participate in a thrill-seeking experience in South Africa.

Bernie at the suspension bridge at Lake Eland in South Africa
Bernie at the suspension bridge at Lake Eland in South Africa

South Africa has some of the wildest zip lines in the World. 

From the most famous one, Mossel Bay (the longest over-ocean zipline in the World), to the most scenic ones at Lake Eland, Tshitsikama, Drakensberg, and Sun City (until recently the fastest). 

Bloukrans Bridge at Storms River is the World’s highest commercial bungy jump. The Orlando Towers in Soweto offer a unique bungy experience. 

Sea Point in Cape Town and several towns on the Garden Route are known for offering world-class paragliding experiences. 

Skydiving is also a popular activity throughout South Africa. Make your way to East Pier Road at the V&A Waterfront, where there are several flight operators, or visit skydivecapetown. co.za for more information.

And for those who have never tried sand boarding, the Atlantis dunes are a mecca for thrill-seekers. Visit sandboardingcapetown.com for more information.

Make a road trip in South Africa.

A road trip through the Garden Route
A road trip through the Garden Route

South Africa has some of the most scenic routes for road-trippers. From the scenic Panorama route along the Byde River Canyon with Burke’s luck potholes, Three Rondavels, and God’s Window in Graskop to the Garden Route in the Eastern Cape or Route 62 through the Karoo. 

The Valley of a Thousand Hills (Durban to Pietermaritzburg), the Maloti Drakensberg Route and Oribi Gorge (check out The Gorge Private Game Lodge & Spa by clicking on the link) in Kwa-Zulu Natal are must-visits for nature lovers. The Visit KZN South Coast has a very informative website.

One of our favourite road trips is, without any doubt, the route from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park. This road trip takes you past fascinating towns like Watervalboven, Nelspruit, White River and Malelane to the wildlife-richest part of South Africa. Read our article “How to do a self-drive from Johannesburg to Kruger”.

The most underrated road trip in South Africa is the one through the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. This scenic road trip, only three hours from Johannesburg, leads you past Thabazimbi, Vaalwater, Lephalale and Mokopane. This area has a rich biodiversity and showcases the Limpopo Province with its majestic Waterberg Mountian Range. The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve is home to some of the best game lodges in South Africa. Our favourite lodge in this area is Sediba Luxury Safari Lodge.

A road trip from Cape Town along the West Coast of South Africa is a must-do for nature lovers. The coastal towns of Langebaan, Jacobs Bay, Paternoster, Elands Bay, and Lambertsbay will ignite your love for South Africa. The flower season on the West Coast starts in the middle of August and lasts until the end of October. The Namakwaland Flower Route is a nature spectacle not to be missed. Read The Happy Traveller’s blog about the flower carpets in Namakwaland. 

If you only have a day in Cape Town, then we recommend doing a short road trip from Cape Town to Kalk Bay via the M6 highway to Camps Bay, Hout Bay over the world-famous Chapmans Peak drive, Noordhoek,  and M4 to Fish Hoek until you reach the Bohemian-chic town, Kalk Bay. 

Visit our Instagram page, Travelbbudies_Lifestyle, for videos and photos of Kalk Bay. Enjoy lunch at Cape-to-Cuba restaurant (visit our Instagram page for videos and photos of this unique place). From here, you can drive to Simons Town, about a 12 km drive, to visit the penguins in Boulder’s Beach. Read Petra’s article “10 Interesting facts about Simon’s Town.

Many operators in South Africa (Maui, Bobo campers and Lekkercamper) rent fully equipped luxury and standard camper vans and 4x4s. For this type of road trip, we highly recommend the spectacular Augrabies Waterfalls, about 125km west of Upington, with its lovely campsite. Follow the N14 to Kakamas, then turn north onto the R359 and follow the signs. This national park is part of SANParks. Search for SANParks – Augrabies Falls National Park.

The tunnel on Chapman's Peak Drive in South Africa
The tunnel on Chapman's Peak Drive in South Africa

Take a helicopter flight or balloon safari in South Africa.

A helicopter flip over Cape Town, South Africa is a must for thrill-seekers
A helicopter flip over Cape Town is a must for thrill-seekers

One of the most scenic flights is a flip over Cape Town and the neighbouring towns of Houtbay and Camps Bay. Passengers get a bird’s eye view of the Atlantic coastline, the City Bowl, the Peninsula and the majestic Twelve Apostles mountain range. We took this ride in December 2023. Visit our Instagram and YouTube channels for more info and videos.

Hot air ballooning is a great way to get a bird’s eye view. The most popular places in South Africa to enjoy balloon safari include Pilanesberg (at Sun City), Hekpoort, Muldersdrift or Hartebeespoort Dam (with Bill Harrops) near Johannesburg.

Get up close to nature in South Africa.

Boulders Beach penguins South Africa
Get up-close with penguins at Boulders Beach

South Africa is the ideal place to get up close with nature. From penguin encounters at Boulders Beach in Simons Town near Cape Town (or the less touristy sanctuary at Betties Bay) to whale watching in Hermanus (we have several articles on our blog about Hermanus), Five Shy Meerkats and Ostrich safaris in Oudtshoorn, shark cage diving in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay or Rocky Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal. 

Dullstroom in the Loweveld (en route to the Kruger National Park) is known for having premier fly-fishing resorts (Walkersons is a must). 

St.Lucia is known for magnificent hippo and crocodile boat cruises. This was a big highlight of our trip to Hluhluwe Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Isimangaliso Wetlands Park offers turtle-tracking safaris at Kosi Forest Lodge and at Thonga Beach Lodges. The hatching season occurs between November and February when female loggerhead and leatherback turtles leave the ocean to lay their eggs on sandy beaches. 

And if that’s not enough, how about walking the streets of Phalaborwa, St. Lucia or Richards Bay at night to witness some hippos?

Go camping under African skies.

Travelbuddies camping in Kruger South Africa - Singwedzi camp
Travelbuddies camping in Kruger South Africa - Singwedzi camp

There is no better place to enjoy an authentic camping experience for next to nothing in the most scenic environments. With more than 700 caravan and camping resorts to choose from, you will never run out of options. 

Campers are spoiled for choice at game reserves like:

  • Dinokeng (our favourites: Almega and Dinokeng Resort),
  • Bontebok National Park
  • Addo Elephant National Park
  • The Kruger National Park (Tsendze camp is outstanding).

Suppose you are more of a sea than a bush camper. In that case, you can pick a front-row seat on the South Coast of Natal at:

For the more adventurous campers, there are rugged camps in South Africa like:

For more information about the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife reserves like Spioenkop and Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve, visit knzwildlife.com. 

There are several great private reserves, too, like Lake Eland Game Reserve.  

If the idea of camping appeals to you but not in your tent or caravan, then we suggested glamping under starry skies near De Doorns in the Hex Valley at Karoo 1. Visit the AfriCamps for more details about their various camps across Southg Africa.  

Rock Bay caravan park on the ocean's edge at Park Rynie in South Africa
Rock Bay caravan park on the ocean's edge at Park Rynie in South Africa

Hike some of the most scenic trails in South Africa.

The serene landscape of Wildehondekloof in the Klein Karoo A gravel road in the country side with flowers and mountain
The serene landscape of Wildehondekloof in the Klein Karoo

The Amatola is one of the toughest hiking routes in South Africa, while the Rim of Africa is the longest mountain trail, stretching over 650 km from the Cederberg to the Outenique Mountains. Some of the other most well-known routes include Table Mountain and Lions Head, Tankwa, the Otter and Leopard trails and the Fish River Canyon or Tshitsikamma waterfall trail. 

Some of the lesser-known spectacular hiking trails include:

  • The Hoerikwaggo Cape of Good Hope two-day-trail (34km)
  • Hangklip Trail (6km)
  • the Three Sisters Trail (8km)
  • The Kpogelberg Trail (24km) in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve.
  • De Hoop Nature Reserve is known for its five-day Whale Trail (55km), which is about 50km south of Swellendam and 233km from Cape Town.

Visit Alltrails for more information about the best hiking routes in South Africa.

Did you know there are some fantastic (organised by SANParks) hiking trails in the Kruger National Park? 

And for those who enjoy hiking the mountains, the mighty Drakensberg and Clarens are for you.

Even in Johannesburg, there are several scenic short routes, such as:

Do a food tour in South Africa.

Enjoy the best culinary experience at Melkbos Kitchen In Melkbosstrand
Enjoy the best culinary experience at Melkbos Kitchen In Melkbosstrand

Due to South Africa’s diverse culture, foodies are in for a treat of a lifetime. South Africa has several culinary treats, such as Koeksisters, Milk tarts, biltong, droe wors, and mielie pap (a kind of maize meal), that can only be enjoyed in this diverse country. 

Read our article “Travel for foodies: 10 Best foods to try in South Africa”.

We recommend enjoying Cape Malay dishes in the Bo-Kaap, delicious curries in Natal (the Oyterbox Hotel is famous for its curry buffet) or Carnivore restaurant in Muldersdrif (Johannesburg) for tasty morsels of venison (Wildebeest, Kudu and Impala) and even crocodile. 

Knysna is well-know for their fresh oysters.

High teas are popular in South Africa, so we suggest the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, Just Teddy in Hyde Park or the Saxon in Johannesburg.

Fresh Knysna Oysters are a must-try delicacy of South Africa
Fresh Knysna Oysters are a must-try delicacy of South Africa

Ten

Play a round of golf in South Africa at world-rated golf courses

Petra admiring the view at Pinnacle Point Gold Resort in South Africa
Petra admiring the view at Pinnacle Point Golf Resort in South Africa

South Africa has in the region of 450 golf courses. Moreover, three of the World’s top 30 golf courses are in South Africa (Leopards Creek, Links at Fancourt and the East Championship course at Royal Johannesburg). 

The unique golfing experiences include predators joining you for a round of golf at Leopards Creek (number 1 in South Africa in Malelane) and Skukuza in the Kruger National Park to mountain scenic courses like Pearl Valley (Paarl), Cathedral Peak (Drakensberg), Arabella (near Kleinmond), and the Links at Fancourt or exceptional views of dolphins and whales at Oubaai and Pinnacle Point on the Garden Route.

Conclusion

In this article, I shared with you not only the most-talked-about locations in South Africa but also underrated places that deserve a spot on your travel itinerary to South Africa. 

I shared must-do-experiences such as wine tasting, hiking, camping, safaris, helicopter flights, food tours, thrill-seeking experiences, extraordinary road trips, places to get up close to nature and the most luxurious hotels for a fraction of what you expect to pay. Yet there is still many other activities that travellers can enjoy. For example, South Africa has some of the best wellness retreats and spas. Look out for a feature article.

And for those travellers that would also like to do country hopping, remember, South Africa is bordered by Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini (formerly called Swaziland), Lesotho and Namibia.

The travel guide from Eywittness will help you to plan your trip to South Africa

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2 Comments

  1. […] Im Liliesleaf-Guesthouse im Norden Johannesburgs begegnete ich 2005 beim Frühstück Arthur Goldreich, einem ehemaligen Mitstreiter Nelson Mandelas, der die Liliesleaf-Farm gemeinsam mit Harold Wolpe – einem weiteren ANC-Mitbegründer – Anfang der 1960er-Jahre gekauft hatte. Er erzählte mir, dass Nelson Mandela hier als Gärtner getarnt untergetaucht war, zeigte mir, wo die Anti-Apartheid-Kämpfer ihre Waffen vergraben hatten und erzählte mir von seiner (Goldreichs) Flucht aus dem Gefängnis. Dieses Erlebnis hat mich sehr bewegt.Die besten Reisetipps für Südafrika findest du übrigens bei travelbuddieslifestyle.com. […]

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