Known as one of Africa’s best safari destinations, South Africa is the place to go for a real adventure. Although lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos are reason enough to visit, South Africa has more to offer than an impressive variety of wildlife. With two oceans, breathtaking mountains, and vibrant, culturally diverse cities, there’s a never-ending and forever evolving list of things to do in South Africa. This year, skip the usual travel destinations, pack your bags, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.
The port city of Cape Town is a metropolis full of vibrant art, diverse neighborhoods, and historically important institutions. Cape Town is a real mecca for adventure seekers, and you can easily spend your entire trip exploring the city. Learn about the apartheid and South Africa’s difficult past by visiting the eye-opening District Six Museum, or take a day trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years incarcerated. Other must-see parts of Cape Town include the Malay neighborhood of Bo-Kaap, the colorful streets of Woodstock, and, of course, the many pristine beaches. While you’re in the area, head to the nearby Cape Winelands and sample some of its world-famous wine and cuisine.
Table Mountain watches over Cape Town like an ancient guardian, and no matter where you are in the city, the mountain’s impossible to miss. While you’re visiting Cape Town, spend a few days exploring the iconic mountain and the surrounding national park. You can choose to take a guided hike or hop in the aerial cableway and head straight to the top. There’s also a hop-on-hop-off option if you want to explore some parts of the mountains but want to skip the hours of walking. Apart from the stunning views, the mountain is home to thousands of species of native plants and flowers.
South Africa’s biggest city, Johannesburg, used to have a bad reputation for being a dangerous place to visit. Today, the city is a vibrant tourist destination, but the gritty reality of poverty and the city’s difficult past can still be seen. One unmissable place to visit while in Johannesburg is the Apartheid Museum. Taking a walking tour of Johannesburg is one of the best ways to see as much of the city as possible. One neighborhood that you should spend an entire day exploring is Soweto, the largest township in the city. Home to over 1.3 million people, many of whom live in serious poverty, the township was at the front line in the fight against the apartheid.
Located near the Botswana border, the Madikwe Game Reserve is the 4th largest wildlife reserve in South Africa. A combination of grasslands, forests, and rocky terrain make it the perfect place to spot a huge variety of wildlife. You can see elephants, leopards, and rhinos plus hundreds of different species of birds, including ostriches and kori bustards. Stay a few nights in one of the reserve’s high-end lodges and spend your days taking guided tours of the area. You can choose to take a driving tour in an open-sided car or go for a walking tour with an armed ranger. It might seem a little intimidating at first, but you can’t miss the chance to see these animals in person.
The coastal town of St. Lucia is an often overlooked tourist destination, but there are plenty of adventures awaiting in the rural town and its surrounding area. St. Lucia is the place to go to explore the. If you’re only in St. Lucia for the day, head straight to the Greater St Lucia Wetlands Park and sign up to kayak with hippos and crocodiles. This one-of-a-kind activity will get you up close and personal with some of the most dangerous animals on the planet. If you want something a little less adventurous, take a river cruise and snap pictures of the animals from the safety of your boat.
Have we mentioned that South Africa is an adventure seeker’s paradise? If coming face to face with deadly animals and climbing impossibly high mountains wasn’t enough for you, then it’s time to check out some higher pursuits. The 709-foot high Bloukrans Bridge is the perfect place for thrill-seekers to come and test their grit. The bridge acts mainly as a platform to bungee-jump off of. Take the elevator to the top, enjoy the beautiful view, and then throw yourself off for an adrenaline-filled experience. After you do a jump or two, head to Durban for a ride on the world’s tallest rope swing. A rope swing might not sound like much of a challenge after a bungee jump, but this swing hangs 288 feet high above the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
While you’re in South Africa, a trip to Kruger National Park is a must. A trip to the park will allow you to see a huge variety of species, including elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, and zebras. Apart from the animals, the landscape itself is equally stunning and diverse and ranges from granite hills to mountains to savannah grassland. Spend a few days in the area and hire a local guide to explore this breathtaking national park.
Set amongst dramatic scenery, the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is worth the drive from Johannesburg. Huge rock formations set the scene for the 100 square mile park, and the forested region is home to a number of native flora and fauna. Explore this nature reserve by foot and walk along the canyon’s edge. Make sure your phone’s charged for this trip and get ready to take about a million pictures.
While you’re exploring Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, make a quick trip to Three Rondavels View Point. It's named after the three rock formations that look similar to traditional African dwellings known as rondavels. Climb to the viewpoint to enjoy one of the best views in South Africa. Although it might not seem as exciting as other South African experiences, this totally Instagrammable destination is well worth the hike!
Before you leave South Africa, make sure you visit Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, the oldest nature reserve in Africa. The park is home to the largest population of the endangered black and white rhinos, as well as a huge variety of other native animals and plants. Book a full day safari tour or choose a bush and boat combo that allows you to spend the morning on a safari tour and the afternoon observing hippos in the iSimangliso Wetland Park.