Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable journey to South Africa, a land filled with diverse landscapes, thrilling adventures, and rich cultural experiences? From the breathtaking wildlife safaris of Kruger National Park to the vibrant city life of Cape Town, South Africa offers many experiences that cater to every type of traveler. In this blog post, we’ll explore 20 unmissable things to do in South Africa, showcasing the best this incredible country offers.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking adventure, a history buff wanting to uncover South Africa’s past, or a nature lover yearning to explore the country’s diverse ecosystems, there’s something for everyone. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready to be swept off your feet by the astounding beauty and excitement of South Africa!
Table of Contents
- Explore Kruger National Park and experience South Africa’s Big Five!
- Discover Cape Town, the Garden Route Adventure, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari & more!
- Cage dive with great white sharks or enjoy a beach escape; South Africa has endless possibilities all year round!
Things to Do in South Africa
1. Exploring Kruger National Park
As one of South Africa’s most iconic destinations, Kruger National Park should be at the top of your list when visiting the country. Covering an astonishing 20,000 km2, Kruger is the oldest and largest national park in South Africa, offering an unparalleled African safari experience. Home to the legendary “Big Five” – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo – the park protects 147 mammal species, making it a wildlife enthusiast’s dream come true.
Kruger National Park presents a plethora of exploration opportunities. The park is ripe with diverse options for your African safari. You can:
- Stay in luxury lodges
- Take private safari rides
- Join organized day tours
- Drive with your car
The possibilities are seemingly endless! Ideally, immersing yourself in the park’s wonders requires at least 2-3 days, complemented with multiple game drives. For a truly unique experience, try an exhilarating walking safari or soar above the enormous grasslands, gallery forests, and river systems in a hot air balloon.
The best time to visit Kruger National Park is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. Here’s why:
- Wildlife is easily viewable due to the absence of vegetation.
- The weather is more pleasant.
- Animals congregate around water sources, making them easier to spot.
Whether you’re a seasoned safari-goer or a first-time visitor, Kruger National Park will leave you in awe of South Africa’s incredible biodiversity.
2. Cape Town Wonders
Cape Town, fondly known as the Mother City, is a must-visit destination when traveling to South Africa. Boasting a unique blend of African and European cultures, the city is a melting pot of tradition and modernity, seamlessly integrating city life with nature. The city’s showstopper is undoubtedly Table Mountain, an iconic landmark that dominates Cape Town’s skyline and offers breathtaking views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean.
The city is brimming with attractions, including:
- The vibrant Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
- The colorful and historic Bo-Kaap neighborhood
- The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during apartheid
Take advantage of a visit to Robben Island, a powerful reminder of South Africa’s turbulent past. Guided tours led by former prisoners offer poignant first-hand accounts.
Beyond Cape Cod. Town’s city limits lie its natural beauty. A scenic drive along the Cape Peninsula leads to Cape Point, the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Additionally, the coastal towns of Simon’s Town and Hout Bay offer delightful encounters with marine life through whale-watching tours and visits to the Boulders Penguin colony. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder Cape Town is often considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
3. The Garden Route Adventure
Embarking on South Africa’s famed Garden Route promises an unforgettable road trip. This 200-kilometer drive along the southeast coast stretches from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The Garden Route is a treasure trove of:
- picturesque towns
- lush forests
- dramatic coastal cliffs
- an array of adventure activities
As you journey along the Garden Route, be sure to stop at highlights such as:
- The charming town of Knysna
- The beautiful Garden Route National Park
- The seal colony of the Robberg Nature Reserve in Plettenberg Bay
- The bungee jumping opportunities at Bloukrans Bridge
- The thrilling tree canopy tours in Tsitsikamma National Park
Adventure-seekers will delight in these exciting activities along the Garden Route.
The Garden Route, with its breathtaking scenery and diverse attractions, is an indispensable experience for any visitor to South Africa.
4. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park Safari
Venture to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari Desert for a safari experience less trodden. This remote park boasts unique landscapes and diverse wildlife, including all three of Africa’s large felines: lions, leopards, and cheetahs.
Four-wheel drive vehicles are highly recommended for exploring the park, as the rugged terrain can be challenging for standard vehicles. With its dramatic dunes and unspoiled wilderness, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park offers a unique adventure you won’t find in more popular national parks.
5. Stellenbosch: A Taste of History
Nestled in the heart of South Africa’s renowned wine region, Stellenbosch is a charming town steeped in history and surrounded by breathtaking vineyards. With its well-preserved Dutch East India Company-era architecture, Stellenbosch offers a glimpse into the past while providing a bustling modern atmosphere. The town boasts excellent facilities.
- nature trails
A visit to Stellenbosch would only be complete with exploring its surrounding wine region. The area between Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek is home to some of South Africa’s best wineries and vineyards, offering ample opportunities for wine tasting and tours. Take advantage of Groot Constantia, one of the most famous wine estates in the area, renowned for its stunning Cape Dutch architecture and breathtaking setting below Constantia Mountain.
6. Majestic Drakensberg Mountains
The Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal offer a spectacular backdrop for nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. As South Africa’s highest mountain range, the Drakensberg boasts.
- Breathtaking scenery
- Diverse flora and fauna
- Numerous outdoor activities include hiking, rock climbing, and hot air balloon rides.
Be sure to explore the Royal Natal National Park, home to the fantastic Amphitheatre, a stunning cliff face, and the source of South Africa’s main rivers. The uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed region, features incredible San rock art and majestic basalt buttresses, providing a unique insight into the region’s history and geological formations.
The Drakensberg Mountains, teeming with sights and activities, are an essential destination for those seeking natural beauty and adventure in South Africa, similar to the experience offered by Table Mountain National Park.
7. Pilanesberg National Park Wildlife Experience
Head to Pilanesberg National Park for a wildlife experience that will leave an indelible memory. Located near Johannesburg and Pretoria, this malaria-free park offers a high concentration of animals and birds, making it an ideal destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Home to most of the Big 5, African wild dogs, herds of zebra, and the magnificent sable and roan antelope, the Pilanesberg National Park provides an incredible opportunity to witness South Africa’s diverse wildlife up close.
Visitors can choose from various accommodation options, from basic campsites to luxury lodges, and enjoy guided game drives, horseback riding, and hiking. Plan to spend 2-3 days exploring this breathtaking landscape and its diverse wildlife to maximize your time in the Pilanesberg National Park.
8. iSimangaliso Wetland Park: A Unique Ecosystem
iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a unique and diverse ecosystem. With eight interconnected ecosystems, the park boasts a range of habitats, from coral reefs and coastal dunes to swamps and savannahs, providing a haven for an incredible array of wildlife. Visitors can enjoy safari and marine adventures, including game drives, snorkeling, and diving in the marine reserve.
As you explore iSimangaliso Wetland Park, keep an eye out for the park’s diverse wildlife, including rhinos, hippos, and crocodiles, as well as over 350 species of birds. For a truly unforgettable experience, visit the park between November and March, when you might be lucky enough to witness endangered Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles laying their eggs on the beaches of St. Lucia.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park, boasting unique landscapes and a diverse range of wildlife, is a destination nature lovers and conservation enthusiasts shouldn’t miss.
9. Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
Should you plan a trip to Kruger National Park, incorporating a stop at Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is highly recommended. As one of the largest canyons in the world, Blyde River Canyon offers stunning views, diverse wildlife, and plant species, as well as scenic drives, hiking trails, and boat trips. The reserve is a popular stop on the way to Kruger National Park, allowing visitors to enjoy South Africa’s natural beauty before embarking on their wildlife safari.
While exploring Blyde River Canyon, don’t miss the following viewpoints and attractions:
- Three Rondavels viewpoint: offering incredible views of the canyon and its unique rock formations
- The Pinnacle
- God’s Window
- Wonder View
- Lisbon Falls
- Berlin Falls
- Bourke’s Luck Potholes
- The Lowveld viewpoint
These highlights will ensure you have an unforgettable experience in Blyde River Canyon.
With its breathtaking scenery and diverse attractions, Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of South Africa’s landscapes.
10. Robben Island: A Journey Through History
A visit to Robben Island is crucial for those seeking a poignant and powerful insight into South Africa’s turbulent past. Located just off the coast of Cape Town, this UNESCO World Heritage Site served as a prison for political dissidents and social misfits, including Nelson Mandela, during apartheid. Today, Robben Island has been transformed into a national monument and museum, offering guided tours led by former prisoners who share their first-hand accounts of the atrocities they endured.
To visit Robben Island, follow these steps:
- Take the ferry from Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
- Explore the prison where Mandela and his fellow freedom fighters were held captive.
- Walk through the cells and hear the stories of those who were imprisoned.
- Gain a deeper understanding of the resilience and strength of the human spirit in adversity.
A visit to Robben Island is a powerful reminder of the importance of freedom, democracy, and human rights, making it an essential experience for anyone visiting South Africa.
11. Durban’s Golden Mile Beach Escape
Head to Durban’s Golden Mile for a sun-soaked beach escape. This popular beachfront destination offers something for everyone, including:
- Beach volleyball
The waterfront promenade is adorned with hotels, restaurants, and entertainment options, making it the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beach.
The Golden Mile is also a great starting point for exploring Durban’s wealthy Indian and Zulu influences, with vibrant markets, colorful temples, and mouthwatering curries just waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, Durban’s Golden Mile has it all.
12. Luxury Safari at Sabi Sands Game Reserve
Consider a stay at Sabi Sands Game Reserve for an indulgent safari experience. Here’s why:
- Sabi Sands is South Africa’s premier private game reserve.
- It is located adjacent to Kruger National Park.
- Sabi Sands offers top-end lodges.
- There are frequent leopard sightings.
- Close encounters with wildlife are common due to its private reserve status.
Here, you can enjoy game drives led by experienced rangers and trackers, who will help you spot the Big Five and rarer animals like the African wild dog.
With its luxurious accommodations and unparalleled wildlife sightings, Sabi Sands Game Reserve offers an unforgettable safari experience for those who want to treat themselves to the finer things in life.
13. Boulders Penguin Colony: A Unique Wildlife Encounter
Located just an hour’s drive from Cape Town in the charming coastal town of Simon’s Town, Boulders Penguin Colony is home to a thriving population of African penguins. This unique wildlife encounter allows visitors to observe these adorable creatures up close on Foxy Beach, where a boardwalk has been constructed to protect the penguins’ nesting sites while providing an unobstructed view for visitors.
As you watch the penguins waddle along the beach, swim in the crystal-clear waters, and tend to their young, you’ll be captivated by their charm and charisma. Boulders Penguin Colony offers a rare opportunity to witness these endangered birds in their natural habitat, making it a must-visit destination for wildlife lovers and families.
14. Wild Coast Adventure
South Africa’s Wild Coast is ideal for those seeking less-traveled adventure. This remote and rugged subtropical coastline stretches along the Eastern Cape, offering a mix of east coast experiences such as:
- pristine beaches
- rolling hills
- traditional villages
The Wild Coast is the perfect destination for travelers seeking an authentic and immersive experience of South African culture and natural beauty.
As you explore the Wild Coast, indulge in the many outdoor activities, from surfing and horseback riding to hiking between local villages. With its dramatic landscapes and rich cultural heritage, the Wild Coast is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers.
15. Addo Elephant National Park Exploration
Just a short drive from Port Elizabeth, Addo Elephant National Park provides a remarkable opportunity to see:
- Over 600 elephants in their natural habitat
- African penguins
- Cape gannets
- The Big 7, which includes the southern right whale and great white shark
Making it a wildlife enthusiast’s dream come true.
Visitors can enjoy various activities within the park, such as guided game drives, horseback riding, and hiking, allowing for an up-close and personal encounter with the diverse wildlife that calls Addo Elephant National Park home. With its magnificent landscapes and abundant wildlife, this park is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable South African safari experience.
16. Madikwe Game Reserve: An Off-the-Beaten-Path Safari
Head to the Madikwe Game Reserve in North West Province for a less crowded safari experience. This beautiful reserve offers a unique opportunity to see the Big Five and rarer animals like the African wild dog.
With its stunning scenery and diverse wildlife, Madikwe Game Reserve provides a more intimate and off-the-beaten-path safari experience for those seeking to escape the crowds of more popular national parks.
17. Surfing Paradise at Jeffreys Bay
A visit to Jeffreys Bay is a non-negotiable for both surfing enthusiasts and beach lovers. Known as one of the top surfing spots in the world, this South African surf mecca boasts consistent waves, making it an ideal destination for both seasoned surfers and those looking to catch their first wave.
In addition to its world-class surf, Jeffreys Bay offers beautiful beaches and a laid-back atmosphere, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing seaside getaway.
18. Cape Agulhas: Where Oceans Meet
Cape Agulhas, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, invites you to the southernmost tip of Africa. This dramatic meeting point of the Indian Ocean offers stunning views and is home to the second-oldest lighthouse in South Africa.
As you stand at the edge of the African continent, take a moment to marvel at the raw beauty and power of the oceans that surround you. Cape Agulhas is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to witness the awe-inspiring forces of nature at work.
19. Johannesburg and Pretoria City Adventures
Johannesburg and Pretoria present a distinctive amalgamation of history, culture, and urban adventure for travelers eager to explore South Africa’s vibrant cities. In Johannesburg, don’t miss the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, both offering powerful insights into the country’s turbulent past and its journey towards democracy.
Explore the city’s rich history in Pretoria by visiting landmarks such as the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park. Both cities boast a range of attractions and activities to suit all interests, from art galleries and museums to bustling markets and lively nightlife.
Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply looking to experience South Africa’s urban side, Johannesburg and Pretoria have something to offer everyone.
20. Thrilling Cage Diving with Great White Sharks
Cage diving with great white sharks is an unmissable, adrenaline-pumping adventure for thrill-seekers and marine enthusiasts alike. This once-in-a-lifetime experience can be arranged in several locations across South Africa, including Cape Town, Durban, and Rocky Bay.
As you descend into the water in a thick iron cage, you’ll face one of the ocean’s most fearsome predators. With your heart racing and your senses heightened, there’s no doubt that this exhilarating encounter will leave a lasting impression.
Best Time to Visit South Africa
The optimal time to visit South Africa genuinely hinges on the activities you seek to experience. The winter months between June and September are ideal for game viewing, such as safaris in Kruger National Park. During this time, the weather is more relaxed, and the vegetation is less dense, making it easier to spot wildlife as they gather around water sources.
South Africa is enjoyable year-round for sightseeing, beach trips, and other outdoor activities, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine. The summer months between December and February are trendy for visiting Cape Town and the Garden Route, offering warm weather and long days to explore the country’s natural beauty and vibrant cities.
No matter when you choose to visit, South Africa offers many unforgettable experiences waiting to be discovered.
South Africa has diverse landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and thrilling adventures, making it an ideal destination for travelers of all interests. From the breathtaking wildlife safaris of Kruger National Park to the vibrant city life of Cape Town, there is truly something for everyone in this incredible country. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping activities, immersive cultural experiences, or simply the chance to unwind in idyllic surroundings, South Africa offers many unforgettable experiences just waiting to be discovered.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your South African adventure today and prepare to be captivated by this remarkable destination’s astounding beauty and excitement. With so much to see and do, one thing is sure – South Africa is a journey you’ll never forget.
Frequently Asked Questions
What activities do people do in South Africa?
Experience the diverse landscapes of South Africa, from taking a walk among wildflowers to climbing Table Mountain and even shark cage diving.
Explore the country’s rich history and culture while discovering unique activities such as elephant-back safaris, hot-air ballooning, and whale watching.
What is South Africa most famous for?
South Africa is renowned for its varied topography, great natural beauty, cultural diversity, three capitals, eleven official languages, 21 National Parks, and ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The country has been a favored destination for travelers since the legal ending of apartheid in 1994.
What is the best time to visit South Africa for wildlife viewing?
Embrace the wonders of South Africa’s wildlife and plan your trip during the winter months from June to September for the optimal viewing experience!
Can I see the Big 5 in Kruger National Park?
Yes, you absolutely can! Kruger National Park is Kruger National Park. Park is the perfect place to see the Big 5 – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo.
What are some popular activities along the Garden Route?
Experience an adrenaline rush with bungee jumping, explore the canopy on a tree tour, and take in majestic views of whales – activities along the Garden Route are guaranteed to excite!