Can you hear the call? See the sun rising up over the savannah? Picture Rafiki raising a little lion cub in his arms above the animal kingdom? While you won’t necessarily feel like you’re on the set of The Lion King, I can safely say South Africa won’t disappoint. The country is a motley collection of culture, history and language. This is our list of the top activities in the Rainbow Nation:
There’s no getting away from this – it’s without a doubt the number one thing to do as a tourist in South Africa. While South Africa is dotted with game reserves, the most popular is the Kruger National Park. Established in 1898, it covers nearly 2 million hectares and is bordered by three countries.
Rent a car, book yourself into a lodge with a river view, bring your own food, drinks, binoculars and heavy-duty torch. Expect to spend hours inside a car, waiting for a glimpse of the Big Five – the African elephant, Black rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, lion, and leopard- or book a night drive to see the larger predators on the hunt.
2. Garden Route
One of the best drives in the world, the Garden Route’s 200km will show you everything from mountains, vineyards, and lakes to forests and the sprawling Indian ocean. While not the longest of trips, the route has a number of breathtaking towns to stop off at along the way – Knysna’s Waterfront on the Lagoon is a must.
Seeing that you’re now well on your way along the Garden Route, it should take you over the Bloukrans River, the dividing line between the Eastern and Western Capes. Little do some know, that the highway you’re driving on passes over the highest bungee bridge in the world. The Bloukrans Bridge is 216m high, and offers a break from the driving in a most spectacular way – by jumping off the highway. Prepare yourself for a lively crew, loud music, a push if you need it, and a 5 second freefall into the valley below.
4. Table Mountain
Table Mountain has been named one of the world’s New 7 Wonders, and for good reason. Apart from having a constellation named after it, the flat-topped icon of Cape Town gives hikers a number of routes to choose from, with different levels of difficulty. Walking up Skeleton Gorge from Kirstenbosch’s Botanical Gardens is quite the worthwhile experience. For those who are, should we say, athletically-challenged (or just a little lazy), there’s always the option of a cable car. Note that the trip up is free on your birthday (provided you can prove it), and there’s an option of abseiling off the top.
Still in the heart of Cape Town, Mzoli’s might possible be the heart of Cape Town. If you’re looking for a trip into a township to hang out with the locals, Mzoli’s is there to please. While definitely not the most authentic hangout, Mzoli’s in Gugulethu is a Sunday tradition for many locals and tourists alike. Be prepared to stand in a queue, choose your meat from the butchery, and take a number while the guys in the back sweat it out in an indoor braai (South African barbeque). While waiting (and there will be a wait), feel free to join the others on the dancefloor/eating area outside – it’s a warm, no-nonsense venue, where people just want to have fun and get a little rowdy. Bring your own toilet paper.
6. Franschoek Wine Route
Less than an hour away the landscape changes again. Rent a car, or hire a company to do the driving for a wine tour through the Franschoek wine farms (of which there are hundreds). Many farms give you free tasters, or charge R20 – R40 ($2 – $4) for a sampling of 5 and a breakdown of what you’ll be drinking, along with the history of the farm. The town is one of the oldest in South Africa, and is sprinkled with cafes, cheese shops, and restaurants. Keep an eye out for the annual September Uncorked Festival, for entry to 20 or so farms, drinks, and entertainment for just over $10.
An area of Johannesburg and the largest township in South Africa, Soweto is the site and symbol of the struggle through Apartheid. Tourists are able to take tours that range from half-day to overnight stays, where you get to experience the culture, and buzz of the nightlife first-hand. There is also the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pieterson Memorial (site of the Soweto Uprising) and Vilakazi Street – the only street in the world home to two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
South Africa is one of the most diverse, culturally rich countries in the world – this list barely brushes the surface. Apart from its wide range of landscapes and wildlife, it’s also the country with the most official languages, boasting 11 total. So take your pick, and have a go at Afrikaans, English, or Zulu before you jet off. Send us a quick enquiry and take your first steps towards your South African adventure!
What else from the country would you like to see on this list?