South Africa is a country full of diversity. From the rolling hills of KwaZulu-Natal to the white sand beaches of the Western Cape, it offers a special something for every traveler. Are you planning a trip to the Africa’s southern-most country? Check out our list of seven things to do on your next visit to Mzansi.
1. Check out the view from Table Mountain
Table Mountain is one of South Africa’s most iconic landmarks. It’s plateau, often blanketed by cloud cover – which locals fondly call “The Tablecloth” – provides the perfect vantage point from which to soak in the sights of the city of Cape Town below. For the outdoorsy or hiking-inclined, several routes snake up the mountain, each with different skill levels (though, in general, moderate physical fitness is required). If you’re less than enthused about sweating for two hours, the cable car takes a swift 15 minutes to deposit you at the top, and the ride up is spectacular, with a rotating floor that provides 360-degree views. To skip the line, book tickets for the cable car online!
2. Indulge your “wild” side on a game drive or safari
Despite the easy urban feel you find in South Africa’s major cities, the country is also home to the Big Five (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo), thanks to their many game parks. Kruger National Park is likely the most well-known and largest of them, but other parks (e.g. Pilanesberg Game Reserve or Sabi Sands) also offer incredible experiences. Self-guided tours are usually available, but bear in mind: guides often have insider information about the animals and their whereabouts. Plus, they’re well-trained and will ensure you get the most out of your experience. Want to impress your guide with knowledge of one of South Africa’s eleven national languages? Contact us for information about studying Zulu or Afrikaans!
3. Swim with penguins at Boulders Beach
Boulders Beach has a number of positive attributes. Large – you guessed it! – boulders adorn the shores, providing a quiet and calm alcove for swimming. The more likely attention-grabbers, though, are the African penguins who’ve made the beach their home. The tuxedoed swimmers first arrived in the early 1980s; however, the population has dwindled over the years. For the best vantage point for viewing the penguins, take a wander along the boardwalk to the lookout deck before you settle into the sand for a day at the beach.
4. Explore Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct
Touted as “the heart and essence of the city of Joburg”, Maboneng is a hub of art, culture and excitement in Johannesburg. Check out Market On Main, a weekly Sunday market that showcases local and regional goods and food. Interested in learning a bit more about the area? Sign up for a tour with Main Street Walks! In two hours, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Bioscope Independent Cinema, the 12 Decades Art Hotel, the Museum of African Design (MOAD), a traditional healer’s market, the largest second-hand bookstore in the southern hemisphere, and more.
5. Wine-taste your way through the Western Cape
If you’re staying in Cape Town, make sure to check out one of the major wine regions in the area. You’ll have plenty to choose from between nearby Constantia, as well as Stellenbosch, Franschoek and newcomer Hemel en Aarde Valley. Hemel en Aarde means “Heaven and Earth” in Afrikaans, and this valley certainly lives up to its name. With stunning views that stretch to the sea, it is home to some of the best Pinot Noir outside of Bordeaux. Nearby Hermanus offers travelers the opportunity to indulge in some of the best land-based whale watching on the planet, and across the bay, you’ll find Gansbaai, a famous stop for cage diving with Great White Sharks.
6. Discover the Wild Coast
South Africa’s Wild Coast is aptly named. The rocky outcroppings and seemingly untouched landscape is a sight to behold. For an authentic local experience, book a stay at Bulungula, one of the most picturesque accommodation spots in the area. Be aware, the road leading to the lodge is gravel and can be difficult to navigate; however, they also offer a shuttle service from Mthatha. Bulungula is an eco-friendly experience – the lodge is solar-powered! – and 100% owned by the community of Nqileni village. Check out their website for more information about what a stay with them is like. Another bonus of the wild coast? The Hole in the Wall. If you’re up for a hike, you can make your way there from nearby Coffee Bay.
7. Soak in the sunshine along Durban’s golden coast
Durban is South Africa’s third most populous city (next to Johannesburg and Cape Town). With the largest Indian population outside of India, the city offers a number of unique food and cultural experiences. Be sure to try traditional Bunny Chow (a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry) and tour the Victoria Street Market for souvenirs of your stay. A coastal city, Durban also offers stunning coastline, and since its the Indian Ocean lapping at the shores, the water is generally warm. Diving, surfing and swimming are all popular activities, and uShaka Marine World is a destination in many tour books.
There you have it. Art, culture, food and drink, hiking, wildlife and more are all on display for adventurers in South Africa. While in most parts of the country, you can get by with a decent grasp of English, speaking the local language can get you a lot farther, particularly, if you’re someone who prefers to leave the beaten path behind. For more information, send us an enquiry via our website!