Last Updated on May 5, 2022
Top Things To Do In South Africa
South Africa is a dream destination. Ranked one of the most beautiful countries in the world, South Africa will mesmerize you with its incredible natural scenery, unsurpassed wildlife, mountain ranges, and big cities. Full of so many wonders, there really is something for everyone.
South Africa is only home to the “Big 5”, but is also home to the “Marine Big 5”: whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, and penguins. It’s not all wildlife in South Africa, however. You will also find some incredible cities, with the busy hustle and bustle on the streets.
If you’re big on outdoor adventure, South Africa has that too. And a lot of it. You’ll find everything from adrenaline activities to not-to-be-missed views of the city and landscape.
We spent a month wandering beautiful places in South Africa, and these are what we felt were the Best Things To Do In South Africa:
Table Of Contents
- Top Things To Do In South Africa
- Kruger National Park
- Pezulu Treehouse Lodge, Limpopo
- Cape Town
- Robben Island
- The Cape Peninsula
- The Garden Route
- Johannesburg And Pretoria
- Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
- Know Before You Go
Kruger National Park
Kruger National Park is the most well-known game reserve in South Africa. Wildlife lovers come from all across the globe to search for the “Big 5” (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and rhino).
There is so much adventure in Kruger National Park that you’ll need at least a few days to even scratch the surface. Catering to different budgets, you can do a self-drive safari, stay in a luxury safari lodge, or stay in a basic campsite.
Before you head off on your safari, learn some safari photography tips to help you snap your dream safari photos while you experience incredible safari moments.
Though you can do a self-drive safari, we recommend taking a splurge on a safari with a guide. The guides are very knowledgeable, are impressively fantastic at spotting everything from the Big Five, right down to a scorpion crossing a dirt road. A good guide will also be able to tell you endless information about everything you see, as well as anything you want to know about Kruger National Park itself.
Pezulu Treehouse Lodge, Limpopo
The Pezulu Treehouse Lodge is a small lodge located just 40 minutes from Kruger National Park. Staying in a dream treehouse at Pezulu is an incredible way to top off your adventure in Kruger National Park. We were able to pull the bed out onto the balcony to sleep under the African sky and witness the stars as we had never seen before. With game drives, educational programs, and an outdoor boma, you’ll want more than one night to experience it all.
The best part was waking to find the giraffes feeding off the trees surrounding us, and watching the animals at the watering hole from our treehouse balcony.
Cape Town, rated one of the best cities in the world, is a place you will not want to miss when you’re visiting South Africa. There are few places in the world that offer so much in an easily accessible bundle. With incredible nature, history, delicious cuisine and wine, a bustling waterfront, endless adventure, and wildlife; Cape Town really has it all.
From the stunning Table Mountain to the lively Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, there’s something for everyone in Cape Town. Families will love spending time at the Two Oceans Aquarium, where they can learn about the country’s amazing marine life. Towering over the city at 1100m tall, Table Mountain is a sight you will want to see. You can jump on the cable cars for an easy ride up one of the city’s most famous landmarks and backdrops, or hike one of the trails to the top for some beautiful views of Cape Town. If you’re brave, you can even abseil down it. Take a helicopter ride over Cape Town for mesmerizing birds-eye views. Or, take a cage diving tour that leaves from Cape Town to get up close and personal with great white sharks. And no trip to Cape Town would be complete without sampling some of the local wine.
Cape Town is renowned for its beautiful beaches, which draw thousands of visitors every year. These sandy shores offer the perfect spot for catching some rays, swimming in the ocean, or simply relaxing with friends or family. Whether you’re picnicking on the sand or building a sandcastle with the kids, a visit to one of Cape Town’s beaches is sure to be an unforgettable experience. The soft sands are ideal for sunbathing and playing beach games, while the clear blue waters provide a refreshing escape from the summer heat. Whether you’re looking for adventure or contentment, there’s a beach in Cape Town that’s perfect for you.
Enjoy some beach time at Camps Bay, while you admire the view of the 12 Apostles. It is also a fabulous spot to watch the sunset. Another great beach is Muizenberg with its iconic and colorful beach boxes.
Take a drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive and time it for sunset. Chapman’s Peak is a mountain on the Cape Peninsula and is one of the world’s most scenic drives. This drive is an absolute must-see on your Cape Town itinerary.
So whether you’re looking for excitement or relaxation, be sure to add Cape Town to your travel plans.
If you’re looking for adventure, take the short trip to Gansbaai to go cage diving with Great White Sharks in the Great White Shark capital of the world. On the bucket list of every adrenaline junkie, feel the thrill of seeing these largely misunderstood creatures in their natural habitat. Every year, thousands of people travel to Gansbaai to cage dive with these incredible creatures. Cage diving is safe and provides an up-close look at great white sharks in their natural habitat.
During a cage dive, participants will descend into the water in a metal cage that is suspended from a boat. Great white sharks are attracted to the bait that is used to lure them towards the cage, providing divers with an up-close look at these majestic creatures. Although it may be scary at first, cage diving with great white sharks is an unforgettable and safe experience.
Don’t forget your underwater camera, but make sure you keep all your limbs inside the cage.
Hop on a ferry from the bustling Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (another must-see!) in Cape Town over to Robben Island. The island, located just off the coast of Cape Town, was once home to a notorious prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned here for 18 of his 27 years in prison.
Today, the island is a powerful symbol of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, and it offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn about this important chapter in history. A tour of the island includes a visit to the prison, as well as an interactive exhibit that tells the story of the island’s residents. Our guide, and many of the tour guides, are former prison inmates.
There really is no better place to understand where South Africa has been, and their hopes for a better future.
The Cape Peninsula
Boulders Beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa. The beach is located in the Table Mountain National Park, and it is well known for its unique rock formations. The rocks are actually huge granite boulders that have been worn down over time by the waves. The beach is also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. Visitors can see penguins, seals, and even dolphins. Our favorite part was seeing the penguins waddle at Boulders Beach.
Cape Point, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, is a beautiful and peaceful reserve full of towering cliffs, rocky escarpments, and unique flora and fauna. Cape Point is located within the Table Mountain National Park, within a section of the park referred to as Cape of Good Hope. Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope form an awe-inspiring natural landmark. Rising up dramatically from the ocean, these rocky headlands are hallowed ground not just for locals, but also for visitors from all over the world. There is something truly magical about standing at the foot of these towering cliffs, surrounded on all sides by crashing waves and a seemingly endless expanse of ocean. You will witness some of the most dramatic landscape and coastal scenery in the world where the mountains and ocean meet. The southernmost portion of the Cape Peninsula is quite unspoiled with its wild and rugged beauty.
Whether you choose to admire them from afar or venture out onto one of their rocky outcrops, Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are must-visits if you find yourself in South Africa. After all, with so much natural beauty packed into such a small area, it’s no wonder why this corner of the country is hailed as one of the most breathtaking places on Earth.
It is a misconception that Cape Point is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. In fact, the two oceans actually meet at Cape Agulhas.
The Cape of Good Hope is one of Cape Point’s most popular tourist destinations. You’ll want to walk up to Cape Point’s first lighthouse, which was built in 1859. You can also take the funicular up instead of walking if you prefer.
The light from the lighthouse could be seen for miles around, making it an essential tool for navigation. However, the lighthouse was often obscured by fog, and in bad weather, it was sometimes impossible to see the light at all. This caused approaching ships to approach too closely, causing many shipwrecks. The treacherous rocky reefs surrounding Cape Point are home to 26 recorded shipwrecks, though there have probably been many more. As a result, a new and taller lighthouse was built in 1914. The new lighthouse stands at a height of 106 feet and is equipped with a powerful foghorn. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cape Town and is well worth a visit.
The Garden Route
If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure in Southern Africa, a trip along the famed Garden Route is sure to delight you. This scenic stretch of land runs just off the coastline of South Africa, spanning coastal towns and diverse natural landscapes along the way. Whether you’re looking to explore oceanside cliffs or lush rainforests, there are plenty of awe-inspiring sights to enjoy on the Garden Route. Activities like dolphin encounters, horseback riding tours, and kayaking expeditions are available for all ages.
At 200 km long, the Garden Route runs through some of South Africa’s most beautiful coastal scenery from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to Storms River in the Eastern Cape.
Hiking in Robberg Nature Reserve near Plettenberg Bay is an absolutely breathtaking. This hiker’s paradise was one of our favorite hikes in South Africa. The reserve is home to a variety of plant and animal life, and the trails wind through some stunning scenery. There are also a few caves to explore, and if you’re lucky you might spot some dolphins offshore. Whether you’re taking a leisurely stroll or going for a more challenging hike, Robberg Nature Reserve is sure to have something for everyone.
Only a short 8km south of Plettenberg Bay, it is a must-visit for any nature lover traveling along the Garden Route.
Later, take a kayak tour to try to kayak with the gorgeous animals.
Enjoy educational wildlife experiences at Birds Of Eden and Monkeyland. Birds of Eden and Monkeyland South Africa are two of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. Located in the lush forests of the Eastern Cape, these parks offer a chance to see some of the most amazing wildlife in the world up close. Both parks are home to a variety of birds and monkeys, and visitors can watch as they swing through the trees or splash in the water. In addition, both parks offer a variety of educational programs and activities, making them a great choice for families or groups looking for an exciting and educational day out. Whatever your interests, Birds of Eden and Monkeyland are sure to provide an unforgettable experience.
The Cango Caves are some of the most spectacular natural formations in South Africa. Carved out of the soft Cango limestone, these massive underground caverns are home to stunning stalactites and stalagmites as well as numerous other geological wonders. What’s truly remarkable about Cango caves is the degree of sophistication shown by nature in creating them. They form a complex labyrinth of tunnels that span hundreds of square meters, with each passageway brimming with intricate twists and turns. Whether you’re an avid geologist or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, Cango caves are sure to leave you awestruck.
Take the adventure tour if you want to crawl through some small spaces. The smallest passage you must wiggle through is just under 30cm high!
At Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa, visitors can get up close and personal with some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. Nestled in the picturesque mountains overlooking the town of Oudtshoorn, this amazing animal sanctuary is home to an incredible variety of exotic animals, from lions and leopards to crocodiles and cheetahs. Whether you are a nature lover or just looking for an adrenaline-charged adventure, a trip to Cango Wildlife Ranch is sure to delight and amaze you.
Go cage diving with Crocodiles for the ultimate thrill. You will not believe how fast they snap their jaw!
Stop for a visit at Cango Ostrich Farm. At this unique farm, visitors can not only get up close and personal with these magnificent birds but also learn about the various aspects of ostrich farming. While you cannot ride an Ostrich anymore, do not miss getting a massage as you feed one, or standing on Ostrich eggs in the sand to see if you can break them. Spoiler alert: you’ll be amazed that you cannot break the eggs, no matter how hard you try.
Johannesburg And Pretoria
Located in the heart of South Africa, Johannesburg is a vibrant and dynamic city that attracts people from all over the world. With its bustling city center, filled with towering skyscrapers and lively urban streets, Johannesburg has become a popular destination for young travelers looking to experience all the excitement and energy of one of Africa’s most exciting cities. But beyond Johannesburg’s buzzing downtown area, there are plenty of other charms to be found in this diverse and multicultural metropolis. From the rolling landscape of Soweto to the beautiful botanical gardens surrounding the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, Johannesburg has something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to hike through a lush nature reserve or shop your way through an open-air market, Johannesburg will surely leave you impressed.
Johannesburg, otherwise referred to as Jo’burg or Jozi is the “city of gold,” as it was built on a rich history of gold mining.
Visit Soweto’s Vilakazi Street, one of the most famous streets in South Africa. It is the site of Nelson Mandela’s and Archbishop Desmond Tutu former homes, both Nobel Peace Prize winners. Today it is a vibrant community with a mix of businesses, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Visitors to Vilakazi Street can learn about the area’s history at the Apartheid Museum, stroll through the Mandela House Museum, or enjoy a meal at one of the street’s many great restaurants. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to experience the energy and spirit of Soweto’s Vilakazi Street!
The Apartheid Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in the country’s history. The museum chronicles the rise and fall of the apartheid regime, and provides a powerful reminder of the devastating impact that racism can have. The exhibits are well-organized and engaging, and the staff is extremely knowledgeable. Visitors will come away from the museum with a better understanding of the events that shaped South Africa, and a renewed commitment to justice and equality.
Also, do not miss the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. This historic site pays tribute to the young students who lost their lives during the 1976 uprising against apartheid. Featuring interactive exhibits, poignant artifacts, and powerful photos, the memorial offers a compelling and moving look at an important moment in South African history. Whether you are a local or a tourist visiting from abroad, the Hector Pieterson Museum is a fascinating and important testament to the power of resilience and struggle. So if you’re looking for an enriching experience that will stay with you long after your visit has ended, be sure to check out this incredible memorial today.
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
The Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is located within the Drakensberg escarpment region of eastern Mpumalanga, South Africa. It is the largest Green Canyon in the world, stretching over 26 Kilometers and is over 800 meters deep. The reserve is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including many rare and endangered species. Visitors to the reserve can enjoy activities such as hiking, bird watching, and game drives. The reserve is also home to the world’s largest indigenous forest, which is a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The UNESCO-listed reserve is a great stop when driving between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park. You won’t want to miss God’s Window, named for the sheer natural beauty contained in the view. Other incredible sights include the Echo Caves, The Three Rondavels, The Pinnacle, Kadishi Tufe Waterfalls, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
So Much To Experience
South Africa is an endlessly fascinating country with much to offer visitors. From the iconic Table Mountain to the vast Kruger National Park, there is something for everyone to enjoy. And this is just the beginning – there is still so much to explore. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that South Africa is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. If you’re looking for an adventure, make sure you add South Africa to your list – you won’t be disappointed!
We hope this list gives you a good starting point to experience all that South Africa has to offer.
Know Before You Go
We get a lot of questions about our grand South Africa adventure. These are the questions we are asked most:
Where Is South Africa?
South Africa, also known as the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is a country located on the southern tip of the African continent. It is bordered by the countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. South Africa covers an area of around 1.2 million square miles, making it the 25th largest country in the world by area. The population of South Africa is just over 58 million people (2019), making it the 24th most populous country on Earth. The capital and largest city in South Africa is Johannesburg. Other major cities include Cape Town, Durban, and Pretoria. South Africa is a diverse country with a rich history and culture. It is home to many different ethnic groups, including the Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans peoples. The official languages of South Africa are English, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. There is also an independent country, Lesotho, that is completely surrounded by South African territory.
Is South Africa Safe?
South Africa does have a high crime rate. However, if you are aware of your surroundings, do not do anything you would not do at home, and do not engage in risky behavior, you should be completely fine. We drove around South Africa and did not have any problems. Usually, the risk to international tourists is low as the most violent crime happens in areas where tourists would not venture to. As with any other place in the world, there are places you will be told to stay away from. If you are concerned, ask the staff questions at your accommodations.
Driving Around South Africa — Is That Actually Safe?
We were warned by some locals to not drive around at night, so we didn’t. Ask questions wherever you stay about areas you should be wary of leaving the vehicle. We also kept the doors locked as we drove around. As long as you use common sense, you will be totally fine.
What Is The Safest City In South Africa?
Cape Town has some of the most desirable neighborhoods and is considered to be the safest major city in South Africa.
When Is The Best Time To Visit South Africa?
Honestly, South Africa is a great year-round destination. However, there are a couple of times you want to consider when you should visit. If you are basing your trip on a safari, the best time is from May to September. This is the dry season, when animals congregate around waterholes and rivers. Our safari was in September and the viewing was excellent!
Is South Africa Expensive?
The most expensive purchase of your trip will likely be your plane tickets. The expensive plane tickets are usually why people assume it will be a pricey destination. However, once you arrive, the weakness of the South African Rand will help your vacation be quite affordable.
South Africa Currency
The rand is the official currency of South Africa.
There are limits on the amount of currency you can bring into South Africa. South African Rand (ZAR) has a limit of 25,000ZAR. For combinations of cash in other currencies, the limit is $10,000 US (or equivalent). If you have a currency amount higher than this when you enter South Africa, it needs to be declared.
What Is The Minimum Amount Of Time I Need To See South Africa?
If you are flying all the way to South Africa, we would suggest that you give yourself a solid two weeks. We had a month adventuring around South Africa, and we feel like we barely scratched the surface. Two weeks would give you time to experience an incredible safari and see the contrast of natural beauty. If you only have one week to spare, it is best to concentrate on one area instead of trying to pack in too much, thus not getting to really experience anything.
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