10 Amazing Experiences and Places to Visit in South Africa
When dreaming of bucket list destinations and activities, our minds often drift to bustling cities, exotic islands, and unknown adventures in distant towns. We tend to overlook the abundance of beautiful places and unique adventures right on our doorstep.
A bucket list for South Africa holds the distinctive charm of diverse cultures, picturesque landscapes, fascinating wildlife, and lavish experiences. We guarantee that after many trips to South Africa or even for the locals, you will find different wild and wonderous activities to blow your mind. For those missing travel, look no further than our beautiful country. We have compiled a list of locations and ventures to inspire your next trip around South Africa.
Here is our complete list of the ultimate South Africa bucket list. How many have you crossed off already? Let us know via our social media which of these places are worth the re/visit!
1. SELF-DRIVE SAFARI THROUGH THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
The Kruger National Park is world-renowned for having beautiful landscapes and the best game viewing in Africa where the Big 5 can be spotted. Without a doubt, the best way to explore the Kruger National Park is to do it within the comfort of your own vehicle. Self-driving allows you to explore the Park in absolute detail, revealing the ideal camping or lodging locations and areas where animals enjoy roaming.
When driving around the Kruger National Park take the time to slow down and have a conscious experience in the lush scenery and wildlife. There are petrol stations at all the major camps and workshop facilities. If you would like an even more integrative experience with nature, you can also sign up for a walking safari where you can enjoy all of the things that you would miss in your car.
2. HIKE TO THE SECOND HIGHEST WATERFALL IN AFRICA: TUGELA FALLS
Tugela Falls in the Drakensberg is one of the highest in the world, falling short of first place by a few meters! This hike is not only stunningly beautiful but doable within a day, especially if you hike the trail with the famous Chain Ladders. This route is safe, though if you would prefer a more scenic route you can take a hiding detour which will add a few extra hours to your trip. To get the most out of this breath-taking experience, you should consider camping on top of the Drakensberg Ampitheatre, near to where the Tugela Falls plummets down through the clouds towards the earth. The sunrise alone from this view should be reason enough to visit this amazing destination.
3. JUMP OFF THE HIGHEST BUNGEE BRIDGE IN THE WORLD
The Bloukrans River Bridge is the highest commercial bungee jump in the world at 216 meters high! This is the ultimate location for adrenaline junkies around the world. This site is not only scary but scenic as it displays the breathtakingly beautiful views of the Garden Route.
Aside from the beautiful view of the Bloukrans River Valley, there is nothing calming about the experience of jumping 200m down towards the river. You are also able to zipline under the arch on a cable slide, which is called the Flying Fox. For a more passive experience that truly takes in the surroundings, we suggest rather opting for a walking tour across the bridge.
4. SWIM WITH PENGUINS AT BOULDERS BEACH
Cape Town is known for its beautiful beaches, though Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, Cape Town has a truly unique crowd of beachgoers. Boulders Beach is an excellent beach to swim for penguins and families alike!
It is a small, yet stunning, beach which houses a large colony of African penguins. On a hot day you can swim the cold, refreshing Atlantic Waters with these amazing animals. Please try not to interfere with the wildlife or environment as this is a Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, also the penguin can and will bite if you try!
For R65 entry you can have the opportunity to take a sunbathing selfie with a penguin or frolick in the rock pools.
5. DRIVE THE PANORAMA ROUTE
The Panorama Route, Mpumalanga is one of South Africa’s most scenic self-drive routes and definitely deserves a spot on your bucket list. It explores the Mpumalanga highlands, or the north-eastern section of the Great Escarpment of the Drakensberg.
Between the tall, rugged mountains along the route is a dramatic stop on a plateau that lets you see incredible views of African grasslands. You can expect to see iconic natural wonders like the Blyde River Canyon, which is the largest green canyon in the world! It has many other highlights during the drive, such as Pinnacle Rock, God’s Window and seemingly endless streams of waterfalls.
6. VISIT THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
Africa is known to be the birthplace of humankind. South Africa is famous for yielding thousands of fossils dating back to 200 million years ago for the latest. The Cradle of Humankind is one of 10 World Heritage Sites in South Africa. Many significant fossil finds have been made in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, including the famous fossils “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot” in the Sterkfontein Caves. Located 90 minutes from Johannesburg this fossil site is a must-see for history and archaeological buffs.
They have currently reopened subject to COVID-19 health protocols. It costs from R35 to R100 entry fee for the various sites. It is best to take your time and visit the sites over a few days so that you really capture all the mindblowing information. The venues are suitable to take children, so we recommend you grab the family and see the original home of some of Earth’s first inhabitants.
7. GO SHARK CAGE DIVING IN GANSBAAI
Two hours outside of Cape Town, a town called Gansbaai is knwn to be the Great White Shark capital of the world. For lovers of the ocean or the brave-hearted, shark cage diving is a must. Shark cage diving is a popular activity for visitors of Cape Town especially for travelers looking to experience these majestic ocean creatures up close and personal.
Shark cage diving does not negatively impact the environment and diving operators are heavily informed about conservation in this shark research area. This activity will certainly liven up your South Africa visit. If you would like a similar experience with powerful creatures, we recommend driving to Hermanus on the way back which is known to be the whale spotting capital of South Africa.
8. STARGAZE IN SUTHERLAND
A caravan park comes across as an unusual destination for a bucket list location, though this one will have you seeing stars in your eyes. The Sterland Caravan Park which is 1km outside of Sutherland brings in tons of tourists every year for stargazing. Sessions at this park usually begin with a brief video about Sutherland, a presentation on basic astronomical principles and the handing out of interesting books and posters on stargazing.
Naked eye viewing of the dark sky contrasted by the dainty stars illuminating the entire sky is surely a sight to see. You will also get the chance to use a 3 x 11 inch Celestron telescope to view Deep Sky Images. Use the posters and books handed out to spot constellations, stars, planets and objects with and without the telescope. At the South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland you are able to take guided tours of the Visitor Centre and select research telescopes, including the famous SALT telescope. This marvel is surely a site for jetlagged eyes!
9. TAKE A TRIP ON THE TABLE MOUNTAIN ARIEL CABLEWAY
How could we have a South African bucket list without incorporating this Cape Townian location that is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature? Table Mountain is surely a site to behold even from afar but the real beauty lies on top of it. You can enjoy a 5-minute rotating cable car ride that will show you a gorgeous panoramic view of almost all of Cape Town. The cable car operates seven days a week, though may face closure on occassion due to unfavourable weather conditions. So it is best to always check the weather beforehand.
On top of the mountain there is a self-service buffest cafe where you can grab yourself a yummy meal or pack in a light picnic while on your excursion in the national park. You are able to see many of the unique wildlife and birdlife among the fynbos, ranging from lizards to porcupines to eagles. For those who do not want the experience to end, take the long way down by hiking down Platteklip Gorge.
10. GO RIVER RAFTING ON THE ZAMBEZI RIVER
Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi River is exhilarating that we definitely recommend. The Zambezi River has 19 level 4 and 5 rapids over 23km. The journey begins at Victoria Falls which is argued to be the world’s biggest waterfall and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Afterwhich you will paddle through rapid waters, ledges, gorges and beautifully lush landscapes. This is an adventure to be experienced by all thrill-seekers! Do not fret, you will be in great hands as the rafting adventure is guided by experts who will be there for you from rapid to rapid until you are safely at the bottom, ready for round two!