A travel dream of mine is to go on an adventure in South Africa, not only for the wildlife and witnessing the Big 5, but also to try some awesome wines. This is why I reached out to peer traveler, writer, and adventurer, Alya Akhmetgareeva, to highlight her favorite things to do in South Africa.
Are you ready to join Alya in South Africa?
I am. Cheers, Alya!
Top 5 Things to Do in South Africa
The best way to explore South Africa is by car, there are some great routes to follow all over the country. One of the most beautiful road trips not only in South Africa but in the whole Africa is the Garden Route. It is short, only 300km, but there are many beautiful places to visit on the Garden Route and many outdoor activities to do. For most of the time, the route follows the coastline with some hidden beaches, stunning lookouts, and dramatic cliffs. Another coastal road trip is through the Wild Coast or Transkei; long empty beaches, authentic local villages and great surf spots. You can follow another coast and drive up the West Coast, along the Atlantic ocean; small fishermen villages, endless sealine, and some great seafood restaurants. For something completely different; arid, desertlike and uninhabited - drive through the Kalahari region from Cape Town to Kgalagadi National park. This area will surprise you with a stunning night sky, one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
Western Cape, mainly Cape Town and surroundings, is the wine country of South Africa. Here you can find hundreds of wine estates, some of them fine and fancy, some more casual. There are many marked wine routes that you visit on your own or with a tour. Our favorite wine area is Franschhoek, a small town 80km from Cape Town with great wine estates and some of the best restaurants in the country. It’s a place to come for a romantic holiday; a cozy town surrounded by beautiful mountains and vineyards with many places to visit and a lot to do. Another famous wine routes are; Constantia and Durbanville in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Hermanus. If you want to go off the beaten track and check out rural areas of South Africa drive the Breedekloof wine route, less fancy and more authentic, here you can get a chance to chat with a winemaker him/herself while doing a tasting. Must taste South African special wine - Pinotage with smoky coffee sometimes banana flavor.
The main reason many tourists come to Africa is to see animals in their natural habitat - drive through a safari park trying to spot the Big Five; elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. The most popular park with the best facilities though often overcrowded is Kruger National park, km from Johannesburg. A huge area of km with many African animals including the Big Five. You can stay inside the park there are different accommodation option from luxury bungalows to budget campsites. Most people drive their own car around the park but it’s possible to do a safari tour usually guides know the area very well it’s easier for them to find animals. The night is a good time for spotting big cats they hunt in the dark, a night drive can be done only as a tour. There are more safari parks in South Africa including game lodges where you can have a luxury stay and do game drives, though private lodges are usually much smaller than National parks. For more wild and authentic safari experience go to the Kgalagadi National park, it has very few campsites, less developed and is a bit tougher to explore.
From shark cage diving in cold water around Cape Town to tropical diving around coral reef near Durban in South Africa you have a great diversity of places to dive. The best places to dive in South Africa are Cape Town - seals and cow sharks; Hermanus - great white and other sharks (cage diving) and whale watching; Mossel Bay - Great White cage diving; Plettenberg Bay - seals; Aliwal Shoal (Durban) - Ragged Tooth Sharks, Tiger Sharks and Manta Rays, Dolphins and Whale Sharks; Sodwana (on the border with Mozambique) - tropical diving, mantas, coral reef, turtles, occasional whale sharks and mantas.
This activity is more off the beaten path for tourists coming to South Africa but there are some incredible multi-day hikes here. Most of the hikes are inside National parks, unguided though you need to book them beforehand. Usually, hikers stay in huts with basic facilities, outside showers, and toilets. Trails are well marked, easy to follow with many escape routes in case of emergency and rangers that are always ready to help. The Otter trail in Tsitsikamma area is often named one of the most scenic hikes in the world. It’s a five-day hike with the trail mostly going along the coast. There are breathtaking views; white sand beaches, dense indigenous forest, beautifully located huts and chances to spot some animals; whales, dolphins, otters, genets, deer and man birds. Other less known, spectacular multi-day hikes are Amatola trail, Outeniqua trail, Tsitsikamma trail and many shorter hikes in the Drakensberg on the border with Lesotho.
**Post contributed my Alya Akhmetgareeva who along with her other half, Campbell, write and manage Stingy Nomads. Their blog focuses on budget travel and adventure activities all over the world; Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Alya and Campbell have written about thirty countries thus far.**