If you’re wishing to visit a place where you can experience extreme diversity, look no further than South Africa. There are so many things to see in South Africa, from bush to beach and berg, the landscapes are breathtaking and the South African people round out an experience second to none.
One day you can be swimming or snorkeling in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, and the next spotting prides of lions on some of the oldest game reserves in South Africa. The possibilities for adventure travel in South Africa are endless—here's our take on things you must do in South Africa.
Where to find awesome South Africa adventures
1. The Bush
You can’t talk about the best of South Africa adventures without mentioning the diversity of wildlife. South Africa has some of the best wildlife reserves in Africa for Big 5 game viewing. Going on a safari in South Africa is adventure travel at its absolute coolest. Before or after your safari, mix up your trip with visits to charismatic South African cities, like St Lucia, Kosi Bay, and Sodwana Bay, which border South Africa’s first World Heritage Site – iSimangaliso Wetland Park, home to the largest estuarine system on the continent. This is a great spot for a completely different kind of safari: iSimangaliso comprises eight interlocking ecosystems, 526 bird species and some of the most diverse flora and fauna in the country. The raw beauty of this wetland area, best enjoyed by partaking in a nature tour, is simply breathtaking.
2. The Beach
One of the South Africa must see places is absolutely the coast! With fantastic whale migration viewing, sea turtle nesting, coveted surfing and diving possibilities, deep sea fishing and ‘sea safaris,’ the coast of South Africa is as bountiful as it is beautiful. The site of shipwrecks and legends of buried treasure; and opportunities to sleep right on the beach in reed huts, or offshore in cozy guesthouse beds while listening to the crashing of the ocean brings an experience like no other. June through November is prime whale-spotting time, while November to March offers spectacular sightings of turtles laying their eggs on the coasts’ sandy beaches.
This part of the East Coast of Africa is lined with tour operators all offering spectacular but sustainable eco tours, which are responsible options for South Africa trips and excursions.
3. World Heritage Sites
The awe-inspiring Drakensberg mountain range makes traveling to Africa a no-brainer and plays host to another World Heritage Site, uKhahlamba (meaning the Barrier of Spears). The Drakensberg offers hiking, horse riding, fly-fishing, photography, and other adventure travel experiences in a cooler climate than the humid coastal towns. The range’s amphitheater and waterfalls provide an incredible backdrop to an overnight stay, with the possibility of traveling upwards and staying closer to the mountain’s peak and Tugela Falls— the second-largest waterfall in the world. Hike to the top by climbing chain ladders and stand on top of South Africa, or travel south to Sani Pass where various tours will take adventurers into the mountainous country of Lesotho to experience the culture and landscape and finish off with a beer at the highest pub in Africa. This little corner of adventure is one of the best things about South Africa!
4. Culture Trips
It doesn’t get much more rural and traditional than some areas of South Africa, and tourists enjoying adventure travel in South Africa can also get a glimpse at the ways of life of people in rural areas. If you want to go deeper than just a glimpse, there are several homestay options for travelers to really experience culture in South Africa.
There are also a lot of historical sites to enjoy. Inland, you can view battlefields and the sites of some of South Africa’s greatest clashes including Gingindlovu, King Cetshwayo’s military headquarters which is only a stone’s throw away from the Battle of Blood River, where two separate museums stand to commemorate one of the greatest and most controversial battles fought on South African soil in which 470 Voortrekkers fought against an estimated 10,000–15,000 Zulu warriors.
At the majority of South Africa’s destinations visitors can learn the complexity of local culture through village tours, which not only teach the history of the area but support local craftspeople, businesses and economies. They are all a definite must-see.
5. Giving Back
Travelers have the option of combining their adventure travel in South Africa with volunteer opportunities. You can see the best of South Africa , and then give back to the best of South Africa. There are volunteer projects in need of helping hands all over South Africa, in areas ranging from childcare, to HIV/AIDS awareness and healthcare, to conservation efforts with unique wildlife. Travelers can join teaching and community focused projects which will see them visiting local crèches and schools, as well as assisting with rural family support, creating food gardens and running support groups.
If you're looking for stuff to do in South Africa and feel your heart strings pulled to volunteer, seek a project that fits your skills / their need ASAP.
Next steps to adventure travel in South Africa
Now that you have the inside scoop and know where to have the most epic adventures in South Africa, it's time to choose who you want to travel with! Choosing an adventure tour program isn't as hard as it sounds, especially if you follow these steps:
- Decide where to go. Figuring out where YOU want to adventure in South Africa is paramount. Have a short list of locations that sound ideal for your goals—mountains? Safari? The bush?. Don't let your adrenaline hold you back—choose a place that's right for you.
- Pick your adventure. Do some reflection on just how much adrenaline you want to get pumpin', and which type of company or organization would best satiate your adventurous appetite.
- Choose from the best adventure travel abroad programs in the world. Pay attention to past participants’ reviews, program reputation, and how the adventure at stake matches your preferences. Some programs may even share contact info for ambassadors or past participants if you want the REAL dirt. Here are more considerations to make as you figure out how to choose the right adventure tour for you. Pro tip: You can use MyGoAbroad to compare programs side-by-side.
- Plan your finances. Sort out funding before you go to afford daily essentials and splurge on unplanned travel (in addition to tour costs and airfare). Be sure to raise a little extra money to donate to the organization that you'll be working with. Learning how to raise money for a trip fast will serve you (and your wallet) well!
- Get prepared! Preparing for backpacking and adventure travel abroad is as fun as it sounds (eight essential to do's here!). With the days til departure number dwindling and your excitement boiling, it can be easy to overlook the details. Lean on us to help guide you through your pre-departure process—that's what we're here for.
You're ready for adventure tours in South Africa!
Travelers won’t be disappointed by the diversity of things to see in South Africa has to offer – and if they take the time to immerse themselves in all that variety through adventure travel opportunities, they’ll want to come right back for more.