Heading for South Africa and keen to know how to spend your time? We’ve made a list of 10 unmissable outdoor adventures that will spice up your travels for sure! Tick a few of these boxes and prepare to return home a changed person.
1. Find the Southern Cross in the Karoo sky
The vast open spaces of the Karoo have to be seen to be believed. This arid, semi-desert has a charm that takes hold the moment you set foot inside its limits. Out there, the quiet, space and lack of light pollution brings you closer to nature. At night, the sky is a dramatic star-strewn canopy. Lie down on a blanket and watch the history of the world unfold. Or book a guided tour and learn more about the constellations from a local expert. Either way, you’re going to be dumbstruck. Guaranteed.
2. Have a splash in two world oceans
Did you know South Africa is at the cusp of two world oceans? The Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean at L’Agulhas on the Southern Coast. This point is clearly marked and makes for a gorgeous photo opportunity. The colder waters of the Atlantic lie around Cape Town and up the West Coast. It is influenced by the cold Benguela current. The warmer waters of the Indian Ocean are carried by the Mozambique current up along the Southern Coast. When you visit SA, make a point of splashing in both at least once! You can go diving, paddle boarding, surfing or even kayaking!
3. Play ‘Big Five Bingo’ in the Kruger National Park
A safari is a must when you visit the sunny shores of SA. The Kruger National Park is high on the bucket list of many travellers the world over. This is where you’ll have the best chance of spotting the famed Big Five. The elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard are truly magnificent when viewed in the wild. South Africa’s national parks are meticulous about safeguarding these creatures’ natural habitat. How they behave in these parks is how they’ll behave in the wild. The only difference is that in the parks there are rangers who can protect them from poachers.
4. Explore the Cape Floral Kingdom
The Cape Floral Kingdom is every horticulturist’s dream. The colours make the hills and mountains come to life as they are free to grow and protected by the reserves. Make a point of exploring this unique vegetation during your visit. The best way to enjoy it is to combine it with a hike. Just remember your hat and sunscreen!
Fun Fact! The entire world is divided into six major floral kingdoms and Fynbos falls in its very own separate category. To put this in perspective, one of the other major floral kingdoms, the Holarctic kingdom, incorporates the whole of the Northern Hemisphere north of the tropics. By contrast, Fynbos grows in a comparatively tiny 100-to-200-km-wide coastal belt stretching from Clanwilliam on the west coast to Port Elizabeth on the southeast coast!
5. Zipline through a forest canopy
Ziplining has to be one of the most fun activities a human can enjoy. Strapped into a very safe and secure harness, you sail over the terrain below, from one high-up perch to the next. Naturally, this is done under careful supervision and with the help of trained experts. There are a few places in South Africa you can enjoy this activity. Most are in forests, but there is also the option of zipping over rocky ravines if your nerves can stand it!
6. Scale as many summits as possible
If you enjoy hiking, scrambling, rock climbing or abseiling, South Africa is the place to be. There are so many beautiful mountainous regions to explore. In Cape Town alone, you can go for hikes up Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. Not to mention the beautiful terrain along Llandudno and Newlands Forest. In KwaZulu-Natal, the Drakensberg is known for breathtaking views. This epic mountain range often gets some snow in winter. This makes for a wintry wonderland of frozen waterfalls and lush forests. The Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape is also home to awesome fauna and flora. Once you have your tour booked, just ask around. Chances are that there will be some great hiking opportunities no matter where you are!
7. Discover the Cape of Storms
Cape Town might be one of the world’s top travel destinations, but the Mother City is more than just a pretty face. Head a little way out of town, and you’ll quickly see why. When this outpost was first established by travelling seafarers, it was alternately referred to as ‘The Cape of Storms’ and ‘The Cape of Good Hope’. This is largely due to the extreme weather the peninsula endures. Over millennia, these storms have shaped the singular terrain. The peninsula’s fauna and flora adapted to accommodate these conditions. A visit to Cape Point Nature Reserve is a wonderful way to learn more about this fascinating terroir.
8. Walk where the wild things are
In South Africa, you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with more than just lions and rhinos. You truly get to walk where the wild things are. Southern Right whales come right up to the coastline to calve in springtime. Penguins frolic along the Cape Peninsula. Antelope abound in less urban areas. You may even encounter a porcupine on dirt roads. Not to mention the raptors and owls that patrol the country’s skies. Partake in organised excursions to see these animals up-close, or simply keep an eye out as you travel from one destination to the next. You’ll be surprised at all there is to see.
9. Enjoy urban cycling excursions
Not all outdoor adventures take place in the country. In fact, some of the best ones can be enjoyed in the heart of the city! Larger South African cities in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth have wonderful cycling routes. On free days on tour, this is a great way to explore. You see so much more of a town or city when you are exposed to the elements.
Top Tip! You can now rent a bicycle on the Cape Town promenade and drop it off at the Silo District! That means you can paddle via the V&A Waterfront and skip traffic congestion entirely.
10. Take to the skies
Up, up and away! There’s nothing like a change of perspective to shake things up. In South Africa there is plenty of opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of proceedings. You can skydive, paragliding or even go up in a hot air balloon. The Magaliesberg region is very popular for ballooning. However, you can find an activity provider pretty to get you airborne pretty much anywhere. The Karoo, Cape Winelands, over the Augrabies in the Northern Cape – you name it!
These are just a few of the fabulously fun things you can get up to under African skies. South Africa is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream and there is lots more to enjoy. As a world-class tourist destination, the country is geared for adventure.
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