SEVEN THINGS TO DO WHEN VISITING SOUTH AFRICA
From coast to countryside you’ll discover stunning scenery, delectable cuisine, fascinating wildlife and fun, friendly people. The variety of activities and outdoor exploration are the driving force behind why My Wild Earth is so passionate and inspired to get others to uncover more of this incredible country. Here are 7 seriously cool things to add to your itinerary if you’re planning a trip to the home of the Rainbow Nation…
GO DUTCH AT CAPE POINT – WESTERN CAPE
Take a ride on the Flying Dutchman Funicular to see the old lighthouse and experience breathtaking views of the southernmost tip of Africa. The funicular railway, located at Cape Point, takes its name from the local legend of the Flying Dutchman ghost ship.
A visit to Cape Point is not complete without a heavenly meal at the Two Oceans restaurant, which is as famous for its seafood cuisine as it is for a splendid wooden deck that provides one of the most awe-inspiring ocean views in South Africa.
Cape Point is situated within Table Mountain National Park. This area forms part of the Cape Floral Region, a World Heritage Site. The magnificent Table Mountain chain and the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula from a wild and rugged land that’s accentuated with lush valleys, sleepy bays and sandy beaches.
FEEL FRENCH IN FRANSCHOEK
The French corner of the Cape, Franschoek lies in one of the most beautiful wine valleys in the world. This is a magical area to explore on foot while hiking the seemingly endless routes that winds past lakes, waterfalls and wildlife. It’s worth finding a comfy spot and taking time to soak up the incredible views.
Surrounded by rolling vineyards, this quaint French town has a treasure trove of art and antique shops and galleries, and its shady, tree-lined streets give way to cozy cafes and bustling eateries. It is a romantic place to visit, and hailed by some as the food and wine capital of South Africa. You can look forward to a delightful gastronomic experience, as the town boasts several of the top-rated restaurants in the country and is home to dozens of exceptional wine cellars, many of which offer tasting tours.
A community of French Huguenots were granted land in the Franschoek valley by the Dutch government of the Cape in 1685, and many of the wine farms still go by their original French names and still reflect stunning Cape Dutch architecture. It is located just 45 minutes’ from Cape Town and about 30 minutes from the Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Somerset West wine routes.
PAINT THE TOWN RED IN THE CITY OF GOLD – JOHANNESBURG
Johannesburg (AKA ‘Joburg’ or ‘Jozi’), is South Africa’s biggest city and the financial hub of Africa. Originally a 19th century gold mining settlement, today this vibrant city is one of the 50 largest urban areas in the world.
The city has an electric, irresistible energy and a nightlife that’s second to none. Whether you’re into jazz, hip hop or trance music, you’ll find a place to party in Jozi. There are many top-class restaurants to choose from, with sumptuous cuisine to suit every taste.
Johannesburg is an interesting mix of new and old, with dazzling high-end shops alongside historically significant places like Liliesleaf Farm and the Apartheid Museum.
EXPLORE THE PANORAMIC ROUTE – MPUMALANGA
A meanderer’s paradise, this famous route boasts mountains, forests and canyons, including the impressive Blyde River Canyon, which is the world’s largest ‘green canyon’. A drive through this area reveals spectacular views, sparkling waterfalls.
Places to check out include Lisbon Falls, Berlin Falls, Wonder View and the Three Rondavels. Stop for a visit at God’s Window, where you can explore an indigenous misty forest half a mile above Blyde River Canyon. Bourke’s Luck Potholes are also a must-see … a strange geological formation of giant potholes that mark the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon.
You can also experience a slice of South African history with a visit to the quaint town of Pilgrim’s Rest, where you can relive the 1873 gold rush in surroundings of unmatched beauty. You can even have a go at panning for gold.
SEE THE BIG 5 – KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Mountains, open savannah and tropical forests – this place has them all. Kruger National Park is renowned as one of the world’s greatest national parks. An unsurpassed number of wildlife roams freely within almost two million hectares of African bush … if you’re keen to tick an African safari off your bucket list, this is the place to visit. The Kruger’s high density of wild animals includes the Big 5: lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants and buffalos. Hundreds of other mammals make their home here. The Kruger is also a birder’s paradise, and you’re likely to see the Ground Hornbill, Fish Eagle, Vulture and many other bird species.
SNORKELING SAFARI – KWAZULU NATAL
Safaris are not restricted to land in South Africa. If you’re keen on an aquatic adventure and you’re headed in the direction of Durban, why not spend a day enjoying the sunshine, sand and sea with a Cape Vidal Snorkeling Safari.
The serene beauty of the underwater world is an unforgettable sight to behold and Cape Vidal just happens to be a World Heritage Site too. The safari starts in St Lucia and continues north through the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. At Cape Vidal, snorkeling is behind a reef at low tide when there is protection from the ocean swell. Cape Vidal Snorkeling trips include a full lunch and snorkeling equipment is free of charge.
SNOW SKIING AFRICAN-STYLE – EASTERN CAPE
If you’re eager to try out the novelty of skiing in Africa, add Tiffendell to your South African itinerary. Tiffendell is a ski and alpine resort located in the southern Drakensberg mountain range that sits between South Africa its neighbor, Lesotho.
Situated approximately 500 miles from Johannesburg, it’s also the only place in South Africa, where you can grab some skis and hit the snowy slopes. You can also have a go at snowboarding and tobogganing. In summer the resort is a popular destination for mountain biking, trout fishing, birding, grass skiing and high altitude hiking.
ATLANTIS DUNES, WESTERN CAPE COST
Atlantis, is about an hour’s drive from the city of Cape Town. As you near the area, the vegetation slowly thins out and reveals hundreds of spectacular sand dunes. You can explore the area on foot, especially at sunset. Alternatively, if you are looking for more of an adrenaline rush, book a sandboarding trip or race up and down the dunes on quad bikes.
The dunes rise and fall over the horizon with Table Mountain in the distance. You’ll need to arrange a permit in the nearby town of Atlantis if you plan to get there on your own. Should you join a tour, the paper work will be taken care of.
The area has a rich history and was once home to the San Bushmen tribes who once lived off the coastal lands, hunting animals for meat and getting water from roots and bulbs.
BO-KAAP – GETTING INTO THE CITY
The suburb of Bo-Kaap is located below signal hill is the historical Cape Malay quarter. Today, it has transformed into a colorful and vibrant area with the homes being beautifully kept and painted in contrasting hues. It is also the home or South Africa’s oldest mosque, built at the end of the 17th century.
There are several great restaurants and shops hidden between the colorful houses. It is a treat just to wander and explore the side streets and stop along the way to check out the small shops along the route.
WADDLE WITH PENGUINS AT BOULDERS BEACH
The beautiful and perfectly kept Boulders beach is no ordinary beach. The rare and adorable African Penguin has made it home, so now you get to spend a day on the soft white sand, surrounded by these curious little creatures.
The beach has a minimal entrance fee that goes towards the protection of the penguin. The town center of Simons Town is walking distance from the beach and is scattered with eateries and shops that will have you browsing for some time. The view over false bay is magnificent, so plan at least a day in the area. There are even kayak trips on offer in the bay where paddlers are occasionally visited from wild dolphins.
South Africa is known as the adventure capital of the world, with over 130 different extreme sporting activities available. And, if you’re not an adrenaline junkie, the list of other awesome things to do is endless. Visit South African and enjoy the friendly locals, incredible food and rest assured, that even in your holiday downtime, simply sitting on a street corner, you will be entertained for hours.
Author Bio – Bianca, from Cape Town, South Africa
Different cultures, exotic food, new adventures and ever changing landscapes, are what make my soul explode. The world excites and inspires me. By sharing my travels and experiences, I hope that others are inspired to explore and visit locations they may not have originally considered. The world is a playground that belongs to all of us, and we should live every precious day with a happy and free spirit.