Game viewing safaris, off-the-beaten track collectable handicraft markets, pristine beaches, wild adventures for the strong at heart, and sporting activities for enthusiasts are just some of the reasons why you need to visit South Africa.
Where else can one experience role-switching with the majestic beasts of the jungle? Which other place has ostrich riding as one of their attractions?
Read on to see the self-drive spots for the young, wild, and free in South Africa:
1. Bylde River Canyon, Mpumalanga
Your South Africa exploration begins at Blyde River Canyon, a stunning natural feature located in Mpumalanga. Consisting mainly of red sandstone, this feat of nature can be considered one of the largest canyons on Earth.
One of the best ways to view the Blyde River Canyon is from the “Three Rondavels” rocks that resemble the traditional houses or huts, known as rondavels, of the indigenous South African people.
You can take one to two days exploring this area, starting from the town of Graskop, passing through God’s Window, and finishing off the expedition with Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
2. Newtown Precinct, Johannesburg
Well-known for its art and culture scene, Newtown Precinct has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Previously a rundown town, the Johannesburg Metropolitan authorities implemented programs that integrated its vibrant cultural diversity and developed a cosmopolitan vibe in this new kid-on-the-block town.
Perhaps because of its politically difficult past, Newtown Precinct, previously known as the Brickfields, has remained resolutely color-blind and accepting of cultural diversity. It is one of the places where you can enjoy a coffee without getting stares.
With its trendy coffee shops, restaurants, and art galleries, this place is a hip hangout for youngsters. The central point, Mary Fitzgerald Square, plays host to a handful of local and international performers, events, and festivals so keep your eyes peeled for these sensations!
Address: Scibono Discovery Centre, Miriam Makeba Street, Johannesburg, South Africa
Contact: +27 11 833 4053
3. Phinda Private Game Reserve, North Uthungulu
Going in an open game vehicle to view the Big Five game species and other creatures is definitely a must-do when visiting South Africa. You can also go on special night drives or walking safaris for even more fun.
At Phinda Private Game Reserve, get up close and personal with the animals, with your safety as the first priority.
Additionally, with several lodging choices located directly on the reserve, you are spoilt for choice. Plan to spend 2 to 3 days at this attraction and have an intimate viewing of the animals, a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Phinda Game Reserve
Address: North Uthungulu, 3936, South Africa
Duration: 2 - 3 days
Contact: +27 11 809 4300
4. Howick Falls, KwaZulu Province
Howick Falls is a magnificent waterfall located in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal Province. The area is a prime tourist attraction with its never-ending forests, rivers, and arts and craft outlets that are well-worth browsing through.
Standing at approximately 95 meters (312 feet), the local people called the falls KwaNogqaza or “Place of the Tall One”
Plenty of legends surround the magical falls, the most famous being the tale of a giant serpent-like creature, Inkanyamba, residing at the bottom of the waterfall.
For the nature-lover in you, take a trip to Howick Falls and stand and gaze in awe at its sheer size from the viewing platform. Otherwise, take an hour-long hike to the foaming pool and gorge where you will witness a turbulent vortex of water.
5. Ice Climbing in Drakensberg, KwaZulu Province
The Drakensberg is the tallest African mountain range south of Kilimajaro.
Ice climbing sounds impossible in the warm climate of South Africa, but it’s a well-kept secret that this country also caters to icy adventurers with ice climbing.
On the Drakensberg Mountains there are several routes ranging in intensity, from a fairly simple walk to advanced climbs that might daunt even the most experienced climbers.
It’s not every day do you hear about someone doing ice climbing in South Africa, is it? If you’re serious about giving this a shot, join a local guide that will provide you the right advice and support required for this expedition.
6. The Big Hole, Kimberley North Cape
The Big Hole, otherwise know as the Kimberley Mine, is an open pit and it is claimed to be the largest hole ever excavated by hand. Located in Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape province, the area is famous for diamonds.
The main attraction is a hand-dug hole roughly about the size of eight football fields. That’s a massive amount of labor that worked on this attraction! Nearby, the Kimberly Mine Museum provides visitors with a look into the life lived by the native people during the period of the diamond rush.
Locals recommend taking the guided tour that brings tourists down a staggering 840 meters (2,756 feet) below the earth where a once-operational diamond mine existed. Be warned, this descent is not for the faint-hearted or light-headed.
If shopping is more of your thing, Kimberley also has something for you. Small jewelry stores can be your form of glittering find.
7. Bloukrans bungy jumping, Tsitsikamma
The Bloukrans Bungy is the world’s tallest commercial bungy bridge at 216 meters (708.7 feet) above the river.
Tourists that are up for this feat are invited by Face Adrenalin, the sole operator of the bungy jumps on this bridge, to take on the challenge to face the highest commercial bridge bungy.
This dive is so tall, it puts the Sydney Harbour one to shame!
Address: Bloukrans River Bridge, Tsitsikamma, Plettenberg Bay, 6600, South Africa
Price: from 60 USD
Opening Hours: Daily, 9 am to 5 pm
Duration: around 2 hours required
Contact: +27 (0) 42 281 1458
8. The Big Pineapple, Bathurst
Ever fancied seeing the world’s largest artificial pineapple? If yes, this is the place for you! Standing at a whooping 16.7 meters (54.8 feet), this giant pineapple steals the crown!
Created by the members of an agricultural community in Bathurst, it consists of a fibre-glass skin that hides the steel and metal superstructure, making it sturdy but aesthetically beautiful.
What is even more amazing is the 60-seater auditorium located inside the giant pineapple, where guests are invited to watch a video on the pineapple production process.
Definitely a family attraction, kids would love this place with its stunning displays of wildlife and agricultural heritage.
9. Addo Elephant National Park, Addo
Addo Elephant National Park is considered to be one of the best places in Africa to see the majestic elephants up close. It is the third-largest park in South Africa.
The park is also home to other species too, such as buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino. In the marine section, great white sharks and the southern right whales roam, making it one of the few nature reserves in the world to host the Big Seven!
A great family attraction, wow the kids with an on-the-reserve stay and extra interaction time with the animals!
Addo Elephant National Park
Address: R335 Paterson Road, Addo, 6105, South Africa
Opening Hours: Daily, 7 am to 6 pm
Duration: An entire day
Access: From Port Elizabeth, follow the N2 highway towards Grahamstown and take the Addo Elephant National Park turn-off
Contact: +27 (0)42 233 8600
10. Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn
The Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn are located at the foothills of the Swartberg range in the Western Cape Province. Located 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Oudtshoorn, you will find the magical dripstone caverns, flanked by vast halls and towering formations.
Upon entering the entrance chamber, you will see the ancient stalactites, known by locals as the dried tobacco leaves of Oudtshoorn, on the greyish-blue limestone ceiling.
Being the only show cave in Africa with a heritage and adventure tour, the Cango Caves is a must-visit for travelers in South Africa. Do note that in order to preserve the caves, only a limited amount of visitors are allowed per tour, hence, book early to guarantee your place!
Address: 328 North, Oudtshoorn, 6625, South Africa
Price: from 5.80 USD
Opening Hours: Daily, 9 am to 4 pm
Duration: around 1 hour required
Contact: +27 44 272 7410
11. Crystal wine tasting at Durbanville Hills, Cape Town
Enjoy wine tasting at the Durbanville Hills’ cellar. Spend a relaxing afternoon sipping wine and learning how top-quality wine is made using hand-harvested grapes and an ultramodern fermentation facility.
Savor one of the finest wines right where it’s made, amid the lush environment of the vineyard.
Durbanville Hills Wine Estate
Address: Tygerberg Valley Road, Cape Town, 7550
Price: from 4 USD
Opening Hours: Monday - Friday (10 am - 6 pm), Saturday (10 am - 4 pm), Sunday (11 am - 4 pm)
Duration: around 3 hours required
Access: Travel along the N1 (north in the direction of Paarl), take exit 10, then exit 13, followed by exit 13A to get onto the N7, in the direction of Malmesbury
Contact: +27 (0)21 558 1300
Experience being face to face with one of the most fearsome predators, a great white shark, with a shark encounter near Cape Town.
Head to Gansbaai, a fishing village, known for its dense population of great white sharks, and see the sharks from the boat. Go one step further and jump in to have a round with them. There is even an option to purchase an optional professionally-taken video of your shark-diving experience so you can show off at home!
All diving gear and towels are supplied, so all you need to do is muster up the courage to take the leap!
The cage diving tour can be purchased
13. Traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, Cape Town
Addis in Cape provides tourists with a unique dining experience right in the centre of Cape Town. Showcasing their local culture through their authentic Ethiopian food and classic coffee ceremony, even down to the serving of the food, Addis in Cape makes sure that your experience will demonstrate the Ethiopian heritage.
Share a taste of their extraordinary culture and end your trip to this wonderland on a sweet note.
Addis in Cape
Address: 41 Church Street, Corner Long & Church Street, Cape Town, South Africa
Opening Hours: Lunch: Monday - Saturday (12 noon - 4.30 pm) Closed on Public holidays. Dinner: Monday - Saturday (4.30 pm - 10.30 pm) Closed on Sundays
Duration: around 2 hours required
Contact: +27 21 424 5722
Drive it your way!
A collection of self-drive spots that you can take for the ultimate South African experience! Despite the long travel hours, the experience to drive through South Africa and see traditional places like never experienced before will definitely be something you would look back and have no regrets attempting.
So give this self-drive a go and be young, wild and free!
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