Must-Do Experiences in South Africa


By Bernie van der Linde


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Travel journalist Bernie van der Linde shares why South Africa is known as “a world in one country,” and discusses its diverse landscapes and experiences. Watch here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on Podbean.


South Africa offers a unique blend of nature, culture, ocean, and unique thrill-seeking experiences. There are approximately 890 scenic mountain passes, 700 camping resorts, 42 game reserves, 450 golf courses, and 23 wine routes. No wonder visitors often say a two-week trip is way too short to experience South Africa!

Recommended must-do experiences:

Visit a wine farm. Most wineries across the country offer a variety of wine-tasting experiences and cellar tours. The most well-known wine routes are in the Cape Winelands, with world-renowned wine regions like Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch. The Franschhoek wine farms have a hop-on-hop-off wine tram that gives you access to a variety of wine farms.

Go on a safari. South Africa’s game reserves appeal to connoisseur safari trippers and budget-conscious travellers. Most private game reserves offer guided safaris on open vehicles, while Kruger National Park allows self-drive. Almost all our world-renowned game reserves have the Big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo). Addo Elephant National Park is a must visit in the Eastern Cape, and if you are visiting Cape Town, there are Big 5 safari experiences with two hours of the city.

Participate in a thrill-seeking experience! South Africa has some of the wildest ziplines in the world, from Mossel Bay’s longest over-ocean zipline to the most scenic ones at Lake Eland, Tsitsikamma, Drakensberg, and Sun City. Bloukrans Bridge at Storms River is the world’s highest commercial bungy jump. Sea Point in Cape Town and towns on the Garden Route offer world-class paragliding experiences. Skydiving is popular with flight operators departing from Pier Road at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Atlantis Dunes are a mecca for sandboarding enthusiasts.

Take a road trip
. South Africa has some of the most scenic drives from the Panorama route along the Byde River Canyon with Burke’s luck potholes, Three Rondavels, and God’s Window in Graskop, to the Garden Route in the Eastern Cape and Route 62 through the Karoo. The Valley of a Thousand Hills, the Maloti Drakensberg Route, and Oribi Gorge in Kwa-Zulu Natal are must-dos for nature lovers.

The route from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park takes you past culturally rich towns like Waterval Boven, Nelspruit, White River, and Malelane, to the wildlife-richest part of South Africa.

The Waterberg Biosphere Reserve is a scenic road trip that’s only three hours from Johannesburg and leads you past Thabazimbi, Vaalwater, Lephalale and Mokopane. This biodiverse area showcases the Limpopo Province with its majestic Waterberg Mountain Range and is home to luxurious private game lodges.

A trip from Cape Town along the West Coast features the towns of Langebaan, Jacobs Bay, Paternoster, Elands Bay, and Lambert’s Bay. The fynbos flower season is August-October.

Take a helicopter flight or balloon safari. Take a helicopter flip over Cape Town and the neighbouring towns of Hout Bay and Camps Bay. On a clear day, you can get a bird’s eye view of the Atlantic coastline, the City Bowl, the Peninsula, and the Twelve Apostles Mountain range. Enjoy a balloon safari at the Pilanesberg (at Sun City), or Hartbeespoort Dam near Johannesburg.

Stay at luxury hotels for a fraction of the price. Due to the exchange rate, you can stay in world-class five-star hotels for less than a third of what you would pay for a similar experience in the rest of the world. Outstanding hotels include The Oyster Box in Umhlanga, the Marine in Hermanus, La Residence in Franschhoek, and the Silo and Belmont Mount Nelson in Cape Town. Tintswalo Atlantic on Chapman’s Peak Road is a boutique hotel right on the water’s edge. The Saxon and Four Seasons Westcliff in Johannesburg are fabulous for a city stay.

Get up close to nature. Experience penguin encounters at Boulders Beach in Simons Town, whale watching in Hermanus, the Five Shy Meerkats and Ostrich safaris in Oudtshoorn, or shark cage diving in Gansbaai, Mossel Bay or Rocky Bay in Kwa-Zulu Natal. Dullstroom in the Lowveld enroute to the Kruger National Park is known for having premier fly-fishing resorts. The Isimangaliso Wetlands Park offers unique turtle-tracking safaris. There’s even walking the streets of towns like Phalaborwa and St. Lucia at night to do hippo spotting!

Go camping under African skies. Stay at game reserves like Dinokeng, Bontebok National Park,  Addo Elephant National Park, and the Kruger National Park. There are also rugged camps like Tietiesbaai on the West Coast or Cape Vidal, Sodwana or Kosi Bay near St. Lucia, Oribi Gorge and Lake Eland Game Reserve. If you prefer a glamping experience, head to the Hex Valley at Karoo 1.

Hike some of the most scenic trails. The Amatola is one of the toughest hiking routes in South Africa, while the Rim of Africa is the longest mountain trail, stretching over 650 km from the Cederberg to the Outenique Mountains. Frequently hiked routes include Table Mountain and Lions Head, Tankwa, the Otter and Leopard trails and the Tsitsikamma waterfall trail. Lesser-known but spectacular hiking trails include Hoerikwaggo Cape of Good Hope two-day trail (34km), Hangklip Trail (6km), Three Sisters Trail (8km), and Kogelberg Trail (24km) in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. De Hoop Nature Reserve has the five-day Whale Trail (55km).

Do a food tour.
With South Africa’s diverse culture, foodies are in for a treat with local culinary favourites like koeksisters, milk tarts, biltong, droë wors, and mielie pap. Try Cape Malay dishes in the Bo-Kaap, delicious curries in Natal (the Oyterbox Hotel has a curry buffet), or the Carnivore restaurant in Muldersdrift for venison.

Play a round of golf in South Africa at world-rated golf courses. Three of the world’s top 30 golf courses are in South Africa (Leopards Creek, Links at Fancourt and the East Championship course at Royal Johannesburg). Unique experiences include predators joining you for a round of golf at Leopards Creek and Skukuza golf course in the Kruger National Park, to scenic courses like Pearl Valley (Paarl), Cathedral Peak (Drakensberg), Arabella (near Kleinmond), and the Links at Fancourt, Oubaai and Pinnacle Point on the Garden Route. You can do it at a fraction of the price you would pay in other countries.

South Africa is often called the world in one country because it offers so many diverse landscapes and experiences. We invite you to see for yourself what makes this country so unique! Read more about South Africa here:

Bernie van der Linde is a freelance travel journalist and business professional with a PhD in business studies from the University of South Africa. She founded the travel blog with her best friend and business partner, Petra, where they share their travel experiences of unique and luxurious destinations. Bernie’s love for exploring has taken her to many exotic locations around the world. Her passion for writing and travel has made her a trusted source of information and inspiration for the discerning traveller looking to explore the world in style. 

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