Note from Katelyn: This is a guest post from Bianca of MyWildEarth who lives in South Africa. I’m coming to the end of my Great Escape and will be returning to the workforce, but I can’t help to start thinking about my next big adventure. And, adventure travel in South Africa sounds just about right!
South Africa is a dream destination for travelers looking for adventure and space to explore. Affectionately known as the “Rainbow Nation,” South Africa has a rich cultural diversity, as well as a myriad of different regions ranging from a breathtaking sub-tropical coastline to the vastness of the Karoo. The landscape is always changing, even in the city.
We especially love the outdoor lifestyle and have built our lives around it. From the Drakensburg mountains to Cape Town’s Table Mountain, South Africa is nothing short of a hiker’s paradise with incredible trails and adventures just minutes from the city.
Regardless if you plan to hike every mountain, explore every route or taste every exotic traditional dish, this vibrant and lively country delivers abundantly. It offers truly unforgettable experiences from the sights to the incredibly warm locals.
1. Cape Town – Table Mountain
Cape Town is often heralded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Flying into this picturesque city, greeted by Table Mountain and its deep blue ocean, it is no surprise as to why. When you visit the “Mother City” your visit will not be complete without a trip up Table Mountain.
The view from the top reveal the beaches and city below. When the mist settles over her top, it looks like a perfect table cloth. From near the base of the mountain, you can take a cable-car to her summit. The cable-car offers magnificent views over the city.
For those who prefer a more active approach to reaching the summit, there are various hiking trails around the mountain, as well as trails leading up to the peaks surrounding Table Mountain. Lion’s Head is particularly popular with locals who do full-moon hikes to the peak, as well as regular sundowner sessions. Sit comfortably and enjoy the spectacular views of Cape Town at night with a bottle of local wine.
The world-famous V&A Waterfront is minutes away and is a great spot to relax and enjoy a delicious lunch.
2. The West Coast – Kite Surfing & Incredible Views
The West Coast is the lesser known region of South Africa, but it doesn’t mean it is any less spectacular. The cold Atlantic Ocean creates no aversion to the popular ocean activities such as paddle boarding, surfing, jet skiing and kite surfing.
With Table Mountain as your backdrop, this is a memorable area to partake in some aquatic activities. It is not uncommon to be joined on the water by curious seals and dolphins. Travel further north and inland, and you will find natural hot springs, hiking trails, camping spots as well as the dusty Namaqualand which transforms from semi-desert plains into a blanket of color by blossoming flowers in spring.
3. Western Cape – Wine Farms
South Africa produces world-famous wines, and most of the wine farms are within an hours drive from Cape Town. Day trips can be enjoyed to a farm of your choice (or a multitude of farms in one day). My personal favorite is The Spice Route which is a collection of couture chocolate, craft beer, biltong and related eateries. Fairview Wine Farm is right next door and is well worth a visit too.
Packages are available that offer a helicopter trip to the more popular wine farms, and include drinks and mouth watering meals. It is a spectacular way to arrive at your destination and take in a bird’s eye view of the vineyards and lush green farms.
4. Hermanus – The Riviera of the South
Hermanus, situated approximately 120km from Cape Town, is known as the Riviera of the South. The Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley has a trail of Wine Farms as well as award-winning restaurants. If you would like to add an adrenaline rush to the day, take a leap off the valley’s mountain overlooking Hermanus, for a tandem Paragliding session.
The town itself is nestled between the ocean and mountain. The valley and surrounding areas also offer activities such as sandboarding (take a visit to the Penguin Colony in Betty’s Bay on the way), zip-lining through the forest, whitewater rafting, quad biking, archery, paintball as well as horse riding trails.
People from all corners of the world visit this seaside town every year to view the Southern Right Whales which frequent the bay. Whale watching boat tours depart daily during the winter months when the whales are active. If you’re feeling more adventurous, an absolutely unforgettable experience is to kayak over the ocean and get a close-up perspective of the gracious Southern Right Whales.
5. Gansbaai – Dive with Great White Sharks
Just across the bay from Hermanus, you will find Gansbaai. For those who watch National Geographic and The Animal Planet, this Afrikaans name will surely sound familiar. One of the most adrenaline inducing activities on offer is diving with the greatly feared (and often misunderstood) Great White Shark.
Operators will ensure you are suited up, before taking your toward Dyer Island by boat. You can observe the encounter from the boat if you prefer. Alternatively, you will lower yourself into a cage below the surface of the water… And this is where the fun begins!
“Grootbos Nature Reserve” is another attraction in the area which has to-die-for views, great hiking trails, and accommodation.
6. The East Coast – Subtropical Paradise
Leaving Gansbaai, you will cross over the southernmost tip of Africa, and move from the cold Atlantic Ocean to the warm Indian Ocean. The East Coast is lush and green, with a holiday-surfer vibe. There are many hiking trails (including the ever-popular Otter Trail) as well as adventure and wildlife activities including wildlife sanctuaries and the opportunity to walk with Elephants!
Jeffrey’s Bay is a world-famous surfing destination with pro’s visiting the area for International surfing competitions. Take a lesson or two and join in the fun.
7. The Klein Karoo – Caves & Ostriches
Sleepy towns, dirt roads, and old windmills offer a stark contrast to the more bustling seaside region. Oudtshoorn is jam-packed with fun things to do, including riding ostriches, taking a tour through the 20 million-year-old Cango Caves or visiting a wildlife ranch where you can cage diving with crocodiles. (Not for the faint-hearted)
8. KwaZulu Natal – Diving
Sodwana Bay is often heralded as one of the most unique and unspoiled areas in the world. The warm Indian Ocean is home to a myriad of colorful fish species, coral, and turtles. Once submerged and diving amongst the creatures of the deep, you’ll feel as if you are in a perfectly kept aquarium.
The Kruger National Park in the North-Eastern area of South Africa is one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves with a high density of wildlife. Your trip to South Africa will not be complete without seeing the “Big Five”. You can expect to see lions, giraffe, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes amongst many others roaming free in their natural habitat.
There are many adventure activities available, including Hot Air Balloon Tours and Safaris with overnight packages ranging from serene campsites to luxury Game Reserves. You will experience the true essence of Africa after spending a night under the Africa sky.
If you have not yet made it to South Africa, we hope you are inspired to start planning and visit the warm and welcoming people. Sharing the experiences that this culturally rich country has to offer will have you coming back for more. The evening sunsets alone are enough reason to visit this magical and diverse part of the world. Adventure travel in South Africa awaits you.
Hi! I’m Bianca, from Cape Town, South Africa, and MyWildEarth. From a young age, my grandmother filled my head with stories of adventure and crossing the great oceans in massive ships. I recognized that traveling was not just a dream for me, but my purpose. The obsession in my mind had to become a reality, and from the age of 18, I worked to travel as often as I could. You can follow my travels and life in South Africa at MyWildEarth and on Instagram, and Facebook.