What to Do in South Africa

107 Bucketlist Ideas For What To Do in South Africa

A smorgasbord of authentic travel experiences, South Africa can be a hundred vacations rolled into one. From big-game safari to vineyards and Rainbow Nation culture, the edge of Africa has it all. South Africa is difficult to define in a single image and there are some things to do you won't find anywhere else.

With its kaleidoscope of landscapes and experiences, the Rainbow Nation has the most diverse appeal of all Africa's countries. From city to beach to safari to mountains, South Africa offers an eclectic mix as well as offering what many call an “introduction” to Africa. The country epitomizes the rich variety of a continent and the experiences to be discovered, both natural and cultural. Furthermore, a mature and established tourism industry offers the best overarching standards in the whole of Africa.

Majestic Private Safari Moments, With More Than the Big Five

From cultural tradition to incredible private game reserves, South Africa is the ultimate bucketlist destination. The Rainbow Nation morphs to your mood and everyday can be completely different from the next, whether you want city chic or wilderness and animals. What to do in South Africa has to involve safari, especially if you have never been on a safari before. Contemporary lodges provide comfort and luxury, as you are completely enveloped by a world of elephants, rhinos, lions and more. Luxury safari originated in South Africa and private concessions ensure your wildlife experience is very personal, not ruined by dozens of other vehicles and people.

Kruger National Park is undoubtedly South Africa's safari jewel, covering a gargantuan area that dwarfs some U.S. States. Unfenced boundaries lead into a series of private concessions and reserves, further enhancing the sense of wilderness and diversifying the experience. Away from Kruger, South Africa has the largest collection of private game reserves. While these are small and fenced, they offer a quick glimpse of safari regardless of where you travel in the country. Expect high levels of luxury at these.
The country is home to around 80% of the world's wild rhino population, with the endangered creatures astonishingly abundant around Kruger and the northeast. Big cats are also plentiful and a series of smaller national parks have distinct specialities; for example, the Garden Route's Addo Elephant National Park. While there's lots of choice, you're unlikely to be the only visitors in a park or reserve. Other than exclusive private reserves, you will have to get used to sharing the sights with other safari trucks. Safari rules are relatively lax, making South Africa a great country to experience a huge diversity of safari activities. Marine encounters also feature highly as the country promotes itself as being home to the “big seven” - whales and great white sharks being the additions.

Discovering the Cape

Table Mountain stands majestic above Cape Town’s streets of change and the Cape revels in its hearty mix of nature and culture. Few world cities are as iconic or as beautiful as Cape Town. And few can rival the number of things to do. From a stunning culinary scene to back-mountain hiking trails, Cape Town will keep you active and indulged. In the surrounding Cape Peninsula boutique hotels create seclusion on elegant vineyards and beacges awaits where two oceans meet.

Yes, South Africa is Safe and Easy to Travel

Yes, South Africa is safe. Some of its reputation is unwarranted and crime against tourists is very rare. There’s more danger from being trampled by elephants or buffalos. Of course you need to exercise a few basic precautions, but don’t worry too much because local guides know the situation and what to do. South Africa is also the best place to enjoy a malaria-free safari. Trackers will ensure you stay safe when thousands of big four-legged mammals surround your camp.

South Africa has the most sophisticated tourist infrastructure on the continent. This is very much a developed Western nation. In particular, transport connections are excellent; seamless paved roads connect almost everywhere and a network of airlines provide cheap and regular scheduled flights between over a dozen destinations. Renting your own vehicle is easy and safe, something that's increasingly popular in the south of the country. While all African countries have developed excellent high-end accommodation and services, there's a high quality to all tourist facilities in South Africa. This includes the cheapest backpacker hostels and services. Localized star rating systems have been integral in elevating standards. It means that you don't need a particularly high budget to really experience everything.

While the country has 11 official languages, English is almost universal and communication barriers are non-existent. A gourmet food and wine industry has been cultivated for centuries and even the cheap eats are on par with dining in most of Europe. This inherent ease of travel is why many consider South Africa to an “introduction” to the continent, arguing that it's a kind of halfway between the West and Africa. This is a gross simplification of “Africa,” suggesting that because it's developed, South Africa isn't truly African. While travel here is certainly smoother, the experiences are acutely reflective of Africa travel reverie.

Where to Stay on a South Africa Vacation

South Africa has divine accommodation. Boutique hotels with stellar Table Mountain views. Wilderness safari camps where you can watch elephants from a private pool. Villas nestled amid the vines or perched on golden beaches. Where you stay is integral to the travel experience and there are so many unique options for your bucketlist. Location is key and the very best accommodations place you centerstage for dream South African experiences.

Discover a Rainbow Nation and Melting Pot of Cultures

The Rainbow Nation is a melting pot of cultures that can pull you in so many directions. Xhosa and Zulu traditions help you travel back in time. Surf culture dominates Durban. Johannesburg is a melting pot reflecting Mandela’s post-apartheid hopes. Best of all, the South African people delight in taking you closer. A barefoot San tracker revealing secrets in the bush. Mandela’s former prison guard guiding you on Robben Island. Tasting with winemakers and exploring with rhino conservationists.

What Else To Do In Nature in South Africa

South Africa dazzles from so many angles and nature always sets the scene. Stark mountain ranges rise vertically above two blue oceans and rugged savannah provides home for Africa’s great animals. In the cities you will be enveloped by raw African landscapes and a sense of nature’s majesty. When not searching for leopards you can be standing on Table Mountain, exploring almost 3000 km of coastline, or escaping the world on wide open plains. South Africa is a big country and nature is your chance to get away from the everyday, even it's just cruising through on a train.

Ultimate South Africa Culinary Experiences

Distinctive cultures and experiences mean South Africa vacations can be different for everyone. There is no standard route here, certainly not when you can have penguins, whales, diving with sharks, clifftop drives, ostrich riding, township cuisine, and sipping cocktails in a private plunge pool as elephants wander past. And the food! What to do in South Africa is indulge!

Planning What To Do In South Africa

With so much on offer, South Africa usually necessitates a dedicated two weeks. Cape Town and Kruger National Park are the two most iconic attractions but you'll be hard pressed to find a “typical” itinerary here. Like the country itself, you can pick and choose from a huge array of safari destinations and experience, from short one-day game drives to week-long excursions.

The excellent transport connections allow a dream South African vacation to be broad in scope and the ease of travel keeps many options open. Perhaps the main drawback is the sheer choice of destinations. Vacations are prone to feeling rushed as visitors look to combine and connect so much, especially if it's their first time to Africa. It's a real dilemma. Miss something unmissable? Or slow the pace? Encounters with local people are one constant to the experience. It's not something you need to look for and a charming highlight of every itinerary.