Regardless of your personality, South Africa has so much to offer its tourists. But if you are more of an adventurous traveler, here’s a comprehensive list of things to do in South Africa.
1. Go on Safari
Many tourists go to South Africa for only one thing—Safari! If this is you, you’ll be in for a treat because South Africa is one of the best places in the world to spot the big five: lions, African elephants, leopards, rhinos, and the Cape buffalo.
Kruger National Park is the most popular game reserve in the country, but there are many more to choose from.
2. Take a Dune Shredder Adventure Tour
Daredevils and thrill seekers are invited to go on the ultimate adrenalin rush—with an experienced driver! The Dune Shredder is a V8 custom-built sand rail pipe, 4-seater car with full spec racing seatbelts.
This adrenalin-packed adventure tour goes up the Atlantis Dunes (a 40-minute drive from Cape Town).
3. See the Blyde River Canyon
The Blyde River Canyon (in Mpumalanga) is the third largest canyon in the world. It is a 16miles / 26km long “green canyon,” dominated by subtropical vegetation. There are also lots of fish and birds, as well as antelope species, hippos, crocodiles, and every South African primate species.
The Blyde River Canyon is part of the Panorama Route in South Africa. The route starts in the town of Graskop and includes “God’s Window,” the Pinnacle, and Bourke’s Luck Potholes.
4. Go bungee jumping
South Africa has several great bungee jumping facilities, the most popular being the Bloukrans Bridge, which is on the border of the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. The Bloukrans Bridge is also the highest in Africa.
5. Take an e-bike tour along Chapmans's Peak
Chapman’s peak is one of the world’s most magnificent coastal drives, but you can cycle it too. With your ebike, you can cycle along this 14.9 mile/24 km coastal drive.
6. Take a helicopter ride
You can see Cape Town like most tourists, or you could choose the exhilarating way!
There are several thrilling, exciting, and memorable Cape Town Helicopter tours you can choose from. For example, you could experience:
- a scenic two-oceans flight,
- a flight over Robben Island,
- a helicopter wine tour,
- a flight around the Atlantic coast, and more.
7. Go on a waterbike tour
There are several exciting ways to explore the beauty of the Mother City. Gliding across the ocean on a waterbike is one of them! No experience is necessary because waterbiking is simple—it’s not like a regular bike where you have to balance. They are stable and easy to steer.
If you’re lucky, you may see seals and dolphins!
8. Visit the southernmost tip of Africa
At Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, you can stand with one foot in the Indian Ocean, the other foot in the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Agulhas is where the two oceans meet, officially. (However, the point varies between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point.)
Cape Agulhas is a small rural town. Other than hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, fishing, exploring the shipwrecks, and whale watching, there is not much more to do. However, you could go swimming in Struisbaai, which is 8-minutes from Agulhas. Struisbaai has outstretched white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and the longest stretch of beach in the southern hemisphere. The Struisbaai waters are warmed by the Benguela current, so the water is warmer than what you would find in Cape Town. This makes for great swimming, splashing, and surfing.
If you are coming from Cape Town, it will take you almost 3 hours to get to Cape Agulhas.
9. Or the most south-western tip of Africa
Cape Point is one of Cape Town’s biggest tourist attractions. It is a historical site and a world heritage site. It’s a 1½ hour drive from Cape Town, but it is a beautiful, scenic drive with lots of lovely stops along the way. At Cape Point, you can:
- Explore and take a lot of Instagram worthy pictures;
- Walk the hiking trails;
- Explore the shipwrecks;
- Take the Cape Point Funicular (tram), also called The Flying Dutchman. It can take you to the upper lighthouse;
- Go whale watching if you visit between June and October;
- Swim or have a picnic. There are several great swimming and picnic sites.
10. Go sandboarding
Sandboarding is an exhilarating experience! You don’t even need to be experienced! In fact, training can be done in as little as 15 minutes. There are several sandboarding spots across the country, but the most popular must be the Atlantis Dunes, which is approximately 40 minutes outside of Cape Town.
11. Experience the thrill of quad biking down the dunes
If you are into off-roading, this is probably as thrilling as it gets! Quad bike tours take place on the dunes outside of Cape Town. They are conducted by qualified field guides on fully automatic or semi-automatic quad bikes.
Depending on the quad bike operator you choose, the tours can last anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half.
12. Take a kayak tour
There are tons of great kayaking operators in South Africa. Chances are excellent you’ll be kayaking with dolphins and seals.
13. Cycle through the winelands
Want to see the Winelands from a different perspective? These Winelands tours are for different fitness levels, so you don’t need to miss out if you’re out of shape.
14. Go scuba diving
The South African coastline offers a huge variety of diving experiences. These range from tropical reefs to wreck dives and more! You’ll find tropical reefs in the northeast of South Africa, and temperate rocky reefs in the west.
Some of the best diving in South Africa involves strong currents, colder water, and launching from the surf.
Scuba diving in South Africa is definitely worth your while but you should be prepared for a wide range of water temperatures during your dives. You can expect water temperatures ranging from around 57°F to 80°F (14°C – 27°C) in locations throughout the year.
15. Surf the waves
South Africa has a generous coastline of 1,740 miles /2,800 km (from Mozambique to Namibia). Here you will find beautiful beaches with consistent waves from Durban to Cape Town. You can surf quality waves over reefs, beach breaks, and points almost all year round.
When is the best time to go surfing in South Africa? Surfing is ideal when the roaring forties provide the best swells, which is from March to September. You can expect waves ranging from 6-15ft, with much bigger waves in certain spots.
During the South African summer, you should expect the swell to be smaller. The exception is the Durban area, where waves generated from the hurricane swells from December to February.
16. Go snorkeling
The best spots for snorkeling in South Africa are the south coast of the Western Cape (from the Garden Route to Cape Town) and the east coast of KwaZulu-Natal. With such an expansive coastline, there is no shortage of marine diversity. It’s ideal for amateurs or professionals.
17. Hike Table Mountain
Table Mountain is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Cape Town. It’s also an awesome hiking spot!
There are several different hiking trails on Table Mountain. Choose the one that suits you best in terms of difficultly and/or length.
18. Go whale watching
Every year (between May and November), people flock to South Africa to go whale watching. Cape Town is the most popular spot in the country but you can see them as far north as Durban.
In Cape Town, you can often see the whales from the roads and/or outlook points. If you prefer to get closer, there are also whale-watching tours that you can take via boat.
19. Visit the Addo Elephant Park
The Addo Elephant Park offers spectacular elephant viewing in a malaria-free environment. In addition to more than 550 elephants, you can also find Cape Buffaloes, lions, black rhinos, warthogs, various antelope like Eland, Red Hartebeest, and more.
The park is located in the dense Eastern Cape Bushes of South Africa.
20. Hike the Drakensberg Mountain
The Drakensberg Mountains (in the province of Kwazulu Natal) offer some of the best hiking opportunities in South Africa. In the Drakensberg, there are hiking trails for everyone. They include gentle half-day hikes, longer multiple-day hikes, challenging climbs, and technical mountaineering.
21. Visit the Cango Caves
The Cango Caves are 20 million years old. They comprise a series of hidden chambers cut deep into a thick limestone rock layer.
The Cango Caves are the biggest show cave system in Africa. It is also South Africa’s oldest tourist attraction.
The caves are in the Swartberg Mountains, 18.6 miles/30 km north of Oudtshoorn, and an almost 5-hour drive from Cape Town.
22. Experience tandem paragliding
Paragliding is very popular in Cape Town. You can go paragliding with a professional, so almost anyone can do it.
You’ll get yourself safely strapped in and inflated before you take a short run off the slope. Once the wind catches the canopy, you’ll be airborne. Your pilot will have control over direction and speed so that you can soar and enjoy!
You will need to book this ahead of time. It’s best not to leave it till the end because paragliding is dependent on the weather conditions.
23. Go ziplining
You can go zip lining all over South Africa and the process differs from operator to operator. With the more popular operators, chances are that you will start your adventure with a brief safety introduction before you are driven to the starting point.
Ziplining is not just for adrenalin junkies. Nature lovers enjoy it too, particularly in Cape Town because you zip through trees and magnificent greenery.
Some zip lines are as high as 169 yards/ 155 meters. Be sure to book ahead of time to reserve your spot.
24. Take a scary drive along the Swartberg Pass
Do you enjoy living on the edge? A drive along the Swartberg Pass might be for you. This adventure is not for the faint at heart or inexperienced drivers.
25. Experience shark (cage) diving
You don’t need special qualifications or even experience to go Shark diving in South Africa. You do, however, need to be bold and fearless. You will have the protection of a metal cage, so you’ll be able to get up close and personal with species like the great white shark. “Free swim” snorkel with other shark species is also possible.
Recommended shark diving spots:
- Gansbaai (just over 2 hours from Cape Town) is a fishing town with one of the world’s biggest populations of great white sharks.
- The ocean water in Durban is warmer, so it attracts shark species like tiger sharks, blacktip sharks, ragged-tooth sharks, dusky sharks, and whale sharks.
The best time to go shark diving is March to September – the South African winter months. Here’s why:
- Visibility is best at this time;
- During these colder months, sharks hunt nearer to the shore and they swim closer to the surface.
Important insider tip: Since the best time for shark diving corresponds with the South African winter, you should expect winter storms. However, winter storms can prevent boats from launching. Therefore, make sure you plan your shark diving adventure early in your trip to maximize your chances.
26. Visit the West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park offers a raw, authentic experience of the outdoors. It is about 1.5 hours from Cape Town, so it’s not as crowded as you’d expect in Cape Town. It is rural, but there is lots to do for outdoor lovers, like:
- enjoying a string of secret beaches;
- preparing your food at the uncrowded braai (bbq) spots,
- discovering shipwrecks;
- hiking at Geelbek and Eve’s Footprint in Langebaan;
- mountain biking;
- fishing and angling;
This is a tranquil, unblemished paradise-on-earth. It is the ultimate escape for those who need to get away.
27. Check out the bird of prey sanctuary
The African Birds of Prey Sanctuary is in the province of Kwazulu Natal. It is 60 hectares of scenic valley bushveld that offer safe-haven to the widest selection of indigenous raptors in southern Africa. You can experience these aerial predators firsthand—they have feeding times and flying shows you can attend.
28. Visit the iSimangaliso Wet Park
The iSimangaliso Wetland Park (in the province of KwaZulu Natal) is the largest protected wetland in Southern Africa. It was also South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
iSimangaliso has several interlinking ecosystems. This is why one place can offer so many things for you to do. Here are some activities that are available to you:
- relax on the beach;
- bird watching;
- deep-sea fishing;
- guided walks;
- game drives;
- estuary boat cruises;
- horse riding;
- turtle tours;
- scuba diving;
- whale watching;
29. Go on a hot-air balloon ride or Safari
One of the best ways to see South Africa is from a bird’s-eye view. This will be an experience you will hardly forget. With a hot-air balloon safari, you will have an uninterrupted view as you are floating high above the ground.
A hot air balloon safari will usually begin just before sunrise. You’ll lift gently off the ground, then float leisurely along with the wind. You’ll be able to see the sunrise and the animals on the ground below.
You can go hot air ballooning in various spots across the country.
- Mpumalanga (popular for safaris) and surrounding areas have hot air ballooning all year round because of the generally good weather conditions throughout the year.
- KwaZulu Natal hot air balloon operators close between June and October because of high winds.
- Cape Town hot air balloon operators close during the winter rainy season, which starts in May.
30. Fly in a Microlight
A microlight is a small, lightweight, fixed-wing airplane that can carry 1 or 2 people. They look like hang-gliders attached to giant tricycles, with a large motorized fan on the back.
They are relatively popular in South Africa, particularly in the Gauteng and Mpumalanga region where tourists take a microlight flight to see safari animals. The wind speed in Gauteng is also relatively low most of the year, which makes it safer than in places like Cape Town.