14 Life-Changing Experiences You Can Only Have in South Africa

Cradle of Humankind Sunset | © Martin Heigan/Flickr
Cradle of Humankind Sunset | © Martin Heigan/Flickr
Photo of Carina Claassens
9 February 2018

A visit to South Africa is unforgettable, some might even say life-changing and our round-up of exciting experiences promises to be just that. Whether you’re after breathtaking scenery or adrenaline-pumping activities, this diverse country boasts all of that and more.

Visit the most southern point of Africa

Cape Agulhas, near the Cape of Good Hope, is as far South as you can get on the African continent and is where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Climb to the top of the red and white Cape Agulhas lighthouse for amazing views of the surrounding scenery, hike one of the trails winding through fynbos and spot the Meisho Maru 38 shipwreck on the shore.

Lighthouse Street, L’Agulhas, +27 28 435 6078

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The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas | © Darren Glanville/Flickr

See the Big Five in one trip

South Africa is known for its unforgettable safaris and a trip to the Kruger National Park won’t disappoint. Many have experienced the ultimate joy of spotting all of the Big Five (lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhino) in a single trip. Book a few days in the park and head out on game views at sunrise and dusk, as this is when animals are most active.

Contact +27 12 428 9111 to book

If you’re lucky you’ll spot lions while on safari. Remember that Satara in The Kruger National Park is lion territory | ©Amar Yashlaha/Unsplash

Bungy jump from the highest commercial bridge in the world

The Bloukrans Bungy jump is the highest bridge bungy in the world and at 216 metres it’s enough to get any adrenaline junkie excited. For many the walk underneath the bridge, towards the jump base, is the most daunting part of the experience. Needless to say, the views into the Bloukrans River Valley are out of this world.

Contact +27 42 281 1458 to book

Bungy jumping from Bloukrans Bridge is an unforgettable experience | © Anja / Pixabay

See the flowers in bloom in Namaqualand

In spring, after the rains, Namaqua National Park is covered in fields of colour when the wild flowers go into bloom. More than 3500 species of plants dominate the park and the display is a spectacular site to see. To get the most out of your visit a 4×4 vehicle is your best option, and remember to pack essentials as the park is remote with the closest town being approximately 51 kilometres (32 miles) away.

Contact +27 12 428 9111 to book

Namaqualand daisies in full bloom | Courtesy of South African Tourism

Kayak with whales in Hermanus

Southern Right whales frequent South African waters each year from July to December, and the small town of Hermanus near Cape Town is the prime whale watching spot. If you’d like to get even closer to these giants go on a kayak tour with Walker Bay Adventures. Apart from whales there’s a rich sea life in the bay and you’re bound to spot dolphins, seals and penguins as well.

Contact +27 82 739 0159 to book

A Southern Right whale breaches in Walker Bay, Hermanus | © Ross Huggett/Flickr

Stay in Gandhi’s previous home

Satyagraha House in Orchards, a Johannesburg suburb, was built in 1907 by German architect Hermann Kallenbach and one of Gandhi’s closest friends. This is where the activist lived for a year during his time in South Africa, and today it’s run as a historic guesthouse. Memorabilia is scattered throughout the house and it’s been revamped to express its original charm.

15 Pine Road & Garden Road, Orchard, Johannesburg, +27 11 485 5928

Satyagraha House (5)-min

Satyagraha House’s exterior is reminiscent of traditional African architecture | Courtesy of Satyagraha House

Get back to your roots at the Cradle of Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind is the richest hominin fossil site in Africa and boasts many caves and archaeological sites across thirteen locations. From exploring the fascinating Sterkfontein Caves to visiting the Maropeng Visitor Centre, a trip to the Cradle of Humankind is an eye-opening experience.

Cradle of Humankind Sunset | © Martin Heigan/Flickr

Get panoramic views of Cape Town from Table Mountain

Table Mountain offers adrenaline junkies more than 900 climbing and hiking routes for every level of fitness. But, if you’d rather reach the top in comfort, jump on the cable car and enjoy the views all the way up. This is a popular tourist attraction and it gets busy fast, so buy tickets online or plan your trip out of season.

The view from the top | © South African Tourism

Hike the Drakensberg

The Maloti Drakensberg Park offers guests some of the most amazing and uninterrupted scenery in the country and with it some of the best hiking routes. Choose a trail and get ready to spot wildlife and visit historical San rock art sites.

Choose between a multitude of trails to suite your level of fitness | South African Tourism

Have an unforgettable 4×4 adventure

Sani Pass, situated between KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho, is the most treacherous yet scenic gravel mountain route in South Africa. The pass starts at 1544 meters (5065 feet) and summits at 2876 meters (9435 feet), so the weather can be unpredictable and if you’re there at the right time it might snow. Booking through a tour operator will ensure your vehicle is in tip-top shape to take on the journey.

The Sani Pass is the ultimate 4x4 route | ©Vaiz Ha/Flickr

Visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Nelson Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962 at this exact spot in KwaZulu-Natal, which lead to the notorious Rivonia Treason Trial and his sentencing of 27 years in prison. Today, a large sculpture commemorates the great leader and former South African president. Temporary exhibitions are also often held, so keep an eye on the programme before visiting.

R103, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, +27 33 330 8195


The Nelson Mandela Capture Site | Courtesy of South African Tourism | © South African Tourism

See the tallest waterfall in Africa

The Tugela Falls in the Royal Natal National Park in KwaZulu-Natal is an impressive 948 metres high with its longest drop totalling 411 metres, making it the tallest waterfall in Africa and the second tallest in the world. Getting there isn’t easy, there are different hiking trails but each is a bit of a trek and requires at least an average level of fitness.

Royal Natal National Park, Giants Castle Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal, +27 21 424 1037

Tugela Falls-min

The Tugela Falls Amphitheatre | © Rick McCharles/Flickr

Cage dive with Great White sharks

As far as life changing experiences go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Being immersed into the ocean with a massive Great White gliding inches away from you, immediately has an impact on a person, and not in a life-threatening, frightening way. However aggressive they might seem in Hollywood films, they’re exceptionally gentle in the water and unlike anything you’ll ever see again. Head to Gansbaai and book a trip through Marine Dynamics.

Over 110 species of sharks are now listed as under threat on the World Conservation Union’s Red List, while another 95 species are near threatened | ©Carina Claassens