The Most Unusual Experiences You'll Only Have in South Africa

The Buddhist Retreat Centre is the ultimate place to unwind
The Buddhist Retreat Centre is the ultimate place to unwind | © Angela Buckland / The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Photo of Carina Claassens
19 March 2018

South Africa boasts a plethora of activities and experiences for all kinds of travelers, whether you’re after breathtaking scenery, history, adventure or romance. However, if you’d like to take a walk on the wild side and enjoy some of the lesser known and more unusual things this beautiful country has to offer, look no further.

Take a tour of Ponte Tower

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Looking up from inside Ponte Tower | © David East / Unsplash

The Ponte City Apartments in Hillbrow is the tallest residential skyscraper in Africa at 173 meters (567 feet) tall. The building is a hollow sphere surrounded by apartments which have all been revamped to express its previous charm. The Ponte City Apartments made quite an impression on Danny Boyle (famous for directing the film Trainspotting), as he’s been quoted as saying that he’d like to use the building as a film set. Dlala Nje takes visitors on tours of the area, including the notorious Ponte Towers, where you’ll see uninterrupted views of the city.

Visit Adam's Calendar

Archaeological site
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Michael Telling takes visitors on an unforgettable journey covering the history of this fascinating site | © Mia & Steve Mestdagh / Flickr

South Africa’s very own Stonehenge is found near the small town of Kaapsche Hoop and is among the oldest man-made structures on the planet. As the site is protected by the Blue Swallow National Heritage Site, a guided tour is the only way to see the remnants of this functional monolithic stone calendar. Luckily, Michael Tellinger of Stone Circle Tours and his guides offer exactly that and visitors are guaranteed to be intrigued by the stories, history, and unbelievable facts.

Go on a stargazing safari with Astronomy Africa

Natural Feature
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Prince Albert has approximately five out of seven cloudless nights per week, making it the ideal spot for stargazing | © Kinson Leung / Unsplash
Wildlife safaris are a must when visiting South Africa, but don’t forget to look up as well. Head to Prince Albert in the Karoo to go on a safari unlike any other. Hans and Tilanie Daehne of Astro Tours share their passion as astronomers with all who visit. One tour option includes a visit to Sutherland to see the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere (SALT), while others focus purely on star gazing.

Wander the sacred Motouleng Caves

Natural Feature
Inside a Sangoma's Hut | © Jochem Koole / Flickr

The Motouleng Caves is one of the largest rock overhangs in the Southern Hemisphere and is home to many sangomas, or traditional healers. Locals flock to the caves to meet with them and often end up calling this sacred spot home for the time being. The caves are also known as the Fertility Caves, as it’s a pilgrimage destination for women hoping to get pregnant. It’s a short walk along the Caledon River to reach the caves and entering is free, just keep in mind that this is a very spiritual place, so keep noise levels to a minimum and dress appropriately.Contact Clarens Xtreme to book a tour.

Relax at The Buddhist Retreat Centre

Resort, Lodge, Cottages, Eco-Lodge
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The zen garden | © Angela Buckland / The Buddhist Retreat Centre

If peace and tranquility is what you’re craving you’ve come to the right place. The Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo KwaZulu Natal overlooks valleys and forests, adding to its relaxing atmosphere. The spacious retreat includes everything from a zen garden, meditation hall, and labyrinth to beautiful accommodation options. Winding pathways snake through the lush landscape leading guests to viewpoints where contemplating life is made easy. Whether you want to visit for a day or spend a few days exploring the natural surrounds and breaking away, the retreat has options to suit all needs.

Mingle with meerkats at Peace of Eden

Natural Feature
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Get up close and personal with these cute critters | © Sean Paul Kinnear / Unsplash

Eco-therapist, Mandy Young, and conservationist and meerkat expert, Grant Mc Ilrath, takes visitors into the wild without interrupting or disturbing these little critters. You’ll spend three days getting to know everything there is to know about meerkats and the total cost includes tours, accommodation in De Zeekoe cabins (situated next to a lake), brunch, and snacks.

Have a drink or two at Ronnies Sex Shop on Route 62

Bar, South African, Pub Grub
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Ronnie behind the bar | © Steve Cornish / Flickr

Ronnie’s Sex Shop, on Route 62, is also known as the oddest pub in Africa and is one of the most well-known destinations to grab a cold one. Initially a farm stall, Ronnie’s friends thought it funny to rename the business by painting “Ronnie’s Sex Shop” on the side of the building. As time went on the farm stall was transformed into a bar and the name stuck. Today visitors from all over make a pit stop here to meet locals and have a bite to eat, South African style. Luckily those who overindulge are welcome to book accommodation.

Take a soak on the edge of a cliff in Hogsback

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Soak in the unmatched views of the valley | © Klim Levene / Flickr

Away With The Fairies Backpackers is known for its cliff edge bath. Taking a bath overlooking the oldest forest in South Africa is free and 30-minute time slots can be booked at reception. Here it’s all about sustainability, so only use biodegradable soap and remember to keep the fire going to keep the old-school boiler warm.

Mingle with locals in Alexandra, the township of rhythm

Building, Market, Museum, Store, Theatre, Movie Theater, Memorial
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The streets of Alexandra | © Photo / Flickr

Alexandra, situated near Sandton, Johannesburg’s bustling financial district, has approximately 500,000 residents. The vibrant township has much on offer for visitors, from taverns to historic sites. Ekala Eco Tours guides visitors to the Nelson Mandela Yard, a house where Nelson Mandela lived during the 1940s, Kings Cinema, an art deco movie house, the Alexandra Beer Hall, Freedom Square, the headquarters of the notorious Msomi Gang, and much more. Choose between walking or cycling tours and cater each to your group’s needs and interests.

Walk through a tropical butterfly house

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Butterfly World Zoo offers exciting interactive experiences | © David Clode / Unsplash

Butterfly World Zoo near Stellenbosch has to be one of the most recommended activities to do with kids in the whole of South Africa. The tropical gardens are at the center of this sanctuary and house hundreds of butterflies, small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

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