This post was most recently updated on September 5th, 2018
Sitting pretty at the Southern tip of the continent is the tourist hub that is South Africa. South Africa serves up the usual fare of big game safaris and pristine beaches. But that is not all it has to offer. South Africa destinations have plenty of great surprises for travelers as well.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK
Kruger National Park is home to all the big five: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo. Visitors can choose to stay in a tented camp or in a lodge depending on their requirements. Visitors who require a more hands-on wilderness experience can choose to do a walking safari. This safari is not only ecofriendly and exciting but it also offers access to creature comforts. A case of having your cake and eating it.
There are also family safaris and honeymoon safaris available at Kruger. Besides big game, there is a lot of bird watching to enjoy at Kruger.
Cape Town is a beautiful modern coastal city with plenty of outdoor activities. Cape Town is home to the iconic Table Mountain and cable way. This is a breathtaking experience. See the Castle of Good Hope and visit the Aquila Game Reserve. Get to see the Cape Point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. Great White sharks, penguins and seals are present off the shores of Cape Town for those interested in marine life. A guided tour will save you the trouble of driving through Cape Town’s side cliff roads.
Visitors interested in a more culinary tour can opt to visit vineyards, beer makers and chocolate makers for a taste of Cape Town.
Visitors find the raw beauty of the Garden route intriguing. The 200km route has beaches, lakes, lagoons, hills and mountains. Between Mossel Bay and Storms River, there is plenty in the way of outdoor activities and scenery. Outdoor activities include bungee jumping, deep sea diving, and zip lining. Get to see elephants on land and sharks in the sea.
At the Sabi Sand game reserve are lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard. Cheetahs and hippos live there too, besides the big five. Plenty of grazers roam the savanna. The Sabi Sand is one of precious few remaining genuine wilderness areas in the Southern part of Africa. Accommodation is available at several lodges within the park.
Kruger National Park is famous the world over for safaris. All the big five are there in Kruger. They have lions, leopards, elephants, rhino, and buffalo. As wildlife sanctuaries go, Kruger is one of the most expansive in the world. It is as big as some countries. Kruger is 6 hours away from
Johannesburg by road. Being a private reserve, Kruger offers more luxurious hotels and lodges. The bird life is very vibrant too.
To allow wildlife to migrate freely, several private reserves removed their fences.
BLYDE RIVER CANYON
Blyde River Canyon is one of the most important treasures of South Africa; and forms part of the Drakensburg. Most of the canyon is sandstone. The canyon is at least 4,537 feet deep. Blyde River is one of a few extremely large canyons in the world. It stands out among the rest because of the lush green vegetation along its length. Blyde is a Dutch word that means ‘happy.’
Three huge rocks known as the ‘rondavels’ give a spectacular view. They look just like the traditional huts.
The happy river is populated with fish, antelopes, crocodiles, monkeys, bush babies, and hundreds of bird species.
Pilanesberg Park is right next to the resort town of Sun City in North West Pretoria. Within the park are several historical archeological sites from the stone age. The Pilanesberg alkaline ring complex is what is left of an extinct volcano forms the three rings of hills around it.
There is plenty of big game at Pilanesberg. Lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalo all call the place home. The wild mountain savanna landscape also plays home to smaller game like antelopes, zebras, impalas, kudus, and giraffes. Smaller cats such as the caracals roam the landscape hunting smaller prey.
HLUHLUWE-IMFOLOZI GAME RESERVE
Hluhluwe is a hilly reserve spanning more than 900 square kilometers. Known widely as the oldest nature reserve in Africa, it is the only public park with all five of the big game. There are more white rhinos at Hluhluwe than anywhere else in the world. This means that you are more likely to bump into one here than anywhere else. This is a great place to look at the remains of stone age settlements.
Hluhluwe has a rich history, having been a former royal hunting grounds for the elite of the Zulu tribe. The game at Hluhluwe were spared from colonial hunters by the infestation of tsetse flies. The nearest town is Mtubatuba.
MADIKWE GAME RESERVE
Madikwe is one of the youngest game reserves in South Africa. It was only gazetted in the 90s. Madikwe is situated on what was once farmland.
In 1992, the government started relocating herds of elephants, buffaloes, rhinos and antelope to Madikwe. Poor soils had rendered the area useless to farmers.
Madiwe lies just at the edge of Kalahari desert where some very unique species occur naturally. Besides the famous Cape Wild Dogs, we have Transvaal lions, South African cheetahs, and spotted hyenas. Hundreds of bird species flock the area as well.
The trip takes an hour by air and five hours by road from Johannesburg.
TSITSIKAMA NATIONAL PARK
Tsitsikama National Park is on the Garden Route. The beautiful coastline, indigenous forests and walking trail are the main attractions. Together with the Wilderness National Park it forms the Garden Route National Park.
There is a whopping 80km of rugged coastline to be enjoyed. The highest bungee jump in the world is found here too. At 216 meters, the Bloukrans Bridge is the thrill seekers heaven. This is a great place to spot some otter.
Hikers will treasure the variety of trails and bird watchers will enjoy being here.
ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK
As the name suggests, large herds of elephants roam the grounds of the Addo Elephant National Park. There are also large numbers of zebras, antelopes and warthogs. Addo plays home to the big five as well as whales and white sharks off the beach. The climate here is always warm.
Some of the road in the park are in Afrikaan; remnants of the old days. Visitors may go on a guided tour or they may choose to drive themselves. Remember that the flightless dung beetle is a protected species and that drivers may not drive over them or hit them in anyway.
The red soil of Addo gives the elephants’ a unique brown skin tone. They are ubiquitous. Leopards and lions are a little harder to spot.
There are more than 70 places offering accommodation at the Addo, and visitors have many to choose from.