South Africa is fast becoming the adventure capital of the world. We've had the pleasure of visiting the country a couple of times and have discovered many things to do in South Africa.
From the first time we cycled down the West Coast all the way from Namibia to Cape Town to driving the entire East Coast from St.Lucia to the Cape of Good Hope, we've covered a lot of distance.
Awesome Things to do in South Africa
We want to give you a round up of the best things to do in South Africa for when you plan your vacation. From safaris to caves, marine life to scenery, South Africa has it all! Enjoy.
Check out our Guide to South Africa for more great ideas!
Plan Your Trip to South Africa
Lonely Planet South Africa – This is our go to travel guide around the world and it's a great resource to have in hand when traveling South Africa
Lonely Planet Cape Town and Garden Route – for a more specialized guide, pick up the LP that covers just the Garden Route and Cape Town.
Get Your Guide – It's a great company for booking day tours and finding deals
What to wear on Safari – a packing guide for your Africa Safari
Your Journey Starts in Richard's Bay
Renting a car is the best way to take in the full experience of seeing South Africa. It gives you freedom and the chance to meet the people.
We flew from Johannesburg to St. Lucia: A World Heritage Site in the iSimangaliso Wetlands.
Booking.com has over 4,000 properties in South Africa. You get free cancellation on most rooms and a best price guarantee.
Suggested Tours South Africa a 16 Day Odyssey
Suggested Places to Stay for South Africa itinerary.
St. Lucia – Umlilo Lodge
Durban – Oyster Box hotel
Safaris – Kariega Game Reserve
Garden Route – Views Hotel
Hermanus/Gaainsbai – Birkenhead House
Cape Town – Lawhill Apartments – See our review here.
1st Stop St. Lucia
We stayed at Umlilo Lodge where we enjoyed our very first Braai dinner with our fantastic hosts. A Braai is South African for Barbeque but for some reason a bbq in South Africa is so much better than a bbq at home.
In St. Lucia there is an amazing amount of choices for excursions.
Safari in Hluhluwe & Imfolozi National Park
It's the oldest Game Reserve in South Africa.
Known for it's white and black rhino population, Hluhluwe & Imfolozi have the largest in all of Africa! That's an amazing thing because rhinos are being slaughtered at an astonishing pace.
It's good to see that conservation efforts are being put into effect. But we are worried that it is too little too late.
Recommended Travel Gear for South Africa
Book your tour with Heritage Tours and Safaris and enjoy a braai lunch while you overlook the valley.
Take a River Cruise
Check out the hippos and crocodiles from the safety of your platoon boat.
Book your tour again with Heritage Tours and Safaris and you'll enjoy enjoy hot chocolate or cider while the hippos stretch and yawn as the sun sets overhead.
Kayak with Crocodiles
If you are feeling adventurous, skip the platoon boat and kayak in the river instead.
There's nothing but fibreglass separates you from the crocodiles below. The water in the estuary is an average of 1 metre deep and with 1200 crocs and 900 hippos you can be sure they are lurking below, even if you don't spot them right away.
We booked our tour with Kayaking tours with St. Lucia Kayak Safaris start at R 290 ($32 USD).
Read more about our kayaking adventure at Kayaking, Hippos and Crocs Oh My!
Wildlife Safari on a Horse
Nothing feels quite as awesome as having wildebeest and giraffes run beside you as you sit atop a horse and look on.
You feel at one with nature and get closer to the wildlife than you ever expected!
While watching wildlife, we had a herd of zebras surround us showing off to our horses. It was like they wanted us to join in as they ran at full speed. The horses were pretty excited too!
Read more about our horse safari at A World Heritage Horse Safari We booked our Safari with Bhangazi Horse Safari and Tori will show you a great afternoon.
Turtles Laying Eggs
St. Lucia is one of the best places in the world to spot Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles laying their eggs. Your tour begins and 9:00 pm and goes until the wee hours of the morning.
You drive right through the iSimangaliso Wetlands and we saw rhinos, hippos and the world's smallest lizard.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see a turtle hatching, But we saw Mother Nature's true side, as a jackal had dug up a nest of eggs and was feeding on turtles that were about to hatch.
They were so close to making it out to sea that they were actually still moving when we came across them. The jackal waited in the dark for us to leave and our guide told us it would be back.
Sadly only 1% of newly hatched turtles make it out to sea and it looked very unlikely that any of these would survive.
Suggested Durban Hotels
Microlight Flight near Durban
Durban is only 3 hours from St. Lucia and in this thriving city you can swing from the only stadium swing in the world at Moses Mabidha Stadium.
If that is a little too much for you, try a microlight flight over the spectacular coastline. Feel the wind whip your face as you watch dolphins and sea turtles swim below.
If you time it right, you may be there for the whale migration season! We booked our tour with the Ballito Microlight School.
Read more about our trip at Microlight, an Adventure in the Sky
South Africa Canopy Tours has zip lining adventures all around the country. For a beginners zip line adventure, try Tsitsikamma further to the south on the Garden Route.
For the Thrill Seekers, stay in Durban and check out Karkloof Canopy Tours. This was hands down the best canopy tour we've ever taken. (and we've done a lot)
While staying in Durban, the historical Oyster Box hotel is spectacular accommodations.
Located right on the Indian Ocean in the heart of the bustling town of Umhlanga, you are close enough to all the attractions but quiet enough to enjoy a proper relaxing vacation.
With swimming pools, spas, gymnasium, restaurants and cafés, it is a resort to definitely spend time in.
Suggested Garden Route Hotels
A Safari is at the top of things to do in South Africa
Safari on the Garden Route
A person can't go to South Africa without going on safari.
In South Africa you have an excellent chance of spotting the Big 5 animals while on safari and so much more! Along the Garden Route there are many private lodges to choose from and we stayed at the spectacular Kariega Game Reserve.
It is a luxury reserve with four different lodges. We stayed at the River Lodge where we were surrounded by the reserve and wildlife.
Our mornings and evenings were spent watching wildlife like lions, rhinos, hippos, giraffes and elephants while our days were spent in the lovely lodge reading books, sipping wine (all spirits, food and drink are included in the safari package) and relaxing on the dock.
We definitely needed more time here.
Adventure South Africa
Adventure in the Cango Caves
The Cango Caves are the oldest tourist attraction in South Africa and one of the best cave systems we've ever visited.
The standard tour is an easy and beautiful walk through massive chambers, but if you are up for the challenge, take the adventure tour. The adventure tour takes you through narrow passageways with openings as small as 26 centimetres.
It's not for the faint of heart, but great bragging rights after the fact.
Ostrich are not an endangered animal and if you visit the Cango Ostrich Farm, you'll learn about how ostriches are raised, what they are used for and you be able to get up close and personal with the largest bird on earth.
Ostrich riding is no longer available but you can get an ostrich massage and feed the ostriches that are held in captivity.
Find out more information at the Cango Ostrich Website.
Dive with Great White Sharks
Our Number 1 Choice for things to do in South Africa is to go Cage Diving with Great White Sharks!
We have seen it on Shark Week, we've watched it on National Geographic and here we are doing it in South Africa. Anyone can cage dive. You don't need to be a certified diver, heck you barely even need to know how to swim.
You are in a cage attached to the side of a boat. It's the easiest diving we've ever done, but it is also by far the most exciting.
Imagine having a great white shark bump the cage you are standing in. Watch it breach over and over again as it jumps after the fish head used as bait to attract the shark
Sharks are an endangered species and the more people understand the shark and learn to love them rather than fear them, the better off the entire ecosystem will be.
You can book your own adventure from Cape Town through Get Your Guide Great White Sharks Tour
Relax in Wine Country
After all that adventure you must visit the Stellenbosch region to sample fine South African wines.
There are huge estates where you can go for tastings, relax in town or just simply take in the scenery.
After cycling from Cairo all the way to Cape Town, Dave and I spent a week indulging in the rich food and fine wines of South Africa here.
Must do Cape Town Tours
Township and Robben Island Combo Tour – Tour where Nelson Mandella and other political prisoners spent decades behind bars.
Winelands Half Day Tour – If you can't make it to Stellenbosch to stay you must at least tour and taste fine South African wines.
Cape of Good Hope – Take a tour to the stunning Cape of Good Hope where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. Many a sailor lost their lives here.
Garden Route and Big 5 Safari– You can't go to Africa without seeing Wildlife. Book a safari from Cape Town.
Suggested Cape Town Hotels
Do everything you can in Cape Town
Cape Town is one of those amazing cities where you find yourself saying “I could live here!” It's beautiful, it's filled with culture and modern living, it has everything from markets to boutiques and it has adventure.
There is paragliding off Lions Head and Abseilling (rappelling) off Table Mountain.
We went sandboarding at the dunes and enjoyed the V&A Waterfront to the fullest.
There is so much to do in and near Cape Town. Read The Very Best Things to do in Cape Town
Don't forget to pick up your hop on hop off bus pass for Cape Town.
The Twelve Apostles is repeatedly voted as one of Cape Town’s best hotels. It overlooks the sea and each month they have a delicious wine pairing which we just happened to be there at the right time for!
Rent a car and see the Penguins in Simons Town and make sure to visit the famous Cape of Good Hope. The road out from Cape Town is one of the best drives in the world.
So there you have it! This itinerary should keep you busy doing all these amazing things in South Africa!
Sure there is a lot more to do in South Africa, but if you follow this route, you'll go away feeling like you experienced everything the country has to offer.
We had the perfect blend of local hospitality, world class wildlife viewing, enjoying everything from luxury accommodation to quiet family run operations, fine dining, incredible adventures and spectacular sunsets.