14 Unique and Offbeat Activities to Explore in South Africa

South Africa beckons multiple visits due to its diverse offerings. From hiking in Drakensberg to surfing in Jeffreys Bay, wildlife safaris, penguin colonies, and historical sites like District Six Museum and Robben Island, there are 15 top experiences for travellers.

  • Exploring South Africa's Safari Wonders

South Africa is a Must-Visit for Wildlife Enthusiasts and Safari Aficionados. Explore its World-Class Game Drives and National Parks for an Unforgettable Safari Experience.

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Mother Zebra with a baby zebra in the Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park: A Wildlife Paradise

Kruger National Park, renowned for its exceptional biodiversity and the "Big Five," offers an unforgettable safari experience. A visit to Kruger, personally exceeding expectations, emphasises the value of hiring a knowledgeable guide for expert wildlife spotting and insights, enhancing this once-in-a-lifetime South African safari.

Exploring Other Remarkable Safari Destinations

While Kruger steals the spotlight, South Africa offers a wealth of alternative safari options. Here are a few I highly recommend:

  • Hluhluwe and uMfolozi National Park: Situated in the eastern part of the country, these parks are renowned for their rhino populations and also feature the Big Five.
  • Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Located on the northern border with Botswana, this park is famed for its black-maned lions.
  • Addo Elephant National Park: Near Port Elizabeth on the southern coast, this park is an excellent choice for self-drive safaris and boasts the Big Five.
  • Pilanesberg National Park & Game Reserve: Home to the Big Five and doable as a day trip from Johannesburg, making it ideal for those with limited time.
  • Exploring Cape Town

Cape Town stands as South Africa's most sought-after destination, offering a vibrant and multicultural atmosphere. The city boasts lively bars, delectable cuisine, excellent weather, and abundant opportunities for nature enthusiasts, including nearby hiking trails. 

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South africa coastline indian ocean near the mountain and beach

Alongside its stunning beaches, the waterfront area is teeming with exciting activities. During your visit, ensure you hike both Table Mountain and Lion's Head, take a tour of Robben Island (the former prison of Nelson Mandela), and unwind on the scenic shores of Muizenberg Beach.

  • Surfing Adventures in South Africa

South Africa's coastline along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean offers exceptional opportunities for surfing enthusiasts. Jeffrey's Bay, situated on the southern coast near Port Elizabeth, stands as the most renowned surfing destination in the country, renowned for its sizable waves and numerous breaks. Near Cape Town, there are several excellent surfing spots, including Hout Bay's Dungeons and various others further south along the Western Cape, such as Long Beach.

South africa coastline indian ocean near the mountain and beach

Surfing for Beginners in Durban

If you're a novice surfer, Durban presents an excellent choice for surfing lessons. Its consistent waves and warm waters in the Indian Ocean create ideal conditions for learning. You can expect to invest approximately 500 ZAR per person for a 2-3-hour surfing lesson, making it an accessible and enjoyable experience for newcomers to the sport.

  • Take the Plunge at Bloukrans Bridge

For adrenaline enthusiasts, South Africa offers a plethora of thrilling activities, with the Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump standing out as a top attraction. This iconic bridge is suspended approximately 200 metres (700 feet) above the Bloukrans River, near its confluence with the Indian Ocean. 

Bloukrans Bungy Jump Bridge Natures Valley Western Cape South Africa

To begin the adventure, you'll embark on a thrilling zip-line journey to the jumping point. Although the actual bungee jump happens in a flash, the experience doesn't end there. Afterward, you have the opportunity to return to solid ground via a skywalk, allowing you to savour the breathtaking scenery that, until this point, might have been overshadowed by jangling nerves.

  • Exploring Robben Island, A Lesson in Apartheid History

To gain a profound understanding of apartheid history, a visit to Robben Island is essential. Situated merely 6 kilometres (4 miles) off Cape Town's coast, Robben Island served as a maximum-security prison until 1996.

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Table Mountain seen from the Robben Island, South Africa

 Throughout the apartheid era, numerous political prisoners found themselves incarcerated here, including the iconic Nelson Mandela, who endured 18 years of captivity on the island. Today, this historic prison has achieved UNESCO World Heritage status and stands as one of South Africa's most significant cultural sites.

  • Hiking the Majestic Drakensberg Mountains

South Africa's highest mountain range, the Drakensberg, stretches along the border of South Africa and the landlocked mountain kingdom of Lesotho. These majestic peaks offer some of the country's most breathtaking and dramatic hiking routes, often accompanied by a rich tapestry of ancient rock art.

Drakensberg mountain, South Africa

Given the challenging terrain and unpredictable weather, it is essential to have a knowledgeable guide by your side. During your adventure, you have the choice of camping along the trail or staying in hotels, allowing for day hikes that lead you deeper into the heart of this remarkable landscape.

  • Whale Watching in Hermanus

This being South Africa's Premier Whale-Watching Hub. Witness Majestic Southern Right Whales Close to Shore from June to November, a Unique Land-Based Spectacle.

Southern Right Whale swimming near Hermanus, Western Cape

In fact, the town even employs a dedicated Whale Crier, who signals the presence of nearby whales by blowing a kelp horn. Located less than two hours from Cape Town, Hermanus is conveniently accessible for day trips or serves as a must-visit stop for road trippers en route to the Garden Route.

  • Observing African Penguins

Encounter African Penguins at Boulders Penguin Colony

Located within the Table Mountain National Park and a short drive from Cape Town, the Boulders Penguin Colony is a sanctuary for several thousand African penguins, affectionately known as jackass penguins due to their distinctive braying sounds.

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Natural habitat. South Africa

To safeguard these endangered creatures, beach access for penguin nesting areas is restricted. Visitors can observe from viewing platforms and explore a raised boardwalk starting at the Boulders Visitor Centre, offering a closer encounter with these fascinating penguins.

  • Indulge in Wine Tasting

South Africa's ideal climate for grape cultivation yields a diverse range of award-winning wines, including whites, reds, and sparkling varieties. The country's wine-making tradition traces its roots back to the 17th century, and today, it boasts a multitude of wineries awaiting exploration and sampling.

Cape Winelands region is the premier wine producing area of South Africa

The Cape Winelands near Cape Town provide abundant choices for wine enthusiasts. Stellenbosch offers 150+ wineries, while Franschhoek boasts vineyards and top-notch dining. Enjoy wine tours or stay at winery accommodations for an immersive experience.

  • Exploring Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, the third-largest canyon globally, offers a lush contrast to arid canyons. Within this UNESCO site, discover natural wonders like Pinnacle Rock, God's Window, Bourke's Luck Potholes, and ancient rock art in Echo Caves.

Blyde River Canyon and The Three Rondavels in Mpumalanga

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve offers numerous opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking trails meander through the stunning terrain, while activities like abseiling, mountain biking, and white-water rafting promise thrilling adventures in this captivating natural wonder.

  • Embark on Scuba Diving Adventures

South Africa is a scuba diver's paradise, with a variety of world-class dive sites to explore. Here are a few of the best places to go scuba diving in South Africa:

Divers comes out of an underwater cave

  • Cape Town: Cape Town is renowned for its diverse underwater landscapes, including rocky shores, vibrant reefs, and enchanting kelp forests. The city also boasts numerous shipwrecks, offering intriguing opportunities for underwater exploration.
  • Port Elizabeth: Port Elizabeth is a wreck diver's paradise, with sunken treasures such as the Haerlem and the Doddington to discover. Additionally, Port Elizabeth offers thrilling shark diving experiences, adding to the excitement of your underwater adventures.
  • Sodwana Bay: Located on the border with Mozambique, Sodwana Bay is a top-tier diving location for its flourishing coral reefs, abundant marine life, and vibrant underwater ecosystem.

Here are some tips for planning your scuba diving adventure in South Africa:

  • Choose the right dive site: South Africa has a variety of dive sites to choose from, catering to all levels of experience. Consider your interests and skill level when selecting a dive site.
  • Book your dives in advance: Especially during peak season, it's important to book your dives in advance to secure your spot.
  • Rent your scuba gear: If you don't have your own scuba gear, you can rent it from most dive shops in South Africa.
  • Get certified: If you're not already certified, you can get scuba diving certified in South Africa. There are many dive shops that offer certification courses.
  • Embark on a Ferry Ride to Robben Island

Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in learning about South Africa's history and the fight against apartheid. The island is located just off the coast of Cape Town and can be reached by ferry from the V&A Waterfront. The ferry ride takes around 45 minutes and offers stunning views of Table Mountain and the city skyline.

Robben Island in Table Bay,Cape Town, South Africa

Exploring Robben Island's Legacy

Once on the island, visitors embark on a bus tour that provides insights into its history and natural beauty. The tour also includes a visit to the prison itself, which is led by a former inmate. This is a powerful and moving experience that allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and resilience of those who were once incarcerated on Robben Island.

Here are some tips for planning your visit to Robben Island:

  • Book your tickets in advance, especially if you're visiting during peak season.
  • Arrive at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time.
  • Bring a hat, sunscreen, and water, especially if you're visiting during the summer months.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, as there is a lot of walking involved.
  • Be respectful of the island's history and the inmates who were once held there.
  • Ride the Cable Car to Ascend Table Mountain

Cape Town's landscape is intertwined with Table Mountain, known as Hoerikwaggo, the 'mountain in the sea.' Multiple hiking trails lead to the summit, but the cable car offers a swift ascent for easy access to the top.

Cable car brings many tourists up to the Table Mountain National Park

Breathtaking Vistas from the Summit

Atop Table Mountain, a short walk to Maclear's Beacon at 1,086 metres high offers stunning views. The station area provides panoramic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean, Lion's Head, Robben Island, and the city. Plan visits to account for cable car closures in adverse weather.

  • Encounter the Big Five at Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park, South Africa's largest game reserve, showcases the 'big five' – elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalos. A paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, it also hosts over 500 bird species, making it an ideal destination for birdwatchers.

Giraffes in Kruger National Park in South Africa

Optimal Safari Timing and Experiences

The best time for a Kruger National Park safari is during the dry winter months, from June to September. Sparse vegetation and animal gatherings around waterholes make for optimal wildlife viewing. Choose from guided game drives at lodges or budget-friendly self-drive options for an unforgettable adventure.

FAQS

What are some unique outdoor activities to enjoy in South Africa?

South Africa offers a wide range of outdoor adventures. You can go shark cage diving in Gansbaai, hike in the Drakensberg Mountains, explore the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn, or take a scenic hot air balloon ride in the Magaliesberg.

Where can I experience unique cultural activities in South Africa?

Visit the Lesedi Cultural Village to immerse yourself in traditional South African culture, or explore the diverse neighbourhoods of Cape Town, such as Bo-Kaap, known for its colourful houses and rich history.

What are some unusual wildlife experiences in South Africa?

You can embark on a horseback safari in the Waterberg region, witness penguin colonies at Boulders Beach, or take a nocturnal game drive in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve for a chance to spot elusive nocturnal animals.

Where can I find unique dining experiences in South Africa?

Try dining in a traditional South African township like Soweto, or enjoy a unique culinary adventure in Cape Town's Test Kitchen, known for its innovative cuisine.

Are there any unusual historical sites to visit in South Africa?

Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, is a must-visit historical site. You can also explore the eerie ghost town of Kolmanskop in Namibia, which was once a thriving diamond mining town.

What are some quirky festivals and events in South Africa?

Attend the AfrikaBurn festival, South Africa's version of Burning Man, or participate in the Nama Riel dance festival in the Northern Cape to experience unique cultural celebrations.

Where can I find unusual accommodations in South Africa?

Stay in a treehouse in the Tsitsikamma Forest, a luxury cave in the Cederberg Mountains, or a houseboat on the Knysna Lagoon for a truly unique lodging experience.

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