SOUTH AFRICA TOURS - THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is the powerhouse of Africa with a vibrant economy and an abundance of rich natural resources. It’s had turbulent history dominated by the apartheid era but the country has settled into a period of growth and transformation since it became a democracy in 1994.
The country offers travellers an endless array of attractions; from the rugged protected wilderness areas in the northern region, to the breathtakingly-scenic wonders of the southern and eastern coastline and the vast uninhabited landscapes of the western and central regions. There’s something for everyone on a tour of South Africa.
The cities and towns of South Africa are vibrant with world-class infrastructure; the country towns are quaint and unique in their own way. Throughout, the people of South Africa are warm and welcoming, although crime in South Africa is an issue and travellers need to take the usual precautions to make their safety a priority. Moafrika is proud to offer the best South African tours.
Where is South Africa located?
South Africa is situated at the southern tip of Africa. The icy Atlantic Ocean lies on the west coast and the warm Indian Ocean lies on the east and south Coast, meeting at Cape Agulhas which is officially the southernmost tip of Africa. Most people think the two oceans meet at the Cape Point and for publicity reasons, tourist attractions in the region play on the marketing appeal of the Two Oceans.
South Africa shares a boundary with 6 countries; Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. The Kingdom of Lesotho has the status of an enclave, which means it’s entirely surrounded by South Africa. It’s an independent state and part of the Commonwealth of Nations, although almost entirely dependent on South Africa.
How big is South Africa?
South Africa’s total surface area is 1.22 square kilometres. It’s the 24th largest country in the world and the 9th biggest in Africa, which is made up of 54 countries. To give you an idea, South Africa is twice the size of France and five times bigger than the United Kingdom. It’s also bigger than any country in Europe, except for Russia.
South Africa has 9 provinces:
- North West
- Free State
- KwaZulu Natal
- Eastern Cape
- Western Cape
- Northern Cape
How many people live in South Africa?
In 2019, the estimated size of the population of South Africa was just over 58 million inhabitants.
South Africa covers an area of 1.2 million square kilometres and the population density is about 48 people per square kilometre.
South Africa’s population is regarded as young; where the medium age is 26.3 years.
When did South Africa become a democracy?
1994 was a turning point for South Africa when the first ‘free and fair’ elections were held and the country for the first time ever became a democracy. The ruling party that was voted in was the African National Congress (ANC), led by the iconic Nelson Mandela. The country’s constitutional law was re-established with the hope that the people of South Africa would never again experience such struggle and division.
Leading up to that milestone election, South Africa was a divided nation and many of its inhabitants had suffered unbearably under the tyrannical rule of the apartheid government. Firstly, it was under British and Dutch rule that many suffered discrimination and inequality; and then under the National Party (NP).
The National Park was the governing party of South Africa from 1948 until 1994, and was disbanded in 2005. Its legacy included apartheid, the establishment of a South African Republic and the promotion of Afrikaner culture. When FW de Klerk became South African president in 1989, he set about dismantling apartheid, lifted the ban on the ANC and ordered the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.
Mandela led the ANC in its negotiations to end apartheid rule and establish a democratically-elected government. Both Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 in recognition of the role they played in this tumultuous period to facilitate a smooth transition to democratic rule.
Mandela was elected South Africa’s president after the country’s first free elections and served as head of state until 1999. He retired from politics after serving only one term but remained a global advocate of peace and social justice until his death in December 2013. The ruling party of South Africa is still the ANC under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, who successfully unseated Jacob Zuma who left behind a legacy of gross corruption and economic mismanagement.
Why do they call South Africa the Rainbow Nation?
The Rainbow Nation is an affectionate term for South Africa that was coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow Noble Peace Prize winner. Tutu used it to describe post-apartheid South Africa after its first fully democratic election in 1994.
Rainbow Nation captures the unity of a multi-cultural nation that was once divided down the lines of White and Black. The Rainbow symbolism is also associated with hope, peace and a bright future, taken from the Xhosa culture.
Although not intentional, the Rainbow Nation is represented in the colours of the flag of South Africa. When it was designed and adopted in 1994, the bright and instantly-recognisable flag stood to represent unity with its 6 different colours:
- the red, white and blue colours were taken from the colours of the old Republic flag
- the yellow, black and green were taken from the ANC flag
Black, white and red symbolises the people of South Africa; green the fertility of the land; blue the surrounding oceans and mighty rivers; and gold the mineral wealth beneath the soil.
According to the latest census, the population of South Africa comprises:
- 79% Blacks
- 9% Whites
- 9% Coloureds
- 3% Asians
The Black population consists of Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Bapedi, Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi, and Ndebele.
The White population are typically descendants of Dutch, German, French, and British immigrants.
The Coloured people are a mixed race descending mostly from the indigenous Khoisan, Blacks, Whites, Malay, and Indian.
The Asian population are mostly Indian and some Chinese.
As a result of its diverse population, South Africa has 11 official languages. They are English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.
How strong is the South African economy?
South Africa has the strongest economy in Africa and is the powerhouse of the continent; thanks largely to its mineral wealth, incredible natural resources and tourism. Its GDP represents about 30% of the GDP of the entire Africa. South Africa is renowned for its well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors and the Rand is the world’s most actively traded emerging market currency.
However, South Africa has many challenges, mostly brought on by corruption and economic mismanagement that is the legacy of the ousted president. The country officially entered into a recession in the latter quarter of 2018, its first since 2009.
What challenges does South Africa face?
Challenges that the new head of state will have to address for the country to recover its growth potential include amongst others, declining agricultural and mining output as well as rampant corruption and mismanagement in government and parastatal enterprises.
Another significant challenge is poverty and unemployment, particularly amongst the younger section of the population. Declining healthcare and education standards are a concern, and high crime levels which is the knock-on effect of unemployment.
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Murder, carjackings, violent domestic crime and rape are the ugly scourge of what is otherwise a vibrant and cosmopolitan country. Most violent crimes happen in communities that are deeply neglected and impoverished, and these are not areas that tourists enter into unless taken on a tour with a reputable tour operator.
Is South Africa safe to visit?
The international media often represent South Africa in a negative light and describe it as a dangerous place to visit. This is entirely justified if you look at the high crime statistics in the country. However, violent crime is more often a function of poverty and unemployment and is largely restricted to impoverished and neglected townships in South Africa where gangsterism and lawlessness is rife.
These are not areas that your average tourist visits on a trip to South Africa. In particular, if you’re travelling with a reputable tour operator like MoAfrika Tours, your safety is a priority and you should never visit the no-go areas and experience the ugly side of South Africa.
Poor neighbourhoods, informal settlements and derelict inner cities are no-go areas for tourists; you’ll only visit parts of them on a day tour with a reputable tour operator such as MoAfrika Tours who has been taking clients into places like Soweto and Joburg CBD for many years. A township tour is fascinating and a wonderful way to experience South Africa’s rich cultural heritage; however, it’s not advisable to visit these areas on your own.
Political and service protests are common during an election period and often turn violent; but again, tourists will never be put in harm’s way by avoiding these public hotspots. A reputable tour operator in South Africa should keep up-t- date with latest developments if there is political unrest and will make alternative plans to avoid those areas.
Most tourists visiting South Africa head straight to the game reserves in the northern region or head south to the beautiful coastal towns and cities. As long as you’re travelling with a reputable tour operator in a reliable luxury vehicle, you’ll be safe. The most important thing about a holiday to South Africa is that you practice common sense; as you would anywhere else in the world where you may fall victim of petty crime and tourist scams.
Is there malaria in South Africa?
Yes, there is malaria in South Africa but it’s restricted to certain regions in three provinces: parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga and north-eastern KwaZulu Natal. These regions lie at a low altitude and experience summer rainfall and hot and humid summer temperatures which are the perfect weather conditions for malaria-carrying mosquitos to exist.
Not all mosquitos carry the malaria parasite. The ones that do belong to the anopheles group. The risk of contracting malaria is highest between May and September, but it’s advisable to take anti-malaria tablets on any holiday to South Africa regardless of the time of year.
Mosquitos are most active - bite more - between dusk and dawn so take the necessary steps not to be bitten. Wear long pants with socks and closed shoes and a long-sleeved shirt in the evening and liberally spray mosquito repellent on yourself and in your room. Always sleep under a mosquito net if provided.
If you experience any flu-like symptoms within 10-15 days of first arriving in a malaria area, go to a doctor immediately and insist on being tested for malaria. The disease is life-threatening and fatal if not diagnosed and treated early.
Do I need travel and medical insurance for a tour of South Africa?
Travel insurance is highly recommended for South Africa. It should cover theft, loss and medical emergencies and evacuations. Check the small print when taking out travel insurance as some policies don’t cover dangerous activities such as paragliding, scuba diving, helicopter rides and even motorbiking, cycling and hiking.
Medical insurance for South Africa is very important. You can take it out as part of your travel insurance cover or request extra cover from your existing medical aid company. If you need medical treatment in South Africa, you’ll be taken to a private hospital or clinic. The state hospitals are not recommended, unless it’s an absolute emergency.
Private hospitals in South Africa expect upfront payment in cash from foreigners. Find out from your insurance company if they make payments directly to a medical provider or reimburse you when you return home.
One of the crucial things to cover is transport for an emergency evacuation. This might be an ambulance or helicopter. If you need urgent medical help when you are far from a city or town, sometimes the only option is to have you evacuated by air.
Where do most tourists go when they visit South Africa?
The list of places to visit and things to do in South Africa is exhaustive. It’s a vast country that offers something for everyone; whether it’s diving with sharks, going on a Big 5 safari tour or drinking some of the world’s best wines in the beautiful Cape… the choices is endless.
Ask MoAfrika Tours to recommend a perfect tour package to suit your individual needs. Most South Africa tours are a combination of ‘safari and scenery’; with the best that the northern and southern regions have to offer.
South Africa is divided 6 main regions and each area has something unique to offer travellers.
If you draw a line across South Africa; the vibrant city of Johannesburg and the majority of the popular safari destinations fall into the northern region. In the south, you’ll find South Africa’s bucket-list destinations which include the glorious Cape Peninsular, Cape Winelands and magnificent Garden Route.
On the western side of South Africa, you’ll find quirky towns and fascinating nature reserves that look out over the icy Atlantic Ocean. And on the eastern side, you’ll find the tropical splendour of the Kingdom of KwaZulu Natal and magical Drakensberg Escarpment a bit further inland.
South Africa is the gateway to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and the splendid national parks in Zambia and Botswana. It’s also a friendly neighbour of Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho which offer fun adventures and beach holidays for the outdoor enthusiasts.
The choice is endless but MoAfrika’s list of places to stay and things to do are good place to start if you’re planning a holiday in South Africa.
What are the most popular tourist destinations in South Africa?
The Big 5 and Cape Town draw the most amount of tourists to our shores but there many more places to visit in South Africa and exciting adventures to experience. If you have to narrow it down, these are the most popular places in South Africa that most tourists visit.
1. Johannesburg & Pretoria ǀ Located in Gauteng
Most tourists arrive in South Africa via the state-of-the-art OR Tambo International Airport and are whisked off to the popular game reserves in the north or down to the Cape. If you give yourself enough time to stop over in Johannesburg, you’ll discover what a vibrant city it is and how much it has to offer.
Pretoria is not really a tourist destination but it’s rich in history and a particularly beautiful city in Spring with flowering jacaranda trees as well as beautiful historic buildings. If you have time, Pretoria is worth a visit on an informative day tour.
In Johannesburg and Pretoria, you’ll find be surprised by the first-world infrastructure and facilities. There are a number of massive shopping malls that impress even the most ardent shoppers as well as an abundance of world-class restaurants, vibey bars and delis, art galleries, entertainment centres and quality accommodation to suit every budget.
To get between the two cities and OR Tambo International Airport, you can use the Gautrain. This is a state-of-the-art high-speed train service that links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekurhuleni and OR Tambo International Airport.
The best thing to do while staying in the ‘City of Gold’ - or what locals call Jo’burg - is a day tour of the Gauteng Province’s historic destinations. The best day tours offered by the leading tour operators in the city include:
- the inner city of Johannesburg which stood at the centre of the gold mining era
- Soweto, the largest city in South Africa and the birthplace of South Africa’s democracy
- Apartheid Museum, a stark reminder of the horrors of the apartheid era
- Constitutional Hill, a symbol of hope and freedom
- Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa and rich in history
- Voortrekker Monument and Heritage Site, a symbol of Afrikaner heritage
An opportunity not to be missed while staying in Johannesburg is a tour of the Cradle of Humankind which is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Regarded by scientists as the birthplace of humankind, you’ll enjoy a fascinating tour of the Maropeng Visitors Center and Sterkfontein Caves.
Johannesburg and Pretoria are the gateway to the majority of South Africa’s most popular Big 5 safari destinations. The most convenient for a quick trip is the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province; both are a scenic 2-hour drive from Johannesburg and located in a malaria-free area so there’s no need to worry about taking anti-malaria tablets.
Interested in a historic and cultural tour of Soweto?
MoAfrika Tours is the leading day tour operator and has been taking international visitors to Soweto for more than two decades.
2. Pilanesberg Game Reserve ǀ Located in the North West
The popular Pilanesberg Game Reserve is located in the North West Province of South Africa, a comfortable 2-hour drive from Johannesburg. It’s lies tucked between the dry, arid Kalahari Desert and the lush, tropical Lowveld region in a malaria-free ecosystem.
Covering an area of 55 000 hectares, it’s a small Big 5 safari destination if you compare it to the Kruger National Park but you’re guaranteed to see great wildlife sightings on a safari tour of the Pilanesberg because of its high concentration of game. It’s home to in excess of 10 000 animals including elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard which is known as the Big 5.
The Pilanesberg Game Reserve was once neglected and unhealthy farmland which was rehabilitated and restocked through one of the most ambitious animal translocation projects, known as Operation Genesis. Launched in the 1970s, the project re-introduced an abundance of wildlife to the area which had long since vanished from the region.
The geology of the Pilanesberg is fascinating as it’s the site of an ancient volcano, although it didn’t erupt. The ancient mountainous landscape that dominates the game reserve was formed by three concentric ridges or rings of hills which is actually a very rare formation called a ‘ring dyke complex’. There are only three ring dyke complexes in the world and the Pilanesberg mountain is the best preserved of the three by far.
The centre of the inactive volcano did collapse at some stages which formed the crater that the Pilanesberg Game Reserves lies in; and the base creates Mankwe Dam in the heart of the reserve. The area is also rich in cultural heritage and archaeological finds. In fact, the Pilanesberg is a dream destination for archaeologists.
Pilanesberg Game Reserve offers travellers a wide choice of accommodation ranging from camping and caravan sites at two large holiday resorts to luxury accommodation in 5-star safari lodges. Avoid the large holiday resorts in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve such as Manyane Resort and Bakgatla Resort because they get very busy with local holidaymakers and the standards of upkeep have deteriorated in recent years.
The best places to stay in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve are:
Bakubung Bush Lodge
Bakubung means the ‘place of the hippo’ and the resident hippo pod is a tourist delight. The resort offers the best of both worlds; the solitude of the bush and the luxury of modern amenities that make it an unforgettable holiday for the whole family. The resort offers guided safari tours, flood-lit tennis courts, a stunning swimming pool and panoramic views from every room. A shuttle service takes visitors to and from Sun City and the local airport.
Black Rhino Game Lodge
This luxury lodge is nestled in a thicket of Tamboti trees on the private Black Rhino Reserve. A ‘fence drop’ initiative with the North West Park & Tourism Board allows guests traversing rights throughout the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The Tamboti trees attract the elusive black rhino and a wide variety of bird species which makes it a game and birding paradise. The sweet veld vegetation of this low-lying reserve complements the Pilanesberg predominately mixed sour veld and sightings of elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard are common.
Buffalo Thorn Lodge
The exclusive use of this fully-serviced intimate, five-star lodge comes complete with a private safari vehicle, a personal game ranger, outdoor boma and housekeeper. A swimming pool at the edge of the bush offers a glimpse of the Big 5 poolside. Buffalo Thorn Lodge can accommodate up to 10 guests in spacious suites.
Ivory Tree Game Lodge
This spectacular lodge lies snuggly in a natural amphitheatre and is known for its award-winning Amani African Spa. The lodge is surrounded by foothills and immersed in riverine woodlands that are dissected by ancient elephant trails. A large pool, spa, outdoor dining and luxurious suites make this an ideal tourist destination for the discerning traveller.
Kwa Maritane Lodge
This hotel and timeshare resort is a mixture of relaxation and adventure. The lodge has a game viewing hide situated on a private waterhole, with hippos in residence. Bush braais are organised for a spectacular dining option under the African night sky at the resort’s popular Bush Boma.
Morokolo Game Lodge
Morokolo Game Lodge is situated on the northern slopes of the Black Rhino Reserve portion of the Pilanesberg, in one of the most remote and exclusive areas of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Guests have the choice of two camps; each with 8 luxury double suites with modern bath, en-suite facilities, a private courtyard and outdoor showers.
Pilanesberg Private Lodge
This private lodge sits on the western border of the Pilanesberg National Park with access limited to paying guests only. It’s a private retreat that has recently been established in the Black Rhino Reserve and lies at the foot of the majestic Pilanesberg mountain. The lodge has 5 luxury units connected via paved pathways and bridges to the communal area, each designed to offer spectacular views of the surrounding bush.
Shepherd’s Tree Game Lodge
This state-of-the-art establishment is located in a private concession adjacent to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Private game viewing, gourmet dining under the African skies and magnificent views combine with the luxury of an award-winning health and beauty spa. The featured architecture and interior design are the hallmark of the whole lodge, and flawless finishes leave no detail overlooked. The lodge offers commanding views of the distant bushveld amphitheatre and offers guests exciting walking trails in this untouched environment.
Tamboti Game Lodge
Contemporary elegance combined with the ultimate in safari luxury makes this a much sought-after lodge in a private concession adjacent to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. You have the choice of dining under the stars around a raging fire in the boma or you can have a delicious meal brought to your private suite. This intimate lodge promises luxury and every occasion is thoughtfully planned and memorable. The luxury suites are surrounded by striking Tambuti trees and offer spectacular bush views.
Tshukudu Bush Lodge
Tshukudu Bush Lodge offers unforgettable luxury and is one of the most romantic settings in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Nestled high within the crater of an ancient volcano, visitors enjoy spectacular views of the ancient volcanic crater. Tshukudu Bush Lodge overlooks a waterhole with the savanna plain stretching out in the distance; sightings of the Big 5 are common from your private suite.
Looking for a romantic breakaway in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve?
MoAfrika Tours wants you to enjoy every minute of your excursion. Enquire today about your next trip to this spectacular destination.
3. Sun City ǀ Located in the North West
Sun City is an artificial city that’s located in the North West Province of South Africa, in a region that was originally an independent state known as Bophuthatswana. It’s the next door neighbour to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and an easy 2-hour drive from Johannesburg. It’s located in a malaria-free area and offers a world of entertainment for the whole family.
This incredible holiday destination in South Africa was developed by a visionary hotel magnate, Sol Kerzner, during the height of apartheid when world sanctions has been imposed on the country. Sun City Resort & Casino was opened in 1979 with the dream of offering South Africans and international tourists a fantasy escape and the freedom to play and relax in a top-quality environment. It included the extravagant Palace of the Lost City which was a masterpiece in architectural design in its day.
The best attractions at Sun City are:
- Sun Central: the central entertainment hub where you’ll find the food court and an action-packed kid’s entertainment centre
- Sun City Superbowl: hosting live performances by local and international performing artists
- Sun City Casino: offers hundreds of exciting slot machines and over 40 popular table games; exclusive access to Salon Privé and VIP gaming facilities
- Valley of the Waves: the major outdoor attraction at Sun City and regarded as one of the most exciting water parks in the world; includes a 6 500 square metre wave pool, artificial beach, Temple of Courage with a 17-metre slide and tube rides on the Lazy River
- Palace of the Lost City: an out-of-this-world luxury hotel that’s the brainchild of Sol Kerzner; inspired by the myth of a lost African Kingdom
- Maze of the Lost City: resembles a half-ruined Mayan stone maze and offers visitors a challenging and exciting experience; covers an area of 2 200 square metres and reached by crossing a 90-metre long suspension bridge that in itself is an engineering masterpiece
- Gary Player Country Club golf course: one of two magnificent 18-hole golf courses designed by the golfing legend, Gary Player; rivals some of the best golf courses in the world and hosts international competitions
- Waterworld; offers thrill seekers and adrenalin junkies a wide choice of water activities which include parasailing, jet skiing, wakeboarding and tube rides
- Adrenaline Extreme: offers visitors a wide range of outdoor activities; from 3-wheel drift trikes and 4×4 quads to hovercrafts, a giant human catapult and dirt buggies
- Kwena Gardens: a crocodile sanctuary that is both highly educational and exciting; get up close to some of the biggest crocodiles you’ll ever see in your life
- Predator World: the ideal family destination for a whistle-stop wildlife safari; guided tours take you to well-kept enclosures that are home to an array of indigenous animals including lions, cheetahs, leopards and hyena
Places to stay in Sun City range from budget-friendly self-catering chalets at the Sun City Vacation Club to high-end luxury hotels. There are four stunning hotels; all designed to the highest architectural standards with fantasy themes and mystical garden surrounds. Choose accommodation at Sun City that is located close to the entertainment hub or something a bit more private away from the busy crowds.
- Soho Hotel: the first hotel built in Sun City and often called the main hotel; offers guest 4-star exquisitely-decorated accommodation in the heart of the resort
- Cascades Hotel: named for the spectacular waterfalls and crystal-clear natural pools that create a fantasy moat around the hotel; offers 5-star accommodation and an array of facilities in the heart of Sun City
- The Cabanas: situated on the banks of the Sun City Waterworld Lake and positioned next to the Gary Player golf course; offers guests a contemporary twist and a delightful base to explore the magical botanical gardens of Sun City and the outdoor activities centre
- The Palace of the Lost City: an architectural masterpiece and part of Sun International’s premier collection; offers guests 5-star accommodation that’s both awe-inspiring and surreal
Looking for the best shuttle service to Sun City?
MoAfrika Tours can help. They also offer bus tours and transfers from Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
4. The Cradle Of Humankind ǀ Located in Gauteng
The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with one of the richest concentrations of early human fossils in the world. There are 15 major fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankind with Sterkfontein Caves being the most famous attraction to visit.
Sterkfontein Caves is the home of Mrs Ples and Little Foot; fossils of the earliest human ancestors known to man. In addition, there are thousands of fossils of hominids, plants and animals. More hominid fossils are found in the Cradle of Humankind than anywhere else in the world.
The protected heritage site spans an area of 47 000 hectares, lying on a bed of dolomite deposited around 2.5-billion years ago. Similar fossils have been found at other sites in south and east Africa but the Cradle of Humankind has produced more than 950 hominid fossil specimens.
The Maropeng Visitor Centre is located in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind and showcases the development of humans over millions of years with exceptional exhibits that transport visitors back in time. The most impressive is an underground boat ride that takes you on a tour of 2 500 square metres of exhibits.
The main exhibition is housed in a state-of-the-art facility called Tumulus building. The pathway to the entrance passes an archaeological excavation of a Stone Age site where geologists found early stone tools belonging to the Acheulean period. These tools belonged to the early hunter-gatherer tribes that used the local rocks to make their tools. Some of these tools have been dated back to between 1.0 and 0.5 million years; an era before the appearance of modern Homo sapiens.
5. Kruger National Park ǀ Located in Mpumalanga
The Kruger National Park is an iconic destination in South Africa. It’s Africa’s largest protected wildlife reserve and the flagship of national parks in South Africa. The vast wilderness region stretches 352 kilometres from north to south with Mozambique lying on its eastern border and Zimbabwe lying on its far northern boundary.
The Kruger Park is home to the Big 5 which includes elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard and is a protected refuge for an abundance of animals as well as 500 recorded bird species. The region is also rich in history and renowned for its San rock art paintings and significant archaeological sites such as Masorini and Thulamela. You’ll discover the best that Kruger Park has to offer on glorious early morning and late afternoon game drives.
Other things to do in Kruger Park include guided wilderness trails, 4x4 adventure trails, photographic safaris and golfing tours. The national park boasts 6 diverse ecosystems and 17 biospheres with vegetation, wildlife and birding changing from one ecozone to the next. Where you go in the Kruger Park depends on what interests you and what safari experience you prefer.
Accommodation in the Kruger Park ranges from the popular rest camps which are affordable and comfortable but somewhat dated, to ultra-luxury 5-star safari lodges located on the private concessions. You can pitch your tent in one of the popular caravan and camping sites in the Kruger Park or you can sleep under the stars as part of a magnificent wilderness trail in a remote corner of the Park. The choice of places to stay in the Kruger Park suits all travel budgets.
The Kruger National Park is managed by SANParks which is a governing body that was established in the early 1920s. The organisation is responsible for 21 national parks in South Africa which combined add up to some 4 million hectares of the most incredible precious land in the country. The Kruger Park is the oldest national park in the SANParks portfolio and the most popular tourist destination in South Africa, together with Table Mountain National Park in the Cape.
Luxury accommodation for the discerning traveller is offered by the safari lodges built on the private concessions in the Kruger National Park. They offer guests a more authentic and intimate safari experience as well as outstanding wildlife sightings on daily game drives.
The private concessions in the Kruger National Park include:
- Singita Private Concession: 15 000 hectares located in the remote and mountainous eastern region close to the Mozambique boundary and at the confluence of two mighty rivers; home to the ultra-luxury Singita Lebombo and Singita Sweni safari lodges
- Imbali Private Concession: 10 000 hectares located in the heart of central Kruger Park and home to 3 outstanding luxury lodges which includes Hamilton’s Tented Camp
- Jock of the Bushveld Private Concession: 6 000 hectare concession located in the southern Kruger's Big 5 country where the Mitomeni and Biyamiti rivers meet and home to 2 luxurious safari lodges
- Lukimbi Private Concession: 15 000 hectares located in southern Kruger and bordered by three rivers; it’s the largest private concession in the Kruger Park although there is only one luxury safari lodge in the area, Lukimbi Safari Lodge
- Tinga Private Concession: 5 000 hectare located in southern Kruger with the Sand and Sabie rivers passing through the concession; renowned for its high population density of Big Cats which include leopard, lion and cheetah as well as large numbers of spotted hyena and wild dog
MoAfrika Tours offers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 night breakaway packages.
6. Greater Kruger National Park ǀ Located across Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces
The Greater Kruger National Park adjoins the Kruger National Park but are entirely different entities. The Greater Kruger is an extension of the national park where 180 000 hectares comprising 18 unfenced private game reserves located to the west of Kruger Park were added to make up a massive protected wilderness region in the north-eastern region of South Africa.
Game is free to roam between the two magnificent Big 5 wildlife areas. However, the same cannot be said for travellers. Visitors staying in the Kruger Park may not freely drive across the private lands in the Greater Kruger which is home to a collection of some of the finest private safari lodges in southern Africa. Guests staying on a private game farm in the Greater Kruger travel a short distance to one of the main gates into Kruger Park and pay the standard entry fee.
The Greater Kruger National Park forms part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park which in turn forms part of the Kruger2Canyons Biosphere which is designated by UNESCO as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve.
The safari lodges in the Greater Kruger Park are exclusively marketed to the high-end traveller. You pay a premium to stay at these ultra-luxury safari lodges and are guaranteed outstanding wildlife sightings with no traffic congestion on game drives. One of the main differences is safari vehicles operating on the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger are allowed to go off the park roads into the bushveld to get closer to game sightings. This is not allowed in the Kruger Park.
The standard of guiding is exceptional on the private reserves in the Greater Kruger and guests enjoy unparalleled safari tours in pristine bushveld; particularly in reserves such as Sabi Sands which is known as the “Leopard Capital of South Africa”.
The best known private game reserves that make up the Greater Kruger National Park are:
- Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve: 65 000 hectares of pristine wilderness lying on the eastern unfenced boundary of the Kruger Park and home to home to some of southern Africa’s most famous safari reserves such as Singita, Londolozi, MalaMala and Sabi Sabi
- Thornybush Private Game Reserve: 11 000 hectares of open savanna bushveld and home to 6 privately-owned luxury lodges that offer 5-star luxury safari accommodation in spectacular bushveld settings
- Timbavati Private Game Reserve: 53 000 hectares of outstanding wilderness that is home to the Big 5 and some of the most exclusive safari lodges in southern Africa
- Balule Private Game Reserve: 40 000 hectares of unrivalled bushveld and outstanding wildlife sightings and home to only a handful of ultra-exclusive luxury safari lodges
- Kapama Private Game Reserve: 13 000 hectares of open woodland and lush riverine forest and home to a collection of Kapama safari lodges that offer guests an exclusive safari tour as well as unique experiences such as hot-air balloon safaris, elephant-back safaris and sleep-outs under the stars
- Klaserie Private Game Reserve: 60 000 hectares of magical bushveld surrounds and home to the Big 5 and a collection of magnificent private luxury safari lodges
- Makalali Private Game Reserve: 22 000 hectares of acacia scrub, rocky hills and open savanna grasslands and the lush riverine forests that flank the magical Makhutswi River with only a handful of luxury safari lodges in the reserve
- Manyeleti Private Game Reserve: 23 000 hectares lying between the Timbavati Private Game Reserve and Sabi Sands; home to the Big 5 and 3 exclusive safari lodges
- Nkomazi Private Game Reserve: 15 000 hectares on the banks of the Komati River, offering Big 5 safari tours and a collection of tented accommodation close to the Kruger National Park
- Mjejane Private Game Reserve: 4 000 hectares with 10 kilometre river frontage on the southern boundary of Kruger Park between the Malelane and Crocodile Bridge gates; unfenced boundary with the Kruger Park, offering Big 5 safari experience and ultra-luxury accommodation
The exclusive nature of the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger Park means that guests on safari don’t experience the “queue to view” issue that’s sometimes a problem in the busy sections of the Kruger Park. The whole safari experience is authentic and unashameably the domain of the discerning traveller.
The tourist hub of the Greater Kruger National Park is Hoedspruit, which is serviced by the Eastgate Airport. You’ll be astounded at what you’ll find in Hoedspruit which is fast turning into a tourist destination in its own right. Hoedspruit is vibrant and warm-hearted with a fantastic restaurants, pubs and delis as well as a great selection of shops and a wide range of accommodation.
MoAfrika Tours has a wide selection to choose from. From budget to luxury packages including lodges and luxury safari tents (glamping).
7. Panorama Route ǀ Located in Mpumalanga
Most safari tours that take guests to the Kruger National Park or the private game reserves in the Greater Kruger Park usually travel back to Johannesburg taking the scenic Panorama Route. It takes guests on a breathtakingly-scenic drive that winds its way along the edge of the forested escarpment through the historic towns of the gold mining era to end in the lush Lowveld city of Nelspruit. Stop along the way for pancakes at the famous Harry’s Pancake restaurant, look out of God’s Window, relax at Bourke’s Luck Potholes and gaze down at the incredible Blyde River Canyon.
There’s no rush to get back to Johannesburg because the Panorama Route is a tourist destination on its own; with an enormous amount of things to do in the area which range from gorgeous forest hikes to toboggan rides, the Big Swing and venturing down into the Graskop gorge for a delicious lunch.
The most popular tourist destinations along the Panorama Route include:
- Blyde River Canyon: situated in the Greater Drakensberg Escarpment, this impressive green canyon is the third largest canyon in the world, covering an area of 29 000 hectares which includes famous landmarks such as God’s Window, Pinnacle Rock, the Three Rondawels and Bourke’s Luck Potholes
- Pilgrim’s Rest: a small tourist town with a colourful history that dates back to the gold mining era; founded in 1873, fortune seekers descended on the rudimentary village in search of their fortune
- Graskop: a century-old town that sits on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, it’s the closest village to the main attractions of the Panorama Route; the most popular thing to do is visit the Graskop Gorge Lift which takes you 51 metres down into the gorge valley where there are boardwalks that lead you along the valley floor
- Sabie: a popular holiday town that attracts nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, with loads to do from hiking, fly-fishing, mountain biking, horse riding, white water rafting, rock climbing and sightseeing; the town lies nestled in one of the largest man-made forests in the world with panoramic views of the Lowveld region
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8. Cape Town ǀ Located in the Western Cape
Cape Town is affectionately known as the Mother City. It’s the oldest city in South Africa, rich in history and one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. It’s also the legislative capital of South Africa and capital city of the Western Cape.
Standing sentry in the heart of Cape Town is the iconic Table Mountain which falls within the Table Mountain National Park. This iconic biosphere straddles the Cape Peninsula which is a rugged stretch of land that runs some 52 kilometres from Mouille point in the north to the Cape Point in the south.
Highlights of a tour of Cape Town include:
A natural amphitheatre created by the mountains of Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak; where you’ll find the central business district, Port of Cape Town, the Company’s Garden, District Six and Bo-Kaap.
The Atlantic Seaboard lies on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, running north to south from Green Point, Mouille Point, Three Anchor Bay, Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay, Clifton, Camps Bay, Llandudno and Hout Bay.
A gorgeous scenic drive winds its way through the suburbs of the Atlantic Seaboard, running parallel to the glistening Atlantic Ocean. The area is renowned for its beautiful Blue Flag beaches, seafront promenades and a cosmopolitan mix of restaurants, bars and delis. It also boasts the highest number of high-priced mansions in South Africa.
To explore what the locals call Cape Town’s ‘Riviera’, start at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Green Point; it’s the entertainment hub of Cape Town and part of the historic harbour. Don’t miss an opportunity to catch a ferry across to Robben Island; it’s an island in Table Bay that’s rich in history and now a UNESCO World Heritage. It was famously where Nelson Mandela and other struggle veterans were incarcerated during the apartheid era.
Continue southwards to the Cape Point at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, stopping at the beaches along the way and lunch at the historic Hout Bay harbour. The magnificent slopes of Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles are on your left and the splendid Atlantic Ocean radiantly bright on your right.
The Southern Suburbs of Cape Town lie in the shadow of Table Mountain National Park on the eastern side; running north from Rondebosch, Newlands and Bishops to Wynberg, Constantia and Hout Bay in the south. This verdant belt of suburbs is the gateway to the quaint and hugely popular coastal towns situated along the route to Cape Point.
The two most popular tourist attractions in the Southern Suburbs are Constantia which is renowned as a notable wine-growing area and for its rich Cape Dutch heritage; and Kirstenbosch Gardens which is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. The Constantia Wine Route takes you to historic wine estates which were originally established by Simon van der Stel, the first governor of the Dutch Colony.
You’ll find an excellent choice of accommodation, restaurants and world-class shopping centres in the Southern Suburbs as well as the famous Newlands Cricket Grounds and the Newlands Rugby Stadium. It’s the oldest rugby stadium in South Africa and the second-oldest rugby stadium in the world.
Places you’ll love to visit if you’re staying in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town include:
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: a UNESCO World Heritage Site that lies on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain; covering an area of 528-hectares of protected nature reserve, more than 20 000 native South African plant species have been collected, grown and studied for decades in the different sections of the beautiful botanical gardens
- Groot Constantia: the oldest wine estate in South Africa and provincial heritage site in the suburb of Constantia; noted for its production of high-quality red wines, including Shiraz, Merlot and blended red Governors Reserve
- Wynberg’s Village: previously a military station that was established in the late 1700s and now a picturesque village known as Little Chelsea
- Hatfield Village: known for its rambling maze of Victorian and Edwardian semi-detached and detached cottages and side streets, as well as an avenue of trendy shops, coffee bistros and restaurants.
- Constantia Valley: apart from being the heart of the wine growing region, this valley is one of the most beautiful in the Cape with an array of rolling hills, forests and stately homes that lie in the shadow of the Constantia Mountain. You’ll find a selection of fabulous shopping markets, restaurants and delis in the valley as well as excellent guest houses and B&Bs.
- Hout Bay Mariner’s Warf: travel over Chapman’s Peak to spend the day at the historic Hout Bay harbour and enjoy the best fish & chips in town. You can book a boat ferry out to Duiker Island to see the seals and the sharks that follow in their wake.
- Newland’s Forest: this is a much-loved destination for hikers and dog walkers with a number of trails and a contour path that takes you to Kirstenbosch Gardens and the grounds of the University of Cape Town. Don’t miss a chance to stop for tea and scones or a delicious meal at the park’s restaurant or pop down to Foresters Arms Pub & Restaurant for excellent pub grub and great vibes.
- Cavendish Square: an award-winning shopping destination in Claremont offering exclusive fashion, cinemas and premium restaurants and coffee shops. It’s the shopping hub of the Southern Suburbs and spreads across a few blocks, all within easy walking distance of many of the best hotels and B&Bs in the Claremont area.
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9. Cape Peninsula ǀ Located in the Western Cape
The Cape Peninsula is a rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean at the south-western tip of the African continent. At the very southern end, you’ll find Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. At the northern end, you’ll find the iconic Table Mountain. It stretches 52 kilometres in length, and has been an island on and off for the past 5 million years when sea levels fell and rose with the ice age and global warming cycles.
The Cape Peninsula has exceptionally rich biodiversity. Its vegetation consists predominantly of several different types of Cape Fynbos (meaning fine bush), including the critically endangered Peninsula Granite Fynbos, Shale Renosterveld and Afromontane forest.
The Cape Peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with an estimated 2 200 species of plants that are confined to the Table Mountain National Park. They are endemic to these mountains and are not found anywhere else in the world.
To explore the Cape Peninsula, book a day tour with MoAfrika Tours which will take you on a circular route starting and ending in the Cape Town City Bowl. You’ll stop at the main attraction along the way on a spectacular route that’s regarded as one of the most scenic in southern Africa.
The main destinations on a Cape Peninsula day tour are:
- Llandudno: lies between Camps Bay and Hout Bay; renowned for its magical beaches and some of the most exclusive real estate in Cape Town
- Hout Bay: a popular tourist attraction and enchanting residential suburb; renowned for its beautiful beach, busy marina, art galleries, restaurants and a working harbour where you can get the best fish and chips in town
- Chapman’s Peak: the name of the mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula with a breathtaking road known as the Chapman’s Peak Drive that hugs the near-vertical face of the mountain that drops sharply hundreds of metres into the Atlantic Ocean and links Hout Bay to Noordhoek
- Noordhoek: a laid-back coastal village on the other side of Chapman’s Peak which is known for its incredibly long beach, vibrant artists market and festive pubs and restaurants as well as wine tasting at the award-winning Cape Point Vineyards
- Scarborough: a designated conservation village where development is restricted; surrounded by perfectly-preserved natural landscapes and overlooking the icy Atlantic Ocean
- Cape Point: falls within the southern section of the Table Mountain National Park; renowned for its incredible natural vegetation which comprises the smallest but richest of the world’s 6 floral kingdoms as well as it rugged rocks and sheer cliffs that tower more than 200 metres above the sea and cut deeply into the Atlantic Ocean
- Boulders Beach: known for its striking granite bounders and home to the largest population of African penguins; with wheel-friendly boardwalks which were constructed to accommodate nearly 60 00 visitors that visit the beach each year
- Simon’s Town: one of South Africa’s oldest towns and home to the South African Naval Base; it’s a popular coastal town to stay in with a selection of excellent restaurants and guest houses which overlook the historic naval harbour and warm Indian Ocean
- Kalk Bay: a vibrant coastal town known for its historic working harbour, bohemian shops and vintage bookstores as well as a selection of popular restaurants and guest houses
- Muizenberg: a lively beachside town known as the “Surfing Capital of Cape Town”; also rich in history and a popular summer holiday destination for local and international tourists
10. Cape Winelands ǀ Located in the Western Cape
The Cape Winelands is located in the Boland region of the Western Cape and home to a selection of the finest wine estates in the world. The largest towns in the winelands district are Paarl, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Robertson, Worcester and Wellington.
In addition to being the place to visit if you’re a wine fundi, you’ll also be impressed by it’s incredible scenery, rich cultural history, Cape Dutch architecture and vibrant city life. It’s renowned for its world-class restaurants and is also the “Culinary Capital of South Africa”. Combine wine tasting with cheese tasting and enjoy the delicious olives, export quality fruit and organic produce that’s produced in the area.
The most popular wine routes in the Cape Winelands are:
- Stellenbosch Wine Route: boasting nearly 200 wine and grape produces, it’s the first region in South Africa to establish an official wine route; where tourists have the choice of 148 wine farms to visit located on historic wine farms
- Helderberg Wine Route: includes the premier wine estates in and around the Somerset West area; offering a diverse array of wines and a selection of outstanding restaurants on the various wine farms along the route
- Durbanville Wine Route: less well-known than the Stellenbosch wine route but equally impressive; the area produces excellent wine
- Franschhoek Wine Route: this region has exploded in popularity; known for its breathtakingly-beautiful scenery and rich French Huguenot heritage, you can take the Wine Tram for a combination of fine wines, delicious cuisine and a fascinating history lesson
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11. Cape West Coast ǀ Located in the Western Cape
The busy coastal towns of the West Coast lie north of the Cape Town City Bowl, hugging the Atlantic coastline and looking across Table Bay. These include Bloubergstrand, Milnerton, Tableview and Big Bay. It’s a popular weekend destination for locals who enjoy windsurfing, long walks on the beach and eating out at a selection of great restaurants.
Taking the ‘road less travelled’, you’ll continue northwards on what is marketed as the ‘Cultural & Foodie’ Route of Cape Town. It’s the perfect road trip to take at a slow pace; renowned for its outstanding biodiversity, warm and friendly locals and quaint seaside towns.
Popular places to visit on a West Coast roadtrip include:
- Melkbosstrand: a popular seaside village that attracts watersport lovers; the long Main Beach is the perfect picnic spot, otherwise taste your way through a selection of friendly restaurants and delis serving typical West Coast cuisine. Melkbosstrand was where the invading troops landed in 1806.
- Witzand Aquifer Nature Reserve (Atlantis Sand Dunes): a protected conservation area made up of the Silwerstroomstrand Conservation Area and the Atlantis Dunefields; known of its perfect sandy beaches, rocky shorelines and vast dunes which are popular for sand-boarding and 4x4 adventures.
- Silwerstroomstrand: a popular Blue Flag beach that’s safe for swimming, with a small rocky point that provides protection from the swell. There’s a lovely tidal pool for younger beachgoers, a picnic area, caravan park and bungalows if holidaymakers.
- Blaauwberg Nature Reserve: known for its spectacular fauna and flora and view over Table Bay of two iconic UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Table Mountain and Robben Island. It’s also the site of the 1806 Battle of Blaauwberg.
- Koeberg Private Nature Reserve: popular weekend destination for walking trails, offering panoramic views over the West Coast and a rich array of fauna and flora.
- Mamre Mission Station: the town of Mamre is rich in history; where you’ll find the Moravian Mission Station which was established in 1808 as well as the original church and parsonage which are now national monuments. The old watermill was restored and converted into a museum and the church is still used for Sunday services.
- Groote Post Wine Cellar: part of the famous West Coast Flower Route, Groote Post is a historic 18th century farm where find the West Coast’s popular vineyards. The West Coast climate is perfect for growing grapes and the area produces excellent wines from the Darling Hills.
- Darling: a thriving West Coast town that lies in the heart of the wildflower region; the Darling Wildflower Show is held on the third weekend in September and draws hordes of nature lovers to the area.
- West Coast National Park: a magical protected conservation area which stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan; it’s a popular destination for nature lovers and birdwatches, with over 200 species of land and sea birds in the area and strong numbers of springbok, gemsbok, kudu ad the rare mountain zebra.
- Yzerfontein: a pretty coastal village that’s popular with watersport enthusiasts and nature lovers; it’s also famous for having the longest stretch of beach in South Africa.
- Langebaan: the bustling town borders the West Coast National Park and famous as a birding destination. It’s an internationally-acclaimed Ramsar Site which is a wetland area that’s been designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Did you know?
A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975.
- Saldana: an historic naval and fishing port that’s located overlooking South Africa’s largest natural bay; famous as one of the best places to see the Southern Right Whale in calving season.
- Paternoster: one of the oldest villages on the West Coast, Paternoster is now a thriving holiday destination, particularly popular with kite surfers, kayakers, hikers and cyclists.
- St Helena Bay: one of the world’s prime fishing areas and one of the best place to see dolphins and the Southern Right Whales in calving season. Traversing a total of 18 bays and fed by the nutrient-rich Benguela Current, it’s a popular destination for local fisherman as well as surfers.
- West Coast Fossil Park: popular with mountain bikers and hikers, this area is a National Heritage Site where mining in the 1950s exposed one of the richest fossil deposits ever discovered in the world. Guided tours provide fascinating insight into the background of the fossils and the climate change that happened.
12. Boland ǀ Located in the Western Cape Province
The Boland Mountain Complex falls within the Cape Floral Region which is one of 6 formal botanical kingdoms on the world. It’s renowned for its rich biodiversity and is home to hundreds of endemic fynbos species that are not found anywhere else in the world.
The Berg River and Breeder River are two main rivers which run through the catchment area. The incredible mountain ranges, beautiful rivers and rolling landscapes makes the Boland a popular holiday destination for South Africans who love hiking, nature walks, cycling and photography.
The Boland Mountain Complex comprises a number of superb nature reserves:
- Hottentots-Holland Nature Reserve: nestled between the scenic towns of Elgin, Villiersdorp and Grabouw; with towering mountain peaks, plunging valleys, and the Palmiet River winding through it
- Kogelberg Nature Reserve: located south of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, it’s made up of forests, valleys and steep ravines, and boasts 1 800 different plant species, of which 150 are endemic
- Jonkershoek Nature Reserve: located just outside Stellenbosch, the reserve includes the Jonkershoek Mountains and the Jonkershoek Valley which are popular for hiking and for picturesque picnic spots
- Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve: part of the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, its known for its massive oak trees, beautiful fynbos, leopard, mongoose, and raptors
- Limietberg Nature Reserve: located close to Paarl and Franschhoek, it offers hikers and walkers a collection of gorgeous trails and excellent fishing with the Breede and Berg rivers flowing through it
13. Garden Route ǀ Located in the Western-Eastern Cape Province
The Garden Route is an breathtakingly-beautiful region that stretches some 300 kilometres from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. It’s aptly named because the verdant region is one of the most ecologically diverse in the country. In 2017, the Garden Route was added to UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
The Garden Route is sandwiched between the Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean. The landscape is a magical blend of indigenous forests, inland lakes, wetlands and ocean bays as well as a selection of some of the finest beaches in Africa.
The popular coastal towns of the Garden Route include:
- Plettenberg Bay
- Mossel Bay
- Great Brak River
- Little Brak River
- Nature's Valley
Inland, you’ll find the quaint towns of the Klein (Little) Karoo which includes Oudtshoorn, the “Ostrich Capital of the World” and home to the famous Cango Caves. You take the historic Swartberg Pass to reach Knysna from Oudtshoorn.
Apart from being mesmerisingly-beautiful, the Garden Route is hugely popular for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. The choice of things to do on a holiday in the Garden Route is endless; from nature walks and hiking to bungy jumping, river rafting, fishing, surfing and scuba diving. It’s rich in fauna and flora and paradise for nature lovers and birders.
The most popular destinations on a Garden Route tour are:
- Addo Elephant National Park: located an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, this is the third largest national park in South Africa; it was founded in 1931 to save the last 11 bush elephants in the region from extinction but has since grown in popularity as a Big 5 safari destination for international travellers
- Birds of Eden, Monkeyland and Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary: located a short drive from Plettenberg Bay, it’s a favourite holiday destination for the whole family with more than 280 species of birds, over 11 species of rescued primates and a selection of rehabilitated white lions, cheetahs, tigers and black leopards to view on a day tour of the Garden Route
- Bartolomeu Dias Museum: a piece of maritime history captured at a museum complex in the town of Mossel Bay; it celebrates the 500th anniversary of Bartolomeu Dias’s landing in Mossel Bay in 1488
- Bloukrans Bungy: for an adrenalin rush, throw yourself off the Bloukrans Bridge in what is the world’s highest commercial bungee jump; dive 216 metres into the dazzling deep gorge below
- Cango Caves: located a short drive from Oudtshoorn at the foot of the Great Swartberg, the dripstone caverns are part of a deep cave system; the main cavern is renowned for its impressive stalactites and stalagmites that are beautifully illuminated
- Cape St Blaize Lighthouse: completed in 1864, the lighthouse is one of only two along the South African coast that still maintains a 24-hour watch; erected on a striking rocky outcrop jutting out into the Indian Ocean, located close to the harbour town of Mossel Bay
- Featherbed Nature Reserve: a daily ferry shuttle takes tourists on a cruise over the Knysna lagoon to the tranquil nature reserve on the western section of the Knysna Heads; enjoy a short, scenic guided hike, followed by a sundowner cruise on the Knysna Lagoon
- Garden Route Botanical Garden: located in George, the protected wilderness area borders the Outeniqua Nature Reserve; it houses a fine collection of plants native to the southern region in the Southern Cape Herbarium; also popular for idyllic hiking trails
- Goukamma Nature Reserve: located a short drive from the Wilderness National Park, the estuary straddles the Goukamma River and is renowned for splendid rolling dunes, prolific birdlife and a collection of wonderful walking trails
- Knysna Heads & the Knysna Forest: paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts; the lush forests and pristine waters that surround the popular town of Knysna are perfect for long hikes, boat cruises and photographers, with panoramic viewpoints looking out over the Indian Ocean
- Knysna Waterfront Quays: situated on the banks of a magical lagoon with a panoramic view of the Knysna Heads, it’s the most popular shopping and meeting place for tourists with a great selection of restaurants, pubs and delis as well as designer clothing and jewelry stores, curio shops and art galleries
- Knysna Elephant Park: home to orphaned and rehabilitated elephants, the centre offers tourists the opportunity to interact with these gentle giants and learn more about their incredible intelligence and behaviour
- Outeniqua Transport Museum: located in George, the museum houses a variety of steam locomotives including the first narrow gauge steam locomotive as well as the impressive GL Garret from the Royal Train of 1947; as well as an outstanding collection of steam locomotive number plates, model trains, old motor vehicles and a private vintage car collection
- Plettenberg beaches: endless sandy beaches with panoramic views of the Outeniqua Mountain and Indian Ocean, the beaches of Plettenberg Bay are spectacular; the main swimming beaches are Central Beach, Robberg Beach and the beach on Keurbooms Lagoon
- Robberg Nature Reserve: a national monument and a hiker’s paradise located a short drive from Plettenberg Bay; it sits on a 4 kilometre-long peninsula at the foot of the Mountain of the Seal with rocks and caves that date back to prehistoric times
- Seabird and Penguin Rehabilitation Centre: located outside of Mossel Bay, the bird centre is responsible for saving and rehabilitating thousands of African penguins, gulls, gannets and other important seabird species
- Storms River Suspension Bridge: located in the magical Garden Route National Park; stretching 77 metres across the churning waters of the Storms River mouth that washes out into the Indian Ocean
- Swartberg Pass: an historic route that takes you over the magnificent Swartberg Mountains from the Little Karoo to the Garden Route, rising up to 2 326 meters in some places and zig-zagging through the towering mountain pass with a spectacular view around every corner
- Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation & Awareness Centre: one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation centres in the Cape taking care of some 250-450 injured and orphaned wildlife with the goal being to release them back into the wild; popular attractions include the African wild cats, serval, caracal, cheetah, leopards and lions
- Tsitsikamma National Park: the protected wilderness region sits on a 200 metre high plateau that stretches from the Bloukrans River in the west to the Tsitsikamma River in the east; popular for nature lovers and hikers, it contains a vital marine reserve, deep gorges and thick indigenous forest where you’ll find the Big Tree and towering yellowwood trees
- Wilderness National Park: a gorgeous national park that lies between the towns of George and Knysna and extends to the mouth of the Trouw River, it offers nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts a combination of beautiful lakes, wetlands and estuaries to enjoy; popular for canoeing, fishing, windsurfing and sailing as well as bird watching and magical nature walks
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14. Wild Coast ǀ Located in the Eastern Cape
The Wild Coast is a rugged and splendidly-scenic stretch of coastline on the eastern side of South Africa that stretches north of East London to the Great Kei River in the south. It’s renowned for its striking sea cliffs, wind-swept deserted beaches, lush subtropical forests and rolling hills cloaked in green grasslands.
It’s located in the Eastern Cape Province which is the ancestral grounds of the Xhosa people. During the apartheid era, the Wild Coast was part of the Transkei which was one of four territories which were declared independent states.
You need a 4x4 vehicle to explore the Wild Coast as the terrain is rugged and the infrastructure is not well developed or neglected. To truly appreciate the beauty of the Wild Coast, you can join a guided hike that takes you on a journey that hugs the coastline and passes through the coastal villages of Coffee Bay, Port St Johns, Chintsa and Morgan Bay.
The Wild Coast is paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Some of the things to do on a holiday on the Wild Coast include:
- Hole in the Wall: enjoy a leisurely hike to the Hole in the Wall, departing from Coffee Bay; it takes you along the rugged coastline, over rolling hills and past local villages with panoramic views of the brilliant Indian Ocean to reach the famous Hole in the Wall which is one of the most impressive landmarks in the Cape, after Table Mountain
- Mapuzi trail: this trail is for the adventurous at heart; tackling rugged goat paths and steep coastal hills before you reach the end where you jump 8 metres into the water below
- Xhora River: a local lodge takes guests on a canoe trip down the beautiful Xhora River which is renowned for its crystal-clear water and lush riverbanks
- Xhosa village tour: don’t miss an opportunity to visit a local Xhosa village with a tour guide and enjoy a mug of their finest brew in the village shebeen (traditional bar); it’s a chance to learn more about the Xhosa culture and there way of life on the remote coastal hilltops
- Auckland Nature Reserve: enjoy a pleasurable hike in this gorgeous coastal forest which is untouched by commercial development and idyllically tranquil
- Madonna & Child Waterfall: join a combination a guided tour to the Madonna & Child Waterfall where you can abseil from the top into the crystal-clear water below
- Kitchen Windows: the best surf spot on the east coast of South Africa
- Jeffrey’s Bay: the “Surfing Capital of the Cape”, JBay as the locals call it is a laidback coastal town that attracts hordes of surfers, holidaymakers and outdoor enthusiasts
15. Great Karoo ǀ Spanning the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape
The Great Karoo is located in central South Africa and is a vast semi-arid region that covers an area of some 400 000 square kilometres. It stretches over the provinces of the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape. It’s renowned for its endless landscapes, magical mountains, crisp air and picturesque towns as well as its famous Karoo lamb.
The Karoo is divided into two regions; the Succulent Karoo Biome to the west, and the Nama Karoo Biome which covers most of the interior. The Succulent Karoo stretches along the coastal strip of southwestern Namibia and the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. It’s regarded as the world’s richest site of succulent plants and harbours about one-third of the world’s approximate 10 000 succulent species.
The Nama Karoo is predominantly farming land with little urbanisation. The main agricultural activity in the area is sheep and goat farming. Irrigation is restricted to the Orange River valleys. It’s a desolate and arid region but spectacular in its own way; providing photographers with endless sunrises and sunsets to photograph.
The top 4 attractions in the Karoo are:
- Karoo National Park: this vast and unforgiving region is dominated by the grand Nuweveld mountains and rolling semi-desert plains which are home to a wide variety of endemic wildlife, including black rhino, buffalo, the Cape mountain zebra and over 20 breeding pairs of black eagle
- Camdeboo National Park: a unique ecosystem that was formed hundreds of millions of years ago and regarded as one of the great natural wonders of the world; gateway to the Valley of Desolation, the 14 500 hectare park is surrounded by the picturesque town of Graaff-Reinet which lies at the foothills of the Sneeuberg mountain range
- Tankwa Karoo National Park: situated on the southern boundary of the Northern Cape, this unique national park is situated within the Succulent Karoo Biome and renowned for its incredible variety of endangered plant species, prolific endemic birdlife and breathtakingly-beautiful landscapes; ranging from the sheer cliffs of the Roggeveld Escarpment to the moonscapes of the Tankwa Desert
- Witsand Nature Reserve: an unbelievably scenic nature reserve that is renowned for its incredible birdlife, including the endangered Namaqua sandgrouse, sociable weaver and the pygmy falcon; towering white sand dunes are surrounded by copper-red Kalahari plains, acacia woodlands and the Langberg mountain range
16. Durban ǀ Located in KwaZulu Natal
Durban is the capital city of KwaZulu Natal and the third largest city in South Africa. It’s known as the “Playground of South Africa”, offering holidaymakers a wide choice of gorgeous beaches, nature reserves and cosmopolitan coastal suburbs. It’s also an important industrial centre with the Port of Durban servicing the country’s import and export industry.
Forged on a turbulent history with clashes between the British traders, the Boers (Afrikaans farmers) and Zulu tribes; Durban is rich in cultural history. It’s the heart of Zululand and also has a strong Indian population who arrive in droves decades ago to work in the sugarcane plantations.
The list of places to visit and things to do in Durban are endless but the most popular attractions are:
- Golden Mile: a bustling beachfront promenade which is lined with high-rise hotels and apartments, entertainment complexes and a selection of popular restaurants; the oceanfront path is busy with walkers, joggers, cyclists and skateboarders as well as surfers on their way to the popular beaches situated along the Golden Mile
- Mini Town: a popular Durban destination for the young at heart; established in the 1980s, it’s a replica of a mini city with buildings scaled down to 1:24 of their size; kids can walk through what looks like a little toy land which includes a miniature harbour with ships and an airport
- Port of Durban: commonly called Durban Harbour, this is the largest and busiest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa and the fourth largest container terminal in the southern hemisphere; recently widened, the harbour entrance depth is now 19 metres in the approach channel, decreasing to 16 metres within the harbour and with a navigation width of 220 metres
- uShaka Marine World: a hugely popular water-themed wonderland packed with attractions such as Sea World, the Dolphin and Seal Stadium, Penguin Rookery and the Wet ‘n Wild complex which offers holidaymakers a collection of splash pools, slides and super tubes
- Moses Mabhida Stadium: the newly-constructed world-class sporting area located on Durban’s Golden Mile; a tour of the stadium takes you in the Sky Car to the top of the towering stadium roof or you can climb the 500 steps, thrill-seekers can freefall 220 metres of the top on the Big Rush Big Swing
- Durban Botanic Gardens: established in 1849 and one of the oldest surviving botanic gardens in Africa, these beautiful gardens are set on the slopes of Berea Hill; the main plant collection includes cycads, orchids, bromeliads and palms and you’ll spot at least 50 different bird species that are resident in the gardens
- Umgeni River Bird Park: located on the north bank of the Umgeni River, the bird park is home to over 200 bird species that you can view walking along a network of paths that wind through lush landscaping and past gushing waterfalls; the daily bird show is the main highlight of a tour of the Umgeni River Bird Park
- Indian Quarter: spread across Victoria Street Market and Juma Masjid Mosque, it’s a multi-cultural feast of sights, sounds and exotic aromas with Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and Somali street vendors selling their wares along narrow pavements; popular restaurants in the busy CBD offer some of the most delicious, authentic Indian meals in Durban
- Umhlanga Rocks: a thriving coastal suburb lying north of the main business centre of Durban, offering holidaymakers a selection of excellent accommodation and entertainment that ranges from kid’s animal parks, great restaurants, golf courses, nature reserves, the KZN Sharks Board and long, powder-white beaches; the Gateway Theatre of Shopping is located in Umhlanga Rocks and is the largest shopping mall in the southern hemisphere
- Ballito: a popular residential and holiday destination in Durban, located 40 kilometres north of Durban; packed with high-rise beach apartments, excellent restaurants and greenbelts, Ballito is much-loved by locals for its superb beaches, tranquil tidal pools, subtropical climate and outdoor lifestyle
Looking for a fun-filled holiday itinerary for Durban?
MoAfrika Tours has a long list of activities to choose from to suit your adventure needs.
17. Zululand ǀ Located in KwaZulu Natal
This is a malaria-free region located north of the Dolphin Coast, extending up to Richard’s Bay along the north coast of KwaZulu Natal and inland into the rural heartland of the Zulu Kingdom. It includes Pongola in the north and the towns of Ulundi and Vryheid that lie on the border of the Battlefields Route.
The lush tropical region is renowned for its gorgeous game reserves and wetland parks which are home to the Big 5 and abundance of wildlife and birds. The Zululand Birding Route boasts over 650 species of birds with 70 popular birding spots situated along 14 local birding routes.
The most popular tourist attractions in Zululand include:
- Dlinza Nature Reserve: this protected forest reserve lies just outside the town of Eshowe and is paradise for bird lovers in search of a number of highly endangered bird species found in the reserve as well as an incredible array of butterflies; numerous forest trails and a 10-metre high aerial boardwalk plus lovely picnic facilities make is a popular destination for locals looking to escape the Durban city life
- Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park: established in 1895, this is the oldest game reserve in Africa and one of only a few in KwaZulu Natal where you can see the Big 5; it lies deep in the heart of Zululand and was once the royal hunting grounds of King Shaka
- iSimangaliso Wetland Park: located an hour’s drive from Durban, this magnificent wetland park is a World Heritage-listed site (formerly known as the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park); it protects the largest estuarine system in Africa with 8 interconnected ecosystems which includes coral reefs, rivers, lakes, swamplands, savanna plains and coastal dunes
- Siyaya Coastal Park: 42 kilometres of pristine, unspoilt coastline that stretches from the mouth of the Mlalazi River to the southern boundary of the Amatigulu Nature Reserve; it includes two nature reserves as well as a magical coastal dune forest, mangrove forest, swamp forest, grasslands and ilala palm bushveld
- Sodwana Bay National Park: located on the Elephant Coast and a 2-hour drive from Durban, the national park is renowned for its spectacular coral reefs which are home to an array of colourful tropical fish as well as lionfish, crayfish, moray eels, manta rays and many species of sharks; it’s most popular with scuba divers and snorkelers as well as nature lovers and hikers
- Thula-Thula Game Reserve: located in a malaria-free area 2-hours north of Durban, the private game reserve is home of the late Lawrence Anthony, an avid conservationist and author of the bestselling book “The Elephant Whisperer”; Lawrence dedicated his life to providing a sanctuary for elephant, leopard, rhino and buffalo in the Zululand wilderness region
- Umlalazi Nature Reserve: located a short drive from the town of Mtunzini, the nature reserve is home to the Palmnut vulture which is one of the rarest birds of prey in South Africa
18. Drakensberg ǀ Located in KwaZulu Natal
Located in the heart of KwaZulu Natal, the Drakensberg is a world-acclaimed mountainous region that’s breathtakingly beautiful and one of the most popular outdoor destinations in South Africa. The word Drakensberg means “Dragon Mountains” in Afrikaans which aptly describes the regions jagged peaks and deep valleys.
The magical mountain region includes the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the Royal National Park which is famous for its natural amphitheatre, 5 kilometre-long rock wall and one of the highest waterfalls in southern Africa. The 3 282 metre-high Mont-aux-Sources rises in the background which is the source of many of South Africa’s mighty rivers.
Not only is it incredibly scenic and rich in cultural history, the Drakensberg is a favourite destination for local holidaymakers who flock to the area for mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, wilderness trails, rock climbing and abseiling and river rafting. The majority of popular holiday destinations in the Drakensberg are a scenic 3-hour drive from Durban.
The main natural attractions in the Drakensberg include:
- Nambiti Private Game Reserve: located in the shadow of the magnificent Drakensberg mountains and close to the KwaZulu Battlefields, the private reserve offers guided Big 5 safari adventures in beautiful bushveld surrounds; day visitors are welcome or you can stay in a choice of self-catering or 5-star luxury safari tented lodges
- Sani Pass: one of the most spectacular and daring mountain passes in southern Africa, which connects KwaZulu Natal with the Kingdom of Lesotho; the 8-kilometre mountain path climbs to a height of up to 2 900 metres and travels on through the Mzimkulwana Nature Reserve which is renowned for its towering rock outcrops and green-cloaked mountains and steep ravines
19. Midlands Meander ǀ Located in KwaZulu Natal
The Midlands Meander lies in the heart of KwaZulu Natal and is a collection of arranged routes that offer travellers an assortment of excellent accommodation, conferencing and wedding venues, historic landmarks, fun local events, fabulous restaurants and an assortment of arts and craft destinations. It’s an easy 2-hour drive from Durban and the perfect retreat for an idyllic weekend away in idyllic lush surrounds.
The Midlands Meander was created over thirty years ago by a group of craftsman in the area who wanted to put the small businesses in the lush, sleepy valley on the map. It’s grown to over 150 members and offers local holidaymakers and international tourists an endless list of places to go to and quality handcrafted goods to buy; from sheepskin and leather shoes and handbags to woven baskets, pottery and ceramics, woodwork, batik prints and bronze sculptors.
The Midlands Meander is also famous for its great food and excellent accommodation; ranging from rustic B&Bs on country farms to 5-star guest lodges on country estates. The meander is divided into 5 routes and there’s not enough time to see everything; which is why people keep coming back year after year to enjoy the Midlands hospitality.
The main attractions along the Midlands Meander include:
- Karlkoof Canopy Tours: located outside Howick in a beautiful lush valley, the canopy tours take you on a spectacular journey on ziplines above the tree canopy; flying along at speeds of 70 km/hour and reaching heights of 35 metres
- Nelson Mandela Capture Site: located on the R103 just outside Howick, this historic site is where Nelson Mandela was finally captured while on the run during the apartheid era; it’s an artistic masterpiece with striking steel columns that are cleverly designed to depict the face of Madiba at certain angles, and symbolise his time spent behind bars on Robben Island
- Nottingham Road: this picturesque destination lies at the heart of the Natal Midlands on the R103; it’s hugely popular as a weekend getaway with a fantastic collection of pubs, restaurants and arts & craft shops as well as a popular golf course
- Piggly Wiggly: this popular tourist destination is a place to gather with friends and family for excellent food and shopping; it was established to collectively showcase the many arts and craft businesses found on the Midlands Meander
- Swissland: located high up on a lush rolling hill like a traditional Swiss farm, this is the perfect place to take kids to see the Saanen goats that roam the rolling hills of the family-run farm; and perfect for a picnic and cheese tasting; the farm produces a fine collection of goat cheeses that are free of antibiotics and colourants
- Zulu Mpophomeni Township Experience: KwaZulu Natal is rich in cultural history and home to one of most traditional populations in South Africa; don’t miss an opportunity to visit this cultural community centre to learn more about the Zulu traditions and way of life
20. Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park ǀ Located in the Northern Cape
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is the most popular tourist destination in the Northern Cape Province, otherwise as known as the “South African Outback”. It’s the largest province in the country and the most sparsely-populated. The region itself is known for its endless arid landscapes, russet red dunes and startling blue skies; as well as the carpets of kaleidoscopic wildflowers that appear in the Spring.
Formerly known as the Kalahari National Park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier was established in 2000 when the protected wilderness region merged with the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. This created one of the largest conservation areas in the world, covering an area of some 3.6 million hectares.
The Kgalagadi is most famous for its black-maned Kalahari lions as well as strong numbers of leopard, cheetah, gemsbok, meerkats and a vast array of birds. This includes the sociable weavers which construct giant nests in the stark trees that grow in the dry, arid surrounds.
Other popular destinations in the Northern Cape region include:
- Goegap Nature Reserve: located in an area called Namaqualand which spans Namibia and South Africa, this outstanding reserve is renowned for its collection of rare succulents and desert-adapted shrubs and trees; it’s also home to the endangered Hartmann’s zebra, aardwolf, honey badger and over 94 species of birds
- Augrabies Falls National Park: situated on the frontier with Namibia, it’s one of South Africa’s most impressive natural wonders; it’s where the might Orange River plunges in a series of cascades almost 150 metres into an 18-kilometre granite gorge
- Mokala National Park: located an hour’s drive south-southwest of Kimberley, the national park was created to protect some of South Africa’s most endangered species; including the white and black rhino, roan and sable antelope, aardwolf and oryx
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