South Africa is full of surprises and my top list of things to do includes riding an Ostrich, canoeing through a desert in bloom, riding a luxury train, spending the night in a tree-house, cage-diving with the Great White shark,playing golf, relaxing a a spa, and checking out a local soccer (football) game.
• Playing Golf at a Top Resort – Mind the Giraffes!
South Africa is home to some of the most beautiful golf courses on the planet and they’re affordable too. Gary Player and Ernie Els earned their first birdies on South African golf courses. And where else could you find crocs in the water hazards, and have to stop for ostriches crossing the green? Here’s a list of top ten golf resorts you must visit if you have even just a little interest in golf. If your spouse is not a golfer, these resorts have excellent spas that will more than make up for your round or two. More »
• Ride an Ostrich
Riding an ostrich takes a lot of skill but amateurs are welcome to try their luck in Oudtshoorn, in the Karoo. Ostrich farms abound in this semi-desert area of South Africa, there are hundreds of them. Oudtshoorn is the place to master riding this ungainly but strangely attractive, non-flying bird. If you’re feeling very confident, there are regular races to be enjoyed as well but you should probably leave those to the professional ostrich jockeys.
Once you’re done attempting to ride the bird, you can taste its relatives by eating some delicious Ostrich Biltong or Paté.
• Stay in a Tree-House
Tree-house lodging is a fantastic eco-friendly idea and there are several options to choose from.
- Teniqua Treetops is a tented tree-house resort that offers self-catering canopy lodging in the foothills of the Outeniqua mountain range in the Western Cape, not far from the beach.
- Jaci’s Tree Lodge is a unique luxury lodge with individual houses on stilts built around giant Leadwood trees in the heart of the malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve.
- Sycamore Ave is made up of several tree-houses in the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. Each tree-house is unique, some even have jacuzzis and fireplaces.
- Pezulu Tree-House Game Lodge in Timbavati, has 7 unique, luxurious thatched tree-houses where you can get eye to eye with passing giraffe.
• Surfing in SA
The South African coastline is defined by a series of points and bays, technically logarithmic spiral beaches, because of their mathematically determined shapes. And, as any surfer worth his or her bar of Mr Zogg’s Sex Wax knows, points and bays are the salt and water of surfing. What you may also know is that the quality of the surf depends on the size of the swell and the direction of the wind. For that latter reason, the Cape Peninsula (with Cape Town at its northern end) is pretty much a 360 degrees, 365 days a year ride. But there are some other radical breaks too, so wax up, click on the heading above, and hit the water as we explore South Africa’s 10 best surfing spots. More »
• Hike the Wild Coast
The Wild Coast, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape region, is one of the most beautiful coastlines on earth and much of it is only accessible by foot. There are fantastic natural sights including waterfalls, isolated beaches, untouched forests and rivers. The hike also offers the chance to mix with locals like the Xhosa and the amaPondo.
- Strandloper – a 5 day backpacking trail along the southern section of the Wild Coast and Cape Wild Coast where you stay in huts on the beach.
- Hole in the Wall Hiking trail – is also a 5 day hike, nights are spent in small hotels, days are spent walking through spectacular mangroves, beaches and over clifftops.
- WildCoast Walk offers many hikes on the Wild Coast as well as horseback and canoeing trips.
• Relax on Spa-fari
As a luxury tourist destination, South Africa excels at pampering its guests. Many of the small game lodges and hotels offer spa treatments, often in glorious outdoor settings. Click on the heading to reveal a list of top ten spa resorts located around South Africa, that will leave you feeling so relaxed, you may not be able to rouse yourself for the next game drive or tour. More »
• Swim with Penguins
Swimming with penguins at Boulders Beach on the Cape Peninsula, near Cape Town, is a real thrill. A small public beach is set apart from the main penguin colony that resides here (on Foxy Beach), but that doesn’t stop the penguins from sitting on your beach towel or darting around your legs while you take a refreshing dip in the Ocean. Penguins like to walk about and generally ignore fences. A boardwalk has been built around the dunes so you can get a great close up look at the entire colony eating, breeding, preening, swimming and chatting away.
• Dive With Great White Sharks
If you’d like to see the Great White Shark without losing a leg then let me introduce you to the wonderful world of cage diving. Cage diving with the Great White Shark is a relatively new adventure sport in South Africa. There are several operators who offer cage diving packages and most of them concentrate around an area known as “shark alley” in Gansbaai, just 2 hours drive from Cape Town. Great White Shark diving is the marine equivalent of seeing the Mountain Gorilla in its natural environment. It’s an adventurous and unique opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with a magnificent animal.
• Ride a Luxury Train
There are several excellent luxury train rides you can take in South Africa. The most famous is the Blue Train which has scheduled services between Cape Town and Pretoria. A one way journey takes 27 hours which you spend in 5 star splendor while enjoying spectacular scenery.
Rovos Rail operates a very luxurious railway line and offers trips within South Africa as well as up to the Victoria Falls. Vintage wood-paneled carriages are pulled by a variety of locomotives including steam. Passengers dine on 5 course dinners and enjoy a full-sized bath tub, while chugging through some of South Africa’s beautiful landscapes.
• Canoe or Raft down the Orange River
The Orange River originates in the Drakensberg Mountains and cuts through some incredible mountain and desert scenery as it winds its way down to the Atlantic Ocean. Well organized canoe and white-water rafting trips down the Orange River are plentiful and most operate in the Richtersveld National Park along the border with Namibia. Typically, a trip will last several days and you camp under brilliant starlit skies.
Canoe and rafting expeditions are absolutely breathtaking during the spring (mid-August – mid-September), when the desert area around Namaqualand, bursts into a riot of color and wildflowers bloom as far as the eye can see.
• Watch a Soccer (Football) Match
South Africa successfully hosted the 2010 World Cup and soccer is bigger than ever, it’s by far the most popular sport in South Africa (and the rest of Africa for that matter). So getting to watch a local football match, is really an exciting cultural experience for any visitor. Andulela is a tour operator based out of Cape Town and they offer a unique half-day Cape Town Soccer Tour that includes going to a match, a traditional lunch and a rendezvous with local soccer experts. Don’t forget to bring your Vuvuzela!
• Tour Robben Island
A Robben Island tour is a must when you’re visiting Cape Town. It’s a fascinating half-day trip to the former penal colony where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life. Many leading members of South African political parties like the PAC and ANC were incarcerated alongside him.
One of your guides on the tour will be an ex-political prisoner. This gives you the opportunity to hear a first-hand account of prison life on Robben Island, which makes it a truly unique experience.
• Ride an Elephant on Safari
The African elephant doesn’t have the same stoic temperament as its Asian relative, therefore the chance of riding an African elephant, or even touching one, is rare. Several lodges in South Africa are now able to offer you this unique experience.
- Camp Jabulani is a luxury camp situated in Mpumalanga province (near Kruger National Park). Jabulani has a dozen elephants that will take you for a sun-downer in the bush or a night safari.
- Addo Elephant Safaris operate in the Greater Addo National Park and offer 3 hour packages where you feed, ride and walk with elephants.
- The Elephant Sanctuary has 3 branches operating in South Africa and at each branch you can ride elephants, walk with them (trunk in hand) feed them and groom them.