Attractions in South Africa: A Bucket List For A First Time African Experience

For those travelers who have always wanted to visit Africa but think it’s too overwhelming, or exotic for them, planning a trip to South Africa can be a great introduction to the many jewels of the African continent. This post has some great attractions in South Africa to add to your bucket list.

There’s golden savannah, stunning shores, beautiful cities, an interesting history, big-name game parks, private reserves and magnificent wildlife. With so many interesting things to see and experience, South Africa can easily be your next vacation spot. To help you organize your trip more easily, here are some bucket list attractions for a great (South) African experience.

Attractions in South Africa

Go on a Safari at Kruger National Park

Covering a wide stretch of bush and savannah in the northern reaches of South Africa is Kruger National Park. It lies on the borders of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Kruger is one of the world’s most famous safari parks, and one of the oldest game reserves in South Africa.

It’s one of the few places in Africa where there are great chances of spotting the “Big Five”. That being lion, leopard, cape buffalo, elephant and rhino. The outstanding diversity of other wildlife in spectacular including 336 species of trees, 34 of amphibians, 114 of reptiles, 507 of African birds and 147 of mammals. You can also see Giraffes, zebras, and warthogs.

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Read More: Diving with Great White Sharks in South Africa

Kruger is ideal because of its excellent infrastructure, good travel network, professional guides and superb service including Wi-Fi, private plunge pools, luxurious lodges, basic campsite, exclusive-use vehicles and the opportunity of driving the reserve on your own.

Kruger National Park can be explored in multiple ways. You can rent a car and drive along its well-maintained roads or sign up for a private game drive. On a private game drive, you’ll benefit from the knowledge of an experienced safari guide.

Additionally, it’s also home to bushman rock paintings and archaeological sites for a cultural and not only natural experience.

You’ll need at least two weeks to explore it completely. It’s open all year round but the dry season from May to September offers the best game viewing. Consider that there are adjoining private reserves with six different ecosystem types. 

Explore Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

A merger of South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and Botswana’s Gemsbok National Park created Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is one of the largest and most impressive wilderness areas in the world. Its thorn trees, red sands and golden grasslands provide a bold backdrop for photographs and game viewing. 

This vast conservation area was created twenty years ago. It is home to some must-see wildlife: the famous black-maned Kalahari lion, the gemsbok with its V-shaped horns, meerkats, leopards, cheetahs, and many birds of prey. 

Attractions in South Africa – Pin it for Later!

A trip to South Africa is a great introduction to the jewels of the African continent. This post has some great things to add to a South Africa bucket list.

Show Your Love for Elephants at Addo Elephant National Park

Located in the Eastern Cape region, Addo Elephant National Park it is one of the best places to see elephants in the country. It has a large elephant population but there are also warthogs, lions, spotted hyenas, antelopes and ostriches.

The Addo Elephant National Park was established in 1931 to protect the remaining 11 elephants that were in the area. Now it prides itself as a “Big 7” reserve. It provides sanctuary to rhinos, elephants, lions, buffalo, leopards, southern right whales, and great white sharks. It is one of the best attractions in South Africa!

elephants in south africa - attractions in south africa

If you are enthusiastic about nature, guided game drives offer plenty of opportunities of sighting the big five. The marine tours offered allow you to spot great white sharks or southern right whales.

What makes this park extra attractive for visitors is that it is not overcrowded, no matter the time of year. Visitors can stay at one of the lodges or campsites at Addo or at the ones located nearby.  

Go Road Tripping in the Garden Route

The Garden Route runs for about 200 kilometers through some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery and is one of the top attractions in South Africa. It stretches along the Indian Ocean from Mossel Bay to the Storms River. This popular driving route takes you through rolling green hills, pretty coastal towns, coastal cliffs, lakes, and lagoons. Making this the perfect opportunity for a road trip. 

Driving along the Garden Route is an otherworldly experience. Renting a car is easy in South Africa as you can find the major rental companies. But since driving abroad can be stressful, investing in a car rental insurance policy can be a savvy idea. If you’re an American, you may want to consider this affordable liability insurance

Some of the highlights of the route are the beautiful Garden Route National Park with its gorges and thick forests, the charming town of Knysna, Oudtshoorn’s ostrich farms and Cango Caves. The seal colony of the Robberg Nature Reserve is also a must-see!

south africa bucket list garden route

Apart from its stunning natural scenery and the over 300 different bird species, coral reefs, dolphins and seals that you can admire, what makes the Garden Route so attractive is probably that you can expect outdoor adventures galore: good swimming beaches, hiking into marine safaris or tubing along deep river gorges are just some of the fun and exciting activities you can enjoy. And what about surfing, cruising on a yacht, spotting great white sharks, mountain biking or paragliding? Love penguins? Head to Boulder Beach and spot an interesting population of penguins!! 

With so many interesting attractions to see, road tripping in the Garden Route is a must-do activity to add to your South Africa bucket list.

Spend Time in Cape Town, the Most Beautiful City

Breathtaking, large, multicultural and cosmopolitan are only a few of the words that more accurately describe Cape Town. As it nuzzles between a rugged range of mountains and the sea, it is home to some of the most beautiful views in South Africa: the flat-topped Table Mountain or the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden or the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. 

 Located on the SW tip of South Africa’s Western Cape Province, Cape Town is the most popular tourist destination in the African continent. Its mild Mediterranean climate, well-developed infrastructure and spectacular natural setting all contribute to its attractiveness.

Enjoy a Wine Tasting Adventure in the Cape Wine Region

The towns located in the lush Boland Basin near the NE of Cape Town is the area with the most vineyards. There, wine developers grow diverse varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Pinot Noir. The towns of Paarl, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Somerset West each have their own established wine routes. They are some of the best places to travel in South Africa for foodies as the area has a stunning concentration of the country’s top restaurants. 

The wine routes weave through scenic wine lands and vineyards. They offer beautiful scenery, sophisticated wine and delicious food. If you don’t have much time to spare, you should definitely hit the major wineries such as Boschendal, Rust en Vrede, and Kanonkop. These three wineries should be on every South Africa bucket list.

Attractions in South Africa: Visit Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and the gateway for many travelers on safari. It has rich deposits of gold and it’s the economic heart of the country. It’s becoming increasingly popular amongst tourists that are dragged by its gloomy past defined by apartheid and segregation. 

Despite its reputation as a violent city, it has a seductive and vibrant energy that it’s impossible to avoid. Highly cosmopolitan, it will seduce you with its diverse culture, progressive nightlife and some of the country’s best food scene. 

attractions in south africa

The Apartheid Museum and Mandela’s House are two venues you shouldn’t miss in a visit to Johannesburg. The Apartheid Museum, opened in 2001, provides comprehensive insight into the history of the country’s apartheid. There are different exhibition areas with photographs, artifacts and information explaining how apartheid came to be and how it was overthrown. Make sure you take your time to observe and absorb the content as some of the exhibits can be quite distressing. Mandela’s House, in Soweto, was Nelson Mandela’s home from 1946 to 1996. It’s one of the really unmissable things to do in the city. You can appreciate family belongings, awards given to him, furniture and pictures of Mandela and his family. 

Attractions in South Africa: Visit Durban and its Golden Mile

Durban’s Golden Mile is the city’s waterfront promenade is a magnet for tourists: long gold sandy beaches attract swimmers, surfers and sunbathers while the bustling promenade with high-rise hotels, shops, restaurants and flashy entertainment complexes attract those visiting the city.  

It’s the second-largest city in South Africa and because of its subtropical climate and scenic beaches it’s the coastal vacation destination for many South Africans.

Climb Up Table Mountain one of the Best attractions in South Africa

Table Mountain, the flat-top mountain, is an iconic landmark in Cape Town as it stands at an impressive 1085m above sea level offering visitors a panoramic view of the city, surrounding area, nearby mountain ranges and the immense Atlantic Ocean. 

If you like hiking, you’ll be glad to know that there is an array of hiking trails that range from easy to quite challenging, mountain climbing trails and, for those who prefer simply enjoying the views, then riding to the top in the scenic cable car can be all you’ve ever dreamt for as they allow you to enjoy a 360 degree view. 

Located in the Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site and one of the new natural wonders of the world, you’ll be naturally drawn to it. It’s one of the most diverse and richest floral regions in the world and a diverse wildlife. 

Spend Time at the Spectacular Drakensberg Mountains

The Drakensberg mountains are the boundary between South Africa and Lesotho and offer some of the country’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. They are attractive for avid nature enthusiasts and adrenaline seekers and thousands of guests visit the area every year: waterfalls, streams, rock pools, caves, incredible views create an awesome experience! Don’t miss the Tugela Falls, the Amphitheatre (one of the world’s most impressive cliff faces), Mafadi or the Sani Pass. If you love hiking, climbing, horse-riding, whitewater rafting or mountain fly-fishing then you should definitely include them on your South Africa bucket list.

As you can imagine, the Drakensberg Mountains are gorgeous and should be added to every South Africa bucket list. Hiking there is popular amongst locals and tourists alike.

Need Excitement? Cage Dive with Great White Sharks!

If everything else on this list hasn’t been exciting enough, try South Africa’s most adrenaline-filled experience: cage diving with great white sharks! Are you in?

Despite climbing into a thick iron cage, plunging into the ocean and coming close up and personal with a great white shark is not everybody’s dream. Thrill-seekers, however, can try it out in South Africa. April to October is the best time to try it, especially in the areas by the shores of Cape Town. Simon’s Town, Dyer Island, Seal Island, Mossel Bay and Gansbaai are your best bet.

No diving experience is required as you’ll be enclosed in custom-designed cages. Cage diving with great white sharks is not something for the faint of heart. If you decide to give it a try you’ll be able to watch how the great white sharks come too close for comfort.

On the other hand, if you want to go diving, check out False Bay. You’ll see plenty of sea lions and can even go snorkeling!

What else would you add to this list of Attractions in South Africa? Let me know in the comments!

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