Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa

89 days and 9,722 kilometres across South Africa, including a good amount on dirt roads, through 4×4 only mountain passes, along wild coast trails, across the last bit of sand forest left on the planet, side by side with elephants and lions to bring you the best adventures of South Africa!

Beyond the Big 5, South Africa is a fantastic playground for the outdoor enthusiasts, and here are the Top 8 Adventures!

  1. Wildlife / Safari
  2. Multi-day Wild Coast Hike
  3. Multi-day Horseback Riding Trek through Lesotho
  4. Kloofing the Hidden Canyons of South Africa
  5. Shark and Reef SCUBA Diving
  6. Mountain Biking the Drakensberg
  7. Outdoorsy Cape Town
  8. Surfing

1. Wildlife / Safari

South Africa is consistently voted in the Top 5 safari destinations in the world. With a wide variety of ecosystems in stunning landscapes, it is home to the famous Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, buffalo). From safaris through world’s oldest desert,  woodlands, grasslands, savannas, fynbos, coastal wetlands to wildlife spotting in the last remaining patches of the precious and slow-growing sand forest, South African safaris are a dream trip for many, sometimes a once in a lifetime experience and the reason to come to South Africa in the first place.

After spending weeks in the bush all over South Africa, our insider’s tip is to head to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi area in Kwazulu-Natal. Its rolling hills and winding rivers are a wonderful setting for an unforgettable safari experience.

To make it a trip of a lifetime, go to andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. In this exclusive park, you will hop on an open 4×4 Land Cruiser with an experienced tracker and a highly qualified and passionate safari guide to spot not only the Big 5 but also many more species (if you love check lists, try to spot the ugly 5, the little 5, or the impossible 5!). Chances are you will have some one-to-one time with a cheetah, the fastest land animal, a pride of lions with cubs, an elephant herd with cheeky teenagers trying to impress, or rhinos maybe with a trimmed horn for their own protection… The sundowners in the African savanna, the delicious candlelit bush dinners in the outdoors, the divine moccha-choco-rula hot drink at sunrise, your own private swimming pool overlooking the park by your luxurious room hidden in the wild will just make you want to stay longer!

How to set up this adventure?

Please, refer to andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve to set up this trip of a lifetime!

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Safari

2.  Multi-day Wild Coast Hike

Along this stunning 80-kilometre coastal hike far from modern life style, cross waist-deep rivers, jump in swimming holes formed by waterfalls, observe dolphins or whales swimming at large, watch in awe 15-metre high spray displays, titanic waterfalls plunging into the Indian ocean, and unique rock formations sculpted by millions of years of erosion. Above all, share the simple lifestyle of the hospitable Pondo people that is threatened by an international titanium mining project: savour home cooked meals prepared with their home-grown veggies, sleep in traditional rondavels, dance and play soccer with the kids, and exchange with your guide to learn more about the Pondo culture.

How to set up this adventure?

Please refer to Active Escapes to customize your 5-day trek between Port Edward and Mbotyi (you can choose your accommodation between homestays, sleeping in a cave, tented camps, wooden lodges and the luxurious Mbotyi River logde!) and to help you plan this must-do adventure before it is too late!

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Wild Coast hiking

3. Multi-day Horseback Riding Trek through Lesotho

Lesotho, or the kingdom of the sky is an enclosed country within South Africa and the sixth highest country in the world (by average elevation). Never conquered, its proud and kind inhabitants often live in bucolic villages that are best explored horseback riding, their main way of transport. After dominating the dreadful Sani Pass that defies every 4×4 and its driver with its track literally climbing up a cliff face, enter Lesotho. Trade your Land Rover for a local horse, short and robust: cut for the mountains! Reach the remote highland villages, meet the shy shepherds wrapped in their warm traditional woollen blankets, admire the breath-taking landscapes, and have fun with the welcoming youth who will engage you in spontaneous soccer games before you know it. At night, enjoy homemade dinners shared in the traditional rondavel, and starry nights by the fire in good company. Spending 3 days horseback riding Lesotho will make you travel through time and appreciate a simple lifestyle. A truly life-changing experience!

How to set up this adventure?

Please refer to Drakensberg Adventures to book your multi-day horseback riding journey in Lesotho. This award-winning organization for its community-based sustainable tourism is THE specialist of Lesotho.

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Horseback riding Lesotho

4. Kloofing the Hidden Canyons of South Africa

Explore the remote evergreen canyons home to the rare pristine primary forest with their roaring waterfalls, lush vegetation, large boulders, and shy wildlife: for many, South Africa’s secret gorges will always remain hidden. Take the plunge and descend them with an expert canyoning guide (or kloofing as the South Africans call it) as a small change in the water level can turn an easy canyoning outing into a life-threatening journey. Scattered throughout the whole country, from George, the upcoming outdoor capital along the famous Garden Route by Tsitsikama to Sabie by Kruger Park or the majestic Drakensberg Mountains and the Cape Town area, South Africa is a canyoning paradise. Jump off cliffs, rappel down waterfalls, slide down natural toboggans, swim through crystal clear waters or float down streams and explore an untouched nature… South Africa’s canyons are waiting for you to be discovered with great fun!

How to set up this adventure?

The extreme-sport athlete and founder of Paradise Adventures Martinus Esmeyer is the expert of South Africa’s canyons (and part time Red Bull athlete…). He can safely guide you canyoning through gorges all across the country in half-day to multi-day expeditions customized to your specific fitness and technical levels.

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Kloofing

5. Shark and Reef SCUBA Diving

Hush hush… we should keep this gem a secret: South Africa is a paradise for SCUBA diving! The African coral reef starting in the Red Sea stretches all the way to South Africa’s Northern corner in Sodwana Bay, a marine protected reserve. There is no better place to get Padi-certified than in these warm waters home to dolphins, whales, turtles, manta rays, moray eels, octopus… and hundreds of different colourful reef fish and 95 coral species. Besides the coral reef of Sodwana, there are plenty of other options to choose from such as the world famous sardine run, ship-wreck diving or even shark diving! For an ethical shark dive, head to Umkomaas and drop the cage to meet hammerhead sharks, oceanic blacktips, tiger sharks and ragged tooth sharks for an experience of a life time!

How to set up this adventure?

For diving with sharks in Umkomaas (also known as Aliwal Shoal), the Blue Ocean Dive Resort is one of the very few SCUBA centres in South Africa ran by experienced passionate shark lovers who will make you understand why the cage is not needed.

For Sodwana Bay and its reef, refer to Coral Divers to stay and dive in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - SCUBA diving

6. Mountain Biking the Drakensberg

Pick up some speed going downhill on a single track towards a small stream of crystal clear waters. Cross a knee-deep river on your bike. Get up close with a mountain reedbuck. Hear the all-terrain tires of your mountain bike roll on a wooden bridge, breaking the silence of the dragon-like ragged mountain ridge of the Northern Drakensberg. Slalom your way up amongst blooming protea trees and their bright orange and red flowers contrasting with the evergreen slopes of the mountains: the setting is simply splendid with world’s second highest waterfall in the background. This is a mountain biker’s paradise!

How to set up this adventure?

All Out Adventures set up close to 200 kilometres of mountain biking trails with a reliable colour marking for all levels of bikers and excellent suspension mountain bikes for rent.

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Mountain biking Drakensberg

7. Outdoorsy Cape Town

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, outdoor enthusiasts have a vast and varied playground that starts in the heart of the city: trail running or mountain biking Table Mountain or Lion’s Head with amazing views, surfing, kiteboarding or sea kayaking with seals, rock climbing one of the 200-plus multi-pitch routes in the city alone, road cycling to the Cape of Good Hope, hiking and scrambling Table Mountain National Park, or paragliding at sunset to soak up the breath-taking views… You will not get bored in Cape Town! And best of all, the city offers plenty of ways to recover after a day of adventures with some of the best restaurants in the country. If this is not enough, the close-by Winelands with Franschhoek offer other great opportunities to run, mountain bike or horseback ride.

How to set up this adventure?

Most of these activities can be set up on your own, and browse this website to find downloadable tracks and inspiration. To get a bird’s eye view and apprehend the city better, go for a paragliding flight from Lion’s Head (preferred) or Signal Hill with Cape Town Tandem Paragliding.

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Cape Town

8. Surfing

The water is clear, the coastline scenic, the sun often shining, and the surf world famous: South Africa is a world’s surfing hotspots for multiple reasons! Whether you are a pro coming to surf the famous super-tubes of Jeffrey’s bay (voted the 2nd best wave in the world) or a total beginner, the variety of waves and breaks guarantee some serious adrenaline-packed hours out on your board. From the legendary Jeffrey’s Bay to the remote and quiet beaches of the Wild Coast, the shark-protected coastline of Durban, the colder waves of the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Town, Hout Bay and Eland Bay or the lesser famous breaks of the picturesque town of Port Alfred, the choice is plenty!

How to set up this adventure?

From total beginner to pro surfer, a multiple longboard champion and coach David MacGregor is your man. The lesser-known waters of Port Alfred are ideal as the surf is excellent and the spot less crowded than its famous neighbours. Don’t wait and stay with David at Shaka Surf School!

Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa - Surfing

Marcella & Claire

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This article was published in the Beyond Boundaries e-magazine by Xtreme Adventure:

Cover - Big 5 & Top 8 - Beyond Boundaries

23 thoughts on “Top 8 Must Do Adventures in South Africa

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Wednesday 25th July 2018 – Victoria Zigler and Robbie and Michael Cheadle, Best Regards from Far and Rowena of Beyond the Flow. | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

    • I’m happy we could inspire you! We both love it so much that a lifetime sounds about right 😉 More realistically, in 3 weeks (Cape Town & area, a week in the Drakensberg & Lesotho, and a week for a safari) you can cover quite a bit and get a good taste of it and the will to go back! You may want to check out our interactive map to get a better vision & feel free to reach out if we can help you make it happen!

      Liked by 1 person

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