13 Reasons to Visit South Africa

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If you are thinking about visiting South Africa, these 13 reasons to visit South Africa may convince you to plan your trip!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you!

The animals

For many foreign tourists, the animal life in South Africa is one of the most important reasons to visit South Africa. For seeing animals, you are spoilt for choice when visiting South Africa. Whether you prefer wildlife, sea animals or birds, South Africa offers something for everyone!

Wildlife

International visitors to South Africa love South Africa’s wildlife. South Africa has many private game reserves and national parks where you can see animals such as the Big 5 (lion, leopard, African elephant, black rhinoceros and buffalo) and go on safari. Some of the best-known game reserves in South Africa include Madikwe and Indalu game parks.

Did you know…. The Big 5 is a phrase hunters used to refer to the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot!

One of South Africa’s most popular national parks is the Kruger National Park, famous for its wildlife viewing and interactions. The Kruger Park is one of the top attractions in South Africa and is one of the most established game reserves globally. In national parks and game reserves throughout South Africa, you can see various African animals, such as giraffes, lions, ostriches, rhinos, cheetah and elephants. 

Reasons to visit South Africa - the wildlife
Reasons to visit South Africa – the wildlife

Another unique experience is taking a boat safari in St Lucia to view the bathing hippos up close.

Also, if you want to see the wildlife, South Africa offers a range of accommodation options for all budgets, from camping to luxurious lodges. 

Sea animals

If wild animals are not for you, but you leave sea animals, you can visit penguins in different spots in Cape Town, go whale watching or even shark-cage diving near Cape Town. Two of the best places to see penguins is Boulder’s Beach in Cape Town or Stoney Point near Bettys Bay. You can also see penguins on Robben Island, St Croix Island, Dassen Islan or Dyer Island. 

South Africa is known for land-based whale watching. In fact, it is one of the destinations in the whole world for this activity! You can view whales from land or boats. The best time for whale-watching is from June to November. For a different whale-watching experience, you can do a hiking route called the Whale Trail in the De Hoop Nature Reserve to spot whales while hiking along the coastline. 

Reasons to visit South Africa - sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium
Reasons to visit South Africa – sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium

Shark-cage diving is another favourite activity of many international tourists. You can experience great white sharks up close in Gansbay or Mosselbay, South Africa. Be warned, seeing a great white shark so close to you is not an activity for the faint-hearted!

If aquariums are more your style, you can find the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town or the UShaka Marine World in Durban, KwaZulu Natal. At the Ushaka Marine World, you can watch a dolphin and seal show, whereas the Two Oceans Aquarium hosts sharks, penguins and sea turtles.

South Africa hosts one of the greatest migrations on earth, namely, the sardine run. The sardine run involves enormous shoals of sardines swimming north along the South African coast near the Eastern Cape and Natal. 

Ostriches

Oudtshoorn in South Africa is considered the ostrich capital of the world. On the ostrich farms, you can learn about these large, fast birds and feed. Riding ostriches is another activity you can try!  

Beautiful landscapes and scenery

Another one of the reasons to visit to South Africa is the diverse landscapes and scenery. You will find beautiful mountains, stunning beaches and even attractive flat land. You will also find forests and deserts in South Africa. Attractions such as Table Mountain and God’s Window are part of why you should visit South Africa!  

Beaches

South Africa has many lovely beaches. You will find the best beaches in South Africa in Cape Town. The famous beaches in Cape Town include Camps Bay and Clifton. Just be warned – the water in Cape Town is icy!

South Africa has wonderful beaches such as this one at Wilderness in the Garden Route
South Africa has wonderful beaches such as this one at Wilderness in the Garden Route

Cape Town is not the only South African destination with beautiful beaches. You can find beaches in Durban’s Golden Mile, Port Elizabeth or Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape.

Mountains 

South Africa has several beautiful mountain ranges, but the two best-known mountains in South Africa is the iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town and the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal. 

Caves

Reasons to visit South Africa - Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn
Reasons to visit South Africa – Cango Caves near Oudtshoorn

The Cango Caves in Oudsthoorn is the most extensive cave system in Africa. You can find the Cango Caves in the Swartberg Range, and they are worth a visit! While visiting the Cango Caves, you can do an adventure tour involving narrow rock shafts and climbing up ladders. The Cango Caves has several well-known chambers, including the impressive Botha’s Hall or Van Zyl’s Room. 

World heritage sites

South Africa has several world heritage sites, including the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Mountains, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Robben Island, the “Cradle of Humankind”, the Richtersveld desert, the Cape Floristic Region, Mapungubwe, and the Vredefort Dome. 

The South African people

South Africans are lovely people. They are welcoming and kind; they have a wicked sense of humour. South Africans love chatting to tourists and giving advice on exploring their beautiful country. South Africa is called the Rainbow Nation as the South African people come from different backgrounds and tribes, each with their own culture, food, languages and traditions. Where else will you find a country with 11 official languages?

One benefit of the multi-cultural nature of South Africa is that you visit rural homesteads to learn about the different local cultures and traditions of South Africa. 

Ease of travel

A trip to South Africa is not just easy to plan, but all the essentials for a wonderful visit to South Africa are easily accessible, affordable and convenient.

Banking and financial services

South Africa has world-class facilities with several cellphone networks and world-class banking services. You will find that you can use your Master and Visa card freely in the major cities of South Africa. You may need cash for the rural or smaller towns when you do a road trip.

Driving around South Africa

Renting a car in South Africa to do spectacular drives such as Clarens Drive near Cape Town
Renting a car in South Africa to do spectacular drives such as Clarens Drive near Cape Town

Although South Africa does not have good public transportation, you can travel easily by renting a car or travelling by bus. The highways between popular destinations are great for self-drive road trips. Renting a car in South Africa gives you the freedom to explore the famous sights or do a self-drive safari or drive one of the notable routes in South Africa, such as driving the Garden Route or Chapman’s Peak Drive in Cape Town. Clarens Drive near Cape Town has been called one of the most beautiful roads in the world. 

Train travel in South Africa

If driving or taking the bus does not sound appealing to you, consider taking the Premier Classe train from Johannesburg to Cape Town. You can also think about taking the Shosholoza Meyl Sleeper for the same journey. 

Accommodation in South Africa

Finding accommodation is easy, and the locals are always willing to help you with directions or advice on places to see and visit in their country. You will find a range of accommodation options, ranging from hotels, lodges to self-catering options. South Africa also offers several unique types of accommodation, such as a train hotel, a shoe, or a mountain hotel.

Visa-free travel

If you were wondering: “do you need a visa to visit South Africa” you’ll be happy to discover that many international visitors to South Africa do not need a visa to enter South Africa. These countries include the United Kingdom, the United States, most countries in Europe, South America and Japan. 

Ease-of-access to the rest of Africa

South Africa has several airports, many of which are considered the best in Africa. You can quickly fly from South Africa to other countries in Africa, including Madagascar, Reunion, Zanzibar, Namibia, Botswana and Mauritius. 

South African food

The many cultures you find in South Africa results in a beautiful range of foods to choose from. South Africans love eating meat and having a braai (barbecue). You will also find delicious Indian or Malay curries in most of the major cities in South Africa. If you want something more exotic, try eating Mopani worms! There are also many Portuguese, Chinese and Italian restaurants in South Africa. 

South African vineyards and wines

South Africa’s viticulture started in the mid-1600s. You will find an extensive range of vineyards (more than 200 cellars) in the area surrounding Cape Town, mainly in the four wine regions in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Franschhoek. South African wine is world-famous and delicious! A wine tasting experience is one reason for visiting South Africa! 

South Africa offers wine-tasting experiences
South Africa offers wine-tasting experiences

You can have various experiences while visiting the South African vineyards, ranging from the wine tram in Franschhoek for wine tasing at several cellars and vineyards, to a cycle tour through the vineyards near Stellenbosch. 

History of South Africa 

South Africa has a long and, sometimes, dark history. South Africa is a melting pot of cultures due to the many immigrants that came to South Africa, including those from France, the Netherlands and Brittian. Earlier than that, there is the history of the San and Khoi people, who first inhabited South Africa. Other significant historical events included the discovery of diamonds, the Anglo-Boer, Zulu and Mfecane wars and Apartheid. 

Apartheid and the end thereof

The history of South Africa is well-known for Apartheid and the story of Nelson Mandela. If you are interested in Nelson Mandela’s life or the history of Apartheid, there are many sights you can visit, ranging from museums in Cape Town and Johannesburg. You can even spend a night in Nelson Mandela’s former house, located in the Shambala Private Game Reserve. A trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent many years in prison, is a highlight for many visitors to South Africa, especially as you can do a guided tour offered by ex-prisoners to Robben Island. 

Ancient history

If ancient history fascinates you, visit the Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. The site is a World Heritage site, and where scientists found several of the oldest fossils (dating back over 2 million years) in the world. They called one of these fossils Mrs Ples, which is 2.3-million years old. This discovery led to many people believing that Africa is the birthplace of humanity. 

Historic battle sights

The history of South Africa spans several wars. If you are interested in visiting historical battlefields, the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift in the KwaZulu-Natal province are worth visiting.

 

Adventure activities and extreme sports

Many people believe that South Africa is the adventure capital of the world. Some of the adventurous activities it offers include shark cage diving, cave exploration, ostrich riding and bungee jumping. Although some people believe that Cape Town is the shark capital of the world, the best place for shark-cage diving is in Gansbay near Cape Town. 

If you love surfing, South Africa is one of the world’s best-surfing destinations. The best surfing hotspots are in Cape Town and Durban. Surfers should not miss the Jeffrey’s Bay Winter fest, where the focus is on extreme sports such as boarding, cycling, surfing and skating. 

The world’s highest commercial bungee jump is at the Bloukrans River Bridge in the Garden Route of South Africa.

If you love speed and heights, try one of the world’s fastest zip slides in Sun City, near Johannesburg.

For scuba diving, the iSimangaliso Wetlands Park is one of the best places to go. 

You can do other adventure activities in South Africa: hot air ballooning, whitewater rafting, para-gliding, and go-karting.

Pleasant weather throughout the year

The weather in South Africa is pleasant throughout the year, regardless of whether you visit Cape Town or Johannesburg. Many tourists love visiting South Africa during the northern hemisphere’s winters when it is summer in South Africa. The winters in South Africa are mild, and snow is a rare occurrence for most parts of the country. South Africa is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of sunny days per year. All this sunshine contributes to the outdoor lifestyle South Africans love while playing golf or hiking.

If you are interested in game viewing, the best time to visit South Africa is in the winter months, from May to August, when the animals are easier to spot due to the sparse vegetation. If you are interested in South African bird life, the best time to visit South Africa is in summer. Find out when to visit South Africa by clicking here!

Affordability with luxury options

Luxury experiences in South Africa - The Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town
Luxury experiences in South Africa – The Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town

The South African Rand is not a strong currency. International visitors to South Africa, especially those from the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, will find that their money goes further in South Africa. A visit to South Africa can be a cost-effective holiday option. Still, you may treat yourself to fancier accommodation or food because the prices are so reasonable. 

Luxury train travel

South Africa has more than one of the best luxury train trips in the world. The Blue train runs between Cape Town and Pretoria. The train fare includes meals and drinks (and cigars), including South African wines. Another luxury train is the Rovos Rail train doing the same route but at a slower pace. 

Nightlife in South Africa

South Africans know how to have fun at night! You can choose from many nightlife options. You can have an evening filled with a fine dining experience, a visit to the theatre or a live concert. A typical South African experience is a braai (barbecue), which is just a fun way to have a meal and socialise.

Stargazing in South Africa 

If you love looking at the stars, South Africa offers several places to view the stars. These include Pafuri in the Kruger National Park, the Cederberg close to Cape Town or Aynsberg Nature Reserve, where you can view the night sky with telescopes and guides. Sutherland is another option for stargazing where you will find the Southern Hemisphere’s largest telescope.

South Africa is great for shopping

Apart from being affordable, South Africa offers unique shopping experiences. Cape Town has world-class restaurants, design-savvy shops and art galleries, whereas Johannesburg offers fashion boutiques and weekend markets. The range of products on offer makes South Africa a shopper’s delight. Every major city has multiple malls, craft or farmer stalls where you can buy African art, tasty snacks or South African souvenirs.

Reasons to visit South Africa
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Sabs | South Africa Travel Blog

By Sabs

Editor of the South Africa Travel Blog that focuses on travel to South Africa, including destinations, attractions, accommodation, food & drink.

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