10 Super Fun Things To Do In South Africa

South Africa Activities
Things to do in South Africa
South Africa

I’ve traveled to South Africa twice now. It’s one of my favorite countries and an adventure lover’s playground. Here are some great ideas for things to do there.

The Republic of South Africa is a huge & diverse country teeming with wildlife & culture. It has a little bit of everything — dry deserts, high mountains, subtropical woodlands, modern cities, friendly people and TONS of cool animals.

After spending close to 2 months exploring the country, I’ve put together a list of my favorite experiences to help you plan your own visit one day.

Things To Do In South Africa

South Africa Safari
Meeting Lions on Safari
South Africa Zebras
Zebra Fight!

South African Safari

I’ll never forget when a huge lion passed just a few feet from our open Land Rover, suddenly stopping to look up. Everyone froze. Make a wrong move now, and we’d be his afternoon snack.

We were on safari at Phinda, a 56,000 acre protected wilderness area in the KwaZulu-Natal provence of South Africa. The lion was only one of the many incredible animal experiences we encountered, there were also families of elephants, cheetahs on the hunt, playful zebras, and so much more.

South Africa Rope Swing
Big Rush Rope Swing
South Africa Bungee
Bungee Jumping Bloukrans

Bungee Jumps & Rope Swings

Three, two, one, jump. I stepped off the catwalk and into the void, falling 288 feet with my stomach in my throat. The world’s tallest rope swing at a soccer stadium in Durban is definitely a big rush!

So is stoping along the Garden Route to leap from the 709 foot high Bloukrans Bridge and bouncing around dangling from your ankles by a glorified rubber band. If you’re looking to cure your fear of heights by going to extreme measures, South Africa is the place.

South Africa Great Whites
Cage Diving with Great Whites
South Africa Shark Diving
Scuba Diving with Sharks

Swimming With Sharks

Arguably the most feared animal under the sea, sharks have a notorious reputation. Great whites grow up to 7 meters long and can weigh over 3,000 kg. But you can get an up-close and personal experience with them under water cage diving off the coast of Cape Town.

For the more adventurous, how about diving with sharks minus the cage? It’s totally possible (and pretty safe) to dive with tiger & bull sharks in South Africa this way. Such a cool experience!

South Africa Soweto
Hanging Out in Soweto
South African People
Making New Friends

Meeting The People

One of the cool things about South Africa is its diversity. The massive city of Johannesburg is a great place to experience this and meet the different types of people that call this country home. I loved visiting the township of Soweto and learning about the vibrant & important history here.

Meeting local residents and admiring an area’s unique art and culture. Or gathering for a traditional Brai dinner in the rural coastal town of St. Lucia with new friends. Learning about a way of life that’s different from my own.

Table Mountain Table Cloth
Hiking Above the Table Cloth
Hiking Table Mountain
Cape Town Far Below

Climbing Table Mountain

Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most prominent landmark. A huge flat block of sandstone that rises 3500 feet into the air. Table mountain is a national park and a wonderful place to go hiking with over 350 paths to the summit.

Most people take the cable car up but hiking is far more rewarding. The weather changes constantly though, so hiking is difficult sometimes. You could luck out with clear skies and great views or maybe climb into the infamous “table cloth”, a blanket of clouds that often covers the mountain.

Surfing South Africa
Best Feeling in the World
South Africa Jeffreys Bay
Surfing at Jeffreys Bay

Surfing The Coast

South Africa has some of the best surf conditions in the world. A popular adventure is renting a car and driving up the coast from Cape Town to Durban stopping at different surf spots along the way.

I spent a month honing my surfing skills in places like Muizenberg & Jeffreys Bay. The water can be cold, but the waves & lack of crowds are worth it. Yes, I realize I just told you how awesome the sharks are, but don’t worry, they prefer eating seals.

South Africa Crocodiles
Kayaking with Crocodiles
South Africa Hippos
Hippos are FAST!

Kayaking With Hippos & Crocs

The St. Lucia estuary is filled with some of Africa’s most dangerous animals. Paddling kayaks past them on a wetlands safari was super fun. The iSimangaliso Wetland Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its diverse wildlife and swamp forests.

The area is home to giant crocodiles, hippos, and even bull sharks. Did you know that hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa? You’d never suspect it at first glance. They seem fat & slow, but are surprisingly fast & aggressive.

South Africa Rafting
Rafting the Orange River
South Africa River
Floating Through the Desert

Rafting In The Desert

Home to the indigenous Nama people, the rocky dry landscape surrounding the Orange River is a mix of red, brown, and orange hues — except for the banks, where patches of green vegetation are able to thrive.

The Northern Cape is a huge area with a lot to see and do — and it’s one of the least visited parts of South Africa. Rafting down this winding river in the middle of a desert and finishing the night with a Brai BBQ has been one of my highlights.

South Africa Sangoma
Traditional Sangoma Healer
South Africa Safari
Khula Township

Talking To Spirits

While visiting Khula township in South Africa, I was invited to chat with my dead ancestors with a local Sangoma medicine woman. She communicates with people’s ancestral spirits to share advice and cure ailments.

Sitting down in her sacred healing hut, she gave me details about my future based on what they told her. It’s an ancient profession that’s been practiced for hundreds of years here. The verdict? I’m a very lucky guy. Oh, and my ancestors want me to throw a BBQ for them!

South Africa Safari
Hot Air Balloon Safari
South Africa Safari
Fire in the Hole!

Hot Air Balloon Rides

The beautiful Magalies River Valley fully revealed itself as we rose into the sky with the sunrise in a hot air balloon. It’s only an hour North West of Johannesburg, the capital of South Africa.

Once you realize you’re in the air, profound silence is the first thing you notice. Between occasional blasts of fire from the burner, there is no sound. No propeller, no engine, just the birds. Yet soon we are hovering half a mile above the ground, traveling slowly with the wind.

Travel Planning Resources For South Africa
Location: South Africa

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

RentalCars.com is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal.

Book Accommodation

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

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10 Super Fun Things To Do In South Africa. More at ExpertVagabond.com
10 Super Fun Things To Do In South Africa. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Any questions about things to do in South Africa? Do you have other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

THANKS FOR READING

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 9 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel more with crazy stories, photography, and useful tips from my journey.
Matthew Karsten
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46 thoughts on “10 Super Fun Things To Do In South Africa”

  1. Great article. First of all, I will give 5-star rating for those photos. I want to try that hot air balloon safari. But that jumping from the top is little fear for me. Thanks for sharing.

  2. After reading the article I really want to go and explore South Africa. I think it is the best place to enjoy our holidays. I love adventure traveling.

  3. The pictures are stunning and the content was informative!
    I would definitely love to visit South Africa!
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. I am blessed enough to live in this beautiful country! Awesome article, your ideas are fun. But I would skip the swimming with sharks, haha.
    Really enjoying your blog.

  5. South Africa is a one of the best wild life travel destination in the world.. article is helpful for things to do in South Africa..crazy and interesting article..

  6. Out of curiosity what action camera did you use for the Moses Madhiba Jump? The quality looks amazing and much better than my gopro hero 4.

    • A GoPro Hero 3. Post processing the footage helps, maybe that’s the difference? Color, contrast, sharpening, etc.

  7. Hi Mathew. I am from South Africa and it is always great to read about our country. Great read. I have done a few things you mentioned and the hot air balloon safari is on my bucket list. There is a lot more to see and do in South Africa. Amazing history too. I love your blog. Keep it up and thank you.

  8. Hello! I’ve been wanting to go to South Africa for some time. How are the prices there? I am planning on backpacking through, however I would like to for sure do the safari tour throughout Kenya and also the great white shark expedition. Does anyone have advice on budgeting for backpacking throughout SA? There is so much to do there…If you have any advice feel free to post and share with us on my travel blog.

  9. That zebra fight shot is epic! In Joburg I enjoyed Soweto, but my favorite neighborhood in the city was Maboneng. I’m from New York and have lived in Brooklyn for the past 3 years, and it definitely reminded me of a neighborhood I’d find at home but with an awesome South African twist.

  10. We’ve spent the last 3 months in South Africa and it is indeed an incredible country. Have done everything from paragliding over Cape Town, doing the same bungee jump you did in Bloukrans, and hiking up Table Mountain – its a great place for adventure sports and ZA has opened us up to new things.

    A couple of things that South Africa is not known for but that have really stood out for us: incredibly friendly people (we’ve been travelling continuously now for 16 months – we haven’t met friendlier people), great wine, incredible and varied scenery (geography can change dramatically depending on the mountains), and really fantastic food. Nobody ever mentions South Africa as a foodie destination but we’ve had some of the greatest food here at good value. And nothing beats going to one of the wineries and having lunch and wine while looking at the incredible scenery.

    We’ve actually decided w’d come back next year, use the northern part of the country as a base and explore Mpumalanga province, Kwazula-Natal, as well as parts of Mozambique and Zambia.

    Sorry for carrying on, but leaving this fantastic country next week for Europe and sad to go. One of our favorite spots.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  11. Diving with the sharks is definitely the one thing I’m keen on doing in Africa when I finally make my way there. And it’s good to know there is other stuff there besides the safaris!

  12. I have never thought that South Africa is wonderful but after reading about things to do in South Africa, I changed my mind. It is an amazing and adventurous place. Thanks for sharing!

  13. South Africa is one of my dream destinations to visit and seeing these pictures just made want to get there even more. I’m hoping that I can vacation there next year and if I do I’ll make sure to take one of those hot air balloon rides.

  14. Can I pretend to be an American citizen so I can enter this competition? Ah well, didn’t think so :)
    Also, the bungee jump pictures makes my legs feel woobly and the ones with the shark just terrifies me! :)

  15. Wow – that bungee looks kickass! That’s my #1 in this list.
    Also, does that good looking lion have mismatched eyes? One blue and the other red!

  16. Tanzania has always been very high on my list. Africa will be my sixth continent visiting, so I hope we are able to get there soon! Love the colors of the lions eyes in this photo.

  17. We love South Africa, we were there in 2014 and just this July 2015. So wish we would have done a hot air balloon ride…Next time!

  18. This is an awesome list. Africa was kind of low on my list of places to go, but after reading this, i’m going to have to re-evaluate that line of thinking.

    • Yes! I love to hear that Aaron. I only covered South Africa in this post too, there are TONS of other cool African nations worth exploring.

  19. Dude! These pictures are insane. Africa is definitely on my bucket list. Specially a safari in Kenya and the great white shark scuba dive in South Africa! Living vicariously…

  20. Love the picture of the hot air balloon’s interior! Also the shark picture. We got to go to Australia last year and one of my big goals was to get in one of those shark cages to see the Great Whites. It didn’t happen, sadly, but swimming without a cage looks even more fun to me. I’ll have to remember this list if we make it to South Africa!

  21. Darn, would have liked to sign up for that Tanzania safari. But we’re not US residents…

    But we’re in Cape Town right now and will be doing all these activities in SA over the next 3 months. Beautiful country!!

    Frank (bbqboy)

  22. I think the scariest things on here would be swimming with sharks sans cage, and getting ANYWHERE near a hippo. Those things are terrifying, think i’d just portage instead. Good luck to everyone who entered I hope at least one of us wins.

    • Yeah I know. Unfortunately running a worldwide contest is super difficult legally, as each country has it’s own rules. That’s why they’re often only open for 1 or 2.

  23. I always wanted to visit South Africa, especially cause I have relatives who live there, but after reading this, I want to do it even more.
    I can’t tell what attracts me more – Air Balloon Ride, Kayaking With Hippos or Safari, but they are all on my bucket list. Also, I didn’t know Hippos are so dangerous. I always thought of them as a very peaceful animals.

    • Yeah the hippo thing surprised me too! Apparently they kill more people than all the other animals. They’re very territorial, and have no fear at charging people who are in between them and the water.

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