South Africa, officially known as the Republic of South Africa, is a great place to visit for a first-time safari, honey moon and adventure. You’ll find classic African scenery: golden savannah, great gaping gorges, and hauntingly beautiful deserts, as well as an awe-inspiring cast of African creatures — and all the creature comforts as we look at the top 10 travel destinations in South Africa
Apart from the big-name game parks of Kruger and the Kgalagadi (Kalahari) Transfrontier Park, South Africa is home to some of the world’s most luxurious private game reserves and lodges. Wildlife lovers come here from all corners of the globe in search of the “Big Five”: lion, buffalo, leopard, rhino, and elephant, and often they find it, and so much more.
Kruger National Park
Starting with game reserve, Kruger National Park is one of the best game reserves in Africa, and one of the oldest in South Africa. If you’re a wildlife lover, this famous park definitely needs to be on your South Africa itinerary.
The park lies about a 3.5- to 4.5-hour drive from Johannesburg and offers visitors the chance to see the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino, as well as an astounding diversity of other wildlife. It’s also home to San (bushman) rock paintings and archaeological sites.
One of the best things about Kruger National Park is that the accommodation caters to all budgets — you can stay in basic campsites, book a thatched bungalow, or relax in a luxury lodge.
Cape Town, Western Cape
Cape Town, South Africa is one of the planet’s most breathtaking cities. Nature surrounds this multicultural city, which nuzzles between a rugged range of mountains and the sea.
One of the top things to do in Cape Town is visit Table Mountain, the flat-topped peak presiding over the city. For a spectacular overview, hike to the summit, or glide up on the cableway. The hour-long hike up Lion’s Head also provides panoramic city vistas.
On Table Mountain’s eastern slopes, the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens lie within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cape Town’s coast is also full of natural wonders. Strolling along the waterfront boardwalk, you might see whales spouting from the harbor. Penguins waddle along the golden beaches in False Bay, and south of the city, Cape Point is home to abundant wildlife and diverse botanical beauty.
Cape Town is also known for its beautiful boulder-flanked beaches. Camp’s Bay is a favorite, with plenty of chic shops and cafés nearby.
Another one of Cape Town’s top attractions is the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, reminiscent of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Here, you can shop, dine, and enjoy the many entertainment venues, including Two Ocean’s Aquarium.
Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve
Far away from the city lights, in a vast open space where rock formations frame the horizon, there is a place where lovers of nature can experience the environment in the lap of luxury.
Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve is located in an untouched wilderness area near Ceres, in the Western Cape, renowned for its scenic beauty and dramatic rock formations typical of the Cederberg. Kagga Kamma is equally unique in that it offers guests experiences and facilities they will not find anywhere else.
Their private, natural Open Air Room, approximately seven kilometers from the main lodge, is set between rock formations overlooking the fynbos plains. Sleep under the stars and awake to an African sunrise, and spend lazy days in your own private rock pool or “star bath”.
Guests can enjoy sumptuous South African cuisine and an excellent selection of wines from the nearby Cape Winelands. The outdoor boma under the night skies is a highlight of any visit to Kagga Kamma.
Sun City Resort
Deep in the rugged bushveld, in the heart of an ancient volcano, lies the world’s most unique resort, the internationally acclaimed Sun City. The Resort has a unique heartbeat and an African rhythm of its own and is unlike any other Resort destination in the world. This is pure fantasy and your every desire is met.
One of Africa’s premier vacation destinations, Sun City in South Africa is known for its superb resort offering of hotels, attractions and world-class events. From the lavish opulence of The Palace of the Lost City to the casual elegance of the Cascades, the glamour of the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge to the tropical thrills of the Valley of Waves, Sun City delivers plenty to see and do in a beautiful malaria-free landscape.
Adjoining the Resort, is the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park, which will delight game viewers as it is a malaria free zone and home to the “Big 5” (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino).
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve
Beautiful Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve (also called Motlatse River Canyon) is a favorite stop on the drive between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park. The park is home to Africa’s second largest canyon, as well as a rich diversity of wildlife and plants. Lush subtropical foliage, waterfalls, glistening rivers, and lichen-covered rock formations create a striking canvas of color and texture.
Game viewing can be particularly rewarding, with all the common species of South African primates and many hippos and crocodiles.
The best way to explore this spectacular park is via the scenic driving routes or by hiking the extensive trails. Panoramic viewpoints include Three Rondavels and the aptly named God’s Window.
Boat trips and whitewater rafting are also available on the rivers.
Madikwe Game Reserve, North West
The Madikwe Game Reserve covers about 680 square kilometres (750 square kilometres if we include the newly-incorporated private land) of gorgeous bush. It is just north of the little town of Groot Marico and stretches all the way up to the Botswana border. This is about 4.5 hours’ drive or a one-hour flight from Johannesburg.
Madikwe’s ultra-luxury lodges offer a five-star experience, where meals are tastefully prepared and the accommodation is among the finest in South Africa. Honeymooners can look forward to private plunge pools, outdoor showers and private viewing decks, all set within the African bush. There’s also a first-class spa for those looking to completely unwind.
Durban’s Golden Mile, KwaZulu-Natal
Making our list of 10 travel destinations in South Africa is the sweeping waterfront promenade called the Golden Mile, a legendary Durban tourist attraction and a great starting point for a tour of the city. Long blond beaches lure swimmers, surfers, and anglers, while the bustling promenade feels like Miami Beach with its high-rise hotels, shops, restaurants, and flashy entertainment complexes.
You can stroll along the promenade or rent a bike or Segway. Besides the beach scene, top attractions along this stretch include uShaka Marine World, a wonderland of sea-themed attractions; Moses Mabhida Stadium; and Mini Town, a tiny replica of Durban with a miniature rail network, airport, and harbor scene.
Johannesburg, also known as Jo’burg, is the largest city in South Africa by population and a gateway for many travelers on safari. Named the “City of Gold” for its rich deposits of the precious metal, it’s also the economic engine and vibrant heart of the country.
Top Johannesburg attractions include the Apartheid Museum, a poignant look at the oppression of apartheid to the birth of democracy; Constitution Hill; and Gold Reef City, which traces the region’s history through mining-themed attractions.
If Johannesburg is the heart of South Africa, the shanty towns of Soweto, are its soul. An abbreviation for “southwestern townships,” Soweto birthed the freedom movement, which created South Africa’s new democratic constitution. One of the popular things to do in Johannesburg is take a guided tour of the townships, which often includes a visit to the Mandela House, now a national monument.
Pilanesberg National Park
Relish the ultimate in luxury accommodation in Pilanesberg when you stay at one of the opulent game lodges or tented camps, and enjoy a South African safari to remember. The Pilanesberg National Park, which covers some 55 000 hectare, is the fourth largest in southern Africa. This malaria-free park is perched on the eroded vestiges of an alkaline volcanic crater – one of only three such craters in the world.
Are you short on time but want to see Africa’s Big 5? Pilanesberg National Park is home to prolific wildlife and a dazzling diversity of birds about 2.5 hours away from Johannesburg and Pretoria. Easily accessible from these major cities, it makes a great day trip or multi-day stay. It’s much smaller than massive Kruger National Park but as a consequence, it has a higher concentration of game.
Pilanesberg lies in a transition zone, between the parched Kalahari Desert and the rain-soaked lowveld, which means you can see a rich variety of animals here. Besides most of the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and buffalo), you have the chance to spot African wild dogs, herds of zebra, the magnificent sable and roan antelope, giraffes, and more than 350 species of birds.
Accommodation caters to different budgets. Choose from permanent safari tents, self-catering units, bed and breakfasts, or luxury guest lodges.
The Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal
The spectacular Drakensberg, meaning “Dragon Mountains,” is one of the top places to visit in KwaZulu-Natal and a popular vacation destination for South Africans. It’s also home to the country’s highest peaks.
The region encompasses the World Heritage-listed uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, a region of jaw-dropping beauty, with jagged basalt buttresses and San rock art, and Royal Natal National Park, home to the awe-inspiring Amphitheatre, a magnificent cliff face and source of South Africa’s main rivers.
The Giant’s Castle Game Reserve in the region protects large herds of eland. Dense forests flourish in the sheltered valleys, and the area is home to more than 800 different species of flowering plants, as well as a rich diversity of wildlife.
In the summer, the mountain landscapes are lush and fertile, with gushing waterfalls and crystal-clear streams. In the winter, snow cloaks the dramatic peaks.
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