Ten Unique and Exciting Things you Absolutely Have To Experience In South Africa
Ten Unique and Exciting Things you Absolutely Have To Experience In South Africa
South Africa is a fascinating country known for its pristine white sandy beaches, expansive untamed landscapes, majestic mountains, friendly, diverse and vibrant people, dangerous and beautiful wildlife, and the relaxed, easy-going way of life that often runs on ‘African time’. If you’re visiting for the first time with your children, take note of these 10 exciting things that you absolutely have to do in order to have an exciting and authentic South African experience. You’ll definitely return home with some wild stories from your adventures and trips around the very tip of Africa!
Take the Cable Car Up Table Mountain
Instead of hiking for three hours to the top of Cape Town’s famous Table Mountain, you can travel by the aerial cableway and look down on the Mother City from high above the ground. The cable car turns slowly as it takes visitors up and down, giving you amazing views from all angles. If you’re brave enough, stand near the window and watch as the city gets smaller and smaller as you travel upwards. Once at the top, grab a bite to eat at the cafe and explore the curiously flat ‘table top’ that earned the mountain its name.
You may spot some dassies, curious little animals that look like big guinea pigs and live among the rocks, and the strange and wonderful fynbos plants and flowers that are found on Table Mountain and no-where else in the world! Before you travel back down, you must definitely take a few pictures with the awesome view of clear blue sea and distant mountains as your backdrop.
Bottle Feed Baby Elephants and Lions
Play with adorable baby elephants and lion cubs when you volunteer at conservation centres and animal rescue sanctuaries in South Africa. You’ll learn all about these magnificent Big 5 animals and you’ll get to bottle feed them, touch them and see what work the conservationists do to get them ready for life in the wild. Most of these cute baby animals are orphans due to poaching or illegal hunting and they need special care in order to survive.
With your help, conservationists are able to teach more people about these amazing creatures, and they can then gain support through donations and extra volunteers. This one is not to be missed - imagine cuddling a fuzzy little lion cub or a tiny elephant!
Play Soccer with Children in Khayelitsha
You must definitely visit one of Cape Town’s poorest areas – Khayelitsha Township – and spend time with the local children. It’s best to go with a community organization, as they will take you to safe areas of the township and the volunteering activities are well organized. Once you’re there, get ready for non-stop fun and lots of hugs from excited kids who can’t wait to hear all about your home country.
The kids are really friendly, and they’ll teach you how to be a ‘real’ South African by playing soccer barefoot, dancing to local hip-hop music and teaching you some words from their own language. Volunteering in Khayelitsha is fun and rewarding, and you’ll get to see how other kids live in a different country.
Visit Nelson Mandela’s Prison Cell on Robben Island
See where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27-year prison sentence in a tiny cell on Robben Island. Book a tour and take a boat ride out to the island, with Table Mountain in the background and sea-spray soaking you if you dare to stand outside for some fresh air. Learn about South Africa’s dark history, walk where Nelson Mandela walked every day for so many years, and hear about the prisoners that escaped and swam (yes, SWAM!) all the way to shore just to be caught and brought back.
Visiting Robben Island is emotional and very interesting and this amazing one-of-a-kind experience is definitely worth the trip.
Go Camping in the Kruger National Park
You can’t get much closer to wild African animals than camping in the Kruger National Park! You can hear the noises of the animals at night as you lie in your sleeping bag and sometimes elephants and antelope walk through the camp, barely meters away from your tent! The camps are kept safe by game rangers who keep an eye on the animals and make sure they don’t get too close. You can take a night game drive to spot leopards and hyenas or you can wake up very early and see giraffes, rhinos, elephants, lions, antelopes and many more creatures before it gets too hot later in the day.
Learn how to put up a tent, boil water to drink, cook your own supper and prevent the mosquitoes from biting you whilst camping with your family and a helpful guide. Try to spot the Big 5 (the elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo) as you go on safari drives and take as many pictures as you can to show your friends back home.
See the Penguins at Boulders Beach in Simon's Town
Come face-to-face with the famous African penguins that live on Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, about 40 min out of Cape Town. These strange little sea birds are also calle ‘jackass’ penguins because they make donkey sounds when excited and they are hilarious to watch as they waddle up and down the beach and hop across rocks.
If you visit during breeding season (February), you might spot messy nests, eggs and baby penguins that look like cute little balls of fluff. The beach is a protected area and you have to pay to visit, but you can swim with the penguins and get really close to them, as long as you don’t touch them – they can bite! Once you’ve seen the penguins, have some fish and chips at the harbour in Simon’s Town and swim in the clear blue water at one of the beautiful nearby beaches.
Take a Zip-line Treetop Tour Through the Knysna Forest
This one is for the brave travellers! Take a treetop canopy tour through the dense Knysna forest, dangling high above the ground and face-to-face with amazing birds and very tall trees. The guides will make sure that you’re safely strapped in to harnesses, and they’ll tell you stories about the shy Knysna elephants that once lived in the forest below and the local woodcutters that made furniture from the old trees.
There are a few zip-lines stretched from tree to tree that you can whizz along at a great speed, with the leaves rushing past your face and the ground far below you. Young kids can go with parents or instructors and the zip-lines are perfectly safe and loads of fun!
River Rafting on the Orange or Breede Rivers
If you love adventure sports, you have to try river rafting on the Orange or Breede River in South Africa! The Breede River is a slow, safe river suitable for the whole family, and the Orange River is a bit more exciting and challenging, as you paddle through rapids in canoes, taking your camping gear and all your food along with you.
Take a tour with experienced and friendly guides, and learn how to paddle and steer your own river raft. Don’t worry if you fall into the water on your first few tries – it’s all part of the experience! A waterproof camera and water shoes are good to take along with you on your trip.
Snorkel with Tropical Fish and See Dolphins at uShaka Marine World
uShaka Marine World is an exciting place for both kids and parents. There are just so many awesome things to do, like watching dolphin shows (and you can even feed a dolphin or a seal!), snorkelling with tropical fish in the lagoon, playing on the water slides and swimming in the pools, learning about the weird and wonderful sea creatures in the aquarium, and relaxing under the palm trees while eating lunch.
You can also learn all about nature conservation, and see how the keepers at uShaka Marine World rescue sea creatures and care for them until they are strong enough to return to the wild. This is a great day trip for the family if you’re visiting Durban!
African Drumming and Beading Workshops with Locals
Get creative and make bracelets at an African beading workshop, or learn how to make music from the locals with African drums on a township tour. Choose your own colourful beads and learn how to make your own South African bracelets, and take your new bracelet home as a souvenir (the beads are glass or plastic, so they’re fine for bringing home with you).
If you’re after a more energetic and noisy activity, learn how to play big traditional African drums made from wood and animal skins. Then, enjoy a delicious traditional African meal of meat, pap, veggies and rice with your local hosts.
South Africa is truly an exciting place for adventures - and the best part is that the whole family can join in on the fun and exploration. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to have an authentic South African experience!