Off The Beaten Track - 5 Alternative South African Sights Worth Seeing

Some of South Africa’s tourist attractions are worldwide icons: Robben Island, Table Mountain, Kruger National Park, or the Cradle of Mankind, for example. These places are rich in scenic, cultural and historical interest; and shouldn’t be missed by visitors to the country. But there are also places that are not quite as well-known, but have plenty to fascinate travellers looking for something different.

So if you’re an adventurous an open-minded volunteer in between projects, looking for interesting ways to relax and recreate and see a different side of your host country, you can’t go wrong with these experiences.

  1. Highest Pub in Africa

    The Sani Pass links the province of KwaZulu-Natal with the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. It’s right on the edge of the breathtaking Drakensberg escarpment, and is accessible only by a 4 x 4 vehicle. Even the hardiest, most experienced traveller might feel a twinge of nervousness when they gaze upon its height, bumpiness and sharp turns. Keep calm and enjoy the view – it’s more than worthwhile! You will get to meet the colourful Basotho people with their unique mountain culture, and at the majestic height of 2874 metres, you can enjoy a well-earned cold glass of Maluti Lager at the Highest Pub in Africa! You will need to take your passport on this trip, as Lesotho is a separate nation from South Africa.

  2. Bulungula Eco-Lodge

    The award-winning Bulungula Lodge is on the stunning, aptly-named Wild Coast, in the Eastern Cape province (which is the home province of Khaya Volunteer Projects and of course the best province in the country!). It is situated in the rural village of Nqileni and is 100% owned and managed by the villagers. It is also 100% eco-friendly. Weary travellers and hard-working volunteers, who love the environment and enjoy simplicity and don’t need fancy frills, can have a breather by the sea and forests, while getting to know the traditional people of the area. Take part in the arts, crafts and cultural activities of the Xhosa people that haven’t changed in centuries.  Travellers from all over the world gather here and make life-long friends. Don’t miss out.

  3. Owl House, Nieu Bethesda

    Nieu Bethesda is a picturesque town in the Karoo, in the rugged heartland of the Eastern Cape. Artist Helen Martins inherited her parents’ house in the town in 1945, and spent the next 30 years creating a stunning, visionary environment before her death in 1976. She is considered an “outsider” artist, and her use of unusual materials such as ground glass, mirrors that reflect the light strategically, and quirky concrete statues of mythic beasts and Biblical legends make this house (now a museum) one of South Africa’s favourite artistic destinations. The town itself draws artists and eccentrics like moths to a flame; and many  guest houses, backpackers and restaurants are run by colourful local characters, or those who “escaped” the big cities with many tales to tell.

  4. Crystal Labyrinth and Peace Pagoda, Barrydale

    Nestled in the scenic Overberg region in the Western Cape, Barrydale is a quaint historic town about 50km from the popular main coastal route. It has the typical charms of small-town South Africa - traditional food or Boerekos as it’s locally known, being one of the biggest charms! It also boasts an 11-circuit crystal labyrinth, where the spiritually-minded traveller can reflect, reconnect and re-energise. You can also sit quietly and meditate in the pagoda.  Travellers worldwide have remarked on its particular sense of peace and tranquillity – far removed from the hustle and bustle of modern life. If you really want to wash your cares away, you can then visit the mineral hot springs at the nearby Warmwaterberg Spa.

  5. Namaqualand Daisies

    The Namaqualand area is in the semi-arid far north-western corner of South Africa. For the lover of all things flowery, it’s well worth timing your visit to South Africa to see the area in spring. It’s a dry and dusty region and not particularly enticing for most of the year, but for a few short weeks in September, be prepared to have your mind blown by the most intense display of vivid colour and variety you could ever imagine. This area is also (sparsely) populated by the hardy and fascinating Khoikhoi indigenous people, who still use the ancient ‘click language’. Find out when it’s blooming and head there!

These 5 options will inspire and invigorate even the most lethargic traveller, but of course South Africa is a land of huge diversity and fascinating experiences – whether you are travelling to experience culture, adventure, “alternative” experiences or a mixture of everything, there’s a place for you! Any well-run and experienced volunteer organisation will be able to help you pinpoint the environments and events that will make your volunteer travel experience even more worthwhile. 


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