Adventure In South Africa - A Trip From East To West

To many travellers, South Africa is known as one of the adventure capitals of the world. You won’t be able to do all the incredible things and see all the awesome sights that the country has to offer in only one trip – be prepared to get hooked and keep coming back for more! Here are a few ideas for either first-time travellers and volunteers, or for those who have spent time in the country beforehand but want to see more.

This travel route starting from the East coast of KwaZulu-Natal and ending in stunning Cape Town includes marine adventures, safaris, cave exploring and some of the best scenery in the world along the way.

Catch a 1h 20 min flight from Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg to Richards Bay, a town on the Zulu Kingdom’s North coast, and grab a car rental. Your adventure starts now!

Your next stop is St. Lucia, right in the middle of the iSimangaliso Wetlands, which is a renowned world heritage site and boasts several amazing safari parks and river boating opportunities. “iSimangaliso” is a Zulu word meaning “surprise” and there are certainly plenty of surprises! Whether you want to stay in budget backpacker accommodation or enjoy some luxury – it’s all available for your choosing.

For some Big Five viewing, you can start with a visit to the Hluhluwe and Imfolozi National Park, which is the oldest game reserve in South Africa, and home to endangered white and black rhinos. Next, hop onto a boat at the river estuary and see hippos and crocodiles from the safety of the deck; or, for the adrenaline junkies, rent a kayak and see some of the wetlands’ 1200 crocs and 900 hippos in the 1-metre-deep river - right up close and personal. Perhaps start with a visit to the Crocodile Centre to observe some baby crocs before you get friendly with their Granddads.

Horse lovers can go on horseback safari in the park and experience giraffes and wildebeest in their natural habitat, while riding right next to them – definitely one of the better ways to feel at one with nature.

Now for some toe-curling adventure, not for the faint of heart. Travel 3 hours from St Lucia to Durban, where you can fly a microlight over the spectacular coastline. If you time your travels right, you might be able to see whales migrating from your bird’s eye view up in the sky. From mid-May to mid-September, humpback and southern right whales migrate along the coastline of KwaZulu-Natal from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic, to their breeding grounds off the coast of Mozambique, and cruise back the other way between September and December – all honeymooned out!

Time to head down to Tsitsikamma, further south on the Garden Route, and experience the thrill of speeding down a zipline at tree canopy height in a stunning indigenous forest. Tarzan yodelling is allowed, but warn your guide! The forests along this stretch of coast boast many amazing things to see, from giant yellowwood trees to waterfalls. You might even catch a glimpse of one of the rare and elusive Knysna Forest elephants…probably not though, as there are thought to be only 5 or so left out of earlier vast herds.

“Tsitsikamma” means “place of many waters” in the Khoi-San language, and you guessed it - there is a lot of water – lakes, rivers, the Knysna lagoon and estuary. Look out for hammerhead sharks at the mouth of the lagoon as it heads out to the open sea! Visit the famous Knysna Heads, where if you’re feeling lazy, you can sip a beer or 3 while you watch ferries and yachts negotiate the narrow, choppy channel. If you’re feeling not-so-lazy, organise a sailboat to take you through that very channel…

Next stop is Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape, home of the Cango Cave system, which is the oldest tourist attraction in South Africa. The standard tour is an easy and beautiful walk through massive chambers of rock formations, but if you are up for the challenge, take the adventure tour. The adventure tour takes you through narrow passageways with openings as small as 26 centimetres, so you’ll need to be fairly fit and flexible – and the guides will be able to advise you if you’ll fit, if you’re a bigger than an average person. This choice is not for the faint of heart, but great for bragging rights afterwards.

In Oudtshoorn, you’ll also have the opportunity to ride the majestic ostrich! The Cango Ostrich Farm has tours where you'll learn about how ostriches are raised and what they are used for. To ride an ostrich you have to weigh less than 65 kilos, so start your diet now – it’s a hilarious and exhilarating experience, and well worth it! Make sure someone in your party catches you on video.

Head on back to the coast towards Gansbaai, where you can go cage diving with Great White sharks. Don’t worry if you’re not the best swimmer - anyone can cage dive. You don't need to be a certified diver either. Make sure your heart is in good condition though, because this can be a nerve-wracking experience. Great Whites are a fascinating and truly ancient species – also, sadly, an endangered species. The more you and others understand the shark and learn to love them rather than fear them, the safer they’ll be for generations to come.

Head on to South Africa’s “Mother City”, where the first European immigrants settled – Cape Town. It’s renowned as one of those cities that, no matter where you come from, you find yourself thinking "I want to move here!" Its scenery is utterly majestic, its weather is fantastic (except for the brief wet winters), it’s packed with a fascinating mixture of African culture and modern, cosmopolitan living; it has both inexpensive flea markets and high-fashion boutiques, it has cute penguins in Simonstown and curious baboons at the Cape of Good Hope - and of course it has LOTS of adventure activities. You can go paragliding off Lions Head, and abseiling off Table Mountain. There is no shortage of hiking and sailing opportunities on the peninsula and surrounds. You can try your skill at sandboarding down high dunes near the Koeberg nature reserve – the excitement is worth the sand that finds its way into your underwear! And at the end of your journey, you can catch a flight directly from Cape Town to a number of world destinations.

So there you have it – a few highlights for those with a thirst for adventure, from East to West. Of course, there is plenty more to see and do along the way, but you won’t want to miss these.

For more info on the various adventure travel opportunities Khaya has to offer, go here
For more info on adventure activities outside volunteering, this link.


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