An African escape isn’t solely defined by bush retreats and sundowners. These Top 5 Adventures will get any curious explorer revved.
BY JEN MURPHY
South Africa may be best known for its Big Five safaris, but the country also ranks as one of the world’s top adventure destinations. Here are five not-to-miss experiences beyond your typical game drive.
1. SHARK CAGE DIVING
What’s more thrilling than viewing a lion from a safari vehicle? Coming face to face with a great white on a shark cage diving adventure. The Western Cape province is home to the three most popular locations for cage diving with great whites: False Bay, Seal Island in Mossel Bay, and Shark Alley near Hermanus. From the safety of an underwater cage, you’ll observe and photograph the sharks in their natural habitat. A friendly bump as they swim by is the ultimate adrenaline rush.
2. HIKING IN THE DRAKENSBERG MOUNTAINS
KwaZulu-Natal’s 124-mile-long uKhahlamba-Drakensberg escarpment is a natural playground of river valleys, mountain streams, rugged cliffs, and endless hiking trails. This UNESCO World Heritage designated area is known for its vast network of caves covered in paintings from the nomadic San and Bantu tribes. An estimated 600 rock art sites feature more than 35,000 images. The best way to take in the stunning scenery is on foot. Popular hikes include the 7.5-mile Lower Injisuthi Cave trek and the wildlife-rich, 3.4-mile Rainbow Gorge trail.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, South Africa has the perfect wave for you. There are dozens of prime surfing spots within an hour’s drive of Cape Town and along Durban’s famous “Golden Mile” stretch of beaches. The gentle rollers at Muizenberg Beach, known for its Crayola-colored bath houses, are perfect for novices, while experienced surfers can test their skills at Supertubes, a famous wave at Jeffrey’s Bay. Cape Town-based adventure outfitter Escape and Explore can help arrange day-trips or surf safaris as well as instruction from some of the country’s top surfers.
4. HOT AIR BALLOONING
On a balloon safari over the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site you have an 80-percent chance of sighting at least two of the Big Five during the hour-long flight. On a classic flight, you’ll toast the sunrise with a glass of bubbly while soaring high above the Magaliesberg, among the oldest mountains of the world. From December through February, you can take in the gorgeous Paarl vineyards near Cape Town ahead of an afternoon tasting tour.
5. ZIP LINING
Add a dose of adventure to your Garden Route road trip by stopping to experience a Tsitsikamma canopy tour. Guides can help point out unique bird life—like the elusive, red-plumed Narina Trojan and Knysna Lories— throughout the three-hour tour. Ten platforms and nine cables allow you to “fly” 100-feet above the indigenous forest floor, taking in incredible views of 700-year-old giant Outeniqua Yellowood trees and ancient ferns.
Culinary Cape Town
Luke Wonnacott and his wife Katie recently opened their own spot in the hip Salt Orchard Precinct. More dinner party than restaurant, their open kitchen serves lunch and can be booked for private dinners. Guests can watch the chef prepare dishes like burrata and fennel salad with fynbos vinaigrette at the eight-seat chef’s counter, or dine at the 18-seat communal table.
The Test Kitchen
Opened in 2010 in the now trendy Woodstock neighborhood, the Test Kitchen is still one of the city’s toughest reservations. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts has won international acclaim for his South African take on global dishes. Expect artful tasting menus that showcase local ingredients, like smoked kingklip fish and eiland (oryx) carpaccio, paired with regional wines and craft cocktails.
South African Adventure. Enter OFFER M19865 on our website and get ready for an adrenaline boost.
Cover Photo: Couple enjoying a hot-air balloon ride over the North West Province in South Africa. / South African Tourism