There are few places that combine such a mix of natural beauty and fascinating history as South Africa does.
The country’s most popular attraction, Kruger National Park, is one of the continent’s most visited game preserves and is full of iconic African animals like lions, hyenas, hippos, and elephants.
In addition, the country was home to and birthplace of Nelson Mandela, one of the 20th centuries most recognized symbols of the fight for rights in equality.
With all there is to see and do, filling your schedule won’t be an issue in South Africa.
1. Cape Point and Penguin Full-Day Tour
The panoramic ocean views from Cape Town’s peninsula are some of the most majestic you’ll see anywhere.
This full-day tour departs from Cape Town in the morning and includes stops at Boulders Beach to see the penguins, Cape Point, and the Good Hope Nature Reserve.
If you’re an animal and nature lover, this tour is a wise choice because you may also see other African wildlife like ostriches and gazelles. If you’re there between July and November, you may even see whales.
You’ll have time to stop for lunch along the way, but it’s not included in the cost so plan accordingly.
2. 4-Day Camping Trip in Kruger National Park
Few places in Africa are as full of wild animals as South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
This extensive tour kicks-off at the airport, or at your Johannesburg or Pretoria hotel if you’re already in the country.
Once you’ve made yourself at home at the tour’s compound, the majority of your time will be spent out in the bush, viewing the majestic animals from an open-air vehicle.
Spending the night under the African stars and viewing lions, hyenas, and elephants up close will be something you’ll never forget.
These tours fill up fast, so plan ahead.
3. Addo Elephant Park Full-Day Tour from Port Elizabeth
Though Addo Elephant Park isn’t a household name like Kruger, it’s one of the largest reserves in South Africa and is the best place to get up close and personal with the world’s largest land mammal.
From your hotel in Port Elizabeth, you’ll travel to the park, which was established in the early 1930s.
At that time, elephants were dangerously close to extinction, but since then, they’ve made a remarkable comeback.
This all-inclusive tour gives viewers the chance to see other African legends, like leopards, rhinos, and the dangerous Cape buffalo.
A side-trip to Algoa Bay may also be included depending on time.
4. Skip-the-Line Entrance Ticket at Two Oceans Aquarium
With millions of gallons of habitat and more than 3,000 creatures on display, it’s no wonder that the Two Oceans Aquarium is such a popular place.
At peak times, it can get downright crowded, so this skip-the-line ticket will ensure that even on a busy day, you and your travel companions will zip right through.
Though the majority of the aquarium’s species are from the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, there are exhibits that include animals from around the world; some of the species aren’t found in any other aquarium in the world.
There are lots of interactive kid’s activities too, as well as a gift shop and café on-site.
5. Robben Island Ticket with Hotel Pick-Up
Robben Island is one of the most historically significant sites that you’ll visit during your time in South Africa.
It’s the former prison-island for black enemies of the state during the long apartheid years.
Largely staffed by former prisoners, it is full of fascinating exhibits, photographs, artifacts, and first-hand accounts, all of which are a little macabre.
The ferry ride takes a little less than an hour; once inside, you’ll see the cell of the island’s most well-known resident, Nelson Mandela, who spent nearly two decades in a small cell here.
After the tour, you’ll be dropped at V & A waterfront.
6. Sailing Trip around Cape Town Waterfront and Bay
This sailboat sightseeing tour will follow the prevailing winds and may include Table Bay, Milnerton Lighthouse and Robben Island.
Regardless of which way the captain takes you, your tour will be full of majestic views and will provide many once in a lifetime photo ops, so make sure your camera is fully-charged or bring plenty of film.
The boat’s crew will point out significant landmarks along the way. Remember to pack a few extra layers and bring sunglasses and a hat, as the weather out on the water can change quickly.
The tours last an hour and meets at Quay 5 at the V & A Waterfront.
7. Cape Town: Sunset Catamaran Cruise
The sunsets along the South African coast are some of the most majestic you’ll find anywhere in the world, and seeing one from the gently rolling deck of a catamaran is one of the best ways to enjoy it.
From the V & A Waterfront, this tour will cruise down the Atlantic coast toward the Cape’s southern peninsula, from which you’ll get unobstructed views of Table Mountain looming large over the surrounding landscape.
The tour lasts 90 minutes and includes a view of Robben Island too.
The shadows playing off these structures give the landscape a dramatic and lunar feel that you won’t forget.
8. Champagne Sunset and 3-Course Dinner Cruise from Cape Town
For most of us, trips to exotic locales like Cape Town are things we’ll only ever get to experience once. If you’d like to spare no expense and see the city like few others will, then this evening, dinner sunset cruise deserves a spot on your itinerary.
The southern peninsula and Table Mountains are the perfect backdrops for this sunset cruise. Depending on the conditions, you may get glimpses of Granger Bay and the Milnerton Lighthouse too.
You’ll sip South African wine from the deck, then head back to shore after the sunset to enjoy your gourmet 3-course meal prepared with locally sourced ingredients.
9. Pilanesberg Full-Day Safari Tour from Johannesburg
This full-day safari tour from Johannesburg includes round-trip transportation and at least 2 ½ hours spent on-site searching for the park’s big game aboard an open-air vehicle.
The cost of the tour includes the park entrance fee and lunch. Your experienced guide will get you close to many of the park’s main attractions, like lions, zebras, hyenas, and hippos.
With a little luck, you may even see the elusive leopard, and crocodiles and giraffes too.
From beginning to end, the safari lasts about 12 hours, so it may not be the best bet for young children with short attention spans.
10. Museum of Contemporary African Art Fast-Track
The Zeitz MOCCA is South Africa’s preeminent modern art museum and is conveniently located on the Victoria and Albert Waterfront.
It’s the largest of its kind in the world and includes tens of thousands of square feet dedicated to preserving and promoting contemporary African art from each corner of the continent.
The museum includes hundreds of individual galleries that feature works in every medium. There are plenty of hands-on activities for children, as well as a great gift shop and restaurant.
This fast-track ticket enables visitors to skip long lines in the event that they arrive on a crowded day. Audio guides are available in many languages.
11. Marine Wildlife Kayak Tour from the V&A Waterfront
The waters around South Africa are known as one of the world’s great white shark hotspots. Given this fact, a kayak tour may seem like a strange method of sightseeing, but this two-hour tour is perfectly safe and will get you up close to some of the area’s less dangerous wildlife.
Dolphins, seals, penguins, and seabirds are in abundance; you may even catch a glimpse of a whale or two if you’re there in the right season.
From your ocean vantage point, you’ll also get glimpses of Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and the Twelve Apostles Mountains, which are some of the area’s most recognizable natural icons.
12. African Dinner and Drumming Experience
Traditional African drums create some of the most dramatic and recognizable sounds and music that you’re ever likely to hear.
This dinner and drumming experience takes place in one of the city’s most unique restaurants. It includes a native-taught drum lesson, after which you’ll get to experience traditional drumming and dancing.
The multi-course meal includes a set menu that boasts a wide array of foods, many of which have ingredients and spices that hearken back to the many international influences that have been parts of Africa’s past.
Come hungry and be prepared for a truly unique experience that may just be one of the highlights of your trip.
13. 1-Day Soweto, Apartheid Museum & City Tour from Johannesburg
Apartheid was a reality in the lives of all South Africans for decades. In 1976, an uprising in the black area of Soweto set things in motion that would ultimately lead to apartheid’s end.
This tour includes a brief stop at Nelson Mandela’s home and the place where a young boy was killed that was the uprising’s spark.
The tour lasts eight hours; you’ll have the option of entering a few museums along the way – or if you’d rather not, that’s okay too.
Be warned, this tour includes stops at some graphic sites, but you won’t want to miss out on a visit to the world famous Apartheid Museum.
14. South African Full-Day Wine Tour
In recent years, South Africa has garnered international acclaim for its relatively young wine industry. On this tour, you’ll be exposed to some beautiful country, the area’s history, and the process by which grapes get turned into wine.
The tour lasts 8 ½ hours and includes visits to some of the region’s most celebrated wineries in the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschoek.
The area is just a short drive from Cape Town, so you’ll spend most of your time learning about and enjoying wines such as Shiraz, pinot and tasty local champagne that’s dry and refreshing.
This tour is essential for wine lovers.
15. Cape Town Tandem Paragliding
For those fit and fearless adrenaline junkies who’d like to see Cape Town from the vantage point of a high-flying bird, then this tandem paragliding experience would be a great way to get your fix.
You’ll get all the training you’ll need, and will be accompanied by a highly-trained professional who’ll get you close to many natural formations as you glide along the with the prevailing thermals and winds.
Your powered flight will include a take-off and landing, and if you think you’re up to the challenge you may get a chance to assist the pilot.
Without a doubt, this will be one of the most exhilarating things you’ll ever do.