Giraffes at sunset. (Shutterstock: see credit below)
Blog Words : Wanderlust team | 08 August

The Wanderlust guide to the best of South Africa

South Africa has it all - from penguins to vineyards, Zulu battlefields to the Big 5 in abundance. Isn't it time you explored Africa at its most accessible?

South Africa's defining characteristic is its breath-taking diversity. As well as the Big 5 in Kruger National Park (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinos), safari enthusiasts can spot hippo in the Limpopo River, whales off the coast at Hermanus, and penguins at Boulder's Beach, Cape Town.

Like its wildlife, South Africa's landscapes vary dramatically from the heights of the Drakensberg mountains to the subtropical KwaZulu Natal coast, from the flowering Cape to the vast Karoo semi-desert in its heartland. And with an excellent network of highways, good public transport and clearly-marked hiking trials, South Africa is one of the easiest countries to explore on the African continent.

South Africa also has a rich range of cultures and peoples – a fact often obscured by the Apartheid's attempt to categorise in black and white. With 11 official languages, it truly is the Rainbow Nation. So even if you've visited before, you'll have many more South Africas left to see.

Blyde River Canyon (Shutterstock.com) 

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa (Shutterstock)

Looking for Inspiration?

No matter the season, there’s always something to do in South Africa. So much so that Hazel Plush has put together a list of the top 5 things to do in South Africa for every month of the year. From stargazing in Western Cape in December or boogieing with the locals at the Makana Freedom Festival in April, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy. Make sure you drop by William Gray’s South Africa Travel Blueprint where he lists the five places you must include in your itinerary.

Lyn Hughes sings the praises of the twisting woodland paths, mountains, wildlife reserves and wild coastline of South Africa's Eastern Cape and warns: Don’t step on the fairies! Nigel Hughes explores the wildlife reserves and great-value lodges in KwaZulu-Natal and says you should too. And William Gray pops back again with tips on getting the most from Cape Town and its environs.

Looking for something really different? Lyn Hughes went horseriding on the Waterburg Plateau, a journey that brought her face-to-face with giraffes, cattle and crocodiles.

More information

Top 5 things to do in South Africa in: January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December – Hazel Plush

South African Travel Blueprint: 5 unmissable trips – William Gray

South Africa’s Eastern Cape – Lyn Hughes

Exploring KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – Nigel Richardson

Explore Cape Town and its surrounds – William Gray

Horseriding in South Africa’s Waterberg Plateau – Lyn Hughes

Rhino calf (Shutterstock.com)

White Rhino calf, Kruger National Park (Shutterstock)

Take a walk on the wild side

Chances are, you’re travelling to South Africa to go on safari. And why not? It’s one of the best places in the world to see wildlife, offering an abundance of creatures and creature comforts. Our guide to the best of African safaris is a great place to start planning, but make sure you check out Lisa Skyes’ overview of the best wildlife watching opportunities in South Africa and Chris McIntyre’s list of South Africa’s best national parks.

South Africa is a great place to watch whales too, so much so that Mark Carwardine reckons that South Africa’s legendary ‘Big 5’ should really become ‘Big 6’ to accommodate them.

Of course, the big stars of the South African wildlife circuit – and a rare conservation success story – are the rhinos. Pete Oxford reckons the best place to see them is the relatively unknown Marataba Reserve. Dramatic landscapes and a mega-population of rhinos. What more could you ask for?

More information

The Wanderlust Guide to the best of African safaris

Wildlife watching in South Africa – Lisa Skyes

Southern Africa’s best National Parks – Chris McIntyre

South Africa’s big six? – Mark Carwardine

South Africa’s celebrity black rhino – Mark Carwardine

Roaming with Rhinos – Pete Oxford

Zulu beaded jewellery (Shutterstock.com)

Zulu beaded jewellery (Shutterstock)

South Africa’s secrets revealed

Matthew Coe is a bit of a South African aficionado and has dug deep to come up with 7 unusual things to do in South Africa, including a visit to Joburg’s oldest restaurant, also home to the country’s best curry.  He has also put together a list of South Africa’s top diving locations, probably best experienced before the curry.

Jo Price has cobbled together 7 things to do for less than 50 rand in Cape Town. And Sam Shead lists 5 things to do on Nelson Mandela’s birthday, should you find yourself in South Africa on July 18.

More information

7 unusual things to do in South Africa – Matthew Coe

South Africa’s top 5 diving locations – Matthew Coe

7 cheap things to do in Cape Town – Jo Price

5 things to do on Nelson Mandela’s birthday – Sam Shead

Ostriches on the Garden Route (Shutterstock.com)

Ostriches on the Garden Route (Shutterstock)

Capturing it all on film

D-SLRs may have replaced guns, but bagging the best wildlife 'shots' has not become any less competitive or intense. We've sought advice from some of the biggest names in wildlife photography – including Steve Davey and Mark Carwardine – to help you to capture those magic moments.

If it’s inspiration you’re after, then look no further than the photos taken by our readers on their travels. They’re stunning.

More information

Top tips for photographing wildlife – Steve Davey

5 essential photography tips for wildlife – Mark Carwardine

Readers’ photos from South Africa

Montagu, Western Cape (Shutterstock.com)

Montagu, Western Cape (Shutterstock)

Everything you need to know

Ready to start planning your trip? Our South Africa Travel Guide is the place to start. Make sure you drop by our South Africa Essential Info page as well, for more everyday (but equally vital) information.

Landing in Cape Town? Claire Wilson lists everything you’ll need to get through the first 24 hours.

If you have a particular question about South Africa, pop over to the myWanderlust Forum where our knowledgeable community are ready to spring into action and share all that they know. Our check out the questions that have already been asked about South Africa. The answer to yours might already be there...

More information

South Africa Travel Guide – Wanderlust Team

South Africa Essential Info – Wanderlust Team

First 24 hours in Cape Town – Claire Wilson

Latest news from South Africa

Content from our readers about South Africa

Forum posts about South Africa

Jeffrey's Bay, Eastern Cape (Shutterstock.com)

Jeffrey's Bay, Eastern Cape (Shutterstock)

Ready to go?

Here’s a selection of fantastic tours offered by our partners. From up-close wildlife encounters to more gentle rambles along the Garden Route, there’s something to suit every taste and budget.

More information

Our Trip Finder can help you find adventures in South Africa

Main image: Giraffes near Baobab at sunset (Shutterstock)