Top 10 South Africa attractions

It is with great pleasure that we selected the 10 most memorable experiences in Southern Africa. We are confident that travellers will just have as much fun actually experiencing them as we did. This is our list of the best 10 experiences and atrractions in South Africa. Our main criterion being that every experience should be memorable, but always with a little twist. As such, we selected experiences like searching for whales from a small airplane, attending a cooking class in Cape Town, or swimming on the edge of one of the biggest waterfalls in the world.

1) The Cederberg

Dining at the end of civilization in "Sheperd's Cottage" cederberg south africa top 10

This must be one of South Africa's most memorable locations to enjoy a formidable dinner. A thirty minute drive away from the main lodge lies "sheperd's cottage". It is located remotely and isolated and provides incredible views over the Cederberg mountains.

Originally this was the home of shepherds. The cottage has been renovated recently, but (fortunately) is has not been modernised. Lighting is provided by candles and storm lanterns, but also a huge fireplace where dinner is being prepared. It is an unforgettable experience in all weather conditions: being right in the the heart of the rugged mountains, surrounded by thick walls and a large fireplace while enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious four course dinner, This is exactly what we love - wilderness Chic! On clear nights the sky makes a surreal sight.

The size of this very special place makes it ideal for a romantic dinner for two, but also families or groups up to 12 people can enjoy a perfect evening unlike any other. The cost for dinner is £ 70 per person. For more information about this special place and accommodation in the area see Cederberg: Place with a soul.

2) Phinda Resource Area

Spending the day with a leopard research team phinda south africa leopard

When you are especially fond of leopards it is possible to observe these majestic predators up close and personal under the guidance of specially trained rangers. Despite the fact that leopards are a fully protected species in both KwaZulu Natal and Phinda game reserve, this special animal is under a lot of pressure when leaving the boundaries of protected nature areas: farmers and local residents are really not that fond of leopards.

This safari offers you the unique opportunity joining a specialised research team based in Phinda game reserve. This team undertakes research on a daily basis in open 4x4 safari vehicles in order to monitor leopard bahaviour and movements. Most big cats here are equipped with an electronic collars so that they can be tracked more easily.

Maybe you'll get extra lucky during the special leopard safari as sometimes the collars must be replaced: a guaranteed once in a lifetime experience. Be sure you'll get a serious adrenaline rush when a leopard is lured closer with a piece of meat and is then stunned by a veterinarian. Once anesthetised, the cat is brought to a open field for further investigation, there is some urgency in soing so as the anesthetic only lasts for about twenty minutes. It is a fascinating sight seeing how the research team surveyes the animal and takes blood and DNA samples. When the team finishes its work, there is an opportunity to feel the leopard's fur and sharp claws. Naturally, this also provides a great photo opportunity. A full day out will set you back about £ 700. For that amount six partcipants can join the excursion. Read more about Phinda and further travel possibilities on "A Room With A View: Swaziland & Phinda".

3) Victoria Falls

Swimming on the edge of the world's most beautiful waterfall victoria falls top tien south africa

Livingstone Island is situated in the middle of the mighty Zambezi River, right on the edge of Victoria Falls where water from the river plunges 103 metres deep down below. With one of the seven natural wonders of the world so close, this island is a very special and unique location to enjoy a perfect lunch.

To make this experience even more memorable you should not miss the chance take a plunge in the "Devil's Arm Chair Pool". It is a small natural rock pool surrounded, and is literally on the edge of one of the largest waterfalls in the world. For about £ 99 per person you are taken to the island by boat (from Livingstone in Zambia), lunch buffet and beverages are included.

The small rock pool is definitely one of the most surreal places on earth. A plunge here is not for the faint hearted, as you have to jump into the pool from a small overhaning rock. After the jumps it seems as nothing can stop you from going over the edge of the waterfall. As soon as you overcome the fear this is an adrenaline rush hard to beat! It feels like are being sucked over the edgeof the waterfall, but fortunately there is a hiddenunderwater edge to keep you inside. From this small edge you can move to a shallow part of the pool and look over the actual edge and gaze at the water plunging down the waterfall. The adventurous who dare taking this leap of faith are sure to come home with some very impressive photographs. Read more about this tour to the Vic Falls.

4) Makalali prive-reservaat

Sleeping under a starry starry sky top 10 south africa

Experience the South African wilderness as only a few have done; sleep a night out on a special platform with only a mosquito net between you and the outside wilderness. During this activity you will sleep literally out in the wild, a twenty drive away from the main lodge. From your very own platform you can enjoy magnificent views over the South African bushveld. You'll be brought to this special place late afternoon. You won't be left behind just like that: you will be provided with a fully stocked picnic basket, drinks and a walkie-talkie in case of emengency. Near the platform also a toliet and wash basin have been built.

This excursion is included for adventurous travelers staying at Makalali Tented Camp. Want to read more about Makalali? Please check our module Bushcamping. Chic!.

5) Drakensberg

Conquer de Drakensberg mountains a descent through the "barrier of spears" drakensberg south africa top experience

The Drakensberg is without doubt one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Africa and is listes as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This status is not only due the endless vistas and rare flora and fauna offered, but also because many excellent preserved San rock paintings are found in the area. The Drakensberg includes the highest peaks of Africa's, of which the most recognisable is called the "amphitheater". This name is due to a typical flat toppped shape that Table Mountain in Cape Town would make small. The Aphitheatre is also known as "Mont aux Sources" as three of South Africa's largest rivers have their source here, including the Orange and Tugela rivers. The latter plunges down the mountains an incredible 947 metres, therewith forming the second highest waterfall in the world.

Climbing the amphitheater is possible, even for beginners. This trip takes about five hours and starts from a starting point about halfway up the mountain. The trip is quite streneous but can be done at an easy pace, there is also way more than plenty of time to make stops. The last part of the hike consists of a descent off a (steel) rope ladder on a steep mountainside: easy to handle, but certainly not recommended for people suffering from vertigo.

The view from the top is simply breathtaking. Because the mountain is climbed from the back it is difficult to conceive the great view that unfolds once arrived. The vista is almost never-ending: you can see a great lot of KwaZulu-Natal, and on the western side you see the Great Plains of the Free State. Once on top, it is not difficult to understand why farmers have called this area the "mountains of the dragon", and the Zulus called it the "barrier of spears".

The hike to the top of the amphitheater is best started from one of the lodges in the northern part of the Drakensberg. Apart from the streneous journey described above, there are also easier options available. For example, it is also possible to walk through a canyon to the place where the Tugela Falls come down. The rate for a full day hike in the northern Drakensberg is about £ 70 per person, a light lunch is included. Information about the Drakensberg and travel opportunities can be found at: The Drakensberg: staying at the roof of South Africa.

6) Hermanus

Whale watching from the sky top 10 south africa whale watching

This is the ultimate whale watching tour available - looking for whales in full flight without these animals even being aware that they are being watched.

After the small plane has taken off from Stanford (near Hermanus) views over Walker Bay unfold. Walker Bay is partcularly famous for its great white sharks that occur here in great numbers, but slao for the countless whales that return to this place every year. The shallow and protected bays are the perfect place for whales to birth and care for their young. As such, it makes it the ideal place to spot whales from the air, the ocean is very clear so that these giants are very easy to observe.

The small plane follows the coastline from Cape Hangklip (just north of Hermanus) all the way to Cape Agulhas (the southernmost tip of the African continent), so there is plenty of opportunity to witness whales. From the plane these mammals very easy to spot. It is very touching to see how the young calfs stay close to their mothers. Even more incredible is seeing how these 18 metres long, 80 ton whales jump out of the water and fall back into the ocean with an explosion of water. Complete whale families are often seen from the air, the record during a single flight is currently 135 (!) individuals.

The airplane is ideal for photographers: It features a sliding door allowing a undistrubed clear view from a stable platform. During the whale season (July to late November) spotting whales is pretty much guaranteed. If it happens that now whales are spotted during the flight, your money will be refunded.

This unique thirty minute flight costs about £ 150 per person (dependent of fuel surcharge amendments etc.). Read more information about staying in Hermanus on the following page: "A taste of Africa: Franschhoek & Hermanus".

7) uThando Community Projects

Visiting local projects in Cape Town excursion uthando cape town

Uthando Community Projects is a series of varied developmental initiatives in and around Cape Town. The work done by the projects varies from orphanages, homes for the elderly, environmental projects, as well as theatre and dance classes for kids.

When making an excursion to one of the Uthando projects the organisers handle the whole thing in a very considerate manner as they do not want to interfere in the daily affers of the people involved. Many of the projects are directly related to the normal daily lives of the local people. For example, visiting an orphanage for children too often may interfere with the daily rythm in such a home. As such these projects are only visited once every two weeks or so. A good example of what is very possible is visiting a ballet school where young adults practice and perform on a faily basis. Some of the children participating turn out to be so talented that they are offered scholarships at prestigious universities around the world.

A half day excursion to the heartwarming uThando projects costs £ 79 per person. The program of the excursions are changed daily, depending on what projects take place on a given day. Whether you participate in an interactive drumming workshop at the Hout Bay Music Project, enjoy a cup of tea in a Khayelitsha nursery, or visit a 'gumboot' performance, you'll always be inspired and impressed by the beautiful work done here. More information about uThanso:

8) Lynn Angel Cooking evenings

Cooking with the locals in Cape Town day trip cape town

Lynn is an excellent chef who organises interactive cooking classes in het Cape Town home, sometimes private, sometimes in small groups. She has a fully equipped kitchen, an impressive number of recipes plus all the necessary ingredients. This is complemented by a large wine collection. The evenings organised by Lynn can best be described as very laid back and informal, she also shows great patience for the less gifted chefs among us. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet other travellers and chat to real South Africans at home while a delicious meal is being prepared. After the preparations are finished, everyone sits together at the large table all delicacies will be tasted. This is your chance to experience a piece of real life in Cape Town.

Whether a cooking class takes place on a private basis or in small groups depends on the exact date. Prices vary between £ 50 per person (when in a group) and £ 150 per person (for a private evening. Private evenings can be customised to your desired taste or theme.

9) Great White Shark Adventure

Go on "ocean safari" and see breaching great white sharks close to Cape Town white shark cape town south africa top 10

Travellers with steel nerves can experience a unique day trip when staying in Cape Town. We guarantee an adrenaline rush when seeing the mystical great white shark up close. The Western Cape is one of the few places in the world where it possible to closely approach these animals. White sharks around Cape Town showcase a unique feature: it is only here that they make the typical jump out of the water (breaching) what you probably have seen when watching a television special. Scientists claim this is the only place in the world where white sharks show this behaviour. During a half day excursion you get a really good chance of making spectacular photographs. In addition to viewing these impressive marine animals, you can also decide to get into the water, fortunately protected by a cage.

De day trip to False Bay starts early morning. You'll be picked up from your hotel at six in the morning. From the hotel it is a short drive to the harbour where you'll meet the captain for today (a qualified shark expert) and the other participants. Before the boat is lanched you will be given a shirt briefing about what to expect today. At seven o'clock the boat is launced and sailed to Seal Island where you can see a very large colony of cape fur seals. The perculiar behaviour of sharks in this area is probably due to the presence of these seals and location of this small island. It is assumed that due to the shape of the island conditions are ideal for sharks to hunt undetected and employ the breaching technique.

Around eight o'clock the captain will deploy a dummy behind the boat in the shape of a fur seal so to attract sharks. It is not unusual for sharks to show their hunting techniques and jump out of the water to hunt the dummy. "Breaching" is a spectacular sight, when the sharks throws its full body out of the water. From eleven o'clock bait (fish waste, not the mist pleasant odour) will be thrown in the water so sharks will come closer to the boat. This is also the time when you have the opportunity going into the water and see the sharks real close (of course you are in a cage). Around two o'clock in the afternoon the excursion finishes and you'll be brough back to solid ground.

Success rate: From April to September it is most likely to see white sharks during an excursion (success rate is about 95%). In the South African summer (October to March) the water is warmer and the sharks will expand their hunting ground, resulting a slightly smaller chance of seeing them. Still, with a 80% success rate, chances of seeing great white sharks in these months are very high.

10) Princess Emma super yacht

Kaapstad: Monaco of the southern hemisphere! yacht princess emma cape town

View Cape Town from a different perspective, for instance from super luxurious mega-yacht "Princess Emma". This is the first yacht in its class available in the waters around Cape Town. Princess Emma, measuring 25 meters long and weighing about 78 tons a must see appearance. The yacht has four spacious suites and capacity to sleep eight guests. The aft deck is perfect for long dinners at sunset.

There are several possibilities to spend one or more days on the Princess Emma. It is possible to sail to Hout Bay or Simon's Town to sail, but also further away is possible, all the way to Knysna or the other side to the west coast and Saldanha Bay. Our idea of a perfect trip however comprises the following:

Day 1: Departure from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to Hout Bay. In Hout Bay you will be greeted by a guide who takes you to an excursion to the Cape of Good Hope. On this very spot the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet each other and the views from the top are unforgettable. You can enjoy a lunch overlooking False Bay, after which the tour continues along Chapman's Peak. For dinner, get back to Simon's Town and board the Princess Emma for overnight.
Day 2: Cruise False Bay via the Cape of Good Hope en route to Kalk Bay and Seal Island, then return to Clifton via the V & A Waterfront. Here again after dinner another night on board will be spent.

The yacht is manned by a captain and crew, including a private chef. The crew is at your service day and night, and will do everything to your the experience unforgettable. This kind of luxury will come with a price tag as you probably expect: boat trips with overnight stays on board cost around £ 7000 per night. This price is for the entire experience and includes all meals, local drinks, and petrol to sail about 25 miles per day.

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